Labour Day 2014



There was a rare sighting of a Catholic priest in the Labour Day parade this year. Yes he was there collar and all, Fr.O’Reilly, Basilian walking in solidarity with the various faces of labour. Good on ya, Father, a rara avis indeed. In all the years I’ve been walking, never saw a Catholic bishop once, so divorced have these putative leaders been from the social struggle. The John Paul ll boys were a timorous lot except for ranting about what they knew least—issues dealing with sex and women’s rights.

I once wrote an article tongue in cheek where I said you will know when the Parousia (end times) are about to arrive is when you are in a jazz club and you look across the room and you see a Catholic bishop. Paul André Durocher now the head of the Canadian Catholic Bishops told me he liked that jibe.”Early to bed, early to rise, never see the regular guys” was the less than subtle intent. Now I’ve updated that witticism and changed it to’, Look the Labour Day Parade is about to started…who’s that guy with the funny hat and walking stick, leading the parade, no it can’t be, but it is Bishop —– insert name here.Ah,’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished!

As the great Andrews Sister’s 1949 cut said, “I Can Dream Can’t I”?

All in a lovely affair and a big difference this year with many young children walking with their parents on this warm and muggy day. ”Forging solidarity for a better city” read the logo on my Catholic Teachers’ tee shirt. Was this a reference to Rob Ford or basic Catholic theology? Anyway I was proud to wear it and happy to see my former union out there with the OECTA flag.

But wait, I spy a couple of teachers handing out a pamphlet Teachers’ Pension and Apartheid:Time to Divest Again. It turns out that the teachers’ pension plan has a combined investment of $582 million in the Occupied Territories. In the 90s the pension plan even though it does not consider investment on ethical or moral principles did pull the pug on apartheid South Africa. These teachers want fellow teachers to bring resolutions to their districts to support such a divestment campaign.


Sign on Queen Street on Labour Day 2014

Someof those organizations supporting BDS.are CUPE, Independent Jewish Voices, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Anglican Church of England and canada (general synods,the Israeli Committee against House demolitions and several others.) For info :

I posed a similar challenge to the Catholic Teachers Union in my book Never Neutral: A Teaching Life

Human rights as a Catholic value, solidarity as a Catholic value, and compassion as a Catholic value, no longer need defensive posturing and apologetic timidity.

What it does need is some courage.

Unions should be prodding Catholic boards to step up the witness and curriculum work around the overweening moral issue of today, climate change. This should be obvious. The second issue is the long-standing oppression of the Palestinian people. As a long-time friend of the Jewish people, as the pioneer in this country of Holocaust education, and as one honoured by the same community for my work, my credentials as an honest broker here should allow me to speak with the utmost honesty and genuine concern.

The state of Israel has become an international pariah for its illegal occupation of Palestinian land, its historic ethnic cleansing of an indigenous people and its ongoing and unrelenting oppression of another Semitic people. Israel, sadly, has lived up to the shocking boast of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan shortly after its conquests of 1967. His brutal candour stands as a monument to insensitivity and cruelty. To his colleagues he stated at that time: “We must tell the Palestinians in the territories we have no solution. You shall continue to live like dogs and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.” Well, we now have the answer.

In all global surveys, Israel ranks near the bottom of countries having a negative influence in the world. This is a monumental tragedy and a deep source of embarrassment to Jews of conscience and internationalists in general. Not only has its behaviour stimulated nascent antisemitsim, but it has deformed Judaism. Calling Israel back to sanity and to justice is imperative today as the solution of this neuralgic issue is the key to dampening Muslim tensions with the Western world. In this way we shall exhibit our double solidarity: To the state of Israel, its right to exist as a valued member of the international community as well as to the beleaguered, long-suffering Palestinian people.

Catholic unions must get on the right side of history here and, out of love for the Jewish state, help bring it back to sanity and justice. South Africa’s recent transformation may serve as a hopeful example to an honoured seat in the international family of nations.

Reflexive supporters of Israel today are sadly presiding over acountry which has lost its way. Teaching bodies who do not speak to this heartbreaking situation are complicit in its continuance. It would be sad indeed, a dereliction of duty and a betrayal of our call to be in solidarity with the oppressed, if a Catholic union of teachers remained passive and silent on these two issues.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    I grew up almost always listening to a Gregory Baum interview on CBC radio on this day- always broadcasting some issue relating to a papal encyclical on labour and social justice. Those days appear to be over. Bishops are more politicians today- never taking a side that would put them in any controversy. Remember JP2 telling priests to stay out of politics? These are the obedient flock that remain. So terribly sad.

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