Dozens of union members have held a rally at Canada Place, protesting against Bill C-23 claiming it’ll deny Canadian workers jobs.
The bill expands the powers of US customs officers doing pre-clearance screening at Canadian airports and other departure points. Workers claim it gives US Homeland Security too much power over Canadian workers’ jobs.
“If the Canadian government says ‘you’re OK to work in Canada,’ the US government should have no say in it,” says Rob Ashton, President of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Canada (ILWU), who believes workers have been let down by the Trudeau government.
Mitch Kovats works as a longshoreman loading logs and is concerned about the bill’s impact on those in the transportation industry. “And I just don’t think that’s right, that Americans have any say whether or not we can work on Canadian soil.”
Others are also concerned the bill will allow strip searches of workers.
“Especially as a female worker,” says Larissa Sampson, a union member. “The part about being strip-searched by American border security in my place of work is absolutely terrifying, on Canadian soil.”
She adds most of her work in the summer months happens on the cruise ship terminals, and worries the bill will affect her employment. “So that is 100 per cent in the jurisdiction at this point of the border security of the Americans once we are putting this into place.”
First tabled in Parliament in June last year, Bill C-23 has now received royal assent, and will soon become law.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes to paint himself as a progressive,” she says. “This is an extremely regressive step in terms of our basic human rights.”
Lanzinger says ILWU has the backing of the hundreds of thousands of BC Federation of Labour members. “And I will also go so far as to speak for the 3.3 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress. The only way we win these fights is through our solidarity, our unity, our commitment to each other. Those are our fundamental principles in the labour movement, and we commit those workers and all of our energies to supporting the ILWU in this fight.”
However, ILWU workers say it’s not too late to pressure the federal government into changing some aspects of the law during the regulatory phase.