A Canadian Labour Congress statement

We need strong Canadian voices on the side of the people in Burma

Friday 28 September 2007, by Ken Georgetti

The people of Burma need our vocal and active solidarity. If the demonstrations were triggered by a rise in fuel prices that has left this oil-importing nation devastated, they mostly express a collective frustration with the junta’s continued refusal to respond to the cares of its own people.

Over the last eighteen years the Canadian Labour Congress has worked closely with our colleagues from the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma and the National Coalition of the Union of Burma. We have condemned the repeated and systematic violations of workers and human rights committed by the military junta in Burma, particularly the use of forced labour. We have called for an end to this criminal policy. With the generous support of a number of our affiliated unions, we have supported FTUB activities inside Burma in the border area and have been involved with union training on human and workers’ rights issues.

The military junta has made Burma the only country ever to be expelled from the International Labour Organization because of its responsibility in the ongoing use of forced labour; a practice that the ILO equates to a crime against humanity. Indeed this military has closed and isolated the country with complete disregard for no less than twenty-eight UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights resolutions calling for national reconciliation and an end to the crisis.

In Canada, Parliament, unanimously passed a motion in May 2005 in support of comprehensive economic measures against the military regime. The government has not gone beyond statements discouraging Canadians to do business there.

While the Canadian Labour Congress acknowledges what has been done in Parliament and the steps taken by the government, we much deplore the lack of vigour in preventing the continuous presence in Burma of a number of high- profile Canadian corporations. Their activities there only feed the military regime and aggravate the people’s poverty.

There is urgency for strong voices on the side of the people in Burma. Today, as Canadians, we must call for peace and democracy in Burma if we want to remain credible when we make the same call anywhere else.

Ken Georgetti is president of the Canadian Labour Congress, the largest trade union federation in Canada, representing 3.2 million workers.

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