Unions have fought for generations for the right to protest. This is a cornerstone of our democratic system.
But what we have witnessed on the streets of Canada’s capital over the past weeks is something different altogether. This is not a peaceful protest. Frontline workers, from retail to health workers, have been bullied and harassed. We have witnessed noise attacks keeping families up at all hours.
We have also seen right-wing extremists spreading messages filled with racism and intolerance, flying the Nazi and Confederate flags, alongside other symbols of violence and hate. We have seen organizers not only demand the end of all public health rules, but also call for the overthrow of our democratically elected government.
The leaders of this occupation include people who promote Islamophobic, Anti-Semitic and racist hate on social media, organizers of the notorious far-right yellow vest protests, and people spreading extreme conspiracy theories and calls for violence.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL), stands with labour unions from across the country, to opposed to these vile and hateful messages and condemn the ongoing harassment and violence against the people of Ottawa.
This occupation of Ottawa streets, on top of the latest wave of the pandemic, is having a devastating effect on the livelihood of already struggling workers and businesses. Workers are being harassed and bullied for just trying to stay safe while serving customers. Other businesses are being forced to close, which leaves them and their employees suffering economic losses they can ill afford.
The Omicron wave of COVID-19 is still affecting our communities. Hospitals are flooded with patients. Our health care system is plagued by shortages of nurses, doctors and health care workers.
When COVID-19 first arrived in Canada almost two years ago, we asked our decision-makers to base their public health decisions on the best available science. Now, these public health experts, whose advice we’ve relied on to keep us safe during the pandemic are being attacked for basing their decisions on the best available science. The NBFL cannot stand silently by as this happens.
We continue to call for strong occupational health and safety measures for all workers. The NBFL calls on the federal and provincial governments to work together and quickly deliver urgently needed direct supports to the workers and businesses affected.
It is time for all levels of government to work together to help the people affected and to put an end to this occupation of our nation’s capital.
Daniel Légère is president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour.