Faith, Prisoners of Conscience and Freedom

April 9, 2009

As we approach Easter weekend, the time when Christians around the world remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, it’s appropriate to recognize — whether you the reader are a Christian or not — the power of this event.

Many consider the celebration of Easter a private event, done in one’s home, perhaps with a nice meal. Many believe that it does not, cannot, and indeed should not, be seen as more than that. But, in reality, it is a public event, and one that continues to have a profound influence  in our world.

Evidence of the connection between the Easter story and pursuit of justice for the oppressed — one instance of setting things aright — can be found in many places. In fact, those who believe in this story are the first to be found fighting, and suffering, “on the front lines” of the struggle for human dignity.

Take for example Lech Walesa, the great leader of the Polish Christian union Solidarnosch.  CBC correspondent Brian Stewart reports:

I remember a dim stairwell in Gdansk, Poland. As many of you remember the first, unbelievable crack in the mighty Communist Empire, which had so often proclaimed triumph over religion, occurred in Poland in the early 1980’s when the Solidarity Movement, supported by the church, rose to challenge tyranny, under the leadership of a most unlikely little shipyard electrician Lech Walensa. Later he’d win the Nobel Prize and become President of Poland, but when I met Walensa he was isolated, had been jailed, and his life was so often threatened I thought he was a Dead Man Walking. We all assumed security forces were arranging one of those convenient “accidents” that really did happen in that frightening climate of oppression. Just like the movies.

A few of us met him alone on this stairwell as he slipped out to Mass. Are you frightened, one of us asked? He stopped, looked surprised at the thought. Then answered in a voice of steel: “No, I am afraid of No One, and Nothing, only God”. And he walked out alone into the night. It was a transcendent moment. Here in this dingy stairwell was the purest courage and conscience backed by Christian Faith that I suddenly realized no force of Empire or terror could ever extinguish.

This example of pure courage and conscience has repeated itself over and over again, and continues to do so, even today.

Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, the man who CLAC has been supporting in his struggle for the release and independence of trade unions in Cuba, having suffered the same indignity of arrest as Lech Walesa, has this to say:

In a sense the Cuban government has done me a favour, since I never dreamt of a life in exile earlier on. To use the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:4: In everything we do we want to give evidence that we are true servants of God. We patiently endure many kinds of pain and hardship for the sake of the Lord. And I say with a positive spirit in the love of the Lord and in love for all our neighbours.

This is not the testimony of someone for whom the events of Easter are a private event. It is an event which has inspired transformation and beauty and will continue to do so until justice flows like rivers.

As you head into the Easter weekend, Solidarnotes wishes you nothing but the best.


I’m just saying…

April 9, 2009

If you have an employer like this,

It is good to have a bit of this:

A happy Easter to all Solidarnotes readers.


Economic Justice? Think Trade Unions First.

April 7, 2009

More on this later, but for now, have a chew on this profound quote:

Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.

Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno


Progressive in the Prairies

April 7, 2009

Progressive labour relations? Perhaps not, but it’s hilarious anyway.

Check out last night’s episode of Corner Gas for a primetime look at the rough and tumble world of labour relations in that beautiful province of Saskatchewan. Way to go, Wanda and Hank!

I’d say the resolution was win-win, wouldn’t you?

(Keep your eye open for a cameo performance by premier Brad Wall who plays a soccer dad convincingly, if not almost as crotchedy as Oscar)

…And people say Saskatchewan is boring!


Captive in Cuba (II)

March 23, 2009


Following up on our “Captive in Cuba” post, we are now able to link to a sample letter which we are encouraging readers to send to their MPs, asking them to call for the release of the prisoners or, at the very least, the release of the parliamentary report on Cuba.

The letter can be found by clicking: MP sample letter.

To find out which riding you are in, click: Elections Canada (type in your postal code and it will take you to a page with your MPs contact information)

To find your MPs contact information directly, click: Members of Parliament

Please take the time to send this letter; MPs are most likely to listen to their constituents! The letter can be sent either by email or by regular mail.

(Don’t forget to add your name and your MPs name, and feel free to personalize the letter)


Justice for Diaz

March 20, 2009

Most of you will likely remember a recent post in which we had asked readers of this blog to involve themselves through emails/faxes to Honduran officials with regard to a labour rights case in Latin America involving the murder of a lawyer advocating for the rights of security guards.

The case revolved around a classic mafioso style hit. Two men on a motorcycle pulled up next to the vehicle being driven by Dionisio Diaz and shot him numerous times from close range before fleeing the scene. Diaz died of his wounds. 

Diazs killers were sentenced to prison terms of 21 years

Diaz's killers (César Amador left, Ramón Solís right)


The two men were found guilty, and were today sentenced to 21 years in prison and 20 years and 6 months, respectively. We are told that, while the letters and emails did not influence the judges decision per se, the fact that officials and politicians knew that people were watching ensured that the law was upheld. Apparently such cases are often swept under the rug due to pressures from those who wish to maintain the ability to treat their workers with impunity.


The story was front page news in national papers in Honduras. For those of you who can read spanish, the link can be found here.




This is a significant step both in establishing justice in this case, but also in the effort to ensure that labour law is efficacious  and more than mere ink on paper. The next step is to ensure that those responsible for ordering the hit on Diaz’s life are brought to justice. We will keep you apprised as events transpire.



And, we would be remiss to neglect to point out our hope that the sentencing and prison terms served by these men achieve its goal: namely that they regret their actions and leave prison reformed. As with all matters of justice, reconciliation and renewal, rather than revenge, should be at the forefront of our minds. 


Captive in Cuba.

March 18, 2009

Today, March 18, 2009 marks six years since over 75 people were arrested in Cuba for exercising their basic rights as human beings.

Among these 75 were six independent trade unionists, members of the United Council of Cuban Workers (CUTC). Their crime? Trying to form an independent trade union. That’s it. Period.

They were charged under laws which make it illegal to undertake “anti-revolutionary activities”, tried in show trials which lasted less than two days, and sentenced to prison terms of up to 26 years.  All of this has been documented by,

Amnesty International
United Nations 

Human Rights Watch
Freedom House
International Trade Union Confederation

These violations are real, and well documented. Thankfully, three CUTC members have been released, but they are by no means free. Two remain in Cuba under continued surveillance and intimidation from the Cuban state, and one,  lives in exile.

What is being done about it? Well, CLAC has been working since 2004 to pressure the Canadian government to do something about it. Here are some examples of what we’ve done: parliamentary presentations, letter writing campaigns, articles in the national media, and more.

We are the lone Canadian trade union voice seeking relief on this matter. The Canadian Labour Congress has been supportive of the Cuban regime. The frustration is not that they oppose the embargo — CLAC has consistently spoken against the embargo, claiming that it is counterproductive to the furtherance of human rights in Cuba — but that they remain silent on the violation of the rights of Cuban workers.  Their silence is palpable and shameful, and places ideology above human dignity.

The fact that we are the sole voice on this, means that we need your help.  Our parliament has a report written on the situation of human rights in Cuba, yet it has not been released to the public. This report needs to be made public so that the violations of human rights in Cuba can be brought to light. To do so, the subcommittee studying this needs to know that citizens of Canada are concerned with this matter.

We are asking readers of this blog to email their MPs, or better to send a letter to their MPs in the mail asking them to call for the release of the prisoners or, at the very least, the release of the report on Cuba.

A list of MPs can be found here, and a form letter will be posted as soon as we are able to overcome some technological details.

The general secretary of the CUTC was recently released and was interviewed in Europe after his release. He had this to say:

Read the rest of this entry »