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All around us, ordinary people are fighting together to improve their lives and the world, and winning victories even against the steepest odds. This is true not just during highly visible uprisings like in 1968 or 2020, but every year—including 2022.
The past year saw the fruits of collective action, from the legalization of abortion in Colombia, to the nationalization of rail services in Scotland, to the decriminalization of sex work in Victoria, Australia. In the United States, people won free childcare in New Mexico and the introduction of the ‘X’ gender marker on identification in New York, and organized labour has made bigger strides than it has in generations.
In Canada, here are 15 movement victories you may not have heard about.
Protection from mining: First Nations and environmental groups won protection from mining in the headwaters of the Skagit River in southern British Columbia and in the French River watershed in Nova Scotia.
Fossil fuel ban: After years of pressure from a strong climate movement, the Quebec government became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban oil and gas development.
Divestment: Organizers continued to press a wide range of institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and won new commitments from the University of Ottawa and Université de Montréal, and an end to direct investment in fossil fuels by University of Toronto. Climate campaigners within the BC Teachers Federation successfully mobilized members to pass a resolution demanding divestment by their pension plan.
Paid sick days: The struggle for paid sick days is ongoing in most jurisdictions, but it made important headway on Dec. 1, 2022 when the federal government mandated up to 10 employer-paid sick days for the 10 per cent of the workforce it regulates. In Ontario, campaigners were able to push the province to not cancel the inadequate government-funded sick day program instituted earlier in the pandemic.
Tenant rights: A group of tenants in Ottawa defeated attempts to evict them and have their residences demolished to build a light-rail transit line.
Immigration policy reforms: Migrant justice campaigners pushed B.C. to become the first province to end migrant detention in provincial jails. They also got the federal government to halt the mass deportation of international students whose permits had expired as well as remove the limit on hours that they are allowed to work. There were also plenty of victories in individual cases, including people gaining immigration status, stopping deportations, and achieving family reunification. In one high-profile instance, an international campaign succeeded in ensuring Ottawa-based graduate student Cihan Erdal was allowed by Turkish authorities to return to Canada after an extended imprisonment.
Solidarity with Indigenous struggles: Labour activists won passage of a resolution at the BC Federation of Labour calling for the disbandment of the Community-Industry Response Group, a formation within the RCMP that specifically targets Indigenous-led land defence struggles, and for the provincial government to resolve disputes with Indigenous peoples without use of force.
Ending institutionalization: After years of advocacy and a legal case, the Nova Scotia government has started to offer living options other than nursing homes for some disabled youth, as four impacted young people move into their own apartments.
School renamed: In line with demands made in many communities by Indigenous peoples and their allies, a school board in Ontario voted for a school named after Sir John A. Macdonald to be renamed after the late Biidassige Mandamin, a prominent Anishinaabe elder and water protector.
Defining antisemitism: In the ongoing struggle over how to define and oppose antisemitism, activists committed to an understanding that is accurate—but that also doesn’t stigmatize legitimate criticism of Israeli policy—defeated attempts to pass the reactionary I.H.R.A. definition at the Waterloo and York Region school boards, among other places.
Opposing the convoy: One of the most sobering developments in the realm of movement politics in 2022 was the effectiveness of the so-called convoy protest that occupied Ottawa’s downtown for weeks and blocked a number of border crossings, and was driven by a range of far-right and white nationalist organizers with ties to the oil industry. However, after a period of initial disorientation during the occupation’s early days, popular responses began to push back—including grassroots networking and mutual aid efforts within Ottawa during the occupation, the Battle of Billings Bridge in which Ottawa residents blocked elements of the convoy from accessing the downtown, and grassroots, community-based efforts in its aftermath to find healing and justice.
Facing down Doug Ford: Perhaps the most visible win for collective struggle in Canada this year was the successful defiance by Ontario education workers of Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford’s legislation that invoked the notwithstanding clause to declare their pending strike illegal. Though many workers believe that the collective agreement that ultimately resulted could have been better, a sharp turn towards grassroots organizing in the year before—combined with solidarity and escalating action from other unions and significant popular support—set the foundation to beat back Ford.
Union drives: As in the United States, unionization campaigns are underway in Canada at companies like Amazon and Starbucks. Organizers have already racked up some wins at Starbucks, as have union drives at lots of other workplaces.
Recovering wages: International students and immigrant workers in Brampton, Ontario have won back a quarter of a million dollars in stolen wages in just one year, confronting employers with protest and direct action.
Victorious strikes: Particularly in the private sector, many unionized workers have responded to the year’s rampant inflation with strikes, and significant wage increases have been won by some warehouse workers, cleaners, and manufacturing workers, while a near-industry-wide strike in construction in Ontario led to substantial gains.
While material gains are crucial, they are far from the only way that movements build towards a better world. Also important are the increased confidence and capacity that can result even from collective struggles that have not yet won definitive victories.
As we celebrate last year’s wins and look towards next year’s openings, we must also honour and celebrate the communities whose continuing resistance is itself a victory—including high-profile Indigenous-led land defence struggles like the Wet’suwet’en opposition to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, resistance by the Secwépemc and other peoples to the Trans Mountain pipeline, and the now 20 year-old blockade of clear cut logging in Grassy Narrows.