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ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER OPIRG TORONTO’S FIELD MANUAL FOR THOSE WHO’VE HAD ENOUGH FALL 2015

“The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.” - Audre Lorde


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TABLE OF MALCONTENTS

ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER

FALL 2015 actionspeaksloudertoronto@gmail.com OPIRG-Toronto 101-563 Spadina Cres. Toronto, Ontario M5S 2J7 416-978-7770

Welcome

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Blackgreens: Three Stories and a Poem

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Nadi Saadeh & Katerina Mizrokhi

The Fight for Campus Space

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Mary Jean Hande

CUPE 3902 Strike: Rank and File Reflections

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Muriam Salman & Kim Abis

The Striking Caterpillar

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Test Their Logik

Flood the System | Water

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Kevin Lunianga

Anti-Black Racism and the Four Forbidden Words: “I Don’t See Race.”

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Maverick Smith

whose communities AODA: Ten Years Later Accessibility Plan Remains Unrealized

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The Munk School’s Foreign Policy Agenda

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Seeding New Organizing Patterns from the Soils of the Old

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Editorial Collective Chris Vaughn

PRODUCTION ASL Editorial Collective EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE Sarom Rho Tamara Rayan Olivia Or Natalya Plummer Zina Mustafa Michelle Liu Jessica Denyer Yogi Acharya CONTRIBUTORS Kim Abis Chris Connolly Mary Jean Hande Kevin Lunianga Katerina Mizrokhi Nadi Saadeh Muriam Salman Sakura Saunders Maverick Smith Test Their Logik Chris Vaughn DESIGN Yogi Acharya & Sarom Rho

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Sakura Saunders Chris Connolly Resources

COVER ASL Editorial Collective

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 Yogi Acharya Sarom Rho 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 opirg.toronto@gmail.com. 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 2016 issue is Sunday, November 1, 2015. To send us a short pitch, please e-mail actionspeaksloudertoronto@gmail.com. Look for our Winter 2016 issue on campus next January!

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WELCOME W

elcome to another edition of Action Speaks Louder, a magazine dedicated to providing social and environmental justice organizers a medium to reflect on critical issues facing us today on campus and beyond. The thematic focus of this issue is on the notion of ‘awakening intersections’; an attempt at promoting a nuanced understanding of how the socio-economic system of capitalism coupled with race, gender, sexuality, class and ability-based oppressions mediates our experience of reality individually and collectively. By placing the emphasis on intersections, we are consciously acknowledging the existence of difference within the working class and doing away with universalizing narratives within anti-capitalist resistance movements that overlook the subjective realities of marginalized people. Additionally, we are also interested in analyses that allow us to think through how we build solidarity amongst ourselves in the various movements we are a part of, whether they are primarily identity-based or economics based. As members of the Editorial Collective we are very pleased with the breadth of submissions we received this year, both in relation to the topics they covered and the stylistic choices the authors employed. Switching between commentary, prose and poems, the submissions add to our understanding of the world around us and challenge us to question established patterns of praxis. Chris Vaughn’s opening piece ‘Blackgreens’, for instance, cleverly uses three short-stories and a poem to get us to collectively reflect on the racism that so often lurks within mainstream environmentalism and also speaks directly to the Black/Afrikan experience of that movement. In a similar vein, but using a conversational-article approach, Kevin Lunianga speaks to readers about how the discourse of “colour-blindness” actually furthers white supremacy and creates barriers to the development of any real sense of anti-racist solidarity among Black people, other racialized folks, and white people. Meanwhile Nadi Saadeh and Katerina Mizrokhi remind us of how the university’s neoliberal economic imperative is often reflected in the manner in which the administration handles conflicts on campus. To make their case they compare

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ASL Editorial Collective

the administration’s response to the Jewish Defense League’s disruption of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions event organized by the Graduate Students’ Union to the treatment meted out to members of CUPE 3902 who disrupted a speech by University of Toronto (UofT) President Meric Gertler. Also taking the university to task is Sakura Saunders’ piece on the often blatant but at-times insidious collusion between the heads of the Munk School of Global Affairs and its wealthy funder’s Conservative agenda. Of course no discussion of events that transpired at the university over the past year can be complete without reflecting on the dual strikes that rocked the city this winter, both at UofT and at York University (YorkU). Giving us an insider perspective on the tumultuous organizing that characterized the strike on our campus is Mary Jean Hande’s article on some of the best and worst aspects of the strike and her reflections on what it actually accomplished. Through this issue we also have the opportunity to promote two upcoming creative pieces. The first is an upcoming children’s book by Kim Abis and Muriam Salman, two rank-and-file members of CUPE 3903 at YorkU, who use their experiences on the picket line to prepare the next generation of labour warriors. The second is a sneak-peek at the brand new album Fall by Toronto political hip-hop duo, Test Their Logik, through their song ‘Water,’ lyrics for which appear in the magazine. Last but not least, Chris Connolly takes us out of the campus and into our communities with his poignant critique of how non-governmental organization (NGO) funding models create conditions that consistently undermine youth organizing in the city and gives us a glimpse into how some key organizations are coping with those challenges. Taken together, these pieces beacon us to embody Audre Lorde’s powerful vision for what learning ought to be: a process that not only informs, but also incites. We hope you’ll enjoy reading this issue every bit as much we’ve enjoyed putting it together.


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BLACKGREENS PEANUTS INNA BALTIMORE They are allergic to peanuts. They work at a small peanut oil processing plant. They touch, smell and taste peanuts all day. Pick it. Press it. Bottle it. And Big Man dey watching from his high office. Most don’t speak Big Man’s language. All don’t get paid enough. All are forced to work. There are no other jobs. They need the little bit of cash to pay for their antihistamine. They are allergic to peanuts. They work for a small peanut oil processing plant. The few who speak with Big Man plea. They show their bleeding hives, They show their swollen eyes. Those who can speak, Those who are not choking on the floor, scream we are allergic to peanuts. we are allergic to peanuts. Big Man says to be quiet. Don`t blame peanut oil, after all it has done for you. Big Man wipes the white spittle from the corner of his pasty lips. Are you sure it is peanut oil that is the problem? What if it was grapeseed oil? What if…canola what if…olive what if…sesame

Chris Vaughn

Don’t blame the peanut. Peanut is good for us. Peanut is good for business. He say: If you have a problem, you should wear a mask. If you have a problem you should… But don’t blame the peanut. Peanut is good for us. Peanut is good for business. But we workers know that this here is a big fucking peanut oil processing machine. Not next-typa oil, Not what-if oil, Ah Peanut Oil we ah talk bout. We work here. We live here. Mask on or Mask off, We can`t breathe. Together, We spill the bottled oil and machine fuel on our bodies and ignite the match. Together, We barge the barricaded office of Big Man and forcefully bring his room-temperature body next to our burning flesh. Together, We jump into the extraction machine. Hear the bones crack. Like the dry husk of the peanut.


WHITE PAINT, BLACK HANDS The scenario happens as follows: In an effort to support the rooftop gardens of Radio Kayira of Mali, Canadians and Malians are working together to create what will hopefully become a model of urban agriculture and food sovereignty in the city of Bamako. Gardening techniques are shared, questions are asked; a picture-perfect moment of international cooperation. But behind the cheery smiles and sweaty brows, a profoundly disturbing negative is developing. A young Afrikan animator decides to wash his hands of white paint in the water reservoir used to irrigate the garden. A cloud of horror hovers over the Canadians. They stand bewildered as the Afrikan casually washes his hands and contaminates the water with hazardous toxins. The foreigners (i.e. the Canadians) look in dismay, some try to explain the situation, some shake their heads in disbelief. Our eyes point fingers at the sheepish culprit, his hands still submerged in the valuable liquid gold. Some of us even have the nerve to say what most of us are thinking. 

“What kind of ignorant person washes their hands and in the process contaminates their own water with toxins?” 

I pondered on the question for a while, trying to come up with a logical answer to the scenario. Misinformation is probably a good reason. Habit could be another. But then another less obvious but more prevalent question pops into my head: 

“What kind of shameless fucker makes toxic paint and puts peoples’ lives at risk just to make a profit?” 

Suddenly, the fingers are no longer pointing at the Afrikan. Suddenly, I can relate to the brother trying to clean his hands of the toxic white paint. ***

SPINACH

This being her second visit to the grocery store, with its blinding fluorescent light and constant AC, she came prepared. The wool sweater, a gift from her best friend back in Nairobi, smells of incense and coal, the scent of safe secrets, closeness and familiarity. Its fabric caresses her chin as she exhales a memory not far away in time, but distant in space. She looks around to see if others too had their breaths and dreams crystalized for a brief moment and ruthlessly stolen again and again as they aimlessly rummaged for deals on frozen dinners. She used to anticipate talking and touching vegetables; a cabbage in the palm of her hand, its aroma sharing stories of sun and soil. “Best One!” The boy-seller cajoled, regardless of her selection. She kissed teeth, he smiled. The first time she brought a cantaloupe to her nose in Toronto, the entire display cascaded onto the floor, causing everyone to stare, which made her feel small. Today, she was on a mission and briskly walked to the produce section. She picked up a plastic container of spinach, leaflets cut from the roots and incarcerated in

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a cold transparent cell. She abandoned the idea of being able to feel, to brush her hands across living surfaces. She had to trust what the new gods declared; that all these packages are uniform and that uniformity is good. Trust that since it says “Triple-filtered wash,” that the machines prepped it like how Bibi did back home. Word is Bond. In the express cash, she pulled out a five dollar bill. “$4.99, plus tax ma’am,” said the cashier. She didn’t have enough.

THE RESPONSE

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Dear Ms. Shanice Collymore, On behalf of The Canary Family Foundation, we would like to thank you for applying to the Communities on the Rise Funding Program. Your proposal for funding was reviewed by our board of directors and stood out as one of the more unique requests for community support amongst a slew of very impressive projects. We do however regret to inform you that your ‘Community Garden Initiative’ was not selected as a funding recipient. Although well detailed in terms of objectives and budget, it did not align with our targeted demographics criteria. For future reference, I stress the importance of abiding by the set parameters of our application protocol so as to increase your chances. We do lay out specific population groups for selection. The ‘at-risk’ category may have been a more acceptable fit for your proposal. The ‘inner-city’ or ‘urban’ options should have been given more consideration. If all applicants were to follow your lead and include their own demographic option on the application, our decision-making process becomes extremely difficult. We were not prepared for your amended demographics option of ‘Niggas In need of that white boy money’ as this did not fit with the culture that our Foundation wishes to instill in the Community. We encourage you to better identify your targeted demographic given the recommendations of our predetermined selections. This is how our foundation will be in a better position to help you help yourself and provide the funding to necessary projects such as the one eloquently detailed in your recent proposal flourish. Wishing you the best of luck in all your endeavours, Jessie McKinnie, Treasurer of the Canary Family Foundation

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Chris Vaughn is an Afrikan Montrealer who researches and reimagines the beautifully complex relations that his peoples have with the environment. Then he takes an extended lunch hour to capture his visions and analysis in writing. Check out the results at www.blackgreens.com


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THE FIGHT FOR L

CAMPUS SPACE

ike most other institutions of higher learning, the University of Toronto is first and foremost a business that not only seeks to maximize profit, but also to meticulously refine its public image and reputation. This inevitably results in policies that filter out individuals who are incongruous with the identity of the university—an identity that is interlaced with neoliberalism, elitism, and compliance. This model of neoliberalized higher education perpetuates unequal power dynamics by actively attempting to silence those who resist them. Rather than using its academic platform to foster open and equitable dialogue, the university prioritizes its political and economic interests, all while protecting its carefully managed image. These questionable priorities are mirrored in the university’s arbitrary policing of events and event disruptions. The university claims to be committed to “freedom of expression, open dialogue…mutual respect and civility, even on those issues on which strong opinions [emphasis ours] are held.”1 However, the inconsistent ways in which this policy is applied is evident by comparing the university’s response to two recent meeting disruptions. One such meeting disruption occurred in May 2015, when the university hosted the “Cities of Learning – The University in the Americas” symposium, which explored the symbiotic relationship of the university and the city. The event was scheduled just months before Toronto was to host the Pan and Parapan American Games, with guests from the universities of Chicago, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, cities which previously hosted the Games. During the Presidents’ Panel, a few members of CUPE 3902 disrupted the event by voicing their discontent with UofT’s President Meric Gertler’s handling of the recent labour issues. The group was aggressively silenced by the moderator of the event, who failed to uphold the university’s standard of speech free of intimidation and harassment. The group then voluntarily left and the symposium continued without further mention of the disruption or the relevant issue they put forth. According to the official ‘Policy on the Disruption of Meetings,’ the University “is obligated” to ensure freedom of speech and freedom from “physical intimidation and harassment,” which “must allow the maximum opportunity for dissent and debate.”2 Instead, the manner in which the 1

“Policy on the Temporary use of Space at the University of Toronto,” last modified October 28, 2010, http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto. ca/Assets/Governing+Council+Digital+Assets/Policies/PDF/tempspace.pdf. 2

“Policy on the Disruption of Meetings at the University of Toronto,” last unofficial update January 9, 2015, http://www.governingcouncil. utoronto.ca/Assets/Governing+Council+Digital+Assets/Policies/ PDF/ppjan281992.pdf.

Nadi Saadeh & Katerina Mizrokhi

university leveraged its power to handle a meeting disruption was provoked by a desire to conceal the University of Toronto’s past and ongoing labour disputes, which would surely tarnish the image that this international conference was trying to present. Earlier in the year, a committee of the Graduate Student Union (UTGSU) hosted an event that exposed the university’s investments in companies benefiting from violations of international law and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The event called for divestment from such companies following the 2005 campaign launched by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and the rights of the Palestinian people.

The event was deliberately disrupted by a group external to the university: the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a right wing Zionist organization founded upon racist, anti-Arab principles. The group hosts events that advocate for the extermination of Palestinians from their lands in Palestine/Israel, while simultaneously exterminating their voices around the world and on university campuses. The JDL celebrated the event disruption on their website, while Campus Police asked the audience from the BDS event to leave the room. As a letter sent by a faculty group who attended the event to members of the university administration to address the disruption mentions, the university’s reaction violates one of the policies on dealing with meeting disruptions, as well as failing to provide a recognized campus group with a safe space free of harassment or intimidation.3 The policy states that if a meeting should be recessed due to a disruption, the recess should last for ‘as short 3

Mondoweiss Editors, “Univ of Toronto faculty awaits answers in JDL’s disruption of divestment event,” Mondoweiss, http://mondoweiss. net/2015/02/faculty-disruption-divestment (accessed July 4, 2015).


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a time as possible’ and that the university authorities will provide the opportunity for the meeting to ‘take place in a suitable environment’. When the GSU organizers suggested an available room to change venues to Campus Police, they refused this option. Although the policy gives priority to “the activities of recognized campus groups” over the “activities of external groups”, their behaviour demonstrated the arbitrary enforcement of university policies.4 The backgrounds of the two disruptions, however, are dissimilar. The power balance between the two events resembles the inconsistency of the reactions, always serving those who are literally and figuratively louder. The disruptors of the symposium belong to a group that is often under attack by the university administration. They disrupted the event in attempt to reclaim space and to voice their concerns. On the other hand, the disruption of the second event was intended to silence those who advocate for human rights issues and compliance with international law to simultaneously serve the economic and political interests of the disruptors (JDL) and the university. While there is no evidence that the university had knowledge about a potential disruption, the administration’s decision to cancel the event is by no means a ‘neutral’ one, as it granted space to the disruptors and took it away from the organizers. This leaves us with the following question: had the disruptors of the Cities of Learning Symposium used the same disruption methods as the Jewish Defense League, would the panel and attendees be asked to leave, the disruptors kept in the room, and the event canceled? While the university administration might think that silencing is the way to shut down both groups, ironically, the silencing of pro-BDS activists and CUPE 3902 members has enhanced the mutual relationship between the two groups. When pro-BDS activists on campus hosted the Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) during the strike of CUPE 3902 members in March, they chose to place their events off-campus under the slogan of “fighting for campus space, but respecting the picket lines”. In an interview with an organizer of IAW, they mentioned that “it is not surprising for an institution that supports oppression targeting rights to education abroad to then recreate similar conditions against its own students.”5 A pro-BDS motion was carried by a very clear majority at CUPE’s Annual General Meeting in April 6. This demonstrates the solidarity between the two groups, arising from their shared struggles against the systems of oppression that privilege some and silence others based on the interests of the powerful. This sentiment is 4

“Policy on the Temporary use of Space at the University of Toronto.”

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Anonymous (Israeli Apartheid Week Organizer) in discussion with authors, July 2015. 6

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, “The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3902 Endorses Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel,” posted on February 5, 2015, http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2704.

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best illustrated in a letter of solidarity with Striking Members in CUPE 3902 and CUPE 3903 from students and instructors at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Palestine:

“FROM OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, FROM BEHIND THE CONCRETE APARTHEID WALL THAT SURROUNDS OUR UNIVERSITY, WE SEND YOU, THE STRIKING MEMBERS OF CUPE 3902 AND CUPE 3903 OUR SOLIDARITY. WHETHER IN PALESTINE OR IN CANADA, WE WILL CONTINUE TO DEMAND AND STRUGGLE FOR ACCESSIBLE HIGHER EDUCATION AND BETTER-WORKING CONDITIONS FOR OUR INSTRUCTORS.”7 7

Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University’s Facebook page, “Letter of Solidarity with Striking Members in #‎CUPE3902 and #‎CUPE3903 from University Students and Instructors at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Palestine,” https://www.facebook.com/SAIA. York/posts/908227002531457 (accessed July 10, 2015). ***

Nadi Saadeh & Katerina Mizrokhi are undergraduate students at the University of Toronto.


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CUPE 3902 STRIKE RANK AND FILE REFLECTIONS O

n February 27, 2015, my comrades in CUPE 39021 Unit 1 began a month-long strike. After more than 10 months of negotiations, Unit 1 members (made up of 6000 teaching assistants, invigilators, and instructors) were presented with a tentative agreement that had negligible gains. Core bargaining commitments to increase guaranteed graduate funding on a per member basis, wage increases, financial support for members in unfunded cohorts, and equity for international students and people with dependents saw no improvement. Even after seeing how terrible the tentative agreement was, members were terrified that it would be ratified. As more than a thousand members, lined up to attend a meeting to vote on whether to send the tentative agreement to ratification, they shared information in the line-ups and talked nervously amongst themselves. Yet the outpouring of anger about the tentative agreement was electric. The vote would overwhelmingly be in favour of strike action and members burst into cheers. The strike had begun! The electricity and force of this decisive strike vote was a victory for workers in that it built cautious confidence and optimism in our power. In fact, the vote took all of us by surprise. In the months leading up to the strike action, little in terms of strategic preparations were made, and it was apparent that no one expected Unit 1 members to strike. While Executives and Bargaining Team Members repeatedly told us that we were “strike ready,” it was clear that this was not the case. In fact, most of them did not want a strike, and were undermining serious strike action every step of the way. Rank-and-file (general) members had a steep learning curve figuring out picket lines, strike tactics and how to hold our bargaining team accountable in the face of no support from the so-called “leaders” on the Executive or the Bargaining Team. We were getting a crash course in how the business unionism of CUPE 3902 is hostile 1

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 3902 represents 7000 education workers at University of Toronto, Victoria University, and the University of St. Michael’s College. See cupe3902.org.

Mary Jean Hande

to strikes and thus understood the urgent necessity of rankand-file militancy if we were to win anything. We recognized the need for broad-based solidarity, and the political conditions seemed extremely favorable for this. CUPE 39032 Unit 1 and Unit 3 members began strike action on March 3, 2015, and thousands of Québec students began to strike in the weeks following. Rumours of strike actions by public school teachers’ unions around Toronto also circulated and buoyed workers’ optimism. Moreover, news of the UofT and York University strikes was generally supportive and spread across the country. The contradictory divisions between the 3902 Unit Strike Committee, Executive Members, Bargaining Team Members, Stewards’ Council and rank-and-file members crystalized rapidly. CUPE’s business unionism structure and ideology trivialized, and often prevented, cross-unit solidarity. Efforts to coordinate actions across locals (by building a 3902-3903 Joint Strike Committee) were actively silenced and marginalized by local Executives. Repeatedly, local union leaders and bureaucrats at both 3902 and 3903 undercut the growing militancy of the rank-and-file, urging them to capitulate to the Employer by lowering bargaining demands, or presenting members with weak tentative agreements. The moments at which members felt most powerful (i.e. shutting down the Mississauga campus, getting letters of support from faculty and administrators, joining forces with struck CUPE 3903 members, etc.), appeared to be the same moments in which union bureaucrats told us that we were losing and encouraged us to end the strike as quickly as possible. It soon became clear to us that a large part of our battle with the Employer was convincing ourselves that we were worth more than the Employer would like to concede, and convincing our Bargaining Team that they should believe in us as much as we do. The final blow came on March 26, the day before a historic joint march/picket between 3902 2

CUPE, Local 3903 represents three units of education workers at York University. See cupe3903.ca.


and 3903 was to take place, when 3902 members were strongarmed by local leadership into binding arbitration, effectively ending the strike and leaving the terms of 3902’s new collective agreement in the hands of an outside “neutral” lawyer. This bureaucratic structure took a violent toll on many rank-and-file members of the union. Many struck members also were forced out of strike activities. Numerous disabled people were refused “alternate duties” and, by extension, strike pay. Furthermore, despite numerous complaints, the main strike headquarters, where meetings took place and critical resources were provided to picketers, was held in a physically inaccessible location. Racism and sexual and gender-based violence also ostracized struck members. Since the 3902 strike ended, several members have reported being sexually harassed at strike-related events. The local has no policies or procedures in place to protect or support victims of sexual violence. Most of my experiences and analysis of the strike were shaped by my involvement with the 3902-3903 Joint Strike Committee. Far from being formally endorsed by local leaderships, this rogue committee took on responsibility for developing and sharing information, strategizing across both locals, coordinating joint actions, and developing a shared political line. This entity was critical in subverting the stranglehold of

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each local’s narrow bargaining commitments and developing broad-based solidarity to push for larger political demands against austerity, precarious labour, and neoliberal education. As members became increasingly frustrated with the onslaught of betrayals by the Bargaining Team, Executives and national representatives, entities like the Joint Strike Committee became crucially important, helping us continue joint actions beyond the 3902 strike. The most successful event was “The Long March” which took place on March 27, the day after the 3902 strike ended in binding arbitration. Even after the 3902 strike formally finished, hundreds of 3902 members marched in solidarity with CUPE 3903. Those involved in the march literally and figuratively linked 3902 and 3903 by marching from YorkU’s Glendon Campus to UofT’s St. George campus and then on to Queen’s Park. Efforts were made to ensure that the march was accessible and explicitly political, in that it linked itself with other struggles, particularly the student strikes in Québec and solidarity actions that had been planned across Canada. Days later, on March 31, 3903 ratified a comparatively favourable tentative agreement. Members of this Joint Strike Committee also organized an Education Workers feeder march for Toronto’s May Day rally. As of July 6, 2015, CUPE 3902 members learned that they would gain nothing from binding arbitration. Many are furious and dismayed about the outcome of their struggles. They realize that, yet again, they were mislead by conciliatory CUPE local leadership. However, if one looks beyond the betrayals and inherent contradictions of CUPE’s business union structure and ideology, the 3902 and 3903 strikes accomplished quite a bit. They demonstrated broad-based solidarity amongst workers far beyond UofT and YorkU. Rank-and-file members were able to link these struggles to Québec student strikes, and Pan-Canadian struggles for indigenous sovereignty, and free, accessible education for everyone. Rank-and-file members continue to prepare for the next 3902-3903 strike, archiving lessons learned and forging solidarity with workers and social movements well beyond their respective locals. While I learned that a revolution will not be built through business unionism, being a part of this strike revealed the class struggle of education workers, and prompted me, and many other comrades, to apply the lessons of the strike to our anti-capitalist, revolutionary organizing.

Mary Jean Hande is an OISE PhD Candidate and CUPE 3902 Steward. Her research focuses on financialization, and radical disability and revolutionary organizing in Toronto.


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THE STRIKING CATERPILLAR

Kim Abis & Muriam Salman

JOINING FORCES Diversify to escalate! We’re not the only one on strike! Said the bee Who is always late Cause he’s too busy Another school is also on strike Bugs, spiders and ants alike! So the picket newspaper “The Striking Partisan” Has called to order A special meeting Of all the bugs striking There will be dinner served Ladybug exclaims! To entice them picketing bugs who on the picket days feed on fried dough And a large cup of double double.

A

s active participants in the CUPE 3903 strike this year, we’ve been left dissatisfied with the lack of anti-colonial, trans and disability justice perspectives in existing literature on past student strikes. We decided to document our subjective experiences through a story book as an educational tool to capture the imaginations of a younger generation who could normalize the idea of striking, see their reality as inextricably bound to labor movements, and embed class struggle into their consciousness as a common form of resistance throughout history. Given that we were both engaged in the same spaces and similarly not engaged in others, we realized there is a wealth of experiences and analysis that we lacked which shaped how we depicted our thoughts, feelings, and participation in the strike. Thus we are presenting this book as a work in progress and will begin a workshopping process to address its limitations. The book will be adapted based on discussions with people from different picket lines, the “eighth line” (striking members who were not always present on the picket line but were active in strike-related organizing at HQ, virtually, or in other ways), all Units of CUPE 3903 and 3902, undergraduates, other University employees (restaurant workers, custodial staff), and people living in the surrounding area struggling with the University in their community every day. In doing so we hope to facilitate ongoing dialogue while acting simply as curators of a collective piece. It is our hope that this archiving process prompts more Indigenous, Black, people of colour, especially women, trans and disabled people, to also take ownership over documenting, theorizing and publishing on labour movements in the Academic Industrial Complex that will act as a guide and inspiration for future students, activists, and communities. We hope that you will join us. Keep your ears peeled for announcements on future workshops or contact us at angsundi@gmail.com for more info.


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Water: It’s what we’re made of. It’s sacred, the element of life, taste it. In streams and rivers splashing, bathing, it’s the commons shared by all our relations. It’s more than a right, it’s life’s most basic... need, so protect it from those who’d claim it, take it, sell it, pollute it, waste it. Defend your watershed from the thirst of profitmakers. Defend the oceans from the boats that choke them, rope-in every fish leave the dead ones floatin’... offshore by the rigs, oil and water don’t mix, stop spilling that shit in our rivers we’re sick. Golf courses drink more than a thousand horses, of course this is just one example. Factory farms, E-Coli cattle, battle all industries abusing aqua. Defend your lakes from the tailings ponds, if it gets necessary take up arms. Ain’t nothing wrong with defending earth, and those who’d say so brought this curse. They pump it out, pump toxins in, mining, fracking, bottling. Stop buying, and start stopping them. Free the water, the land, and the sun, and the wind. Dance in the rain, let the drops just cleanse... all the pain in our hearts and our toxic heads. Dance in the rain, let the drops just cleanse... all the smog in the air, love your watersheds. “used to be free now it costs you a fee... cuz it’s all about gettin’ that cash money” pepsi, coca-cola, nestle.. suck and suck until it’s empty.

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Water: mama earth’s first daughter, birthing our life but now corporate men bought her. Sold her, put her in a bottle, tried to suck her soul, your elders never taught ya? You can’t eat or drink their money. Commodify her essence you think it’s funny. Boardrooms full of heartless monsters, making billions stealing our water. Oh how we’ll cry when the rivers run dry, no dry eyes, billions praying to the sky. Flash floods, tsunamis, tides rising high. Hydrate, liberate her from the fluoride lie. They put the H2O into a choke hold, in a plastic bottle that throttles her soul. Paying for water: the biggest joke told. God damn the dam man i can’t understand... how we can stand to let them say they own the land, the lakes, the rivers and streams. Got us chained down to the machine, but it’s time to break free, break the dam and be like water! “used to be free now it costs you a fee.. cuz it’s all about gettin’ that cash money” pepsi, coca-cola, nestle.. suck and suck until it’s empty.

NEW ALBUM “SEE” COMING FALL 2015 Test Their Logik

*** Test Their Logik is a Toronto-based hip-hop duo known widely for merging the consciousness of political activism with the attitude and directness of rap music. They tour internationally, have topped the campus hip-hop charts, and even been jailed for their lyrics. testtheirlogik.bandcamp.com


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ANTI-BLACK RACISM

AND THE FOUR FORBIDDEN WORDS: “I DON’T SEE RACE.”

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t has become more and more common to hear individuals question the relevance of Black History Month, arguing that it is not necessary because racism is not a big problem in Canada. Others believe that it is not fair to have a month dedicated to Black people because members of other minority groups do not have the same “luxury”. Interestingly, this notion of colorblindness or the idea that racism is a nonissue permeates the minds of many Torontonians. It’s also relevant to note that this belief exists within the minds of both white and racial minority groups, and that it typically manifests itself through asking dismissive questions such as: “Why are you so hung up on race? You’re the one making a big deal out of it”. In this piece, I’ll draw on four common comments related to race that a lot of folks have in their minds but are usually too hesitant to ask. I’m no expert on race, nor am I a representative for all Black people. 1. “I don’t get how I’m supposed to refer to Black people. Can I say ‘that Black person over there’ or should I call them African-American? Everyone is so sensitive and I just don’t know what to say anymore.” In general, referring to someone as ‘Black’ is okay when using physical descriptions. Avoid saying that someone is African-American unless you know that their ancestors are from the USA and are Black. Black people are diverse in that some of us come from continental Africa, while others come from places like the Caribbean, Australia, North America, and etc. It’s interesting that some folks are genuinely afraid to refer to Black people as ‘Black’ because they think it may offend us. When in doubt, just ask. It’s critical to have more conversations around questions of race and ethnicity. This culture of silence wherein folks are terrified to bring this up actually impedes our success as a society in addressing inequalities. The ‘sensitivity’ that folks often speak of is a result of dealing with constant racial micro-aggressions that occur on a daily basis (e.g. having to justify and explain your roots to folks, and having people want to touch your hair and/or body). 2. “I don’t see race. We’re all the same.” This is a big no-no. Saying that you don’t see race raises issues on several fronts. Primarily, it invalidates the lived experience of the racialized person. Having lived through a

Kevin Lunianga

“I’M PROUD TO BE BLACK AND SO SAYING THAT YOU DON’T SEE MY BLACKNESS ACTUALLY INVALIDATES A VERY BIG PART OF MY IDENTITY.” racist society has defined a large part of who I am today. I’m proud to be Black and so saying that you don’t see my Blackness actually invalidates a very big part of my identity. Secondly, it disregards the reality that we face discrimination on a daily basis. It’s easy to say that you don’t see race when you haven’t experienced it. In a sense, it acts as a silencing mechanism that disregards historical and current race issues. Everyone who was born and raised in North America has been influenced by its racist power structures and is complicit in the process. There are no exceptions, which is why saying that you don’t see race creates this idea that you’ve decolonized your mind. This should be a strenuous and never-ending process. Lastly, this statement raises questions around the over-emphasis on ‘seeing’ race. Racialization isn’t always visible as some people of color may pass as white due to their physical characteristics. Regardless, they may still face racism in different ways (e.g. job discrimination due to an “ethnic” name, etc.). Interestingly, some populations of Black people – particularly dark skinned folks – can’t ‘pass’ and are especially susceptible to facing racism because of physical traits. Our racialization is extremely visible which contributes to why we face police brutality in specific ways. 3. “Black people complain a lot about police brutality and stuff, but what about Black on Black crime?” The term “Black on Black crime” is deeply problematic. Not only are Black people the only population to have a systemically recognized term for violence between members of its group, we are also painted as inherently criminogenic. Moreover, this term is usually used outside of a historical context that recognizes the intergenerational effects of slavery, segregation laws and unequal access to social and educational resources for Black people. This helps us explain


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why crime has affected our population in specific ways. Historically decontextualized, racially charged language like “Black on Black crime” contributes to the notion of Black people as perpetrators and victims of crime, while derailing other conversations around real issues relating to the criminal justice system (e.g. racial profiling by the police). 4. “Black people tend to cry racism when something doesn’t go their way. Why can’t they admit that something was their fault instead of blaming it on the system?” This one is especially insidious and common. From my experience, this tends to come from individuals who rely on evidence for their arguments. Because racism isn’t so clearcut, some people will discredit the lived experiences of racialized folks and demand “evidence” that racism occurred. This is difficult because this “evidence” is essentially my lived experience and technology hasn’t developed to the point where I can make someone switch bodies with me for a day. That said, saying that Black people complain too much about race also contributes to this culture of silence that exists when talking about racism, and allows for the dismissal and derailing of real concerns. It’s important to remember that the system was not created for Black and/or minority bodies.

*** Kevin Lunianga was a senior undergraduate student serving as a Residence Advisor at the University of Toronto. Over the past year, Kevin has built a close-knit and lively community with students where he prioritizes awareness of inclusive and equitable language.

WHOSE COMMUNITIES

Maverick Smith

‘consciousness-raising’ is a phrase that has been stolen without permission so much it has lost all connection to the communities to which the phrase refers respected leaders, public & alternative, labour to create communities but if founded on appropriated knowledges these are only façades of empowered spaces re-appropriation is what is needed for misrepresented communities to emerge from the shadows empowered to speak their truths to power

*** A deaf*, queer, trans*, dis/abled, genderqueer person, Maverick Smith, has always been passionate about social justice and equity. A published writer, poet and an editor, Maverick currently resides on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit where they are engaged in community work related to intersectionality of their various identities.


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FALL 2015

AODA TEN YEARS LATER

ACCESSSIBILITY PLAN REMAINS UNREALIZED T

Maverick Smith

he Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) came into effect in 2005 in response to the failure of the existing legislation for people with disabilities. With it came the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council whose purpose was to guide the implementation of the AODA. Chaired by disability justice advocate and educator David Onley, with another disability justice advocate, Tracey MacCharles, serving as vice-chair, the Council had grand plans for Ontario. As Onley stated in a government media release at the time, “Accessibility is not just about equipment or architecture. It is fundamentally about attitude as well. We know that if a facility or business is made accessible it becomes easier to use for all people, young and old and whatever their physical status. I welcome this opportunity to help change Ontario for the better.” These plans to “change Ontario for the better” were welcomed by the then Minister of Community and Social Services, Sandra Pupatello, who stated in the same press release, “It will take everyone’s commitment—people with disabilities, businesses and government—to build a truly accessible province. And we’re going to do it because accessibility is good for our society, our economy and our future prosperity… This is part of our plan to strengthen our province by making sure Ontario benefits from the contribution of all its citizens.”1 Ten years and two reviews later, accessibility is still not an aspect of life that Ontarians with disabilities enjoy. One of the key reasons for this is that many people still remain unfamiliar with the very existence of this legislation.

Simply put, the AODA consists of a series of accessibility targets, which need to be met according to a specific timetable that ends in 2025. However, as shown by the two completed legislative reviews of the AODA, the first one in 2010 and the second one in 2014, this important legislation has been unable to keep up with its own implementation timeline. For instance, in a recent opinion piece published in the Toronto Star, lawyer David Lepofsky states, “Many if not most public buildings remain physically inaccessible. Kids with disabilities struggle for educational opportunities under outdated legislation written a third of a century ago. Blind people with guide dogs are still too often denied access to restaurants or taxis. In 2010 the government launched its new Presto smart card for paying public transit, replete with accessibility problems.”2 In exploring the reasons for its failure, this article will rely primarily on the findings contained in the second review of the AODA, which was released in February 2015, and the opinions of folks involved in the disability justice movement. In 2013, the government of Ontario appointed Mayo Moran, a professor of law, provost and vice-chancellor at Trinity College at the University of Toronto to conduct the second legislative review of the AODA. In the review, Moran offers several suggestions on how to fix the problems with the AODA. Some of these are paraphrased below. Accompanying them are critiques from figures in the disability community who take a different view on the limitations of the AODA.

1

2

“McGuinty Government Launches New Accessibility Council,” Government of Ontario Website, accessed July 29, 2015, http://news. ontario.ca/archive/en/2005/12/13/McGuinty-Government-Launches-New-Accessibility-Council.html

David Lepofsky, “Ontario is failing on accessibility goals,” The Toronto Star, June 11, 2015, accessed July 29, 2015, http://www.thestar. com/opinion/commentary/2015/06/11/ontario-is-failing-on-accessibility-goals.html


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Moran explains that ensuring compliance to the AODA is presently the responsibility of the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. She recommends this Minister be given the additional title of Minister Responsible for Accessibility to reflect this reality. Furthermore according to Moran’s findings in community consultations, the complexity of the model coupled with the fact that many of the obligations are drafted in very general terms mean the AODA can be very demanding to implement. Creating AODA training workshops covering key points applicable to individuals and organizations will make understanding the act simpler; both for the individuals who depend on the accessibility that the AODA aims to secure and for organizations that seek to comply with it. It will also avoid needless duplication. Recognizing that life in Ontario has changed and will continue to change for people with disabilities, Moran suggests the creation of new standards which encourage, support and celebrate accessibility planning beyond the AODA. These standards would emphasize barrier removal in multi-year accessibility plans and reward organizations that exceed expectations. This could be done partly by introducing accessibility tax incentives for small businesses which are designed to motivate firms, not simply to comply with AODA standards, but to exceed them in targeted ways. Jennifer Rosser is a Peer Support Specialist based in Toronto who promotes the recovery of people with mental health, substance use and poverty issues. A person with lived experience of these same issues, she recognizes access to housing as one of the barriers people with disabilities face. A former recipient of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Rosser has the following recommendation, “It also goes without saying that OW and ODSP rates should be increased to reflect the price of living, especially the price of independently renting a market rent apartment so that people do not have to live in shared housing, substandard housing, or inconveniently located housing which decreases their quality of life and negatively impacts their mental health.”3 To simplify the regulatory environment surrounding the AODA, Moran recommends aligning the accessibility provisions of the Building Code with the AODA. The relationship between the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA also needs to be clarified. Also, as discussed a decade ago by Katherine Hewson, acting deputy minister at the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) should be repealed section by section; a repeal intended to provide an orderly transition from the ODA to the requirements for compliance with AODA.4 As Moran explains, the AODA also has some significant 3 4

Rosser, J. 2015. Personal Communication.

“Committee Transcripts: Standing Committee on Social Policy – 2005-Jan-31 – Bill 118, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005,” accessed July 29, 2015, http://www.ontla.on.ca/ web/committee-proceedings/committee_transcripts_details.do?locale=en&BillID=308&ParlCommID=7430&Date=2005-01-31&Business=&DocumentID=22326

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gaps in terms of accessibility. These include aspects of accessibility related to health care and education, which Moran calls “priority areas.” Local disability justice activist Al Donato had a different perspective on this issue. As they explained, “Healthcare and education are important fields, but they aren’t the only pressing issues facing people with disabilities. Affordable housing and social services for street-involved/ homeless people with disabilities should be a priority area. Livable wages for people with disabilities would also prioritize creating structural change that directly impact quality of life for people with disabilities.”5 Connected to ‘livable wages’ are the contemporary realities of employment, an issue the technology-dated AODA does not adequately cover. As Moran notes, the complete absence of accessibility targets related to building retrofits and website extranets is also a gap within the existing legislation. This situation logistically limits employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Moran’s review concisely describes how the AODA is not living up to its grand plans. Because of this Moran recommends that the Ontario government defer the third legislative review until 2019 in order to give Ontario sufficient time to meet the benchmarks required by the AODA. As of this writing, it is unclear if the government will do so. 5

Donato, A. 2015. Personal Communication. –Al uses ‘they’ pronouns.

*** A deaf*, queer, trans*, dis/abled, genderqueer person, Maverick Smith, has always been passionate about social justice and equity. A published writer, poet and an editor, Maverick currently resides on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit where they are engaged in community work related to intersectionality of their various identities.

THINKING ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY ON CAMPUS?


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FALL 2015

THE MUNK SCHOOL’S I

FOREIGN POLICY AGENDA

n January this year, students at the Munk School of Global Affairs received a rather curious e-mail from the School’s administrator. The message informed students of an upcoming event that the School’s founding director, Professor Janice Stein, was strongly encouraging everyone to attend. The message, however, provided minimal details about the event itself. When students showed up to the event on January 6, they found themselves at a press conference with then-Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. It soon became evident through remarks made by Stein during her address that the reason she had manipulated students into attending the event was to give Baird the impression that he and his policies were popular amongst Munk School students. At the press conference, Baird announced $9 million in government funding for the Digital Public Square Project, an open and secure digital space to be made available to citizens of “oppressive and authoritarian regimes”1. According to Stein, the project built on an earlier Munk School initiative—the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran—which established online platforms and tools that reached over 4.5 million unique users inside Iran. “We will learn what citizens want most and share that knowledge,” proclaimed Stein at the press conference.2 Fast forward a few months, and Iran is now on the verge of a diplomatic deal with the United States that would reshape its relationship to most of the western world. Decades of economic sanctions would be lifted in exchange for limiting Iran’s nuclear capability and imposing strict international monitoring on their nuclear program. In response, the Munk School, and their digital democracy program had, until recently, been notably silent. The School finally broke its silence on May 26, when lecturer and senior research fellow, Mark Dubowitz. He participated in a debate held by the American chapter of Intelligence Squared, an international debate organization, and argued against the motion that “Obama’s Iran Deal is Good for America,” and by a small margin, won.3 Dubowitz, dubbed by Ynet, Israel’s largest English language news website, as “The Man Who Fights Iran” is also the executive director of a United States based conservative think-tank called the Foundation for 1

Terry Lavender, “Government of Canada backs digital public square from U of T’s Munk School,” U of T News, University of Toronto, http:// news.utoronto.ca/government-canada-backs-digital-public-square-u-tsmunk-school (accessed July 26, 2015). 2 3

Ibid.

Intelligence Squared US, “Obama’s Iran Deal is Good for America,” Intelligence Squared Debates, May 26, 2015, http://intelligencesquaredus. org/debates/past-debates/item/1347-obamas-iran-deal-is-good-foramerica.

Sakura Saunders

Defense of Democracy, which specializes in sanctions against Iran.4 Regardless of your take on the Iran deal, these talks are no doubt the most significant foreign policy achievement in Iranian recent history. Also, at least as portrayed by western media, these talks have been overwhelmingly supported by the citizens of Iran who welcome the end of the devastating sanctions. How is it, then, that these opinions are not reflected in the positions taken by the Munk School, which received a $9 million boost to speak directly with the citizens of Iran? This seems to be an ongoing pattern at the Munk School. Its close relationship with both Israel, which strongly opposes the Iran deal, and Canada’s foreign policy objectives as determined by the likes of Stephen Harper and John Baird, have undermined the School’s credibility and objectivity. The School’s uncritical engagement with issues of foreign policy, for instance, is exemplified by a conference the School organized in 2013 entitled Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran. The conference was criticized by the Iranian Canadian Community Council for excluding “experts, academics, political activists, students, bloggers, journalists and members of the Iranian diaspora (including those of the Iranian-Canadian community) whose views on Iran do not fully concur with the positions of the Harper government.”5 John Mundy, who served as Canada’s last Ambassador to Iran, also wrote a damning editorial in the Globe & Mail entitled ‘In confronting Iran, John Baird stands in the way of real solutions’ pointedly criticizing the speech Baird delivered at the conference.6 The School’s dissonance with the local Iranian community continues with the most recent $9 million Digital Public Square Project. “It is absurd that after severing all the diplomatic ties with Iran, the Conservative government spends millions of our tax dollars to fund a project called ‘direct diplomacy’ at the Munk School,” explains Niaz Salimi, president of the Iranian Canadian Community Council.7 She further adds, 4

Yitzhak Benhorin, “The man who fights Iran,” Ynet News Magazine, May 26, 2011, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4060499,00. html. 5

Niaz Salimi, “Letter to Janice Stein, Munk school of global affair regarding two-day conference on Iran, titled “The global Dialogue on future of Iran,” The Iranian-Canadian Community Council, May 12, 2013, http://www.ircan.com/letter-to-janice-stein-munk-school-of-global-affair-regarding-two-day-conference-on-iran/. 6

John Mundy, “In confronting Iran, John Baird stands in the way of real solutions,” The Globe and Mail, May 21, 2013, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/in-confronting-iran-john-baird-stands-inthe-way-of-real-solutions/article12034167/. 7

Niaz Salimi (The Iranian-Canadian Community Council) in discussion


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“Dr. Janice Stein, presents that the project’s aim is to connect with diverse groups of Iranian citizens to understand their views and facilitate communication of various narratives, but in an Orwellian fashion considers some more citizen than the rest, worthy of exposure, eliminating any trace of an opposing view to the conservative agenda. This discriminative practice manifests in Munk’s total silence about the recent victory of diplomacy over other alternatives regarding Iran’s nuclear issue and in its disregard for the joy and relief expressed by Iranians around the world. It is sad to see how the dirty games of politics enter academia under the false notion of support for human rights.”8 In July, just after the Iran Deal was announced, the government of Canada has stated that it will continue sanctions against Iran, rejecting the diplomatic path set by the U.S., Britain, France, and the European Union. It instead chose to side with Israel. The collusion between the Munk School and politicians in charge of Canada’s foreign policy goes back even further. In 2007, while at the University of Toronto, former director of the Munk Centre for International Studies Marketa Evans started the Devonshire Initiative, a coalition of development NGOs who work with mining companies. The Devonshire Initiative then became a centre of controversy when the Canadian government, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), began to defund human rights organizations that worked with mining-impacted communities like Kairos. The money was instead directed to the development NGOs that were apart of the Devonshire Initiative. In 2009, Evans’ name popped up yet again in international policy circles when she was appointed Canada’s first Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor whose job it was to mediate disputes between mining companies and impacted communities. Her position was criticized by many as being “designed to fail”.9 Corporations were free to enter or leave the process at any time voluntarily, and most did. Of the six cases that were opened during Evans’ tenure, three were closed after the companies walked away. One case was sent back to a company’s internal process and two remain open. Critics say they expect no resolutions to result. It bears remembering that the Munk School’s founding donor is Peter Munk, chairman and founder of Barrick Gold, the world’s largest mining company that continues to find itself embroiled in human rights abuses. After Marketa Evans, the Munk School’s next director, Janice Stein, also publicly advocated for international policy that supported Harper’s agenda and Peter Munk’s pocketbook. When the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

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made the bold move to dismantle CIDA, merge it into a newly titled “Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Development” and align its giving with foreign policy objectives, Janice Stein was at the fore-front of those applauding the move. In a similar vein, Michael Ignatieff, the former head of the Liberal party, was rumoured to have Munk School ties in 2010 when he chose to not show up to vote for a Liberal party sponsored bill (Bill C300) that would have introduced minimal standards for Canadian mining companies operating abroad.10 A Globe & Mail article titled “Will Michael Ignatieff bury his own MP’s mining bill?” even had the Liberal leader speaking out against the bill.11 The article also claims that “Liberal Whip Marcel Proulx [told] caucus members to stay away from the vote on Wednesday.”  The bill lost by a mere six votes, with Peter Munk’s Barrick Gold singled out as the number one opponent lobbying against the bill. Less than two years later, on September 7, 2012, Ignatieff joined the Munk School as a half-time professor. While some students might defend the Munk School’s approach to academic freedom, the School has developed a reputation as a mouthpiece for the policies of a Canada increasingly seen as a pariah in international affairs. Through its close association with scandals supporting the continued impunity of mining corporations or its backing of Canada’s least popular foreign policy moves, the Munk School has branded itself with an agenda and lost the integrity that one expects from an academic institution. 10

John Ivison, “Michael Ignatieff denies ‘baffling’ report that U of T offered him an exit plan,” National Post, July 15, 2010, http://news. nationalpost.com/news/canada/breaking-michael-ignatieff-denying-reports-u-of-t-offered-him-an-exit-plan (accessed July 26, 2015). 11

Jane Taber, “Will Michael Ignatieff bury his own MP’s mining bill?” The Globe and Mail, October 27, 2010 (last updated September 10, 2012), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/ will-michael-ignatieff-bury-his-own-mps-mining-bill/article1381196/ (accessed July 26, 2015).

with author, July 2015.. 8 9

Ibid.

See statement by Liberal MP, John McKay, in House of Commons on January 31, 2014, https://openparliament.ca/debates/2014/1/31/ john-mckay-3/only/; see also Sakura Saunders, “Impunity, Aid, and Transforming Canada to fit Industry’s Objectives,” Toronto Media Co-op, March 3, 2014, http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/story/harper-and-international-canadian-mining-industry/22042.

Sakura Saunders is the editor of protestbarrick.net, a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, and a member of the Munk OUT of UofT campaign. Previously an activist journalist and an employee at CorpWatch. org, Sakura started monitoring Barrick’s sites after meeting several communities impacted by their operations.


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FALL 2015

SEEDING NEW ORGANIZING PATTERNS FROM THE SOILS OF THE OLD A DISPATCH FROM TWO YOUTH ORGANIZING NETWORKS IN TORONTO Chris Connolly “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.” — Proverb

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rontline Partners with Youth Network (FPYN)1 and Grassroots Youth Collaborative (GYC)2 are two organizing networks that share between them over 20 years of experience in cultivating collective leadership, creating radical healing spaces and engaging in political advocacy around the role of youth workers and young grassroots organizers on the unceded land now called Toronto. Throughout their history, both networks have struggled to balance their transformative missions with the constraints imposed by the “youth sector”, a complex system of funding and programming supports for youth-focused change efforts initiated by private foundations, government bodies and service agencies that sprang up in the wake of the so-called ‘Summer of the Gun’ in 2005.3 For the last two years, I have been working as an action researcher and co-organizing friend with many of those who have stewarded these networks over the years. With a selfdirected research stipend from the Laidlaw Foundation4, I am currently supporting efforts for these justice-based organizers to share experiences and strategies for sustaining their work beyond an institutional granting system that we believe no longer serves their missions.5 “We are sorry we got caught up in the game of this sector.”6

So began a 2013 open letter penned by FPYN’s former staff and organizers to the community they had collectively cultivated and nurtured. Since 2005, FPYN had played a vital role in organizing supports that connected the diversity of frontline youth workers “to the root causes of injustice and to movements 1

Frontline Partners with Youth Network, http://www.fpyn.ca.

2

Grassroots Youth Collaborative, http://www.grassrootsyouth.org.

3

This is a term that the media coined to describe an increase in gun violence in some neighbourhoods, which led to the adoption of the “Priority Neighbourhood” initiative by the City of Toronto, as well as research and youth-focused funding initiatives from the Province of Ontario. For a more in-depth discussion, see: Ana Skinner, 2013. Unsettling the Currency of Caring: Promoting Health and Wellness at the Frontlines of Welfare State Withdrawal in Toronto. MA thesis, University of Toronto. Toronto, ON, p. 31-32. 4

Laidlaw Foundation, “Fellowships,” http://laidlawfdn.org/funding-opportunities/fellowships/. 5

I have been blogging around this project, tentatively called the Mayfly Ecosystem, at https://medium.com/the-mayfly-ecosystem. 6

‘Yumi, Keli, Myia, Franz, and Jenny and others that love FPYN,’ “We Are Sorry,” http://fpyn.ca/fpyn-stuff/we-are-sorry.

for social change.”7 It brought into being a new community and consciousness around the idea of ‘frontline youth workers,’ by centring the underground experiences of healing and resistance taking place at the precarious, racialized edges of the institutional non-profit sector. According to founder Jenny Katz, it existed to “celebrate rule-breaking behaviours as best practices.”8 By 2013, however, the FPYN community sensed that it had “gotten off track and that… the institutional parts… were all ending.”9 Jenny, who was called back for this transition period, reflected that “FPYN triumphantly survived institutionalization by dying a graceful death.”10 As a result, the network has now entered a re-birthing period. Meanwhile, since 2004, young organizers working outside of institutional settings were forming GYC as a related “support system... to successfully and sustainably strengthen their communities who face adversity in Toronto.”11 After over a decade of “removing limitations to advance unified grassroots leadership,”12 GYC’s outgoing coordinator Amy Hosotsuji stewarded the network through a transition not unlike FPYN’s: forefronting their mission by cutting financial ties to ‘the sector.’ The collaborative has consciously rejected a major ‘sector’ limitation: funding dynamics that serve to either institutionalize and professionalize, or tokenize and marginalize, their place-based relationships. Earlier this year, Jason De Mata, a GYC member from RISE13, a Scarborough-based spoken word collective, foreshadowed some of these changes: “I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn a new level of patience… in working with a community and not for a community, so that we don’t selfishly become what we originally opposed.”14 These funding constraints go by many names: call it mission drift, or call it the Nonprofit Industrial Complex. What I am hearing from our networks is that we are 7

keli bellaire, “FPYN Dreams,” http://fpyn.ca/fpyn-stuff/fpyndreams. 8

Personal communication. My conversations with Jenny have informed most of this description.. 9

keli bellaire, “FPYN Dreams.”

10

Personal communication.

11

“New Home Page,” http://www.grassrootsyouth.org/new-homepage/. 12

This is GYC’s recently revamped mission statement, as reflected in unpublished meeting minutes (2015). 13

RISE Edutainment: Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere, http:// riseedutainment.com. 14

Jason Demata, “The Harder You Fall, The Higher You Rise,” http:// www.grassrootsyouth.org/2015/03/04/the-harder-you-fall-the-higheryou-rise/.


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less interested in diagnosing than overcoming. As one member Sharrae Lyon from Alien Nation15 put it, our intention is to find “the abundance [to] self-sustain GYC and our individual movements by taking away our internalized limitations around finances.”16 As both FPYN and GYC look ahead through overlapping conversations, I am sensing a common cause in the questions around how we resource and sustain collective leadership that embodies abundance, reciprocity, authenticity and justice, including what positioning we take towards the nonprofit structures that have occasionally provided opportunities, while too often undercutting our deeper sources of strength. Principles for ‘ecological restoration’ In navigating these questions, I have been inspired by a framework called “Resilience-Based Organizing”17 that was created by Carla Perez through the Oakland-based collective Movement Generation, in partnership with grassroots organizers in Oakland, Detroit and across Turtle Island. The three principles for action that they put forward (quoted below) provide a useful lens for our own strategy to resource collective, intergenerational grassroots leadership in Toronto. 1) “Building a Transformative Narrative: People will not go someplace we have not first traveled to in our minds.”18 What I have learned is that we all have stories of heartbreak and triumph, often unseen, which inform our ideas for collective leadership. When they stay below the surface, it is hard to build a shared analysis for where we need to go. And yet, they go unheard for a reason: because they inherently challenge capitalist narratives of individual striving. That’s why we are beginning to explore tools like “Narrative Power Analysis,” as described by another Oakland-based group called Center for Story-based Strategy.19 In the coming weeks, we are going to begin harvesting and sharing -- in the words passed on to me by Detroit lyricist/organizer ill Weaver -- the “micro-liberation stories” that are already embedded within Toronto’s local work. From childcare to political strategy, these “heirloom story seeds” can be saved to break our reliance on “genetically modified stories,” and inspire a more 15

Sharrae Lyon, “Alien Nation A Project That Utilizes Science Fiction to Self-Create Oneself,” https://sharraelyon.wordpress. com/2014/10/10/alien-nation-a-project-that-utilizes-science-fiction-toself-create-oneself/. 16

GYC meeting minutes (2015), synthesized in the following blog post: “Resourcing Collective Leadership for Frontline Youth Organizers,” https://medium.com/the-mayfly-ecosystem/resourcing-collective-leadership-for-frontline-youth-organizers-c4be7aea30ed. 17

Carla Perez and Movement Generation, “Resilience-based Organizing,” http://movementgeneration.org/our-work/movementbuilding-2/ resiliencebasedorganizing/ 18 19

Perez, “Resilience-based Organizing.”

Center for Story-based Strategy, http://www.storybasedstrategy.org/. For a full discussion of their ‘narrative power analysis,’ see http://www. storybasedstrategy.org/harnessing-the-power-of-narrative.html.

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balanced ecosystem.

20

2) “Restoring our labor: What the hands do, the heart learns.”21 As I understand the history, what brought together generations of GYC and FYPN in the first place was a hunger to apply their labour directly in the service of their visions for liberation and harmony. Movement Generation calls this “ecological restoration”: self-organizing to directly redress harm in our communities, and creating the conditions so that local and indigenous ways of knowing and doing are brought to the centre. Now, by learning to directly sustain the work through collective resourcing, we are building our muscle memory to manifest our missions through daily practice. 3) “Contesting for Power: If it’s the right thing to do, we have every right to do it.”22 The central idea to resilience-based organizing is that we “take visionary right action” to “expose and depose” the illegitimate assumptions that uphold oppressive systems. We do what we know is right in such a way that what’s wrong within the status quo becomes visible. . For those of us who worked on grants, this pattern of organizing takes us a long way from our (uncomfortable) comfort zone within nonprofit institutions that expect us to play by a set of rules that were never designed for or by us. (Yet many people, including me, still benefit from these inequitable rules.)23 Like FPYN celebrating rule-breaking behaviour, we can act as trickster to challenge entrenched dynamics and lead deeper change. The organizations called GYC and FPYN are distinct from the missions and revolutionary energy that sparked them in the first place. And yet, they are powerful symbols and containers for the deep his/herstories and relationships that have given those missions new life through successive generations. As new patterns of organizing seed from the soils of the old, we are working hard to remember those ecosystems that have and do sustain us, and to compost the rest. 20

ill Weaver, “Movement Memory Mapping and Story Seed Saving” (presentation at the Allied Media Conference, Detroit, June 20, 2015), http://amc2015.alliedmedia.org/event/8976c00d36d5ce79142c02c4f2c060f2. 21

Perez, “Resilience-based Organizing.”

22

Perez, “Resilience-Based Organizing.” All quotes in this section refer to this source. 23

For example, my own professional and other privileges have earned me a $10,000 annual stipend from a private foundation. ***

Chris Connolly is a writer, network weaver and process geek who supports groups to learn about and through their experience. He lives, works and plays on the unceded land in Turtle Island now called Toronto, where he can be found dabbling in too many half-hobbies and chasing the perfect sentence.


RESOURCES

20

ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER

FALL 2015

SPACES ON AND AROUND CAMPUS

ACTIVIST NETWORKS AND ORGANIZATIONS

A Different Booklist Another Story Bookshop Centre for Women and Trans People at U of T Grassroots Youth Collaborative Harvest Noon Café +Co-op

LOCAL

Native Canadian Centre of Toronto Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/ Multicultural Women Against Rape University of Toronto Sexual Education and Peer Support Centre (SEC)

www.adifferentbooklist.com www.anotherstory.ca womenscentre.sa.utoronto.ca www.grassrootsyouth.org www.havestnoon.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 New Socialist www.newsocialist.org subMedia.tv submedia.tv Toronto Media Co-op www.mediacoop.ca Upping the Anti: A Journal www.uppingtheanti.org of Theory and Action

NATIONAL AND GLOBAL Vancouver Media Co-op vancouver.mediacoop.ca Cinema Politica www.cinemapolitica.org CounterPunch www.counterpunch.org Democracy Now! www.democracynow.org Independent Media Centre www.indymedia.org Socialist Project www.socialistproject.ca Truthout www.truth-out.org Warrior Publications www.warriorpublications.wordpress.com Z Communications www.zcommunications.org

AIDS Action Now www.aidsactionnow.org Black Lives Matter-Toronto Coalition facebook.com/blacklivesmatterTO Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid www.caiaweb.org End Immigration Detention Network www.endimmigrationdetention.com Fightback www.marxist.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 Low Income Families www.lift.to Together (LIFT) Network for the Elimination of Police Violence nepv.org 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 Sikh Activist Network sikhactivist.net OPIRG-York www.opirgyork.ca

NATIONAL AND GLOBAL Assaulted Women’s Helpline www.awhl.org Defenders of the Land www.defendersoftheland.org Earthroots www.earthroots.org Free Grassy Narrows www.freegrassy.net Greenpeace www.greenpeace.org/canada Idle No More www.idlenomore.ca INCITE Women of www.incite-national.org Color Against Violence Indigenous Environmental Network www.ienearth.org Justice for www.justicia4migrantworkers.org Migrant Workers (J4MW) Native Youth Sexual Health Network www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com Palestinian Campaign for the www.pacbi.org Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel


Are you interested in community-based research?

Symposium on Social and Environmental Justice: Call for Proposals The TRACX program works to promote research on social and environmental justice from students and community members, and facilitates connections between campus resources and community organizations working for social change. In spring 2016, join us to showcase research with a community organizing focus. Our second annual symposium on social and environmental justice will again feature community-based social justice research by community groups and students, workshops on current organizing work, as well as research projects we have facilitated. We want to create space for roundtables, breakout groups, interactive activities, zines, art and much more! We welcome ideas for organizing panels, workshops, multimedia presentations, etc. If you are interested in participating in the symposium, please email a short description (150-250 words) on how you are interested in engaging in the symposium, including the format (art, presentation, etc.) length, and the topic by the deadline included below to opirg.tracx@gmail.com. Deadline for Proposals: Monday January 4, 2016

Symposium Date: Saturday, March 5, 2016 Volunteer: Are you interested in helping organize the conference, or with the TRACX committee, which is working to develop a community research project this fall? Email us at opirg.tracx@gmail.com to get involved! 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 • opirg.toronto@gmail.com


Profile for OPIRG Toronto

Action Speaks Louder Fall 2015  

Action Speaks Louder Fall 2015  

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