Thursday, December 07, 2006

French Youth Continue Uprising Against Police Brutality, Poverty

On the first anniversary of the riots which spread across Europe against the police brutality, racism and poverty faced by African and Arab immigrants, French youth have again brought these issues to the forefront.

On October 27th, French youth from poor suburbs of France rioted against the state oppression which last year claimed the life of two teenagers and set off country wide uprisings against racism, chronic unemployment and poverty faced by African and Arab immigrants in France. On October 27, 2005 two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore were electrocuted after climbing into an electrical sub-station in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Friends and locals say that this was an attempt to hide from police.

Just two days earlier, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy says that a Paris suburb mostly comprised of immigrants of African and Arab descent says that crime-ridden neighbourhoods should be "cleaned with a power hose".

Responding to this continued violence and oppression, youth from across working class neighbourhoods in France took to the streets to express their unwillingness to live under these conditions. In the two week urban uprising that ensued, more than 10,000 cars were set ablaze and 300 buildings firebombed.

The uprisings spread across France and even into Belgium
and Germany, vividly connecting the common issues faced by immigrants of various nations living in Europe. These uprisings were successful in bringing the world’s attention to the condition of immigrant people in Europe and in providing an important lesson to the emerging movements for immigrant rights which have sprung up all over Europe and North America.

Not surprisingly, the French governments’ pledge to address the core issues have largely been empty words and little has changed for working people. Nevertheless, their example and that of the Latino movement in the United States which organized a work, school, buying stoppage and mass demonstration last year in the United States demonstrates that the rights of working people can only be upheld by the people militantly asserting themselves.

As we head into a recession, Harper’s government is likely to try and increase its targeting of immigrant workers in order to distract and divide working people as a whole. People need to unite in order to prevent this from happening, and assert that the right of all working people to jobs, education and inclusion is non-negotiable!

Minimum Wage Unlivable

The fact that the current minimum wage does not provide people with enough to live was recognized recently by the Provincial government. A private members bill submitted by the NDP to increase the minimum wage to $10/hr passed the second reading at Queen’s Park this November.

With the Liberals and Conservatives already voicing their opposition to this bill, it is highly unlikely that the bill will get passed. Premier McGuinty warned that increasing the minimum wage would be imposing undue economic pressures on businesses, alluding that business will go elsewhere if wages are increased here. This idea is something that the Conservatives have repeated as well.

What is important however, is that no newspaper or Political party has argued that the $7.75 per hour is enough for someone to live on. Clearly this demonstrates the fact that even the political parties of the rich know that the current minimum wage is not a living wage. McGuinty’s argument also exposes the hypocrisy and uselessness of a system which acknowledges that it is only willing to pay people less than or just enough to get by on the grounds that it might inconvenience big business.

Even though the minimum wage will not be increased, the issue of wages for the poor has become an issue that the politicians have had to deal with for the first time in several years.