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"André Ouellet, Canada's [Liberal] foreign affairs minister, threw human rights out of the whole issue of trade," He [Craig Kielburger] told the delegates indignantly. "He said that Canada isn't the world's Boy Scout." (Laughter. Meaningful pause).

Toronto Star, Nov 26 1995
"Well, I'm a Boy Scout-" (Prolonged surge of laughter and applause). "And this just means that we children will have to work all the harder to end exploitation of Third World Children."
Craig Kielburger got his big start at the 1995 Ontario Federation of Labour convention - the same convention where delegates delivered a mandate to launch a province-wide general strike against Ontario Premier Mike Harris's "Common Sense Revolution" agenda.
Six months later, the union-aligned United Way charity began collaborating with the govt's workfare pilot which aimed to sign up 55,000 welfare recipients by Aug 96. Workfare was a cornerstone of the Common Sense Revolution and part of a broader attack on the poor and unemployed.
The collaboration made UW a target for principled trade unionists. However, the Ontario Federation of Labour and numerous affiliated union leaders were determined to defend UW, and discouraged local labour councils from getting all democratic and discussing a UW boycott.
But the conflict escalated when CUPE delegates at their Ontario convention in May voted 95% in favour of a UW boycott. CUPE-Ontario demanded UW publicly oppose workfare, and stop donating money to social service agencies that signed up for "volunteers" from the workfare pilot.
UW refused CUPE's demands, repeatedly claiming they were not "political". Meanwhile, OFL, CAW and other affiliate union leaders tried to broker a a compromise donation option to direct money away from non-workfare agencies. CUPE-Ontario would not accept the compromise.
In the end, the boycott worked. Only 6 of 1,700 UW-funded social agencies applied to use workfare. Only a few hundred signed up to workfare, far short of 55,000. Mandatory workfare had been killed. Even the Minister responsible, the hated David Tsubouchi, was canned in August.
Yet, the UW boycott divided labour leaders, even CUPE and CAW which were driving forward the Days of Action strikes against Harris. The labour movement was already profoundly divided over the strike strategy and NDP allegiances following the NDP's disastrous Social Contract.
By Nov 96, only a year after the general strike mandate and Kielburger's speech, the entire Ontario labour movement was in an open civil war with the Steelworkers publicly threatening to secede from the OFL over its desire to end the Days of Action strikes and focus on voting NDP
In complete disarray and unable to any effective strike actions, the civil war meant the labour movement retreated from the field of battle. Harris seized the opportunity and pressed his historic attack on hospitals and municipalities.
When the next big battle erupted in the fall of 97 with an province-wide political strike by teachers, the absence of union solidarity proved fatal. Promises of CUPE and CAW sympathy strikes never materialized. The last great chance to defeat the Common Sense Revolution was lost.
25 years later, UW feeds off weak and ailing unions like a parasite, and Kielburger is exposed for ingratiating himself with the very Liberal machine he rightly attacked in 1995. Charity isn't just the opposite of solidarity. It corrodes solidarity.
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