free community newsletter ORGANIZE LAWRENCE HEIGHTS NATO BOMBS POISONING FOR BETTER HOUSING! AFGHANISTAN Toronto Community Housing Corporation has begun a series of ‘consultations’ around proposed plans to tear down and re-build Lawrence Heights, in a similar way as was done in Regent Park.
There is no question that Lawrence Heights needs repairs and investment from government. However, area residents should be active and should ask questions to find out how this will TRULY impact working people of Lawrence Heights: Where will people be moved to?
In the case of Regent Park, residents were given the option of either staying in Regent and moving houses, going to another TCHC property, or getting out of TCHC all together. Some people had to move as far as Hamilton. Where will people be forced to move?
which is earmarked for Regent Park. What will happen if something similar happens? Will people be pushed out and more space be turned over to condo developers?
Will TCHC, or another level of government pay for moving expenses?
How will re-development make TCHC more responsive to the community?
Moving is a difficult and expensive process. Moving can easily cost a few hundred dollars plus whatever costs are associated with missing work. Will residents have to pay for this out of their own pocket?
In every TCHC block, working people know about the lack of responsiveness of TCHC when it comes to repairs and security. The TCHC tenant representative organs have little power to influence things so that this continues. How will this re-development make Toronto a better landlord?
Working people of Lawrence Heights cannot afford to sleep on this issue. We have to assert ourselves and demand that our needs be addressed, otherwise the so-called ‘consultations’ will be little more than public relations campaigns for the plans that TCHC and others already have.
Many other questions need to be asked about how this may impact the community, and any proposals for redevelopment have to answer these questions.
• Build better, more affordable housing!
Are the number of Rent-Geared to Income housing units going to be increased? In Chicago, similar public housing redevelopments have lead to a drop in the real number of RGI units. In Regent, the number of RGI units has stayed the same. Are families going to have more space in the proposed new development? The Regent Park redevelopment was expressly designed to pack people into a tighter space. Since Lawrence Heights is less dense than Regent, is TCHC going to try and do the same here?
The Community also needs local jobs
and economic development that can be achieved if plans for re-development incorporate these through measures such as setting up micro-credit investment to give locals first crack at setting up bakeries and other small business.
• Make TCHC act on repairs!
• Base plans for our community on our voices and our needs!
Carried by the wind, it spreads to contaminate the soil, crops, and water of the surrounding area. Inhaled or ingested by humans and other animals, it damages DNA causing a variety of horrifying health effects, including various forms of cancer, immune disorders, internal organ damage, and extreme birth defects. The see AFGHANISTAN, page 2
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”.
Demolition can release a lot of debris into the air, and with old buildings there may be building materials that can have detrimental affects on the health of people in the community.
The Federal government has recently made it clear that they will only give half of the $2.2 Billion that they had previous promised the Provincial government for housing. The Provincial government in turn is not releasing any of that money to the City, much of
Depleted Uranium is a toxic and radioactive waste, a residue leftover from the enrichment of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors and bombs. DU is 67% denser than lead and is much prized by the military for use in its weaponry. DU warheads, rather than flattening on impact, actually get sharper as they punch through the protective armor of an enemy tank or bunker. Once it has penetrated the target it explodes into a cloud of flaming plasma and dust, flash-frying everything and everyone inside the structure. Even worse, this radioactive dust is not consumed by the explosion. Once released into the environment, it is impossible to clean up. With a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years, it will keep on killing and causing disease. Forever.
FRENCH YOUTH CONTINUE UPRISING AGAINST POVERTY, POLICE BRUTALITY
Are there going to be measures taken to ensure that reconstruction does not have negative affects for the health of the community?
Is there guaranteed funding for the reconstruction, and what are the consequences of money being pulled mid way through?
After decades of war, drought, poverty, and oppression, the Afghani people have endured almost every calamity known to human kind. Now independent researchers have uncovered a new horror in Afghanistan, this one brought by NATO occupation forces that include 2,500 Canadians: Depleted Uranium (DU).
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 lives 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
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 see FRENCH, page
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: p2 - First Nations & Prisons - Venezuela - Spike Lee on DVD • p3 Death of Pinochet - Canada’s Role in Haiti - Death Squads in the Philippines • p4 Politicians & Minimum Wage - Tuition Fees Fight - Border Guards Hatin’ on Hip Hop?
FRENCH, cont. from page 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 nonnegotiable! AFGHANISTAN, cont. from p effects grow worse as time goes on as chronic exposure passes genetic damage on to future generations. There is no treatment and no cure for uranium exposure. In 2003 scientists from the Uranium Medical Research Center studied urine samples from Afghan civilians from six different sites around the country. Every sample taken had uranium levels 400 to 2000% higher than normal. A UMRC reported that the “field team was shocked by the breadth of public health impacts coincident with the bombing. Without exception, at every bomb site investigated, people are ill. A significant portion of the civilian population presents symptoms consistent with internal contamination by uranium.” The effects this is having on the population are obvious to the residents. Jooma Khan, a grandfather in Laghman province was quoted by an interviewer: “After the Americans destroyed our village and killed many of us, we also lost our houses and have nothing to eat. However, we would have endured these miseries and even accepted them, if the Americans had not sentenced us all to death. When I saw my deformed grandson, I realized that my hopes of the future have vanished for good... I know we are part of the invisible genocide brought on us by America, a silent death from which I know we will not escape.” While the Canadian military claims to have eliminated DU from its munitions, the Canadian forces are fully integrated into NATO occupation forces. When Canadian troops call in air strikes during combat operations the bombs dropped come from American planes using DU ordinance. Canada must stop contributing to this ongoing war crime and pull its troops out now!
CAPTIVE NATIONS: OMBUDS-
MAN SLAMS “Justice” System’s Treatment of first Nations The Correctional Investigator released a report in October blasting the federal Correctional Service for its treatment of the First Nations in Canada. First Nations peoples make up 18.5 per cent of the prison population despite being only 2.7 per cent of the population of Canada and are nine times more likely to go to jail than the population at large. In Western provinces the situation is even worse, where Natives make up 60 percent of the inmate population. Once inside the justice system, First Nations fare worse than non-First Nations. They are less likely to get sentenced to community supervision and are frequently “over-classified” ie. sent to maximum security instead of medium - forcing them to serve their time far from their homes, families, elders, and communities. They have less access to rehabilitative services, such as education, job training, or addictions counseling. They are released much later into their sentences and are more likely to get their parole yanked and sent back to prison on technical grounds. While this injustice has grown worse in recent years, it is hardly new. “Despite years of task force reports, internal reviews, national strategies, partnership agreements and action plans, there has been no measurable improvements in the conditions for aboriginal offenders during the
last 20 years,” Sapers said. The pattern of sweeping the problem under the rug continues, as Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he would “take the report under consideration” but denied that there was any evidence of systemic discrimination against First Nations in the prison system. Such avoidance only makes sense when having impoverished and locked-up First Nations communities benefits powerful interests in our society. The First Nations have repeatedly and consistently struggled to defend their sovereignty and land rights, arousing the ire of the government and their corporate backers. Traditional, unseeded First Nations territory includes lucrative fishing areas on the East and West coasts, massive oil and uranium deposits in the prairies, hydroelectric projects in northern Quebec, rich logging areas all over Canada, and more. Even those lands that lack natural resources are still be considered useful - as dumping grounds for solid or toxic waste that would be politically unacceptable in richer, whiter, parts of the country. As long as we have a government in power that views strong, vibrant, First Nations communities as a threat to their power and control - rather than allies in the struggle for justice - we can look forward to another decade of government stonewalling, sabotage, denial, and repression.
SPIKE LEE’S WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE
A four hour miniseries produced by HBO and directed by Spike Lee, When The Levees Broke chronicles the devastation of New Orleans, an event considered by many African Americans to be “black America’s 9/11”. Lee drives the point home that the destruction of New Orleans was not primarily a result of Hurricane Katrina, but rather of government negligence. The levee system that protected the primarily poor and black residents of New Orleans had been badly designed by the Army Corps of Engineers and further weakened by lack of maintenance by the state. The stage was set for a catastrophy, the government knew it, but did nothing to prevent it. Once the levees failed, residents had to battle not only the floodwaters, but also government indifference. People quickly realised that the rich and powerful really didn’t care if they lived or died. In emotionally powerful inverviews and archival footage, Spike Lee captures the fear, despair, and determination of the people of New Orleans. Despite the failures of the state, the working people remain committed to surviving and rebuilding.
REVOLUTION MOVING FORWARD IN VENEZUELA The Congress of Venezuela has passed legislation giving President Hugo Chávez new powers to make sweeping changes to 11 broadly defined “strategic eras”, including the economy, the energy industry, and the military. Chávez, who was re-elected in December with over 60% of the popular vote, called the passage of the legislation the beginning of a new era of “maximum revolution” to transform Venezuela into a socialist society. The new powers will be used for the socialization of the largest telecommunications company and electricity sector, enact a more progressive tax system, curb the independence of the national bank and place the oil and natural gas industries under state control. The oil and gas companies have been given until May 1 to surrender control to the state, with the foreign companies staying on as minority partners. Those that fail to meet the deadline will face total expropriation. The structure of government is also facing dramatic changes, with the creation of 16,000 community coun-
cils that give regular Venezuelans direct control over an increased budget for various neighborhood-based projects, including social housing, road repair, and other local issues.
Chávez has also pushed for the creation of a single political party to push forward the revolutionary process, a move that would consolidate the often chaotic pro-Chávez movement currently composed of a variety of political parties, social movements, and grassroots organizations. Chávez insisted that the new party should be built “from the base” of the popular committees composed of working people that fought and won the recent elections. The United States has responded with hostility to the changes in Venezuela. In 2002 the Bush regime backed a failed military coup against the Chávez government. John Negroponte, US Director of National Intelligence has since slammed Chávez as “threatening to democracies in the region.” Venezuela rejected the accusation and pointed to Negroponte’s own role in subverting democracy in Lat-
in America during his tenure as US Ambassador to Honduras (1981-85) when he supported the Honduran military in it’s genocidal “dirty war” against indigenous people and backed the Contras, a right-wing terrorist group that fought the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
Despite the struggles and upheavals during the Chávez administration, Venezuela has produced impressive economic growth that has benefited working people. State funds from Chavez’ previous socialization of sections of the oil sector have been used in large part to introduce a wide range of social programs aimed at the vast majority of Venezuelans who live in poverty. The programs include the health ‘mission’ Barrio Adentro (Inside the Neighbourhood) which has brought free health and dental care clinics for the first time to millions of Venezuelans. Education programs have also been responsible for making Venezuela only the second country in the hemisphere to be declared ‘Illiteracy Free’ by the United Nations after Cuba.
Thousands Celebrate Death of Chilean Dictator
Spontaneous celebrations sprung up all over the South American country of Chile at the news of the death of former dictator Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet, a former General who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, lead the United States-backed overthrow of the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende. He died from health complications on the afternoon of December 10th Shortly following the reports that the ailing dictator had died, thousands of people erupted in spontaneous celebration all over the country. Pinochet headed the US-backed and organized overthrow of the Allende government as a response to the nationalization of the Chilean copper industry. American mining firms were expropriated in order to fund the expansion of social programs for Chilean workers. The following 17 years of military rule saw the systematic torture of over 35,000 people, the assassination of over 5,000 and the exodus of 10% of the population who sought refugee status in mainly North
American and European countries. Thousands remain missing. Under Pinochet, Chile became the World’s testing ground for neoliberal economic policies, which use privatization and removal of laws meant to protect workers, the environment and secure tax cuts for large companies and the wealthy. Canadian companies also benifited from Pinochet’s repressive rule. Canadian mining firms invested heavily in Pinochet’s pro-corporate economy. In 1996, Peter Munk, Chairman of Barrick Gold corporation, dismissed concern about Pinochet’s human rights record, saying “they can put people in jail, I have no comment on that... I think [the end justifies the means] because it brought wealth to an enormous number of people.” Pinochet had been trying to evade being brought up on charges of human rights violations for the thousands killed under his command, as well as charges over tax evasion, falsifying passports and $27M stashed in bank accounts outside Chile.
CANADA AT WAR AGAINST DEMOCRACY IN HAITI
When the popular Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected in 2000 with 93% of the popular vote (in elections deemed free and fair by international observers), this was a result that neither the United States, nor the rich in Haiti could accept. Aristide had been brought to office by a popular movement of the poor, known as the Lavalas movement. For the lighter-skinned and French-speaking wealthy elite (in a country where 90% are Creole-speaking, dark skinned, and poor) the coming to office of a representative of the poor was deemed unacceptable.
Consequently, the United States, alongside the help of France and Canada, worked to undermine the ability of Aristide and the Lavalas movement to govern. First, the Haitian government was cut-off from access to loans and aid – with what aid that did enter the country being directed to the unelected opponents of Aristide. All of the so-called NonGovernment Organizations (NGOs) being funded by the Canadian and American governments were actually anti-Aristide groups, meaning that the hard-earned tax-payer dollars of Canadians were spent to help the rich, undemocratic elite attack Haiti’s poor majority. With the Aristide government cut off from all loans and aid funding, it was very difficult for the administration to govern. With a flood of NGOs pouring into the country from Canada and the United States, no doubt Haitians would have been asking themselves why foreigners were claiming to be there to help them but refused to cooperate with their elected government. At the same time that Canada and France were attempting to take the
moral high ground by refusing to participate in the Iraq war, officials from those countries joined with the United States to hatch a plan to violently overthrow Aristide and occupy Haiti. Canada and France were not against invasion and occupation of sovereign countries per se and were more than willing to participate if they viewed it as being in their interest. At a high-profile meeting held in Ottawa in January 2003 the decision was made that Aristide had to go, regardless of the will of the Haitian people. On February 29, 2004 the three countries invaded Haiti with more than 7,000 troops. Backed by local paramilitary forces, the government was overthrown, Aristide kidnapped, and deported to a French military base in the Central African Republic. A dictatorship was appointed by the three invaders, headed up by a wealthy Haitian, Gerard Latortue - the uncle of Haiti’s top cocaine dealer and alleged CIA agent, Yuri Latortue. Yuri Latortue became a senator and now heads up a commission to re-instate Haiti’s brutal military apparatus, disbanded under Aristide. The American, Canadian, and French troops were soon replaced by a United Nations ‘peacekeeping’ team, but the invaders would still maintain decisive control of the situation in Haiti. Canada maintained a contingent of about 100 RCMP officers in Haiti training the new Haitian police force, composed of the same former thugs and paramilitaries that had been paid and armed by the US to destabilize Aristide’s government. The impact of the invasion and occupation is only starting to come see HAITI, page 4
MILITARY DEATH SQUADS RUN RAMPANT IN THE PHILIPPINES
2001 was a year of great hope in the Philippines. Joseph Estrada, the notoriously corrupt American puppet president was overthrown by a popular uprising and replaced by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was hoped that the new president, who owed her place in office to the mass movement of the Filipino people, would usher in a new more democratic era. Instead, the Philippines today has turned into the new killing fields of Asia.
The Philippines is a land of tremendous natural resources, but also tremendous inequality. Over 30 million Filipinos live on less than $2 a day while a small group of wealthy landowners control the government, the courts, the armed forces, and various paramilitary death squads, which they use to maintain their brutal exploitation of the Filipino workers and peasants. It is these conditions that gave rise to the civil war between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Rather than use her position as President to deal with the terrible sufferings and poverty of the Filipino
forcibly “disappeared” by the Arroyo regime. The main targets of the military-backed death squads have been the political coalition BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or New Patriotic Alliance, representing thousands of grassroots peoples organizations), as well as trade unionists, peasant leaders, members of progressive party-lists, and clergy. After being eliminated, the victims are labeled “terrorists” by the government to justify the killings.
people, Arroyo launched full scale war against the NDF, displacing whole communities in their drive against the New Peoples Army. Unable to defeat the CPP/NPA on the battlefield - and in many cases facing reversals - the government decided that rather than battle the guerrillas they would target the unarmed and legal mass movement. Karapatan, an independent human rights organization in the Philippines, has documented that as of September 12, 752 activists have been murdered and 184 more have been
Rather than condemn these grave human rights abuses, the United States has aided and abetted these crimes against the people. “After 9/11, American military assistance to the Philippines skyrocketed by 1,111% between 2001 and 2002. US support has allowed the government to increase the military budget by nearly 11% from 2003 to 2005.”(ibon.org) Even non-military assistance tends to be channeled in ways that benefit the military campaign against the peoples movement, such as pacification programs or psychological warfare operations, often masked as “civil society initiatives” through
NGO fronts. Canada also continues to assist the GMA regime as its sixth largest donour of foreign aid. In other words, the tax dollars of workers in Canada are being used to oppress workers in the Philippines. Yet the popular outcry in the Philippines has not gone unheard. A growing international solidarity movement is getting the word out on what is going on in the Philippines. Recent presentations by several human rights groups to the United Nations may result in the Philippines losing its seat on the UN Human Rights Council, and maybe even a loss in foreign investment. This would not be unprecedented: after worldwide outcry against human rights abuses in King Guyanendra’s Nepal and the military dictatorship of Burma, those countries lost much of their military assistance and foreign investment. By affecting the policies of their “own” governments, workers at home can positively impact the struggles of workers the world over. The government of Canada must stop supporting death squad regimes!
HAITI, cont. from page to light. A recent study by the esteemed British medical journal The Lancet revealed that in the period after Aristide’s overthrow, over 8,000 people were killed and 35,000 women were raped in the Port-au-Prince area alone. Most of the crimes were committed by United Nations forces, RCMP-trained police forces, or gangs linked to Haiti’s elite and were directed at supporters of Aristide and Lavalas party officials. In an attempt to blame the victims, the Canadian government has claimed (without evidence) that the murdered Aristide supporters were gang members and terrorists. One former Lavalas official, Jean Candio, fled to Canada to claim political asylum to avoid assassination. However, upon entering the country he was arrested, held in prison, and accused of being a terrorist based on claims made by a Washingtonbased “human rights” organization, one of the many foreign-funded
anti-Aristide NGOs. This will almost certainly jeopardize Candio’s claim for status. After more than two years of a brutal occupation, and after much stalling by the occupiers, elections were finally held in Haiti on May 7, 2006. However, these elections, costing more than all of the democratic elections held in Haiti’s history put together, were riddled with fraudulence. Every other democratic election in Haiti’s history brought in a popular leader from the Lavalas-associated party, the presidential candidate associated with the movement. René Préval, the Lavalas-backed candidate should have had no problems winning – even with the slaughter of Lavalas officials, supports, and over-all intimidation of the Haitian masses. But when Préval could not get past the first round of voting with a clear majority, and with evidence emerging that the Canadian-organized elections were a complete fraud, a popular uprising took place. The
militant uprising of Haiti’s poor forced the occupiers to concede to the democratic will of the people and allow Préval to take the presidency. Even with Préval in power, Haiti has not returned to a state of normalcy. The United Nations continues to occupy the country, killing Lavalas supporters and many other innocent bystanders, women and children included. Several peaceful demonstrations have been machine-gunned by the RCMP-trained Haitian police forces. Washington and Ottawa have also made it very clear that Aristide will not be permitted to return to his own country to revive the popular movement of Haiti’s poor majority. It is clear that for the Canadian state Haiti is not a humanitarian mission. Canada must respect Haitian sovereignty and the will of the Haitian people and stop subverting the democratically elected government. Canada must pull its troops and RCMP forces out now!
Politicians get 25%, Minimum Wagers get 25¢
People across the province are disgusted by the news that Ontario politicians gave themselves a 25% pay increase while stiffing minimum wage workers with a raise of only 25 cents an hour. The politicians pay hike ranges from $22,000 to $39,000 per MPP, more than twice what a fulltime minimum wager makes in an entire year. Speaking on the 25 cents increase, Labour Minister Steve Peters said in a statement, “We are providing Ontario’s lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers with the third increase in the minimum wage in three years. It is to Ontario’s economic advantage to see that our workers are paid a fair wage,” Yet even with the increase, minimum wagers earners – two thirds of whom are women, many with children - are still living well below the official poverty line. Many are forced many to take two or even three jobs to make ends meet or turn to local food banks to feed their kids. This in turn puts greater stress on local social service agencies, once used only by the un-
employed but increasingly having to service the working poor.
Premier McGuinty warned that increasing the minimum wage would be imposing undue economic pressures on businesses, alluding the idea that business will go elsewhere if wages are increased here. This idea is something that the Conservatives have been reiterating as well. Yet many countries in Europe have both much higher minimum wages and better economic stability than Canada. Meanwhile, the politicians’ pay hike rushed through the legislature right before the Christmas break (which for politicians lasts until March) will place even back-bench MPPs into the top 10% of income earners in Canada. McGuinty justified the move by the need to attract talented people to become MPPs. This goes to show the motivations of the priorities of the people running this province. Politicians should be devoting themselves to serving the people, not fattening their own wallets!
The Income Gap: What a Difference a Day Makes...
Think back to 12:13pm, New Years Day. Perhaps you were having lunch with the family, or nursing a hangover from ringing in the New Years. Whatever you were doing, if you’re a minimum wage earner, that was the moment that the average member of Canada’s top 100 highest-paid corporate CEOs made the same amount of money as you’ll make in all of 2007. Now let’s assume you’re doing better than minimum wage, say making the same amount as the Average Canadian. In your case it will take slightly longer: 9:46am, before you’ve even had your first coffee break, on January 2, the fattest of the fatcats will have raked in the equivalent of your entire yearly earnings. [Statistics from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives]
DO WE NEED TUITION FEES IN ONTARIO?
Last fall the Ontario government lifted the tuition fee freeze which students fought hard to secure in 2004. Based on the scheme put in place by McGuinty’s Liberals college and university tuition fees will rise between 20 and 36 percent over the next four years in Ontario. The mainstream media and political parties have centered the debate about tuition fees on what is a fair price to pay for post-secondary education. Not one source has stopped to ask if people should have to be pay for college and university at all. Back in the 1940’s, getting a high school education used to be expensive. However, people realized that this was the basic level of education required just to get a halfway decent job, so they got organised to demand fair access. Today, over 60% of new jobs created require a college or university education. Attending university is becoming more of a necessity than a choice. It is now the basic level of education required to get a job that pays enough to support a family. Canada is a rich, industrialized country. College and university education here could easily be free for everyone. Much poorer nations provide free college and university education for their citizens at all or some levels, including Argentina, Ireland, Cuba, Venezuela, and France. There is absolutely no reason why people here can’t have the same, other than the lack of political will by the politicians. Our representatives are totally disconnected from the realities of working people. As the provincial election approaches, we must demand that representatives who want our votes stand up for a liveable minimum wage and free college and university education. We must continue to organize our communities into a political force to demand what we deserve – better opportunities through fair wages and free education.
ARE HIP-HOP ARTISTS NOT WELCOME IN CANADA?
Jerome Almon, CEO of Murdercap Records, has filed a $900 million lawsuit in US federal court against two former Immigration ministers and dozens of individual border guards alleging that for eleven years he was “repeatedly subjected to unwarranted, protracted and highly punitive detentions” because of his race and connection with hiphop music. He cites more than 80 incidents between 1992 and 2003 during which he was detained and questioned by border guards, during which he was repeatedly and falsely accused of having a criminal record and subjected to racist remarks. Canada banned his entry indefinitely in 2003, despite letters from state po-
lice that he had no criminal charges or convictions against him. Almon is not the only person in hiphop to have problems at the border. Local promoters have been forced to cancel shows by Dead Prez, The Roots, Ghostface Killah, Nas and Common after border guards refused entry. The government also tried (unsuccessfully) to ban 50-Cent from re-entering the country for a concert tour, just weeks after he finished shooting a movie in Toronto. While officials denied Almon’s allegations, many Canadian politicians have publicly slammed hip-hop in the past, blaming the increase in gang violence and gun murders in Toronto and Vancouver on the musical genre. Yet can hip hop really be a greater cause of
gun violence than the social policies enacted by those same politicians? Social violence is caused by social conditions and over the last twenty years we have seen a massive decrease in social services, education, and opportunities for young people, especially in the black community. Almon’s lawsuit reveals a further hypocrisy: that the Canadian government bars black people who rap about acts of violence but welcomes the arrival of wealthy white people who have directly caused acts of violence. True, Almon’s music contains reprehensible content, with songs such as “On Ya Neez Bitch” and “How Stella Got My Backhand”, which deserves to be condemned. But Bill Clinton waged an aggressive war against
Yugoslavia and implemented a harsh sanctions regime against Iraq – both war crimes under international law that resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian dead. Yet Clinton’s promotional tour for his autobiography “My Life” went on unimpeded. George Bush Sr. ordered the invasion of El Salvador (killing thousands of unarmed slum dwellers) and the first Gulf War (which included the Highway of Death incident, when thousands of fleeing Iraqi conscripts, Kuwaiti prisoners, and civilian refugees were massacred by US gunships). Yet he was welcome to cross the border to accept at honorary degree from the University of Toronto. In other words, rappers get harassed, but American war criminals get the red carpet.
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