TORONTO, Canada — Opening with an Aboriginal drum song, and with speakers taking the floor in English, French and Spanish, the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) held a lively 35th Central Convention here Feb. 1-4.
In his opening address, CPC leader Miguel Figueroa declared, “Defeating the [Prime Minister Steven] Harper Conservatives is now the most central and pressing task for our party, our class and for the Canadian people as a whole.”
Figueroa likened Harper and the conservatives to U.S. President George Bush and the ultra- right Republicans. He said Harper has the backing of the main sections of Canadian and international finance capital and has allowed social conservatives from the U.S. to openly influence government policy. The situation requires urgent action by a labor-led alliance and broad unity among all Canada’s peoples, he stressed.
Figueroa noted Tory policies had deepened Canadian troop occupation of Afghanistan, radically increased military spending, abandoned the Kyoto targets to curb global warming, cut social programs and increased pressure to privatize the Canadian health care system. September 11 has also been used in Canada as a pretext to roll back democratic liberties and whip up a racist anti-Muslim atmosphere.
The Tories are forging ahead to integrate Canadian military and security services with those of the U.S. The CPC called upon the government to come clean with its involvement in the arrest and “torture flight” of Canadian citizen Maher Arar by U.S. authorities at JFK airport. Arar was abducted to Syria where he was jailed and tortured. The CPC also demanded the closure of “Guantanamo North” in Kingston, Ontario, the release of several prisoners and the ending of secret trials.
The Tory policies are very unpopular and Harper is getting Bush-like poll numbers. There is especially broad popular sentiment against the Afghanistan mission and for bringing Canadian troops home.
Delegates crafted an electoral strategy responding to the urgent call to defeat the Conservatives in the upcoming federal elections including building alliances and greater unity among all the opposition forces. For example, the labor movement is split between backing Liberal and New Democratic Party candidates. There was also a commitment to run 25 CPC provincial candidates.
The convention took note of the continuing penetration of U.S. transnational capital, the impact of NAFTA and Canada’s existence as a “resource colony.” A mammoth project is underway in Alberta to extract petroleum from the oil sands. Workers are being forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions and the landscape is being desecrated in order to radically increase production of oil for shipment to the U.S.
Prominent throughout the deliberations was the recognition of special national questions in Canada with respect to the Aboriginal peoples and the Quebecois. Resolutions were passed to step up the fight for full equality and respect for national rights to self-government.
The convention, held at a local Steelworkers hall, also celebrated the 85th anniversary of the CPC. Delegates adopted a political resolution and a plan of work that stresses building a mass party and circulation of the People’s Voice and Clarté (the Quebecois publication). It was announced with great excitement that after many years, the Young Communist League of Canada is to be refounded in March.
The CPC received greetings from 36 fraternal parties worldwide. Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner and Illinois District Organizer John Bachtell represented the Communist Party USA. In his greeting to an evening of unity and solidarity, Tyner reiterated the long, shared history and warm solidarity between the two parties. He also recounted the monumental fight against the ultra-right in the U.S. that resulted in the landmark electoral victory this past November. Tyner shared the stage with Cuban Ambassador Ernesto Senti, who thanked the CPC for its solidarity in building the movement to break the U.S. blockade and free the Cuban 5 patriots.