November 16, 2015
OFL Statement on the Paris Attacks, Refugees and the Path to Peace
By Sid Ryan, OFL President
The coordinated killings that rocked Paris over the weekend are an unspeakable horror. Ontario workers are united in our sympathy and solidarity with the victims, their families, friends and, indeed, the people of France who have been shaken by these attacks.
However, Canadians who have recently rejected former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s divisive politics now face an important test of our resolve. We must not allow the horrific nature of this atrocity to drag Canada back into the racism, Islamophobia and war-mongering that characterized our last government. The burden to hold firm on the change that we demanded in the October election is jointly shared between Canadians and our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
There has already been incredible pressure on the new Prime Minister to abandon the change he promised Canadians and to revert to Harper’s politics of fear. It is up to Canadians – of every creed and colour – to stay firm in our commitment to receiving 25,000 Syrian refugees before the end of the year as a start and an end to the Canadian air strikes and military intervention in the Middle East that are contributing to the creation of more refugees and the radicalization of militant reactionaries in the region.
Here in Ontario, news soon traveled of a fire that was deliberately set at a Peterborough mosque, in what one can only assume is a racist backlash to the incidents in France. It is an important warning that we must refuse to allow ourselves to be dragged into Islamophobic prejudice, discrimination and harassment. When Canadians allow themselves to be divided and to apply blanket stereotypes that dehumanize an entire population of people, we validate the objectives of terrorists and play directly into the hands of hawkish Conservatives who now seek to exploit our fear.
As we talk to our co-workers, friends, family and our political representatives, we must remind them that many refugees are fleeing violence and war. They are not the perpetrators of murder, they are the victims of it, and they deserve safety just as much as we do. Canadians have a humanitarian obligation to open our borders and our homes in these times of crisis, just as we has done on so many historic occasions in the past.
There can be no justification or excuse for the mass killings of innocent people of Paris. These are the tactics of terror and they are designed to instigate further retaliation and conflict. We cannot play into that ploy. Western bombing, drones, repression and killing in Syria or neighbouring countries will only provoke more awful terror in reply, just as past Western military attacks in the region have contributed to the creation of millions more innocent refugees, magnified the devastation, and fueled the recruitment efforts of the same forces that they sought to eliminate. We must find another way to end the conflict.
What Syrians truly need is diplomacy instead of bombs and military strikes. It is time for countries like Canada – and other G20 countries – to play a pivotal role in replacing power politics with a process of conflict resolution that empowers the people of Syria to determine their own collective future.
The horror experienced in Paris last week is not isolated, it has been played out with ruthless regularity in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine and many other countries, sometimes at the hands of Western forces. While Western hearts have been choked by the anguish of Parisians, we must also extend our horror and concern for millions of innocents throughout the world.
On behalf of the more than one million workers who are members of the Ontario Federation of Labour, I am calling on Canadians to oppose any backlash against refugees, migrants, Muslims and racialized people around the world. The strongest and boldest reaction we can have to terror is to say no to war and hatred, to open our doors to the victims of violence throughout the world and to assume a peacekeeping role that generations of Canadians have demanded.
President, Ontario Federation of Labour