ACLA Ontario Year End Message

Dear ACLA Members and Allies,

As we near the end of 2023, we reflect on a year of important victories but also deeply disturbing developments; one of the most disturbing of which is the ongoing siege of Gaza and the genocide of Palestinians throughout the holiday season. More than ever we must commit ourselves to supporting Palestinian resistance. We have seen a massive movement to support Palestine across the world, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in Ontario and other cities across the country. Now more than ever as Asian Labour activists it is our duty to support Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation. For example, you can do so by supporting and donating to the Palestinian Youth Movement – Toronto, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement and getting involved in efforts such as those at Labour for Palestine.

Workers made important gains and win this year. Migrant and injured workers secured a major victory after years of organizing around the unfair practice of deeming. Public sector workers at the federal level lead one of the largest strikes in Canadian history. Longshore workers in BC showed the strength of organized labour in strategic nodes under global capitalism. Grocery store workers fought courageously and secured a contract in an industry that has reaped windfall profits. In the suburbs of Brampton, South Asian Punjabi students and workers lead efforts to advance class justice within immigrant communities where wage theft and exploitation are rife. As of writing this letter over half a millions workers in Quebec as part of the “Front Commun” (the Common Front) have taken strike action and headed towards a potential general strike one. In each of these struggles are important lessons that our movement must learn from.  Perhaps we may even find a road map through them to the renewal of our labour movement. An essential part of this will be to ensure that our unions are committed to eradicating racism within their structures and beyond, only in doing so can we truly win for the working class.

The political electoral left has also made important gains this year as well. In Manitoba, Wab Kinew defeated a Conservative incumbent who campaigned on refusing to search local landfills for the remains of missing and murdered Indigenous women – in turn becoming Canada’s first First Nations premier. In Toronto’s mayoral by-election, progressive Olivia Chow broke through Toronto’s historic urban-surban divide, weathering a storm of anti-Asian racism and sexism to become the first racialized mayor in Toronto’s history. And it was such a glaring example of how this was made possible by the support of racialized working people in the suburbs of Scarborough. These recent electoral victories feel like moments of reprieve, in what has felt like the steady right ward march of austerity, neoliberalism and conservatisms.

Yet disappointingly, such important advances in the electoral arena were soon beset by an unwillingness to act and outright suppression of activists as Israel initiated its invasion on Gaza. One of the most egregious of which was the removal of Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama from the ONDP Caucus (on the same day in which she was censured by the Ford Government). It is yet another example of the anti-Black racism and racism within an ONDP that has lost most of its Black and many racialized MPPs. The left establishment’s failure to support Palestine and activists in support of Palestine, not only reflects its own failures to realize its professed values of anti-racism, social justice, etc. but it also speaks to a broader unwillingness to depart from the imperialist agenda of the US. It is our duty to support fighters like Sarah Jama and likewise those who commit to building institutional power for an organized left that is truly committed, willing and capable of winning social and economic liberation for all. 

Ultimately, what is at stake in our collective struggles whether on the labour front or politically – was on full display during the past summer as waves of forest fire swept through cities and towns across Ontario. In Toronto, the skyline disappeared into an orange haze of smog as working, unhoused people and the vulnerable were all left to fend for themselves in another health crisis. The forest fires were a powerful reminder of how fragile our existence on this land is. Another reminder of why it is so important for us to deepen our commitment to reconciliation, with nature and the land and the sovereign Indigenous nations who defend it. As we send this letter in one of the warmest holiday seasons Southern Ontario has seen in years, the environmental developments of the year urge us to change our ways. And we must move fast to do so if we are serious about the survival of our species.

Thank you for your support and contribution to our collective efforts this year. We look forward to staying in community and solidarity in the coming year.

Below are highlights of ACLA Ontario’s activities for 2023:

Organizing 101: Fighting for Justice at your Workplace
ACLA participated in a panel presentation organized by York University Labour Studies Program and the Global Labour Research Centre on how workers can organize for better conditions in their workplace – February 9, 2023

How to organize your workplace
Presentation to the University of Toronto, New College Community Engaged Learning class on lessons in organizing – March 15, 2023

ACLA’s Traveling Exhibit
We are thrilled to announce that ACLA’s traveling exhibit showcasing stories about Asian Canadian workers is now complete and debuted earlier this year. Brilliantly laid out by artist/activist, Emmie Tsumura, a set of 4 pull up banner scrolls have been on display at numerous union conventions and conferences in Ontario and across Canada:

  • PSAC Ontario Area Council, Young Worker and Equity Committees Summit, Markham – March 25, 2023
  • OPSEU Convention, Toronto – April 21-23, 2023
  • LIUNA Local 300 Convention, Niagara Falls – May 2-3, 2023
  • CLC Convention – Human Rights Forum, Montreal – May 8-12, 2023
  • PIPSC Prairies/NWT Steward Council – September 22, 2023
  • PIPSC BC/Yukon Steward Council – October 21, 2023
  • PIPSC National Capital Region Steward Council, Ottawa – October 28, 2023
  • PIPSC PIPSC Human Rights & Diversity Committee, Toronto – December 18, 2023

Check out our brochure for more info.

2023 PSAC Ontario Area Council, Young Worker and Equity Committees Summit
ACLA debuted our much-anticipated travelling exhibit illustrating stories about Asian Canadian workers and delivered a workshop on using art as a form of organizing and resistance – March 25, 2023

The Professor’s Desk: In Conversation
ACLA was thrilled to be chosen to take part in Mayworks’ Labour Arts Catalyst program where we worked with artist Zinnia Naqvi to develop a photo-based art exhibit: The Professor’s Desk: In Conversation. This incredible exhibit was featured at the Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto – May 4-31, 2023

The project combines archival materials and ephemera from the past 20 years of ACLA with a focus on four cases of discrimination on or relating to Canadian universities; the W5 Campus Giveaway TV Special from 1979, Professor Kin-Yip Chun’s case of racial discrimination against the University of Toronto, MacLean Magazine’s “Too Asian” article from 2010, and current barriers facing international students in Canada.

A special panel discussion was pulled together with Zinnia Naqvi, Professor Kin-Yip Chun, and organizer Chris Ramsaroop for a talk on the struggles for justice that have made space for Black, Indigenous, and racialized workers within academic institutions – May 24, 2023

Toronto Book Launch of White Riot: The 1907 Anti-Asian Riots of Vancouver
ACLA helped to organize the Toronto book launch of WHITE RIOT: The 1907 Anti-Asian Riots in Vancouver by Henry Tsang. ACLA’s written contribution forms part of this book comprised of essays and photographs that document the anti-Asian riots in Vancouver in 1907 in the context of contemporary anti-Asian sentiment – May 18, 2023

ACLA and CBTU at CLC Convention
ACLA was pleased to work with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) to hold a caucus meeting during the Canadian Labour Congress’ 30th Constitutional Convention held in Montreal. At the meeting, a special tribute was given honouring the extraordinary life and contribution of the late Carol Wall who was a changemaker that touched many lives and organizations, especially as a member of CBTU and a strong ally to ACLA – May 8, 2023

Chinatown, Labour, Futures
ACLA presented on the virtual talk show series, Hot Pot Talks in partnership with Mayworks BC. This episode focused on the living histories of Chinatown labour organizing, and current issues related to intersectional social movement building – May 8, 2023

The Past and Future of Hong Kong Labour Activism
ACLA supported a presentation on Hong Kong labour activistim featuring Christopher Siu-Tat Mung from the Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor – May 13, 2023

Metro Striking Workers Rally
ACLA came together with food chain workers and grassroots organizations to support striking Unifor grocery store workers employed by Metro – August 18, 2023

Mid-Autumn Festival Social with commemoration of Truth & Reconciliation Day
ACLA and the Toronto & York Region Labour Council’s Chinese Workers Network held a Mid-Autumn Festival social with a special presentation about the relationship between Chinese diaspora and Indigenous People – October 1, 2023

Then and Now: 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
ACLA presented at the PSAC Hamilton-Niagara Area Racially Visible Committee virtual panel discussion assessing how far we have come since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75 years ago – December 11, 2023

Wishing you peace, love, and joy this holiday season and throughout 2024.

In solidarity,
Asian Canadian Labour Alliance, Ontario Chapter