The City of Calgary risks staining its good name if it tries to evict peaceful protestors from the Occupy Calgary site at Olympic Plaza, says the province's largest labour organization.
"You cannot say you believe in democracy and then attempt to deny people the right to protest peacefully," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
The AFL today (Wednesday) issued a statement of solidarity with the continuing Occupy Calgary protest, calling on the City to refrain from eviction proceedings and has sent that statement to Mayor Naheed Nenshi and all members of City Council.
"It's an act of participatory democracy for Calgarians to brave the cold until they truly feel they've been heard. They have the right to protest an economic system that robs the public purse of revenues for our vital social services. They have a right to protest billions of dollars given to profitable multinational corporations while our schools and our children suffer from education cuts and unreliable funding," says McGowan. "Despite claims to the contrary, the protestors have legitimate concerns and have come up with specific solutions, such as the Robin Hood Tax on transactions by financial institutions to combat poverty.
Even Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney – newly appointed by the G20 as the man to overhaul international banking industry – has acknowledged that the Occupy demonstrations are a "democratic expression of views" and are "entirely constructive."
The AFL's statement says: "The powers that be have often sought to confront and quash peaceful protests, like those by supporters of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Years later, with the benefit of hindsight, those same societies looked back at the protesters and applauded their courage and conviction – and with horror of the attempts by authorities to silence them. We must learn from those lessons. We urge the City of Calgary to take the long view of this issue. Any attempt to confront peaceful Occupiers and force them to leave risks staining the good name of the City of Calgary."
Three labour unions affiliated with the federation, and representing workers in Calgary, have come out in explicit support. "Our affiliate members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 37 (representing the City of Calgary outside workers), Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583 (representing Calgary Transit and various City of Calgary employees), and members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1374 (representing Greyhound, Brewster and Red Deer Transit Employees) stand in solidarity with Occupy Calgary," says the statement.
"We support their rights as citizens of Calgary to gather in a public space and to push for change. Any attempt to evict them would be an attempt to sweep them and their legitimate public concerns under the carpet."
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888 (cell)
McGowan will be available for in-person interviews in Calgary until noon.