On behalf of the entire membership of the Common Front for Social Justice as well as the many workers and citizens who have been positively impacted by his tireless activism, we are writing to give a very enthusiastic send-off to Jean-Claude Basque.
Basque has organized and fought for the rights of New Brunswickers for over twenty years. As a founding member of the Common Front and provincial coordinator of the Front for many years, we want to thank Basque for his work and wish him a pleasant retirement.
Basque is a native of Tracadie, New Brunswick and a long-time resident of Moncton. He was active as a labour and social justice advocate fighting for and organizing seasonal workers in northern New Brunswick. Fighting against EI cuts was an important part of the struggle for seasonal workers’ rights and Basque has authored a forthcoming book on the fight for EI.
Basque was also one of the pioneers of the Common Front. Seeing the need for an organization that could be a voice for some of the most marginalized and impoverished citizens in New Brunswick, Basque was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Common Front for Social Justice in 1997, bringing together trade unionists and social justice activists. Basque’s dedication helped the Common Front persist and grow for the more than twenty years since that we have been working and fighting for low-income workers and people in poverty.
Basque understood the importance of combining activism and mobilization with research and facts. When you saw him in the supermarket, he often had pen and paper in hand, tirelessly tracking price changes affecting basic goods, and calculating food basket inflation rates for local communities. He commissioned and authored many reports and briefs over the years as well. Many of these documents have been used as part of campaigns and to lobby various levels of government and remain available on the Common Front’s website. Basque’s hard work made the Common Front a very credible advocacy group because of this facts-based approach, garnering the attention and respect of media and policymakers.
Basque also emphasized a creative, outside-the-box approach to actions and mobilization. From an art exhibit at Moncton city hall, to voting drives in 2014 targeting people living in poverty, Basque understood that a variety of events, strategies, and actions needed to be taken for the Common Front to reach the diverse public of New Brunswick.
After cuts to the EI system by the Harper government that would leave unemployed workers eating beans for the winter, Basque was instrumental in organizing a number of actions where beans were served up in front of Robert Goguen’s office in Dieppe and Tilly Gordan’s office in Miramichi. The events were dubbed Beans for Federal Minister Finley, and pressured the government to face up to the effects of its decisions.
His friends in the labour movement also remember his indefatigable solidarity. His willingness to participate in pickets on short notice when striking workers needed extra bodies—even in the middle of the coldest winter nights, as he did once for PSAC Canada Post members—did not go unnoticed.
Basque also found time to pursue the creative arts, authoring three novels in his series BecFuté Enquête. He has also published two children’s books, the bilingual Griffette sauve la forêt/Clawdy Saves the Forest and the French-language Le secret de la toison dorée (The Secret of the Golden Fleece).
This year will be the Common Front’s first without Basque’s leadership. We want to wish him a very happy retirement from the Front and to celebrate his contributions to our organization and our province by continuing the hard fight for greater justice and solidarity in society. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic and social crises have only vindicated the need to promote solidarity, inclusion, and policies which work towards the elimination of poverty and dignity and justice for all.
Abram Lutes is the provincial coordinator of the Common Front for Social Justice.