ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER OPIRG TORONTO’S FIELD MANUAL FOR THOSE WHO’VE HAD ENOUGH FALL 2016
“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time; but if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” - Lilla Watson IN THIS ISSUE: • Grassy Narrows Ongoing Struggle • Fight for a $15 Minimum Wage • Confronting Racism in CUPE • Resisting Resource Extraction in Colombia • And More...
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TABLE OF MALCONTENTS
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FALL 2016 email@example.com 2
Displacement and Gentrification in Toronto
Colonization Continues Through Canadian Mining
Ending Precarious Work in Ontario: The Fight for $15 and Fairness
Taina Da Silva
The River Still Flows: Hope After the Mercury Poisoning of Grassy Narrows First Nation
Crude Gold: In Defense of the Mountain, In Resistance to Eco Oro.
Fuck your Solidarity: Confronting Racism in CUPE 3902
Helen Jefferson Lenskyj
PRODUCTION ASL Editorial Collective
Merle Davis and Sydney Lang
EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE Joanna Abdulhamid Jes Denyer Rachele Clemente Gottardi Kieran Hart Ben Kapron Michelle Liu Sarom Rho Steve Sayer Liwei Zhou CONTRIBUTORS Ellie Ade Kur Taina Da Silva Merle Davis Monica Gutierrez Helen Jefferson Lenskyj Sydney Lang Jared Ong Maverick Smith
OPIRG Toronto Board
OPIRG-Toronto 101-563 Spadina Cres. Toronto, Ontario M5S 2J7 416-978-7770
Monica Gutierrez Ellie Ade Kur OPIRG-Toronto Action Group Listings
DESIGN ASL Collective COVER Photo courtesy of Taina Da Silva
Action Speaks Louder is the biannual magazine of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at the University of Toronto. We work to create space for students and community organizers to reflect on pressing issues within current struggles for social and environmental justice. LAYOUT ASL Collective Printed at Thistle Printing, Toronto, ON by Union Labour Produced by OPIRG Staff, proud members of CUPE 1281
If you would like to join our editorial collective, please write to us firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial collective will begin meeting in October to start work on our Winter 2016 issue. If you would rather just write for us, submit a pitch! The submission deadline for the Winter 2017 issue is Monday, October 17, 2016. To send us a short pitch, please e-mail email@example.com. Look for our Winter 2017 issue on campus in the winter term!
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elcome to another edition of Action Speaks Louder, a bi-annual magazine produced by the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at the University of Toronto. For years ASL has been informing and inciting readers on issues of environmental and social justice on campus, in our communities, and beyond. The importance of ongoing engagement with the topics dealt within this issue cannot be overstated. The pieces revolve around themes of space, land, and labour. With various stylistic choices, including a poem, think pieces, and commentary, many of them include the authours’ personal experiences and struggles. With this collection, we hope to promote a nuanced understanding of issues and movements surrounding space, land, and labour, and the ways in which these are intricately bound together. Maverick Smith’s “Bathroom Battleground” poetically explores how access to space is mediated and negotiated differently for different people. Underpinned by cissexism and heterosexism, such access is often unwelcoming and unsafe for members of the LGBTTIQ2SA+ community. Though always important, the debate over the safe access to public bathrooms is critically relevant right now as several anti-trans bathroom bills have already passed in the United States. From there we move into discussions of fair labour and wages. Jared Ong makes the case for Ontario’s Fight for $15, a movement advocating for a $15 minimum wage. With an ever increasing wage gap, precarious and exploitative work is becoming the norm for many sections of the population, and with welfare and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) continually fail to meet the needs of those most at need, wage-fairness is undoubtedly a critical part of anti-poverty discussions. We need to employ a nuanced understanding of wage inequality, as it disproportionately affects marginalized communities, as well as the potential for such policy options to be co-opted to further neoliberal and austerity agendas. Continuing the discussion on labour, Ellie Adekur takes labour organizing to task, specifically CUPE for its prevalent patterns of sexism and anti-Black racism. Speaking from personal experience, the article provides a crucial discussion on elitist and often oppressive politics at work in such unions. It is a reminder for us all that equity is the basis upon which labour organizing must be built, for which the inclusion and prioritization of marginalized communities is key. On the theme of land, we have Monica Gutierrez’s piece on Canadian crude gold mining in Colombia, which outlines the theft of land, the restriction and pollution of natural resources, and the consequent devastation of communities that accompany it. In a similar vein, Taina Da Silva chronicles the struggles and resultant movements borne from the mercury
poisoning her community in Grassy Narrows, Ontario has dealt with since the 1960’s. This summer, the annual Grassy Narrows River Run, multiple actions, and a protest at Queen’s Park, in which several activists were arrested, played an essential role in the movement to push the Ontario government to clean up the toxic mercury in the English-Wabigoon river system. It is important to note how the mining in Colombia and Grassy Narrows are intimately connected, entrenched in patterns of historic colonialism and neo-colonial policies. As Merle Davis and Sydney Lang’s piece shows us, both are fueled by capitalist industrial development for which the social and environmental consequences too often fall on Indigenous communities. Canadian mining projects at home and abroad and the government’s consequent avoidance of acknowledgement and responsibility for their ramifications are fueling the Canadian economy and wealth. In downtown Toronto contestations over land continue, as outlined by Helen Jefferson Lenskyj in a piece on the gentrification of the Downtown East neighborhood, and the displacement of marginalized communities, restricted access to resources, and increased policing that this trend has already caused in Toronto. While remembering that Downtown East and other Toronto neighborhoods already exist on stolen lands, we can draw common threads through these three pieces. Access to land and resources is always mediated by privilege, class, and race, and the continual displacement and devastation of communities on Turtle Island and beyond exemplifies which bodies and communities are deemed less valuable and more disposable by those in power. Taken together, we hope the pieces of this issue encourage a fuller and more nuanced understanding of these issues and themes, that they inform but also incite and agitate you to become more aware, more involved, and more active in movements that exist on our campus and in our communities. In Solidarity, Joanna Abdulhamid, Jes Denyer, Rosa Hernandez (on leave), Mala Kashyap, Alex Lu, Iris Robin, Jades Swadron, Liwei Zhou
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DISPLACEMENT AND GENTRIFICATION IN TORONTO Helen Jefferson Lekskyj
lans to redevelop the John Innes Community Centre and Moss Park Arena are an integral part of the overall gentrification of Toronto’s Downtown East (DTE) neighbourhood, and will exacerbate longstanding housing and homelessness problems. In July 2016, the Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank, reported on the effects of land-use regulations on housing supply. It seems that these researchers found what they were looking for: cities with more regulations, such as Toronto, have lower rates of growth and higher house prices than those with fewer regulations. The report claimed that time delays associated with approval processes discourage developers and drive up costs, and blamed elected representatives and community groups for supporting stringent land-use regulations. According to this logic, people who exercise their right to limit development are also responsible for housing shortages and urban sprawl. The report argues that if governments simplified and sped up the approval process, developers would build more new housing. One planner stated that governments should ‘educate the public’ so that they understand and support the benefits of high density urban development – a proposal that glosses over the damaging effects of intensification on communities, and dismisses the rights of residents and elected representatives to have a meaningful voice in the planning process. The concepts of affordability and affordable housing are only mentioned twice in the 52-page report, on the first and the last pages – a clear sign of the report’s pro-development perspective.1 1 https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/impact-of-land-use-regulation-on-housing-supply-in-canada
When governments fail to provide sufficient funds for the maintenance of public housing, ‘territorial stigmatization’ is a predictable outcome. University of Toronto researcher Martine August demonstrated how “discourses of isolation, disorganization, and danger,” which characterize public housing in other urban centres, were invoked to justify the recent redevelopment of Regent Park and the subsequent displacement of thousands of residents.2 A 2016 New York Times article exemplifies this kind of discourse, with a long list of inaccurate and insensitive portrayals of Regent Park and its residents, before and after redevelopment.3 August’s 2012 study showed that Regent Park tenants “enjoy a strong sense of community; they have access to dense networks of friendship and support, local amenities and convenience, and services and agencies that suit their needs.” At the same time, they had to cope with “a neglected physical environment resulting from welfare state retrenchment (particularly on the housing front)… safety issues and drug-related activities.”4 2 August, M. (2014) Challenging the rhetoric of stigmatization: the benefits of concentrated poverty in Toronto’s Regent Park, Environment and Planning 46:6, 1317. 3 http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/29/world/americas/in-torontoa-neighborhood-in-despair-transforms-into-a-model-of-inclusion. html?_r=1&mtrref=undefined&gwh=EDBB1E005BB713C9B2ED39161F687BC7&gwt=pay 4 ibid.
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COLONIZATION CONTINUES THROUGH
rom the outside, organizing against the violent actions of Canadian mining companies could seem like a single-issue cause. While organizing around these issues, as we do in the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), it is impossible to ignore that Canadian mining companies sit at the intersections of a number of oppressions and participate in violence on multiple scales. As organizers with MISN, we educate, advocate and agitate in solidarity with communities impacted by the Canadian mining industry. At our events MISN often showcases a banner that reads “Colonization Continues Through Canadian Mining”. Though MISN is not an entirely white group, the two authors of this paper are white. Thus our knowledge of colonization is limited and we are indebted to the Indigenous communities MISN works with and other Indigenous and colonized people of colour in our lives for the knowledge that has been shared with us. This piece of writing may be authoured by two members of a collective but it is made possible by the entire collective and the unlearning we have done together. That being said, we are not experts on colonization because we (the authours) have not experienced the negative impacts of colonization first-hand, so we want to make it clear that this paper is a synthesis of knowledge that has been shared with us. Colonization can be defined as the process of domination through expropriation of land, imposition of external rule of law, and control of discourse. In this context control of discourse means controlling knowledge and what can be seen as true. One example of this form of violence is residential schooling in Canada, where Native children were forcibly taken from their parents and communities, not allowed to speak or learn in their languages and forced to assimilate to the colonizers’ values. Colonization is a way of putting imperialist logics into practice, which means extending a state’s power or influence through force. Colonialism and capitalism are
Merle Davis & Sydney Lang
intertwined; colonialism meets capitalism’s need for constant growth through violence. Colonization goes hand and hand with genocidal violence, through forced assimilation or targeted murdering of Indigenous populations. This violence on multiple scales – the body, the land, the community – has many lasting effects including intergenerational trauma. Colonization uses differing structures of power. These can include external rule where Native people and colonizers are constructed as separate, or settler-colonialism where settlers intend to make a home and force Native people to assimilate.1 From the 16th century Europe had colonies all over the world including Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceana and the Pacific Islands. Europe extracted resources, worldviews, ways of knowing, and people while they ruled through policies of forced assimilation that upheld white supremacy. Many of those colonized by Europe resisted colonization and fought for independence. Europe withdrew from direct rule in most of its colonies by the late 1960s. However, they, and other Western states, maintained and continue to maintain power in most of their colonies through economic policies and by supporting governments that cooperate with Western interests. All of these forms of colonialism are connected through the dehumanization of Indigenous populations, violence, and disregard to their lives and ways of living. Colonization and mining are deeply intertwined both historically and presently. Europe’s colonization of Africa involved forced mining labour and the creation of infrastructure that allowed Canadian mining companies to operate in Africa today.2 Colonial expansion into the Americas involved selling 1 Tuck, Eve and K. Wayne Yang. 2012. Decolonization is Not a Metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. 1:1. Pp.1-40 2 Hothschild, Adam. 1998. King Leopold’s Ghost: a Story of Greed,
African people as slaves. This violence was enacted in the name of extraction of minerals and other goods. People indigenous to South America and Africa were forced to work in mines (through different tactics) and on plantations in order to benefit white Europeans. Eduardo Galeano writes in Open Veins of Latin America, “The installation of a mining economy had direr consequences than the swords of war. The mines required a great displacement of people and dislocated agricultural communities; they not only took countless lives through forced labor, but also indirectly destroyed the collective farming system”.3 The profits from this extraction stayed in the hands of the powerful; this colonial power relation continues today. Descendents of the white Europeans who have benefited from mining in the Americas for the last 500 years continue to benefit through the Canadian mining industry. All those privileged with Canadian citizenship and access to the Canadian Pension Plan or investments in Canadian banks reap rewards from this colonial system. Over 75% of the mining companies in the world are headquartered in Canada, specifically in downtown Toronto and Vancouver. Mining projects and impacted communities are far away from the downtown cores where the wealth flows and the decisions are made. Mining projects displace large amounts of people who then come to countries including Canada seeking security. Some have access to citizenship or legal residency but many are put in the precarious position of being undocumented and face deportation or indefinite detention as a direct result of Canadian colonialism. We are all impacted by mining as well as colonialism: the difference is that some of us are negatively impacted while others are the beneficiaries of such projects. Canada is a settler colony, initially settled by the British and French. The process of colonization in Canada has included land theft in order to extract resources such as timber, beaver pelts and minerals. This land theft was made possible by the genocide of Canada’s First Nations, and violent repression of any resistance. This process of genocide continued through the Indian Act which forced assimilation through residential schools, reservations and other tactics that made Indigenous life ways and resistance difficult and dangerous. This forced assimilation has continued through policies and practices that mean First Nations, Metis and Inuit youth are overrepresented in foster care and adopted out of their communities; this genocidal tactic is referred to as the “Stolen Generations.”4 Canada remains a settler-colony to this day, a fact made evident by the treatment of the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women,5 the over representation of Indigenous people in Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa. New York: First Mariner Books., pp. 278-9 3 Galeano, Eduardo. 1973. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press. pp. 43 4 apihtawikosisân. 2012. The Stolen Generations. http://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/04/the-stolen-generations/ 5 Cheif Elk, Lauren. 2014. The Missing Women You Don’t Hear About: how the media fails Indigenous communities. Salon. February 14th.
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prisons, the health impacts of intergenerational trauma and poverty7 and the disproportional number of First Nations people who are homeless or underhoused.8 Canada’s status as a settler colony is inherently violent in that it denies Indigenous sovereignty and continues to violently repress resistance to its settler-state. One clear example of how colonization continues through Canadian mining is how mining projects most often negatively impact Indigenous communities. Though in theory Indigenous people have the ability to make land claims to attempt to assert some degree of control over portions of their ancestral territories, mining companies can make competing claims to subsurface rights, which often trump land claims. There are a number of state-sanctioned points of intervention before mineral exploration and extraction can occur, but even beginning to engage in these often requires a heavy burden of proof from Indigenous people, large amounts of money, and an intricate knowledge of Canada’s colonial legal system.9 Most modern mining techniques are so environmentally destructive that they make traditional ways of life and reliance on the land nearly impossible, furthering forced assimilation of Indigenous people. Resistance and assertion of sovereignty are met with repression, as in the case of the Mathias Colomb Cree in Manitoba who did a round dance in front of a Hudbay mine entrance on their traditional territory on July 1st 2013 while also delivering an eviction notice.10 As a consequence of this assertion of rights, Hudbay sued the Indigenous nation for millions and was granted an injunction, preventing further protests. This demonstrates how easy it was for a Canadian mining company to use Canada’s colonial rule to their direct benefit in suppressing Indigenous dissent. 6
http://www.salon.com/2014/02/14/the_missing_women_you_dont_ hear_about_how_the_media_fails_indigenous_communities/ 6 CBC News. 2015. Prison watchdog says more than a quarter of federal inmates are Aboriginal people. January 16th. http://www.cbc. ca/news/aboriginal/aboriginal-inmates-1.3403647 7 Bombay, Amy; Kim Matheson; Hymie Anisman. 2009. Intergenerational Trauma: Convergence of Multiple Processes among First Nations peoples in Canada. Journal of Aboriginal Health. 5:3. Pp6-47. http://www.naho.ca/documents/journal/jah05_03/05_03_01_Intergenerational.pdf 8 CBC News. 2014. Aboriginal Homelessness an Epidemic York Researcher Says. March 28th. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ thunder-bay/aboriginal-homelessness-an-epidemic-york-researchersays-1.2589861 9 Kuyek, Joan. Canadian Mining Law and the Impacts on Indigenous Peoples Lands and Resources Backgrounder for a presentation to the North American Indigenous Mining Summit, July 28, 2005. MiningWatch Canada. http://miningwatch.ca/sites/default/files/Canadian_Mining_Law.pdf 10 Schertow, John Ahni. 2013. Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Executes Moratorium and Delivers Eviction Order to Hudbay Minerals and the Province of Manitoba. Intercontinental Cry. July 4th. https://intercontinentalcry.org/mathias-colomb-cree-nation-executesmoratorium-and-delivers-eviction-order-to-hudbay-minerals-and-theprovince-of-manitoba/
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ENDING PRECARIOUS WORK IN ONTARIO: THE FIGHT FOR $15 AND FAIRNESS Jared Ong A
generation of young workers are trapped in lowwage and precarious work. Young people are disproportionately working for minimum wage, where youth aged 15 to 19 and those aged 20 to 24 made up 42.1% and 19.7% of minimum wage workers in 2012, respectively.1 Moreover, student debt has grown by 24.4% from 2005 to 2012.2 Students can now expect to graduate with an average debt of $27,000.3 With such pressures, we are often forced to go to work sick or accept inconvenient shifts just to keep our jobs. These working conditions are never fair or acceptable for anyone. However, we have a real opportunity to improve our working conditions. The Ministry of Labour’s “Changing Workplace Review” is evaluating how to amend the laws that govern our workplaces. This includes reviewing two pieces of legislation, the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act. In this light, the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign is mobilizing communities across Ontario to demand that the government makes real changes that can help end precarious work. Ontario’s Fight for $15 and Fairness has roots in the US and Canada. The original Fight for $15 campaign began as a protest by fast food workers in New York City in 2012, but has spread across other cities in the US, winning $15 an 1 Sheila Block. “A Higher Standard. The case for holding low-wage employers in Ontario to a higher standard.” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. June 2015. <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/ sites/default/files/uploads/publications/Ontario%20Office/2015/06/ Higher_Standard.pdf>pg11 2 Statistics Canada. “Survey of Financial Security 2012”. Feb 25th 2014 <http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140225/dq140225beng.pdf> pg2 3 Glenn Burley and Adam Awad. “The Impact of Student Debt” Canadian Federation of Students. 2015 <http://cfs-fcee.ca/wp-content/ uploads/sites/2/2015/03/Report-Impact-of-Student-Debt-2015-Final. pdf> pg13
hour for employees in New York, Seattle and California. In Canada, Ontario’s Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage was launched in 2013 to address the freezing of the minimum wage under the Liberals from 2010 to 2014. Led by a coalition of anti-poverty activists, community groups and trade unions, the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage was able to win a raise to $11/hour, as well as securing indexation which pegs annual increases to the rate of inflation. In 2015, we launched our own $15 and Fairness campaign to join our allies across Canada and North America. The “Employment Standards Act” (ESA) sets minimum standards that all employers must follow. Therefore, any improvements to the ESA will positively impact many young workers who disproportionately do not have union membership. Indeed, many of my friends working part-time, contract or temporary jobs have never worked in a unionized environment. No worker should have to accept precarious working conditions. Everyone deserves decent, stable, and safe jobs. Our demands will help create conditions for good jobs in a variety of ways. First, decent jobs mean working people do not remain in poverty. That is why we are calling for a $15 minimum wage for all workers. It is unfair that students under 18 are paid less than their adult counterparts., and liquor servers are paid less than minimum wage. Second, decent jobs mean reasonable hours. Employers should guarantee a minimum number of hours for part-time workers. Furthermore, employers should not expect full-time availability for part-time work. Instead, we ask the Ontario government to follow the lead of other jurisdictions and encourage employers to provide employee schedules two weeks in advance. Finally, decent jobs mean rules that protect everyone. Too often young workers are misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees, so that employers can avoid their obligations under the ESA such as minimum wages, CPP and Employment Insurance.
Students and young workers are a critical part of all our campaign successes. At York University, student activists created a “Wall of Wages” and invited people on campus to mark their hourly wage. It not only showed that a majority of students would benefit from $15 minimum wage, but also sharply contrasted the wages of students with Canada’s wealthiest. At Ryerson, students organized a delegation to lobby MPP Glen Murray. This past spring at the University of Toronto, activists collected hundreds of signatures supporting our work. The University of Windsor had their first Fight for $15 organizing meeting in July. In mobilizing students and youth, we have relied on progressive organizations that are willing to share their resources to support our campaigns. For example, on April 15th’s Canada-wide Day of Action for $15 and Fairness, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Toronto Young Workers Network were instrumental in recruiting and coordinating a youth-led march to the Ministry of Labour. And earlier that same day, the Toronto Decent Work and Health Network did an outreach blitz at Dufferin subway station, as they understand that precarious work is a public health problem. While our campaign trains and builds capacity in individual young workers, ultimately progressive changes only occur when we mobilize together. This fall, the Ontario government will release the final report and recommendations of the “Changing Workplace Review.” On October 1st, students, workers, union members and community groups will come together to demand a $15 minimum wage and fairness for all at the Rally for Decent Work at Queen’s Park. This will kick off a week of action that culminates on October 7th, the World Day for Decent Work. If you are interested in taking part and joining the movement, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at 15andfairness.org.
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Maverick Smith I am safe I am straight I am cisgender
Cissexism does not exist In my cisnormative worldview Underpinned by cissexist narratives Untroubled by Cissexist & heterosexist legislation I go do my business, unconcerned with passing I am safer I am on a spectrum I identify as LGBTTIQ2SA+ Heterosexism exists In my critique of heterosexism Underpinned by gender binary narratives Troubled by Ciissexist & heterosexist legislation I do my business, by passing I am not safe I am trans* I identify on a continuum of non-cis identities Cissexism exists In my analysis of our cissexist culture In my critique of our colonial society Targeted by Cissexist legislation I do not do my business, worried about passing
Jared Ong believes that precarious work cannot be the new normal for the next generation of young workers. A University of Toronto alumni, Jared is currently an organizer with the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign and has been coordinating actions to pressure the Ontario government to create laws that promote decent work for all workers.
Maverick Smith is a Deaf, queer, trans*, dis/abled, non-binary, bisexual settler who explores themes of social justice and equity in their work. A published poet, a writer and the editor of an anthology, Maverick resides on the territories of the Missisaugas’ of the New Credit. Maverick’s body of work includes previous contributions to Action Speaks Louder as well as contributions to QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology and Shameless Magazine.
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THE RIVER STILL FLOWS:
HOPE AFTER THE MERCURY POISONING OF GRASSY NARROWS FIRST NATION Taina Da Silva
n the early 1960s a pulp mill dumped ten tonnes of toxic waste into the English-Wabigoon river system. Unbeknownst to the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation, years of exposure to high levels of mercury poisoned the community and contaminated the fish in the river - the main source of food for the community. Poisoned fish held a disease that damaged an independent society. Although advised to simply stop eating the fish, the people of Grassy Narrows were too attached to the thing that was making them sick: to stop fishing meant losing the convenience of an all season meal when other food options were scarce. However, 2016 has been the beginning of a new path for Grassy Narrows, with a report released in early May detailing how the river can be cleaned up. The first indication of mercury pollution proved to be devastating. People started getting sick, and unborn children were affected the worst. Neurological impairments began emerging, but proper diagnosis seemed elusive. Elders were treated for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s. Many infants were born premature, often with birth defects. When examination of the water showed extremely elevated amounts of mercury, a crisis was declared in the community. Strict guidelines on fish consumption were released to the general public of northwestern Ontario, by the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Grassy Narrows economy was devastated from the loss of fishing income. The people of Grassy Narrows demanded a cleanup of mercury in the water, but it was not taken seriously at the time. Still, it did not diminish their hope for the water to be what it once was. As the ’70s approached, the mill stopped dumping chemicals in the river and eventually shut down, but the community was still left without a sense of safety. The water remained poisoned. Questions of a potential cure,
or treatment for those affected by the mercury poisoning, became the first priority. Still, there was no formal study done for the people. Documentation of the situation in Grassy became a fast-growing trend as camera crews and reporters grew attracted to the story, offering an advantage for a community with a small voice. But, in a time when technology was less developed, it was unclear how broadly their story would spread. When 1975 came, Japanese researchers traveled six thousand miles to investigate the effects of mercury pollution on the Indigenous people in Grassy Narrows and other local communities. Similar issues were impacting Minamata, Japan even before they happened in Ontario. Minimata disease was confirmed in Grassy Narrows when the researchers’ analysis showed the exact same symptoms were being experienced in these rural First Nation communities as the Japanese community. Facts were being connected, but the government still refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong. In 2010, a follow-up study was done and it became apparent that things had only gotten worse for the people suffering with the disease. But while mercury poisoning has been devastating to the Anishinabe culture, it has resulted in a movement, and in the strengthening of a nation’s sovereignty. Younger generations are now more aware of their environmental rights since they have been increasingly at risk over the years. Forestry and mining operations threaten the territory of Grassy Narrows. In 2002 the people of Grassy took action against clearcut logging in their territory, blockading against some of the biggest corporations and in the end stopping all clearcutting operations. With the longest standing blockade in the history of Turtle Island, it’s certain that an obvious presence of unity has delayed the pressures of resource extraction in Grassy Narrows territory. As the logging ceased, the cleanup of mercury pollution turned into the next challenge to be taken care of. Community members
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TORONTO’S DOWNTOWN EAST REDEVELOPMENT
of Grassy took new samples of the water and sent them off to get tested, hoping that the mercury levels may have gone down. But the same levels persisted, with some people suggesting that there may be an ongoing source of mercury poisoning. As evidence of preserved mercury poisoning grew, so did the attention on Grassy Narrows’ story. 1983 was the first time that Canadian scientist John Rudd developed a plan to get the Wabigoon river cleaned, but he could not gain the recognition needed in order to pursue his hypothesis. With revised ideas, Dr. Rudd proposed there are better ways to clean the mercury-polluted water when he released another proposal in May of 2016. Further studies are being done to ensure safety of the cleanup process. Though it has been a long journey of repeated broken promises, the state of things in Grassy Narrows has not changed for nearly sixty years. However, at the time of the mercury dumping, Grassy Narrows was a nation that did not know the capability they had to make changes when circumstances became unfavourable. Required to adjust to such negative consequences, the people of Grassy Narrows have learned how to empower themselves through solidarity. United effort towards major demands has been the true example of what it takes for a hard struggle to be channeled into a victory. The belief system behind the people in this community has become another important factor in achieving big things. Current issues continue to affect community members as there is still a lot of work to do, but only now do they have the confidence of reaching their biggest goal to live as they did decades before. And in recent months the Ontario government has shown a commitment to remediate the water, holding a meeting in the community to address the river cleanup. Taina Da Silva is an Indigenous female writer and filmmaker from Grassy Narrows, Ontario.
In 2015, Toronto’s Downtown East (DTE) neighborhood became the focus of a similar redevelopment project, with proposals to replace John Innes Community Centre and the adjacent Moss Park arena with new sport facilities. Following concerns raised by Queer Trans Community Defence, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Queer Ontario, Maggie’s and other community groups, the project, originally called an LGBT sport centre, was rebranded as an ‘LGBT-focused’ sport centre, and, more recently, an ‘inclusive recreation centre’.5 Those who see the redeveloped Regent Park as an unqualified success often point to its new aquatic centre. The New York Times article interviewed new, middle-class pool users who “would never have dared to enter” Regent Park before its makeover. The temporary or permanent displacement of thousands of low-income tenants and the influx of middle-class residents dramatically changed the area’s demographics. Will Toronto try to engineer this kind of ‘social bridging’ in the DTE? Restrictions on homeless shelters, loss of low-income rental accommodation, and the extensive condo construction are among many signs that displacement and gentrification are taking place. Gentrification is an unpopular word among DTE councillors. Gentrification-deniers claim that the proposed redevelopment of Moss Park has no relationship to the high-density condo development, the redevelopment of George Street, or the proposed demolition of the low-income apartment blocks near John Innes. They also claim that the growing influence of condo residents’ groups and business improvement associations, most notably their demands for more aggressive policing of street activities, does not signify gentrification in any way. According to councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, because the 519 Community Centre and the City of Toronto have conducted a ‘broad consultation’ with more than 800 people concerning Moss Park, it is inaccurate to say that gentrification is taking place. In reality, mere ‘consultation’ is a low rung on the ladder of community participation, serving the interests of those who already enjoy the most power and privilege. Disadvantaged people who live or work in the DTE have been mobilizing against the proposed John Innes redevelopment for the past year, and will continue to challenge the gentrification. 5 Winter 2016 edition of Action Speaks Louder
Helen Jefferson Lenskyj has been a community activist since the 1970s, most recently with Bread Not Circuses and other anti-Olympic groups, and with Queer Trans Community Defence. She was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto from 1986 to 2007, and has written extensively on sport, sexualities and the Olympics.
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IN DEFENSE OF THE MOUNTAIN, IN RESISTANCE TO ECO ORO
anadian mining companies comprise over 75% of mining business worldwide.1 They have incredible decision-making power abroad, dictating on issues that affect communities deeply, such as use of water resources, use and ownership of land, increased private security, and militarization of communities. Canada plays a large role in structuring this power, through diplomatic services, aid budgets, and working with foreign governments to implement policies that benefit extraction projects and mining companies. In many countries, including Colombia, the influence of Canadian mining companies has led to de-regulation of protected environments and the repression of dissent. Local communities in Colombia are tipping the scales against what is often called the Mining Locomotive, or extractivism. The Mining Locomotive is a term coined in Colombia that highlights the government’s efforts to generate economic growth through mining projects. In order to do this, the Colombian government has expedited mining titles and permits, loosened environmental protections, and lowered royalty payments. According to a 2015 report by Mining Watch and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Indigenous groups, Afro-descendants, farmers, environmentalists, journalists, activists, and concerned citizens who challenge mining operations become targets of threats, accusations, smears to their reputation, and in the most extreme cases, physical assaults and murder.2 Often these actions are masked under the ongoing Colombian 1 As of 2009 http://www.pdac.ca/docs/default-source/public-affairs/ fact-sheet-mining.pdf?sfvrsn=6 2 http://www.miningwatch.ca/publications/national-interest-criminalization-land- and-environment-defenders-americas
armed conflict. Through repression of dissent, mining and petroleum extraction companies headquartered in Canada and registered on the Toronto Stock Exchange benefit from the violent and ongoing armed conflict in Colombia. I returned to Colombia in 2014 to film stories of communities engaged in resistance to extraction projects, and to bear witness to the courage and resistance of activists, farmers, and Indigenous groups faced with unwanted mining or petroleum projects in their territories. The footage from this project was eventually compiled into short documentaries as part of the Crude Gold series. One of these stories takes place in the Andean mountain range, where the mountains meet the clouds.
THE PEOPLE VS. ECO ORO For certain communities in Colombia, the story of resistance against encroachment by a Canadian mining company is a familiar one. The entire Santander region, and the city of Bucaramanga, rely on a fragile mountain páramo to quench the thirst of their people and supply them with year-round fresh water. A páramo is a mountainous ecosystem which serves as a sponge, naturally regulating the flow of water and storing water in drier months. Páramos are rare and unique, home to an incredible amount of fragile flora and fauna. In Colombia they provide 75% of the country’s fresh water3. The largest páramo in Colombia is Santurban. It supplies water to a population of 2.2 million people across 22 cities and towns. In a country where many 3 http://miningwatch.ca/news/2012/6/13/complaint-filed-againstworld-bank-group-funding-eco-oro-minerals-gold-mine-fragile
major cities do not have access to potable water, access to and protection of the páramo is vital for agricultural activities and daily survival. The Santurban páramo also sits on top of one of the largest gold and silver deposits in the world, estimated to contain nine million ounces of minerals. In 1995, the Canadian extraction company Eco Oro - then called Greystar Resources - began exploring the Angostura mineral deposit in Santurban and proposed an open-pit mining project. Extraction of this scale would require thousands of tonnes of water for processing, and chemicals such as mercury and cyanide to be stored in pools in the Santurban ecosystem. The fight to protect and preserve the Santurban páramo from this mega mining project has been a long and arduous battle, and continues to this day. It is a story of Colombians courageously defending their mountain. The short documentary I produced shows the progress of this movement, from its beginnings when only small civil groups and environmental activists were involved, to the growing momentum as other organizations and groups joined the fight. The film highlights the importance of mining-affected communities from other regions, especially Peru, coming to Bucaramanga to tell their stories, spreading word of the realities and pitfalls of projects like the one Greystar was proposing. Since this video was made, Colombians have continued the fight to protect their land. Part of their fight is against Colombia’s new permissive mining laws and the continued government push to increase mining in the country. The Constitutional Court of Colombia recently struck down Code 173 of the National Development Plan, potentially voiding up to 350 mining permits. This is a huge win for fragile páramo ecosystems and the cities and towns that depend on them. However, the struggle continues as the government and local communities attempt to delineate the borders of
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páramos, to stake out parts of the mountain that would be “safe” to mine. Experts state that all mountain ecosystems are intricately connected, and extractive projects in any part of the high-mountain moorlands will affect other parts. Páramos are not self-contained; there is no logical way of assigning their boundaries or of dividing high mountains in a safe way. Even more alarming, in March 2016 Eco Oro Minerals announced that it will initiate international arbitration against the Colombian state based on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The Canadian company claims that it can sue Colombia over the measures taken to protect the Santurbán páramo, and páramos around the country, from harmful activities such as large-scale mining. The Colombian government has been given six months to resolve the issue and process Eco Oro’s mining permit approvals, or else it will be sued in an undemocratic international arbitration tribunal.4 As of yet, the Colombian government has not responded publicly. Monica Gutierrez is a Colombian film-maker and visual artist based out of Toronto. Main interests include art for social change, sustainable practices and citizen media, and she has directed documentaries that feature human rights defenders and environmental activists. Monica’s artistic practice also focuses on organizing community artistic workshops and community arts projects in Canada and Central America.
You can watch the Eco Oro documentary, and other Crude Gold videos at: www.crudegoldfilm.com To get involved in mining injustice solidarity, reach out to the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network. There are different ways to support depending on your capacity, from signing petitions, to donations, to organizing activities, facilitation, and creative resistance. 4 http://www.eco-oro.com/s/NewsReleases.asp?ReportID=741972&_Type=News-Releases&_Title=Eco-Oro-Minerals-Notifies-Colombian-Government-of-Investment-Dispute
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FUCK YOUR SOLIDARITY: CONFRONTING RACISM IN CUPE 3902 WHO IS PRIORITIZED ORGANIZING?
Ellie Ade Kur
t the 2015 CUPE National convention in Vancouver, a resolution hit the floor to expand our union’s National Executive Board by four seats reserved for diversity reps from equity-seeking caucuses. From our section in the back we watched dozens of people rise, speaking at the con mics: “people need to earn these positions”, “if more minorities wanted to be on the executive board, they’d run”, and, my favorite cringe-worthy moment, “talking about our differences breaks our solidarity.” The motion was defeated to thunderous applause, and immediately after the convention hall (3,000 members strong) was coached through the song Solidarity Forever by CUPE’s in-house band. This is one of my most vivid memories of union organizing – my first national convention and a staggering moment of defeat for the progressive trade-unionists running the campaign for better representation on our National Executive Board. In many ways this loss reflects some of the most pressing blind spots in CUPE organizing to date – the idea that issues of equity, inclusion and social justice are second to labour management models of unionism. My name is Ellie Ade Kur. I’m a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of Toronto (UofT). I served on 3902’s Executive Committee following the Unit 1 strike in March of 2015 and resigned 8 months into my term because of rampant issues of anti-Black racism, bigotry and harassment. I was controversial in my role because I was adamant about what I like to call ‘unapologetic transparency’, where executive members and those privy to information from the employer allow members to access, critique and shape responses and organizing efforts. I believe in collaborative organizing that is accessible and driven by the will of those most heavily impacted, emphasizing participation from equity-seeking groups at UofT. And for these reasons I have been the subject of ongoing threats and harassment from my union. We need to talk about antiBlack racism, social justice and equity work in union spaces.
Thinking about issues of equity and social justice typically comes second to imposing this labour management model of trade-unionism, which demands Union staff and executives act as middle-men between rank and file members and the employer. When union executives decide that it is their job to act as middle-men between rank and file membership and the Employer, they often commit themselves to a position that asks membership to capitulate to the demands of the University for the sake of incremental gains. This labour management model of unionism also requires executive committee members to maintain strong, friendly relationships with those working for labour relations. It wasn’t uncommon for my colleagues to talk about shifting their gaze away from things like direct action, protesting and member-based organizing. “If I have to sit across from Labour Relations, I can’t be rude,” was a common line and excuse used to justify inaction. It’s also not uncommon for executive members to become so wrapped up in maintaining these relationships with the employer that they forget about the demands and interests of their members. Detached from these perspectives are the views and experiences of seasoned organizers in Union spaces who, more often than not, come from marginalized communities: queer, racialized, sex-working students and academic workers. Because unions don’t typically champion the politics and perspectives of the most marginalized, we see a lack of education and awareness in these spaces when it comes to pressing political concerns around issues of anti-Black racism, anti-poverty organizing, policing, status, and related social movements. In CUPE 3902, we still struggle to connect Black Lives Matter and anti-racism work to union development when Black women and racialized members are threatened, harassed and disrespected by those who think anti-racism work is a distraction from the goals of the union. In CUPE 3902, issues of sexual violence during the Unit 1 strike went unreported and unresolved when union reps and strike coordinators told those disclosing to “focus on the goals of the strike.” Equity work and fighting inequality are seen as something secondary to this labour management model of union operations and a rigid focus on building a relationship with the employer. The reality is: if you can’t walk into a union space and feel safe, secure and heard, these elusive ‘goals of the strike’ or ‘goals of the union’
aren’t built around you and your needs. In this way, the most marginalized communities on our campus are overlooked and pushed out because they aren’t being heard, especially when they report sexual violence, threats, harassment, anti-Black racism, etc. When labour movements are disconnected from the realities of their most marginalized members, they are disconnected from the roots, realities, and motivations of their most powerful, resilient and creative organizers. Considerations of social justice, equity and inclusion are the foundation of a strong labour movement and strong organizing. Thinking about equity and inclusion in the context of bargaining and negotiations means collective agreements do not allow particularly vulnerable groups to slip through the cracks, for example, securing strong health coverage for academic workers and their families and minimum funding packages at (ideally above!) the poverty line. Equity audits and bargaining built on inclusion point to agreements prioritizing workers from equity seeking groups, in settings where they excel: small classrooms, tutorials, appropriate compensation and strong support networks.
ORGANIZING WITH SOLIDARITY IN MIND In the 2015 Unit 1 strike, organizing with solidarity in mind would have looked like the explicit mention of undergraduates and faculty at the University in ways that weren’t tangentially connected to benefits for communities outside of the union: smaller classes and tutorials, more time allocated to students and grading on Description of Duties and Allocation of Hours (DDAH) forms, reducing tuition fees, and a commitment from the University of Toronto to pay everyone at or above the poverty line. If CUPE were interested in building long-standing networks with students, faculty and staff at the University, our goal would have been consultation, collective
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negotiation and collaboration with student unions and faculty organizations on campus. In the aftermath of the Unit 1 strike, many of our members felt demobilized and disheartened. My role on the executive was to connect with other student and labour organizations on campus, coordinate member-driven organizing initiatives, and mobilize our communities through social and political forms of action. It isn’t possible to touch on themes of political action and exploitation without thinking about marginalization, social justice and critical equity work within the union. That requires us to shift our understanding of equity, inclusion and social justice work in CUPE 3902. These are the foundation of strong movements. With this in mind, I organized rallies, protests, events, workshops, and information sessions to mobilize members, start conversations about political action and the labour movement and force UofT’s Governing Council to respond. I worked to repair tense relationships between our union and student organizations on campus feeling tokenized following the strike; revive political energy and action with other locals on campus; and connect our struggles with the University to broader issues of corporatization at UofT with progressive faculty organizers on campus. I resigned from my role on the executive committee because of rampant issues of anti-Black racism and bigotry. I resigned after widespread threats from members of our Union promising to find me, ‘teach me a lesson’ and silence my views on critical equity and social justice work as they were distracting from ‘the work of the union’. These messages came at me from every direction: on campus, online, calls, texts, emails, etc. For eight months I was the only member of the executive committee structuring their role around meeting and organizing with rank and file members of the Union and using the language of liberation to structure our work. For eight months I subjected myself to threatening emails, text messages and calls, while organizing members to engage in union politics. I organize using methods that embrace collective action. I believe that rank and file members are the ones who hold the key to the knowledge and strategies to help us move forward. And I believe that once you are elected to do this kind of work, you are indebted to the membership. When leaders don’t bother to invest in organizing or outreach, and actively shame people doing mobilizing work, they are scared of their members and the power of a strong, informed, organized union base. Members hold power: the power to elect officials, shape policy, bargaining practices and demands, as well as the power of oversight. When members are allowed to access the same information as executive committees, they are better able to hold leadership accountable. In the context of CUPE 3902, a union whose executive is largely comprised of the same faces changing positions from yearto-year, these executive roles are coveted. Elected leaders do not want members, particularly active, critical and politicized members to participate in these spaces. Political action, direct CONTINUES ON PAGE 15 >>
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COLONIZATION THROUGH MINING CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5 >> Another way that colonization continues through Canadian mining is through the continued violent repression of Indigenous and Afro-descendant people asserting sovereignty over their land or saying no to accepting a mining project on the companies’ unfair terms. These companies benefit from genocidal violence through unobstructed access to land and a climate of fear. John Lasker argues that a Canadian mining company called the Banro Corporation played a major role in the Rwandan genocide and continues to profit from a climate of insecurity.11 In Guatemala, Canadian companies have benefited directly from the genocide of Indigenous peoples and have responded with violence to assertions of Indigenous sovereignty over land.12 Canadian mining company Barrick Gold has been caught using sexual violence and murder against people resisting its exploitative practices in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea and was forced to pay reparations.13 Yves Engler starkly lays out some of the violence committed in relation to Canadian mining companies in Africa, including murder, firing on protesters, and supporting military intervention.14 Furthermore, Canadian mining companies undermine community sovereignty over land, water and governance and continue to benefit from colonial power relations through international economic agreements and policies. These include free trade agreements, structural adjustment programs and international development initiatives. Mining is often touted as bringing development to otherwise underdeveloped places and people. Discourses of development construct poverty and insecurity as problems arising from a lack of money. These discourses are normalized and seen as common sense; however what Western forms of development have done worldwide is destroy alternate ways of life that do not rely on the market to define value.15 We do not wish to romanticize these lifeways or critique anyone desiring to gain access to the market in order 11 Lakser, John. 2009.Digging for Gold, Mining Corruption One of Africa’s Poorest and Most Embattled Countries is Prey to Canadian Mining Companies Searching for the Last Great Gold mine. Canadian Dimension. October 29th. https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/digging-for-gold-mining-corruption 12 Beaumont, Hilary. 2016. Vice News. Accusations of Rape and Murder at a Guatemalan Mine Will Finally Be Heard In a Canadian Court. https://news.vice.com/article/guatemala-lawsuit-against-canadianbased-hudbay-will-finally-see-its-day-in-court 13 Earthrights. Factsheet: Abuse by Barrick Gold Corporation. https://www.earthrights.org/legal/factsheet-abuse-barrick-goldcorporation 14 Engler, Yves. 2015. Canadian mining companies continue to devastate Africa with human rights abuses. Rabble. November 25th. http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/yves-engler/2015/11/canadian-miningcompanies-continue-to-devastate-africa-human-righ 15 Escobar, Arturo. 1995. Encountering Development: the Making and Unmaking of the Third World. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
to survive under capitalism, yet it is important to point out that although development through economic modernization is seen as the only way forward it is far from it. Mining may bring a kind of development to places constructed as underdeveloped but in actuality what this means is continuing the process of undermining alternate life ways to capitalism. Colonial ways of seeing can only look at land as a commodity to be exploited. This is supported through international trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership. Resource extraction in this context becomes only about profit, and human and environmental costs are erased, ignored or externalized. MISN member Jen Mills recently spoke on this matter saying that trade agreements, “are really about protecting investors, especially mining investors. Most of the disputes in the World Bank’s tribunal involve oil, gas and mining companies. These investment agreements not only protect companies against seizure of their physical assets but also against indirect expropriation, meaning that companies can try to get paid for their lost future profits if the regulatory conditions in a country change.”16 An example of what Mills describes is seen through Oceana Gold, who is currently suing El Salvador for lost profits from a project that was not allowed to go forward because of changes to mining laws in El Salvador.17 Free trade agreements mean that this lawsuit, and others like it, are resolved in tribunals made up of corporate lawyers that can override a country’s laws and the community’s consent on the basis of profit. The fact that Canadian mining companies are using this system to gain profits is a continuation of colonial relations, where self-determination for those most marginalized is barred and violently repressed. A case study of how colonization continues through Canadian mining exists at the University of Toronto. U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs is named after Peter Munk. Munk is not only the school’s largest donor, but is also the founder of Barrick Gold, the largest Canadian gold mining company, infamous for its human rights and environmental violations. These violations have enabled Barrick’s financial success, which in turn, has allowed Munk to establish himself as a celebrated philanthropist, obscuring the violent means through which he obtained his fortune. 16 http://protestbarrick.net/ 17 Guardian. 2015. Lawsuit against El Salvador mining ban highlights free trade pitfalls. May 27th. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/27/ pacific-rim-lawsuit-el-salvador-mine-gold-free-trade
In countries such as Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, and Chile, Barrick Gold takes advantage of inadequate regulatory controls and corrupt governments, as well as relationships that Munk has established with dictators, arms dealers, and businessmen around the world. In doing so, Barrick robs Indigenous peoples of their land and resources, supports police brutality and violent security operations, and uses corrupt and colonial legal systems to its defence. Barrick has admitted to gang rape at its mine in Papua New Guinea, has spilled toxic waste several times in Tanzania, and has violated Indigenous rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent in Argentina and Chile.18 Munk’s wealth is a result of these abuses that Barrick Gold continues to use as tools of silencing, displacing, and abusing Indigenous peoples. MISN has been committed to standing with impacted communities in resisting and drawing attention to Barrick’s violence, through the campaign Protest Barrick. Although this violence is blatant, Barrick and countless other mining companies have been able to completely dodge any sort of accountability for their actions abroad, simply because they are registered in Canada. The Canadian government supports and financially contributes to the mining industry, provides the industry with extralegal status both domestically and internationally (they are not held accountable through the legal system), and promotes a stock exchange (TSX) with extremely weak regulations on the extractive industry.19 Therefore, our economy and Munk’s wealth are both shaped by Canada’s colonial past, and its neo-colonial operations around the world. Munk profits from Barrick’s violent operations, which in turn, he donates to the University of Toronto. Through the campaign Munk OUT of U of T, MISN has been committed to resisting the influence of Peter Munk (and the mining industry) on public education and foreign affairs decisions. Students should not only be deeply concerned about the influence that the mining industry has on their education, but that they are actively profiting from colonial histories and ongoing projects of colonization in Canada and around the world. By now it should be clear that Canadian mining companies benefit from and continue colonial relations. In Canada they benefit from the colonial state’s legal rule. Externally they benefit from colonial and imperial trade deals, military interventions and violence. They also benefit from schools like the Munk School of Global Affairs continuing colonial understandings of the world. There is no way to resist mining injustice without resisting its colonial and capitalist roots. Merle Davis loves science fiction, her cat annie and organizing with MISN! Sydney Lang just completed her undergrad at U of T and is currently studying law in Montreal. She has been organizing with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network for the past year. More info on MISN can be found at mininginjustice.org or through contacting us at email@example.com 18 http://protestbarrick.net/ 19 Denault, Alain and William Sacher. 2012. Imperial Canada Inc. Vancouver.
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CONFRONTING RACISM IN CUPE CONTINUED FROM PAGE 13 >> action, member-engaged organizing strategies – all of these things work to shift power and authority off of executive members and onto the membership. That kind of accountability terrifies executive members I’ve worked with, because it would force them to get political and get organizing. It would highlight their inappropriate use of union funds and resources, such as paying each other out in honorariums, buying each other gifts with union funds, doubling salaries, hiring friends, and securing jobs at the University or within larger divisions of CUPE. The labour movement isn’t anyone’s playground for a better job opportunity – it’s a political struggle for workers rights that has the power to better the lives of some of our most vulnerable communities. When our leadership actively works against member-driven organizing, or against pushes for critical equity work, they silence the voices, concerns and demands of those with the most to lose. A friendly relationship with senior admin at the University is not more valuable than an engaged membership ready to organize with other student and labour groups on campus. It is not the job of executive officers to ‘sell’ anything to their members: executive officers work for us. They are elected to carry out the will of the membership and need to be held accountable for abusing power, withholding information, and demobilizing communities. When unions like CUPE 3902 replicate the same hierarchical (and exclusionary) forms of top-down leadership that the University relies on and prioritizes relationships with senior admin over the struggles of members living in poverty, we have a problem. When there is no emphasis on union development, training organizers, creating support systems and political action groups to challenge and improve on how we function as a union, there is no growth. These practices exclude the most marginalized members - poor, working-class, BIPOC/ racialized members, new immigrants, single parents and families with dependents, workers with disabilities and members disproportionately exposed to harassment and intimidation. When unions like CUPE 3902 shut these voices out of the process, we get creative in our organizing. In order to survive we rely on creative forms of action that the apolitical cannot replicate: grounded forms of member-engagement, public education and political action. These are not easy forms of organizing. These methods lead to a lot of uncomfortable conversations and require patience, unlearning and a dedication to building spaces for as many members as is possible. Often we need to break our solidarity down to build it properly. Ellie Ade Kur is a PhD student in Human Geography at the University of Toronto and an organizer with CUPE3902’s rank and file network. She is a former organizer with the executive committee and resigned to dedicate her time to member-driven organizing projects through CUPE3902’s Rank and File Solidarity Network.
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WHERE THE ACTION IS OPIRG-TORONTO ACTION GROUPS Action Groups are at the heart of OPIRG’s work. They are volunteer collectives that organize autonomously for social and environmenal justice. Here are a listing of all action groups for the 2016-2017 academic year. If you are interested in forming your own action group, we accept new applications in the summer. Find more info on all of this year’s groups at www.opirgtoronto.org/ actiongroups or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
hope is that people from these communities benefit from the project by: • Feeling less isolated/more connected • Being able to share experiences and support each other • Learning from resources that we provide
ANAKBAYAN TORONTO is a comprehensive organization bringing together Filipinx youth from all walks of life for the cause of bringing forward the rights and welfare of Filipinx in Canada as well as the Philippines.
STUDENTS AGAINST ISRAELI APARTHEID is a network of university students, faculty, and staff working to raise awareness about Palestine and Israeli Apartheid. Coming from Palestinian civil society’s 2005 call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli apartheid regime, the principle strategic goals of SAIA are to sever ties between our campus and the policies of the Israeli state, as part of a broader BDS-movement.
DECOLONIZE NOW works toward building a joint mass movement lead by Black and Indigenous people, Peoples of Colour, and allies, and to draw public attention to the connections between our issues and contextualize these crimes within the historic and ongoing colonial assault on the earth and our peoples. MINING INJUSTICE SOLIDARITY NETWORK raises awareness of and challenges the negligent and abusive practices of Canadian mining companies (who comprise over 75 % of mining businesses worldwide), in solidarity with impacted communities. RISING TIDE TORONTO works to challenge environmental injustice and the root cause of climate change from an anti-colonial framework and mobilize communities on and off campus against corporate and non-democratic state interests that are destructive for marginalized communities and their environment. PRISONER CORRESPONDENCE PROJECT TORONTO is a small collective that coordinates a penpal program, connecting queer, gay and trans people who are in prisons with queer, gay and trans people on the outside. We aim to make prisoner justice and prisoner solidarity a priority within queer and trans movements on the outside. Our
TORONTO QUEER ZINE FAIR is an alternative zine fair focusing on the radical and political history/ philosophy of zines and giving a platform to those often under-represented in zine culture. TORONTO STREET MEDICS are people who view health as a strategic resource for all struggles for justice and dignity. We believe that people’s health is impacted by systems of capitalism, racism, heteropatriarchy, ableism and ongoing colonization. We will be providing preventative health care, emergency first aid and aftercare to those engaging in direct actions and different forms of mobilization in the Greater Toronto Area. WOMEN’S COORDINATING COMMITTEE FOR A FREE WALLMAPU is an indigenous Mapuche grassroots organization based in Toronto, Turtle Island. Our goal is to link the struggles of indigenous sovereignty (specifically the Mapuche Peoples of so-called southern Chile) with that of other indigenous, anti-capitalist/anti-colonial, community based struggles across Turtle Island, by creating awareness through events, protests, and publications.
RESOURCES SPACES ON AND AROUND CAMPUS
ACTIVIST NETWORKS AND ORGANIZATIONS
A Different Booklist Another Story Bookshop Bike Chain Centre for Women and Trans People at U of T Glad Day Bookshop Harvest Noon Café +Co-op Native Canadian Centre of Toronto Toronto Rape Crisis Centre University of Toronto Sexual Education and Peer Support Centre (SEC)
www.adifferentbooklist.com www.anotherstory.ca www.bikechain.ca womenscentre.sa.utoronto.ca www.gladdaybookshop.com www.harvestnoon.com www.ncct.on.ca www.trccmwar.ca www.sec.sa.utoronto.ca
NEWS AND ANALYSIS LOCAL BASICS Newsletter Toronto basicsnews.ca Briarpatch briarpatchmagazine.com Incendies Feminist Press www.incendiesmag.wordpress.com New Socialist www.newsocialist.org Shameless Magazine www.shamelessmag.com subMedia.tv submedia.tv Toronto Media Co-op www.mediacoop.ca Two Row Times www.tworowtimes.com Upping the Anti: A Journal www.uppingtheanti.org of Theory and Action
$15 and Fairness www.15andfairness.org AIDS Action Now www.aidsactionnow.org Black Lives Matter-Toronto Coalition facebook.com/blacklivesmatterTO Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid www.caiaweb.org Decolonize Now! www.decolonizenow.ca Toronto Drug Users Union www.tduu.blogspot.ca End Immigration Detention Network www.endimmigrationdetention.com Freedonia Grant www.freedonia.ca Groundswell Community Justice Trust Fund www.groundswellfund.ca Industrial Workers of the World-Toronto www.torontoiww.org Jane & Finch Action Against Poverty www.jfaap.wordpress.com Latin American & Carribbean Solidarity Network www.lacsn.weebly.com Lost Lyrics www.lostlyrics.ca Maggies Sex Worker Action Project www.maggiestoronto.ca Migrant Sex Worker Project www.migrantsexworkers.com No One is Illegal-Toronto toronto.nooneisillegal.org Ontario Coalition Against Poverty www.ocap.ca Prisoners with HIV/AIDS Support Action Network www.pasan.org OPIRG-Provincial Network www.opirg.org Worker’s Action Centre www.workersactioncentre.org
NATIONAL AND GLOBAL
Assaulted Women’s Helpline www.awhl.org Free Grassy Narrows www.freegrassy.net Idle No More www.idlenomore.ca NATIONAL AND GLOBAL INCITE Women of www.incite-national.org Canadian Association of Labour Media www.calm.ca Color Against Violence Cinema Politica www.cinemapolitica.org Indigenous Environmental Network www.ienearth.org CounterPunch www.counterpunch.org Justice for www.harvestingfreedom.org Migrant Workers (J4MW) Socialist Project www.socialistproject.ca Native Youth Sexual Health Network www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com Truthout www.truth-out.org Palestinian Campaign for the www.pacbi.org Warrior Publications www.warriorpublications.wordpress.com Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel Z Communications www.zcommunications.org Come by the office! Please contact OPIRG for more information about our events and projects.
Ontario Public Interest Research Group - Toronto
563 Spadina Cres. Suite 101 • 416-978-7770 • www.opirgtoronto.org • email@example.com
DISORIENTATION WEEK 2016 September 19 - 23
Our Annual Alternative Orientation Week All events free and open to everyone! Disorientation events are held in barrier free spaces. ASL-English Interpretation or Captioning will be available at selected events. Campus sexual assault. Cuts to city funded services. Prioritizing corporate interests. Many of us are familiar with each of these, and yet they regularly fly under the radar (often, on purpose) of those who should be most concerned about them. We need to take institutions to task, when they fail to take the concerns of students seriously, when they fail to provide the services people need, or make it difficult to access services, when they are built to maintain an oppressive system that works against the interests of so many folks in our communities. And when the government, the university, the city, won’t give us what we need, we often need to build it for ourselves, developing alternatives, cultivating skills in our communities, and taking care of each other. This year’s Disorientation Week focuses on the organizing that blossoms out of holding institutions accountable when they are being maintained through privileging some while oppressing others.
Disorientation Week 2016 events will include: • a film screening of “The Hunting Ground” and discussion on confronting campus sexual assault with Silence is Violence - U of T • a workshop on mapping the governing structure of U of T, and the corporate interests it serves • a panel on the benefits of harm reduction programs, safer injection sites and the fight for marijuana legalization • a skills sharing workshop on silkscreening, DIY instrument making and graphic design
• even more workshops, panels and other events!
CHECK OUT OUR WEBSITE FOR THE FULL SCHEDULE!