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Ontario Common Front assembly draws hundreds against austerity

August 27, 2013

Ontario Common Front general assembly helps foster community-labour alliances. Over the course of Monday, August 19, over 250 activists participated in the third general assembly of the Ontario Common Front
Taking place in Toronto, the Assembly was part of an ongoing process of building community / labour alliances to combat austerity. Delegates from across the province included members of the Canadian Federation of Students, anti-poverty networks, retiree groups, first nations organizations, trade unions, local labour councils and more. Notably, the Assembly also drew labour participants from Montreal, Quebec. Photos from the event are online here.
Among the guest speakers were: Indigenous Sovereignty activist Melissa Elliott who is Haudenosaunee, Tuscarora Nation Turtle clan from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory; Deena Ladd, coordinator of the Workers’ Action Centre in Toronto; Michael Harrington, from the Chicago Teachers’ Union; Bridgett DePape, the former Ottawa page who, in 2011, raised a ‘Stop Harper’ sign in the Senate Chamber during the Throne Speech, and who is now with ShitHarperDid; Henry Giroux, Chair in Communications and Cultural studies at McMaster University; spoken word artist Ritallin a.k.a. A. Gregory Frankson and Pam Frache, currently a graduate student at McMaster University.
All speakers emphasized the need to build long-term networks, better engage new and existing members of trade and students’ unions and develop frameworks that can challenge the neoliberal agenda locally, nationally and internationally. At the same time, speakers emphasized the need to challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and xenophobia as part of meaningful solidarity. Melissa Elliot highlighted the importance of the Idle No More movement, as well as the campaign to stop Enbridge’s Line 9 from pumping tar sands oil east. Henry Giroux emphasized neoliberalism’s war on youth, citing high levels of youth unemployment, expensive post-secondary education and unprecedented levels of debt.
The Assembly also featured breakout groups tasked with fleshing out an alternative vision for social, economic and environmental justice. Workshops focused on the Ontario-wide $14.00 minimum wage campaign, the Peoples’ Social Forum, deep organizing strategies (led by ACORN) and educational resources.
The upbeat mood and energy of the participants reflects an appetite to challenge austerity and a determination to rebuild the alliances and networks so crucial to the struggles ahead, though after surveying the political landscape and the state of membership engagement expectations were sober.  
On September 27, the Ontario Federation of Labour, Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative – Ontario, Canadian Auto Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Canadian Labour Congress, and Workers United Canada are sponsoring a Youth Un(der) Employment Forum at the Ryerson Students’ Union Centre.

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