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Unionists show their support for the Canadian cabotage laws in St. John’s Newfoundland.

Unionists show their support for the Canadian cabotage laws in St. John’s Newfoundland.

MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member Jim Given speaks with a local police officer during the Toronto march.

MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member Jim Given speaks with a local police officer during the Toronto march.

“I am so proud of all the union members who marched all across Canada calling on members of Parliament to reject provisions that would give good Canadian jobs to foreigners,” declared MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member Jim Given. “We put maritime and its issues front-and-center all across the country.”

Thousands of union members and supporters marched in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, Prince Rupert (British Columbia) and St. John’s (Newfoundland) under the banner of the Canadian Maritime & Supply Chain Coalition (CMSCC). Given is CMSCC chair and also serves as the president of the Seafarers Union of Canada.

The coalition was protesting language in the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) that would open certain domestic trading routes to foreign and flag-of-convenience shipping, which would risk Canadian jobs as well as nation’s security and environment. It noted the changes proposed by CETA could result in not only unemployment of Canadian mariners, but also diminish the important role Canadian-flag shipping plays in the national economy.

Additionally, the CMSCC reported leaked documents from talks for the Trade in Services Agreement between Canada and 22 other nations reveal negotiators seeking to liberalize market access to the country’s coastal trades. If implemented, this would allow foreign-crewed vessels access to cargo that currently is handled by Canadian-flag, Canadian-crewed vessels.

Finally, protesters were concerned that the Canada Transportation Act Review (also known as the Emerson Report) calls for the elimination of cabotage laws regarding domestic maritime transportation without any regard to the economic and social outcome of the Canadian merchant marine and the 250,000 people employed in the coastal trades.

“This cannot stand unchallenged,” added Given. “All these actions affect our jobs and our communities. That is why all unions, not just those in maritime, have a stake in this important fight.”

Among the unions taking part in the January 12 marches were the SIU of Canada, Steel Workers, ILA, UFCW, ILWU, Machinists, IBEW, UNIFOR, Operating Engineers, IUPAT, Transport and General Workers, Teamsters and Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Given stated more actions and protests can be expected in the coming weeks.