Ending the Repression of Those Fighting for Their Rights

Richard Goyette —

A mechanism exists in which people fighting for their rights are treated as criminals by the state. Whether it be the student struggle in 2012, the construction strike in 2017 or the present fight of the crane operators, the people do not take to the streets as a starting point. They live in a so-called democratic society, they want to participate in democracy, in roundtables and negotiations. This should result in a democratic model, at least within the society in which we live. Yet the first thing that happens is that they are met with a No! which rapidly creates a crisis situation. Within that crisis, an entire system begins operating, replete with media vultures that attack those making the demands. Never are the rich punished. Far from it! It’s the billionaires who, with an entire system working to their advantage, are presented as the victims. On that basis tension mounts, followed by repression, special legislation, fines and injunctions.

The Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) has 150 individual complaints against crane operators that it can act on. Potential lawsuits can be filed against the union’s leadership and criminal complaints can result in being prohibited from becoming a union representative for a period of five years. An entire array of repressive measures exist within a society that appears to be egalitarian and is equipped with charters of rights. In the case of the crane operators, one must not forget that their sole aim is the protection of the physical health and safety of workers and citizens living or working near construction sites.

Such repression leads to social division. Antagonisms that would not necessarily exist between groups are fabricated by the media, with positions taken against those presenting the demands without providing any analysis. For example, fabricated consumer groups are pitted against construction workers because construction projects will purportedly be even more costly if construction workers make demands. Negativity is sought within such groups. This control over opinions leads to social divisions. Groups with the most demands are penalized, such as construction and blue-collar workers, and students are treated like bandits. There are no forums or discussion on the issues.

At one time, the CCQ was a forum. People with diverging and even antagonistic interests would sit together and discuss problems and look at how they could be resolved. It has now been turned into a police institution. The human resources representative for CCQ personnel is a former police officer. Rather than allowing everyone to freely express their opinions, a code of ethics has been created to curtail speech and regulate it by demanding that participants defend the institution, rather than allowing everyone to represent their mandate, democratically arrived by their membership and to freely exchange with others.

We must create forums for discussion and another dynamic.

Richard Goyette is a social and labour law lawyer and former Director General of FTQ-Construction.