Communist League in Canada: ‘Defend immigrant workers! Build a labor party!’

By John Steele
June 5, 2023

MONTREAL — “Defense of the rights of immigrant workers is a crucial question for our unions and all working people. What is at stake is the fighting unity of the working class against the deepening attacks by the employers and their governments,” Communist League candidate Félix Vincent Ardea said. He is running for Parliament in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Westmount district here in a June 19 federal by-election. Vincent Ardea was speaking at a special Militant Labor Forum here May 20.

“Fighting on behalf of all working people is the road the unions need to take,” the candidate said. “And it is along this road that working people can forge a labor party based on the unions that can act to mobilize working people to defend our class interests, including fighting to replace capitalist political power with a workers and farmers government.”

Vincent Ardea is a Canadian National Railway freight conductor and member of the Teamsters union. He shared the platform with Steve Penner, organizer of the Communist League in Canada.

“Last December the three main labor federations in Quebec set an example for all the unions by signing an open letter with many other organizations calling for the federal government to grant status to the thousands of workers without papers in this country,” Vincent Ardea told the meeting. “Then in April, the United Steelworkers in Baie-Trinite, Quebec, signed an important union contract on behalf of about 100 who work at a shellfish processing plant, the majority of whom are Spanish-speaking foreign temporary workers.

“The contract covers all the workers regardless of their immigration status. The union provided Spanish-language translation at the meeting to discuss the contract and the company was forced to sign a letter of understanding protecting their rights, including membership in the union,” the Communist League candidate said. “These examples point the way forward for all unions and unorganized working people in uniting and strengthening the working class.”

Penner took up additional aspects of the fight, which is front and center in Quebec politics today. “To create divisions between workers born here and immigrant workers, the Quebec government and newspapers like the Journal de Montreal are waging a chauvinistic, nationalist and reactionary anti-immigrant campaign,” he said.

“Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s assertion that use of French is in decline and that non-French speaking immigrants are to blame is a lie. Some  90% of working people in Quebec use French as the language of work,” he said. “What has increased is French-English bilingualism, a reflection of how workers’ struggles have strengthened working-class unity.

“This is a blow to Canada’s capitalist rulers, who seek to weaken our ability to fight back against their drive to load the impact of the growing crisis of their profit system on our backs,” Penner said.

“Legault’s stance gets an echo from the federal government and all the bosses’ parties in Ottawa. The recently adopted revision of the federal Official Languages Act, Bill 13, incorporates Quebec’s Bill 96, which purports to defend the use of the French language by restricting the use of English. Legault intends to ban non-French-speaking immigrants by 2026,” he said.

“In face of a declining birth rate, and an aging population, the rulers are looking to immigration to boost the pool of workers,” he said. “Last year, Canada’s population increased by more than a million for the first time, almost entirely due to immigration.

“However, the large majority weren’t admitted as permanent residents with the same rights as other working people, but as ‘temporary foreign residents.’ They’re a source of cheap labor to help employers meet shortages for the lowest-paying jobs, like laborers, truck drivers, fast services workers and farmworkers. Ottawa deports thousands every year.”

More fights by unions set example

“Their anti-immigrant campaign isn’t aimed at stopping or blocking immigration,” Penner continued, “but to control it to meet the bosses’ needs, and use it to divide working people. To create a pariah layer in the working class that isn’t in a position to defend themselves and to drive down wages at a time when more and more workers are stepping forward to use union power to fight back.”

The Communist League leader pointed to 55,000 Ontario education workers who defied and defeated anti-strike legislation last year, as well as 155,000 federal government workers who recently carried out a militant strike for wage increases to offset the punishing effects of inflation. These fights show new possibilities for the labor movement today.

On May 23 the Communist League received confirmation that Vincent Ardea is on the ballot. The party had turned in nominating papers with 154 signatures, well above the 100 required.