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Feb 14, 22

Canadian Tire Fire #29: Anti-Convoy Counter-Protests Spread; Truckers Win Back Stolen Wages; Montreal Fights Eviction

photo: Chris Dixon

This week, we provide an update on the status of far-Right “Freedom Convoy” protests across so-called Canada and actions folks have taken to counter them. We also take a look at some more inspiring truckers and their comrades, organizing with the Naujawan Support Network in the Greater Toronto Area. Finally, we cover a safe drug supply distribution action in Vancouver, and a housing rally in Montreal.

Workers Win Back Stolen Wages and Fight Exploitation

Providing a counter-point to the far-Right hiding behind the trucking industry, truckers and other young workers in the Greater Toronto Area continue to organize around the basis of class solidarity via the Naujawan Solidarity Network. Last week, they announced victory in a fight that began last summer, to get one transportation worker paid the stolen wages he was owed. After three protests outside the employer’s home in Brampton, and fighting a defamation lawsuit from the employer in court, a Ministry of Labour order was issued and the worker was finally paid.

One of the key conclusions the court reached in their findings on the defamation lawsuit was that the worker’s protests were about more than the employer. They were important to many international students and young workers new to the country, and were of greater public importance then the employer’s reputation. This finding highlights the worker power and solidarity being built in the NSN’s movement.

So far this year, the group has continued to take on other wage-thieving bosses with letters and home demonstrations. This Sunday, February 13th, they rallied in solidarity with international students at three colleges in Quebec. The private colleges and a connected recruiting firm recently declared insolvency after collecting millions of dollars in tuition fees from international students, leaving students in crisis. A solidarity rally was also held Sunday in Surrey, BC. Students in Quebec demonstrated in Montreal on January 28th.

Safe Drug Supply Distribution in BC

On February 9th, a coalition comprised of the British Columbia Association for People on Methadone, the Drug User Liberation Front, and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users handed out free, tested heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine at an event calling for broader access to safe drugs. In a press release, they said that the action was meant to commemorate the at least 2224 people who died of overdose in BC in the past year. The press release stated that while the BC government has taken some action to provide a safe drug supply, it is drastically failing to meet existing needs.

Last summer, DULF and VANDU submitted a request to Health Canada for an exemption to existing drug laws that would allow them to distribute drugs using a ‘Compassion Club’ model. To date, they say they have not received a response from Health Canada. Yet, the groups continue to hold smaller distribution events such as the one this week to draw attention to the issue and help to meet their community’s needs. At the event, participants were encouraged to give their feedback on the experience.

Montreal Housing Rally Targets Corporation Evicting Toronto Tenants

On February 10th, Montrealers took action in solidarity with over 100 tenants facing eviction in Toronto, and against the financialization of housing everywhere. As reported in No Borders Media, they rallied at the headquarters of PSP Investments, “a Crown corporation that manages pension funds for federal public service workers and owns 130 Gowan through its partner Starlight Investments.”

Tenants at 130 Gowan Ave in Toronto have been fighting an above-the-guideline rent increase that is set to make housing unaffordable for many of the buildings’ residents. The rally this week called attention to that particular case, while drawing connections to the broader housing crisis.

A press release for the event stated:

The housing crisis, exacerbated by the health crisis, threatens tenants around the world. In a context where mobility is even more restricted due to pandemic containment measures, financialization adds further pressure on renters who were already dealing with substandard housing, exorbitant rents and rental insecurity. It is unacceptable that the investment of public pension funds contributes to the deterioration of living conditions for tenants.

The Convoy Continues

The far-Right “freedom convoy” protests have come into their third week, and multiple border blockades have formed across so-called Canada. The protests have been fairly decentralized and dispersed, making the total size difficult to measure. In addition to cities mentioned in last week’s column – most major cities in Canada – convoys supporters have been occupying the provincial legislature grounds in Winnipeg, and another border blockade was set up in south Surrey.

The original convoy remains in Ottawa, as does the blockade at an Alberta border crossing, and new blockades have formed in south Surrey (as of February 5th), Manitoba and Ontario. There has also been a renewed push from the far-Right to target schools in the hopes that students will walk out in opposition to health measures like wearing masks. This has happened at several schools in Alberta (here, here and here) and at least one case in Ontario and Manitoba.

Grassroots Responses

For the second Saturday in a row, people in Ottawa held a counter-protest and marched by the thousands through the streets telling the far-Right occupiers to get out of town. One person in Ottawa has also begun a 9.8 million dollar class action law suit and obtained a honking injuction. Organic blockades of folks against the convoy in Ottawa also grew to hundreds on Sunday, with folks turning away occupiers, forcing them to remove far-Right stickers and leave behind gas canisters.

Folks in Winnipeg held a rally at the legislature grounds also telling the convoy supporters to go home.

Montreal held a march and rally opposing the far-Right gathering and a small group of people in Edmonton blocked a portion of the convoy rolling through their city. Ironically, those people were very quickly threatened by police with the Critical Infrastructure Defense Act. And finally, a convoy that tried to pass through Kingston was forced to turn around and head out.

First Nations have also been keen to point out, that just as in the US, new laws passed in the wake of Black and Indigenous rebellions in the so-called US and Canada, have not been applied to far-Right convoy protesters. From Global News:

In a statement, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation chief and council said if the Coutts protest was organized by Indigenous people, authorities would have responded quickly to remove it. “Over the past several days we have watched in dismay as the border blockade at Coutts, Alta., is allowed to continue without intervention from authorities.”

“The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, passed in 2020, was created in response to Indigenous railway blockades protesting pipeline developments on Indigenous territories,” the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation statement said Wednesday. “This law was used to end Indigenous blockades — so the question that must be asked is: Why the blockade at Coutts is allowed to continue?”

State Response

Police in Ottawa took some minor actions against the convoy occupation of Ottawa this week, conducting a small raid on one of the supply areas and towing a couple pickup trucks with fuel tanks in the truck bed. They had also told participants that they would be arrested for bringing in fuel. Videos online show a bit of a battle as participants carry in fuel in jerry cans and police make occasional confiscations. The Province of Ontario declared a state of emergency which included threats of greater penalties for protesters, including up to $100,000 fines and up to a year in jail. On Saturday morning police began clearing out the blockade near the Ambassador Bridge. Once the protestors saw the police presence and received the order to leave many began to pack up. As of Sunday morning, the operation seems to be nearly complete.

Further Info

For more anarchist takes on the “Freedom Convoy,” we recommend some podcasts that have been released this week, including From Embers and It’s Going Down. As always, be sure to stay tuned here at Canadian Tire Fire and other autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial outlets like No Borders Media, for ongoing updates.

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A weekly roundup of anarchist and anti-authoritarian news from so-called Canada. Email us at: [email protected]

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