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criminal syndicalism

Canada’s New Anti-Terrorism Act and the “Green Syndicalist Menace”

By Jeff Shantz - Anarcho Syndicalist Review, Summer 2015

IWW EUC note: This article was written before the results of the recent election in Canada, in which voters ousted the Conservative Party in favor of the (ostensibly centrist) Liberal Democrats.

On January 30, 2015 the ruling Conservative Party government of Canada introduced its most recent terror panic based legislation, in the form of Bill C-51 (the Anti-Terrorism Act). The Bill has now passed House of Commons vote, on May 6, and is in final approval steps at the Canadian Senate.  Under the guise of “fighting terrorism” (people in Canada are much more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terrorist) C-51 criminalizes not only specific actions (“illegal protests,” “unlawful assembly,” wildcat strikes) but symbolic (including online) expressions of support for things like “economic disruption” (choose what that means).

In many respects C-51 stands as an attack against rank and file mobilization and action, beyond legal collective bargaining contexts, and against working class organizing beyond legislative challenges (i.e. direct actions). The Bill would formalize Conservative Party opinion, as already stated by former Environment Minister and current Finance Minister Joe Oliver who identified environmental activists as radical and terrorists. It is introduced in a context of growing government and corporate concern over emerging alliances against extractives industries.

This is the most recent of Conservative Party attempts to target and criminalize direct action and more militant organizing. It comes at the same time as freedom of information requests unearthed an RCMP “Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment” report on “Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry.” The RCMP document dedicates several sections to attempts to construct environmentalists and indigenous activists as threats to workers (and as terrorists). Clearly they see an important, and from their view necessary, wedge to drive between budding green syndicalist alliances, as between dockworkers and anarchists at some Westcoast ports and between rank and file resource workers and pipeline opponents.

The Bill contains a number of provisions that would explicitly target workers and workplace actions. These would focus on wildcat strikes, strikes of any kind that impact extractives industries or transport, and actions like slowdowns or disruptive job actions. Any workplace actions that occur outside of legally recognized union endeavors or collective agreement provisions could be targeted.

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