Why we turned our backs on Trudeau

In the waning hours of Monday evening at the Canadian Labour Congress’s Young Worker Summit, a surprise guest was announced. The 400 young union activists who had gathered in Ottawa to address the issues facing their generation would be face-to-face with the most influential decision maker in the country: Justin Trudeau.

14895477_10155302966174688_587896873_oAs Prime Minister Trudeau began to speak to the large crowd on Tuesday morning, dozens of young workers representing various unions across sectors stood together and turned our backs to protest the hypocrisy of the Liberal government’s actions while in office.


The protest was a symbolic rebuke of a leader who has turned his back on young workers. For us, turning our backs was how we chose to communicate to the prime minister. It was a physical representation of what we believe labour and social movements must do when confronted with anti-worker and pro-corporate policies.

As the initial agitators rose from their seats, we were joined by other workers from across the convention floor who are tired of watching the government use political rhetoric to hide gross inaction. We do not believe the prime minister was there to have meaningful dialogue that will result to lasting progressive policy changes.

Long on words, short on action

In just the past few weeks we saw the government turn its back on electoral reform. We saw them push pro corporate trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). We saw the finance minister trade cash for access while telling young people to accept the reality of precarious work. We saw the prime minister reassert his opposition to a $15 federal minimum wage.  And we saw them approve the LNG pipeline despite huge implications for the environment and Indigenous land rights.

14877242_10155302966979688_1554688214_nThe government is long on words but short on action. The prime minister is MIA on the issues that matter to us as young workers, but eager to “dialogue” with us for the sake of a photo-op. That is why we turned our back. We are not his photo op.

During our protest, the prime minister attempted to pit worker against worker and condemned the action as being disrespectful and counterproductive to the interests of young workers. We say it is his broken promises that are disrespectful and counterproductive.

The issues

Things escalated quickly beyond the vetted questions and armchair discussion with young workers shouting for serious action on a variety of critical issues:

There were calls to stop Kinder Morgan pipeline project, to end the repression of Indigenous land defenders and climate justice activists — including the 99 youth arrested in front of Parliament Hill on Sunday, to reject the TPP, to raise workers out of poverty by meeting the demands of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, to deliver an affordable childcare program, to repeal Bill C-51, to end unjust Canadian military operations around the world, to institute anti-scab legislation, to implement free post-secondary education and many other issues. Beyond the selfies and the carefully crafted image, young workers are increasingly seeing that Trudeau’s government holds little meaningful promise for workers of any age.

As the event came to a close, the prime minister told the room he would “be back.” We sincerely hope he does return, but we have some words of advice about how he should prepare for his second visit.

14813325_10155302967619688_2100325688_oPrime Minister Trudeau – return having kept your promises on electoral reform, on the federal minimum wage, and on meaningful climate action. Return with a plan to address the human rights violations still facing countless citizens of this country. Return and demonstrate action, not just words. Otherwise, return expecting to face the same response you received on Tuesday.

Jessica Sikora, Erin Warman, OPSEU; Cory Weir, Unifor; David Anderson and Suleman Bashrat, UniteHere; Kim Abis, CUPE; Brianna Broderick, USW; Alexander Lambrecht, Northern Territories Federation of Labour

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

14 thoughts on “Why we turned our backs on Trudeau

  1. Beautifully done!
    Civil disobedience and peaceful direct action are not just symbolic concepts. They are a measured and appropriate response to being ignored.
    Every issue you bring up in this explanation is a broken promise and Trudeau must be reminded, as strongly as possible and without physical violence, that he was voted into the highest office on the strength of those promises. His failure to honour them makes him a dishonourable man, unworthy of our respect. He’s turned out to be exactly what I feared the most; a corporate puppet, a deep disappointment, and a liar.
    We won’t be fooled by his shiny PR now that he’s showing us who he really is. He is a Neoliberal and he must be held accountable. You did exactly the right thing in exactly the right way. I support you 100% and thank you for your work.

  2. I support what you did completely. He has turned his back on “all” Canadians except the rich and elite. He and Morneau have been very dishonest to Canadians. They just introduced Bill C27 which will replace employer backed pension plans of defined benefit plans with Target Benefit Plans which place all of the risk on the employer. They have lied about the CPP helping the youth. The most that the youth will see will be an 8% increase in ten years. That is not helping anyone. The CLC is having a discussion today on this.

  3. Thank you for this clear, firm communication to “Sunny Ways”. Your action said you can be “sunny” and be doing a multitude of harm to your citizens. Your action said, “We see who you are and what you’re doing.” We all need to be communicating this precisely to this government. You inspire me.

  4. Please, let’s give Prime Minister. JustIn Trudeau a chance! The issues he has to deal,with are huge, a year is not nearly long enough

    1. Hi Bette. One more chance? To do what? Break even more promises. In case you are not tracking the promises that the PM has already broken, read this article: “Liberals, masters of the façade, deliver the goods at breakneck speed to the Bay Street boys”. Here’s the link to that article: http://wp.me/pO0No-3AZ If neither of these are automatically converted to hyperlinks by this website, just copy either the title or link into your browser’s navigation bar and press the enter key.

  5. Fantastic. It is so heartening to see how insightful and brave you all are. It gives me hope that there are enough people who are courageous enough to fight and turn the tide toward creating a real just society.

  6. Thanks for standing up for the things many of us care about – fair trade, protection of the environment, good jobs for, all and especially now for young people.

  7. Way ta go! Where I come from or what I was taught is Respect is earned not given to anyone no matter what position they hold! Mr. Trudeau has not earned his respect!

  8. Excellent! Keep up the great work. We need to rise up against greedy oppression and YES, the ” Young will lead the old” Let’s rise up together for the people have the power.

Add Comment