Montreal unions demonstration unrelated to federal funding for Ukraine

  • Published on October 2, 2023 at 20:09
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Canada
Footage of a large demonstration in Montreal is being misrepresented in posts that claim the protesters took to the streets to voice anger over Canada's support for Ukraine. In fact, the clip shows a march coordinated by four unions seeking higher wages in contract negotiations with the provincial government in Quebec.

"Ottawa's plans to provide financial support to Ukraine led to mass protests in Montreal," says a September 25, 2023 Facebook post with a video viewed more than 1,700 times. "The day before, Trudeau announced a new package of military assistance to Kyiv was being prepared. In response to this, over 100 thousand government employees held a demonstration in Montreal."

The same claim circulated on X, formerly known as Twitter, as well as the video-sharing platform Bitchute and the meme site iFunny. Other posts sharing the footage similarly say the protesters were angry with the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken October 1, 2023

The allegations circulated as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Ottawa. In a speech to parliament, the leader thanked Canada for its support since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Trudeau on September 22, 2023 unveiled Can$650 million ($475 million) in aid over three years. The pledge, which comes on top of the Can$8.9 billion that Ottawa has already contributed, includes 50 armored vehicles and training for F-16 fighter pilots.

But the protest in the footage shared online was unrelated to Canada's continued support for Kyiv.

AFP confirmed the video was filmed in Montreal using visual clues, including a sign for the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (MAC).

Google keyword searches surfaced local news articles about a demonstration the Common Front held September 23. The coalition of four public service worker unions took to the streets in Quebec province's largest city to call for higher wages and better working conditions.

The group representing more than 400,000 school, health and social service workers marched from Jeanne-Mance Park to the Quartier des Spectacles, which is adjacent to the MAC.

Eric Gingras, president of Centrale des syndicats du Québec -- one of the unions in the Common Front -- told AFP in a French statement that the protest was "aimed to support workers in the public sector (education, health and social services) currently in negotiations with the government of Quebec for the renewal of their collective agreements."

The demonstration "had nothing to do in any way with the war in Ukraine or its financing," he said in the September 28 email.

AFP could not confirm the origin of the video shared online, but it shows the same green flags and black T-shirts pictured in images of the rally on the Common Front's website (archived here).

Screenshot taken October 1, 2023 of a video shared on social media, with elements highlighted by AFP
Screenshot taken October 2, 2023 of the Common Front website, with elements highlighted by AFP



The unions' collective agreements expired in March 2023. Local news outlets reported October 1 that the majority of workers have voted to back a strike if the groups are unable to successfully negotiate new contracts.

More of AFP's reporting on misinformation in Canada is available here.

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