KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – With Nova Scotia now officially the province with the lowest minimum wage in the country, some 100 folks gathered at Dalhousie University’s Killam Library. Not merely a demand for a a raise in the minimum wage, rally organizers are also asking for better working conditions altogether, as well as higher social assistance rates.
Speakers at this afternoon’s rally included Aidan McNally, provincial chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, Aaron Prosper, president of the Dalhousie Student Union, community activists Lynn Jones and Rana Zaman, and others.
After listening to speeches the group marched to the constituency office of Labi Kousoulis, the minister of Labour and Advanced Education. Kousoulis and premier Steven McNeil believe things are just fine, no matter that in Nova Scotia one in five children live in poverty and many working poor don’t even come close to making ends meet. The argument that raising the minimum wage will be detrimental to the economy has not been borne out by what transpired in Alberta and Ontario after substantial minimum wage raises.
The African Nova Scotian community is particularly hard hit by poverty and unemployment. The Nova Scotia Advocate transcribed veteran labour activist Lynn Jones’ short but powerful speech, in the hope that it will be widely read.
I am always so encouraged when I can be with people who come out to fight for workers rights. You all ought to be congratulated. There are many others that would like to be here today, and then there are many that haven’t heard the word yet. But guess what? We will shout loud enough, and they will soon learn what we are here for.
It’s not that long ago that we were out on the street for the fired janitors at Founders Square. That is not unrelated to this fight here today. You need to make that connection. If we don’t keep on the backs of our elected officials and tell them that we are not putting up with this, they will continue to roll back benefits, raise tuition fees for students, and so on.
Nova Scotia has the highest poverty rate in Canada. But you can double those numbers in the Black community where I come from. The unemployment rate is so bad that many people who used to search for work aren’t even in the statistics anymore. Many simply can’t get any work, so they don’t go out to look anymore. They’re not even included in the unemployment stats, they have given up. Then they end up in the social assistance system, and people suggest that they don’t want to work.
We need fair workplaces and more rights and protections for our workers. I spent many years in the trade union movement. Unions must be held accountable as well, and get out and tell the world that we want this $15. This is the lowest minimum wage in all of Canada!
Somebody asked me how are we going to introduce you? I guess we call you an activist. You call it activism, I call it survival.
Keep on fighting, there are many with you.
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