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Year in review: top 10 struggles across Canada in 2015

December 19, 2015

The year 2015 included many inspiring struggles across the country. Here’s a sample of 10 campaigns and mobilizations that made an impact and will continue in the new year.

1. Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity

Indigenous peoples continued their centuries-long defense of their territories, building solidarity and leading the climate justice movement. On the west coast First Nations continued to resist pipelines—from the ongoing Unist’ot’en camp, to the Lax kw’alaams rejecting an LNG contract—while the Heiltsuk successfully blocked the Canadian state from opening a herring fishery. There was also growing Indigenous-led opposition to the tar sands flowing east—including activists from Aamjiwnaang organizing the largest Toxic Tour to date, and the Chippewas of the Thames ongoing legal appeal of the decision to allow Line 9 to flow through their territories without their consent.

As well, Indigenous activist Cindy Blackstock won her human rights case in the ongoing fight against discrimination against First Nations children; there was the 10th annual cross-country vigils that have helped make justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women a widespread demand; and the Truth and Reconciliation commission released its summary report.

2. Quebec against austerity

You wouldn’t know it from the corporate media in English Canada, but Quebec is in the midst of massive resistance to austerity. In March there were 100 coordinated across the province along with a student strike. May Day saw another series of strikes and protests. The start of the school year saw parents and teachers join to form human chains to protect public education, and December 9 was a general strike involving more than 400,000 workers.

3. Climate justice

The climate justice movement continued to rise this year—mobilizing 25,000 in Quebec in April and 10,000 in Toronto in July. On the eve of the Paris climate talks on November 29, tens of thousands mobilized across the country, including 6,000 in Vancouver and 25,000 in Ottawa—uniting people from Ontario and Quebec. These and other mobilizations helped score some important victories, including stopping Energy East’s proposed terminal in Cacouna, and forcing Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Along the way the movement has increasingly called for a just transition to a green economy—including the leap manifesto, and trade union activists challenging fracking. The climate justice movement also resisted attacks from the French state, and is emerging stronger and more determined.

4. Refugees welcome

While Harper has scapegoated refugees for the economic crisis, there has been growing solidarity against the cuts and in support of refugees. Years of mobilizing from healthcare workers won a Federal Court decision against cuts to refugee health, while mass rallies across the country demanded a welcome for refugees.

5. Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter continued to grow across the US and Canada. While Toronto police hoped appointing a Black police chief and announcing “reforms” to carding would stop the protests, Black Lives Matter-Toronto continued to mobilize against anti-Black racism and police violence—including marches, occupation of the Allen road intersection, ongoing campaigns for justice for Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby, and an ongoing campaign against carding.

6. Fight for $15

In three years, the fight for $15 has spread from a few cities to campaigns across the US and Canada—including BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia. April 15 was a global day of action, with fast food workers walking of the job in 230 cities across the US and solidarity events in 40 cities around the world; on that day there were three separate actions in Toronto as part of the fight for $15 and fairness. While the Ontario NDP had refused to support the $14 minimum wage last year, the rising campaign pushed the federal NDP to make a $15 minimum wage for federal workers an election issue this year.

7. Kill Bill C-51

When Harper first announced his draconian Bill C-51 the initial polls showed widespread support. But this support plummeted after mass rallies across the country, which have put pressure on the Liberals to change the law.

8. Confronting Islamophobia

Governments and corporate media are scapegoating Muslims for the economic crisis, giving confidence to racists. But there has also been resistance and solidarity—including an anti-racist protest that confronted PEGIDA in Montreal, a picket to protest the “barbaric cultural practice” hotline, and an outpouring of support for the Muslim community in Peterborough after their mosque was attacked. 

9. Accessibility for all

This year was the fifth annual Toronto Disability Pride March, which was part of the growing demand for a Canadians with Disabilities Act

10. Stopped Harper

All these struggles in the streets and workplaces produced electoral change at the ballot box. While the NDP in Alberta won a historic election by appealing to this desire for change, it was the Liberals who captured this mood federally. While the NDP began the campaign by reflecting some of these movements, like the $15 minimum wage and opposition to Bill C-51, Mulcair refused to provide a voice for the climate justice movement and instead campaigned to the right—defending fighter jets, calling for less refugees to be welcomed than the Liberals, and calling for a “balanced budget” amidst mass resistance to austerity in Quebec.

After 10 long years of Harper, a surge in voter turnout demanded real change, putting pressure on the Liberals to offer reforms: welcoming refugees, announcing an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, promising to withdraw fighter jets from Iraq and offering rhetorical support for climate targets. But this has not stopped movements from mobilizing—there have already been two climate justice mobilizations in Ottawa since Trudeau was elected—and all these campaigns and mobilizations will need to continue in the new year. Let's make 2016 a year of solidarity and resistance, to magnify all these struggles and more!, and the activists who write for it, were part of building solidarity and reporting on all these struggles and more. To help build socialist media for 2016, get a holiday sale subscription for the print edition, make a donation, or join the International Socialists. And check out our holiday book sale, Saturday December 18 and Sunday December 19, 12-5pm at Resistance Press Bookroom: 427 Bloor St West, Toronto

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