November 2022 / Toronto
There is disruption in the air. Disruption to the status quo, to the usual. This may turn out to be both good and bad.
My thought this past first weekend of the month as we hit mid-twenties temperatures- “even mother nature is in a disruptive mood.” This thought brought about by the freakishly warm weather mother nature has served up here in Ontario in November, signaling the direction our planet is headed, as we continue to tinker around the edges of climate change. Worrying even while we enjoy the warmish winds.
Disruption, as the debate rages on social media about the absurdity of the testimony of some of the Ottawa Convoy protesters who occupied our national capital last winter. And of the police and their confusion, in-fighting and disorganization as we were told about the week before at the Inquiry into the federal government’s enactment of the Emergencies Act.
Disruption, as the provincial government using the full weight of their political and legal power rammed through legislation with their super majority to override the constitutional right of workers to strike. The most powerful tool in the toolbox of workers and their unions. The use of the notwithstanding clause in addition to the draconian legislation caused outrage not only here in Ontario but across Canada. The narrative that low paid educational workers who ensure that our most vulnerable and often marginalized students are supported daily are asking for too much, just isn’t flying with Ontarians- parents of school age children or not.
The mobilization and organizing of workers across sectors in only a few days with the promise of escalating job action, at the same time that transit workers with Go buses declared strike action, had its effect. The Ontario government blinked. The legislation which only a couple of days ago (as of this writing) received royal assent, would be rescinded. Of course, the pro quo was that CUPE, the union of record, would end the strike. Done. A return to the bargaining table will hopefully lead to fair agreement.
The topic of disruption has surfaced at various conferences I’ve attended in the last month or so. At the OCASI Leadership Forum, a couple of plenary panels talked about this in the context of immigration policy and legislation. The call for the regularization of immigration status for approximately one and a half million residents with precarious or no immigration status is about disrupting the system and how it operates. Who it benefits.
The call for interprovincial collaboration and/or federal intervention in the recognition of international academic credentials to ensure that immigrants and refugees are able to work in their field- in work commensurate with their education and skills- would be a disrupting of the existing system. Provinces have sole oversight that they’ve delegated to sector specific regulatory bodies, whose protection of turf significantly disadvantages and discriminates against newcomers, especially those who are racialized from the geopolitical south.
A week after the OCASI Forum, the ONN (Ontario Non-Profit Network) hosted a panel of young leaders as part of its two-day conference. They talked (based on real time tweeting of attendees) about the need to disrupt the non-profit sector’s framing of leadership, that we are in a time of flux-redefining roles and that is a good thing.
In a panel I sat on the day before at the conference, we talked about disruption in terms of the role of the sector itself. That as a sector we have a political role to play, an obligation and responsibility to effect public policy, a calling to disrupt and reimagine the systems that impact our daily collective lives.
These messages resonated with audiences in both conferences. The gatherings shared an energy that I haven’t felt in the longtime. And it left me hopeful.
Watching the gathering of workers and allies over the last few days, vowing not to give in to political bullying, sending the message across the land loudly that an attack on one sector of workers is an attack on all workers and having that message heard and responded to, has reenergized me.
I have been tired. I know this is a long game. The arc of justice and all that. And I’m nearing the time of passing the baton to the next generation of leadership. But I’m excited by this renewed spirit of activism. From Indigenous Land Back movements, to racialized feminist movements, to migrant workers, the building of movements committed to justice is on the rise and we will win.
I am recommitting to this social, economic and racial justice movement. Each day I will tell myself what our sister-friend and teacher Audre Lorde reminded us: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
The movement to bring justice to the many who are undocumented continues to broaden. You can play a part. Please send a letter like this one from OCASI to Sean Fraser, PMJT and your MP calling for a broad and fair regularization program now.