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Victoria chapter rallies with maritime workers vs CETA

Photo by SIU Canada

The Council of Canadians Victoria chapter rallied with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, the International Transport Workers Federation Secretariat and the Seafarers International Union against the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) today.

This morning, the Ottawa Citizen reported, “The Canadian Maritime and Supply Chain Coalition holds a nation-wide Day of Action to ‘stand up and fight back’ against what they describe as the federal government’s ‘ongoing government action hurting seafarers’, particularly the ‘maritime provisions’ of the proposed Canada-European Union free trade deal, as well as recommendations from the most recent review of the Canadian Transportation Act that would, if adopted, see Canada ‘left at the mercy of rogue foreign ship owners to move domestic products to market’.”

Now CBC reports, “Over 200 maritime workers gathered in Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert Thursday to protest what they view as ‘an attack on jobs’ from the federal Liberal government. They say proposed changes will cost jobs and degrade environmental standards along Canadian coastlines. Concerns revolve around the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA) and changes to the Canada Transportation Act. Keeping onboard crews local is crucial, says Robert Ashton, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada.”

That article highlights, “Ashton said the CETA deal with the European Union could be ‘the death knell’ for many Canadian jobs and standards. [Ashton says, ‘Right now to work in domestic trade within Canada… you need to be a Canadian-owned vessel crewed by Canadians.’] ‘Under the comprehensive economic trade agreement, that changes. It opens up the doorway for foreign companies, in this case European ship owners, to bring in vessels that are flagged out of Panama or are flagged out of Marshall Islands to operate domestic trade within our boundaries. So what happens is, the vessels are run at substandard conditions.'”

The Globe and Mail has also explained, “‎Under [CETA], key pieces of the highly protected Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River shipping business will be opened up to foreign competition for the first time, with no reciprocal access to the European market. The deal would allow European operators to carry empty containers in Canadian waters, bid on dredging projects as well as carry cargo between Halifax and Montreal. Under Canada’s Coasting Trade Act, virtually all ships plying Canadian waters must be flagged in Canada, with crews trained and certified here. Without those protections, the industry warned it could face unfair competition from lower-cost European operators. The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada said ships flying European ‘flags of convenience’ will be able enter Canadian waters ‘without any restrictions on origin of the crew, or level of wage and working conditions.'”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada says up to 12,000 jobs across Canada could be affected by the ‘free trade’ deal concluded by the Trudeau government, with “tens of thousands” of indirect jobs also affected.

Rallies also took place in St. John’s, Montreal and in Toronto where Council of Canadians organizer Mark Calzavara spoke to those gathered outside Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland’s office.