Will Canadian Labour Congress Oppose the War?

[Hassan Yussuff is vice president of the Canadian Labour Congress (the equivalent of the AFL-CIO in the USA’s northern neighbor).  Yussuff has been invited to speak at a peace march in Canada on November 17. The article below, entitled “Union Confusion” by Glenn Wheeler is reprinted for the information of our readers. It is from the Nov. 8–14 issue of a Toronto publication, Now, which quotes Hassan Yussuff as saying: “There’s a lot of pressure for us to join the peace coalition.” Similar pressure needs to be put on the unions in the United States.—The Editors.]

The Canadian Labour Congress, it appears, can’t make up its mind how it feels about the bombing of Afghanistan. A statement issued by the labor body last week is a strangely tortured affair obviously designed to patch together quite different takes on the U.S.-led war effort.

On the one hand, it calls for bringing the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks to justice in accordance with international law, but in the next breath it “supports the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who have been assigned to participate with other forces in military intervention to seek out the al-Qaeda network.”

It opposes “the United States unilaterally widening the current conflict to target additional countries” and points out that “millions of people are refugees from the oppression of the Taliban and from the bombing attacks of the United States and its allies.”

But it doesn’t oppose the bombing.

What exactly is the CLC position on the war? It turns out that when the executive got together to hash out the statement, they couldn’t come to a meeting of minds. CLC vice-president Hassan Yussuff says the labor leadership is on the side of peace, but many of them are afraid their memberships are not.

“Some of them were feeling quite constrained about how far they could go, given where their membership was at. We didn’t want to split the executive,” Yussuff says. “(The wording of the statement) allowed everyone to support it politically.”

But Yussuff says that if the war drags on and civilian casualties continue to mount, the CLC may not be able to avoid making a more definitive statement.

Already, he’s under pressure to give an answer to organizers of a peace march on November 17 who want him to speak. “There’s a lot of pressure for us to join the peace coalition.”