By Gerald V. Paul
As Panmasters Steel Orchestra, led by veteran pannist Tommy Crichlow, belted out ‘Solidarity Forever,’ 25,000 strong marched in Toronto’s Labour Day parade in which several groups from the Caribbean community were represented.
Guyana-born Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, CLC, told The Caribbean Camera in an interview at the parade, “We have a proud history of winning changes.”
” Yes, Canada has come a long way, from the first parade in 1872, when Sir John Thompson declared Labour Day a national holiday, to 2016 with T- shirts carrying the message: ‘Kick ass for the working class.’
“These changes improved workers’ lives and this Labour Day we are celebrating and showcasing ways we are making a difference to all Canadians,” Yussuff stressed
He said unions are also celebrating the success of a multi-year campaign for a stronger Canada Pension Plan-” given more than eleven million Canadians don’t have workplace pensions- something the federal government has promised will be legislated this fall.”
And Jamaica-born Claudette Cameron, a member of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSU) was in a vehicle on the parade route. The vehicle carried several messages from the unions. One sign said ” public safety, from privatization turns good jobs into bad jobs. “Another said ” Hydro not for sale, 300-500 million in lost revenue .” Yet another noted that ” medicare lab test$175 extra each year and $15 for fairness.
Also on the route was the Harvesting Freedom team, supporting Caribbean migrant farm workers farm workers.
Community group Justicia for Migrant Workers has launched the Harvesting Freedom Campaign to call on the Trudeau government to grant the migrant workers permanent residence in Canada.
“It’s about diversity in the workplace and community. A union for everyone,” said Guyana-born Ash Akbar, as Crichlow’s pan truck rolled on with the sign:” Local 113 Transit Workers Toronto, Canada.”