DEC 10 JAN 11
in Ford Country
NEWS Gay blood ban by CBS persists By Scaachi Koul Derek Yee has been HIV positive since 1988, shortly after he graduated high school. In 1993, he was given a few months to live. He’s had cancer, kidney failure, PCP pneumonia and he’s been officially declared dead three times. “Everyone likes to point fingers,” he said about being isolated due to his HIV status. “They’re looking to assign blame.” December 1 was World AIDS Day, and in light of Canadian Blood Services’ continued ban on blood donations from gay men, a panel was held in Thomas Lounge at Oakham House to discuss what communities can do to change it. Any man who has had sex — even oral sex — with another man since 1977 cannot donate blood. Female donors are also prohibited from donating if they’ve had sex with a man who has had sex with another man since that same date. The case was brought back to the public eye when Kyle Freeman was sued by CBS after lying about his sexual orientation on his donation form. He countersued, lost, and was ordered to pay $10,000. The lifelong ban prevents those who have ever lived in Africa or who lived in England during the Mad Cow scare from donating as well. Adam Awad, the National Deputy Chairperson-elect of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), explained how policies like this suggest that stereotypes and stigmas are true. “It means that all gay men sleep around, everyone in Africa has AIDS and everyone who lived in England has foot and mouth [disease],” he said. The policy has no medical data backing it, and the judge that ordered Freeman’s payment even admitted that the policy, while legal and not bound to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in her opinion, is outdated and not based on scientific data. “It just shows their unwillingness to change the campaign,” he says. “We uncovered their bias in the policy.” While there’s a lifetime ban on gay men, other circumstances are subject to a time limit as well. “With a piercing, a tattoo, you give time for your body to adjust,” said Awad. “Even that makes way more sense than ‘never.’” CBS’ donation form also implies that men getting tested for STDs means that they’re engaging in risky behavior. “Who decides what risky behavior is?” asked Awad. “They do.” Yee says that there’s a loss of humanity when some medical professionals deal with HIV positive individuals. “The whole human aspect is lost,” he says. “It’s very scientific, there’s nothing about the person.” Yee says that it took him until 2005 to accept that he was HIV positive, and start taking care of his body and mind. “Use facts. Not stereotypes.” Awad also explains that CFS was once in talks with CBS about altering the policy to be more realistic and fair. The talks broke down and the Federation is no longer participating. “It changed from discussing policy review to media PR,” says Awad. “It went to ‘We want to pander to society, homophobia, xenophobia instead of following the science.’“ Awad says that CBS is more invested in ensuring the public believes the blood is safe than making sure it’s safe. “At the end of the day, it’s political.” Yee, who has been around the heyday of widespread and blatent homophobia, knows how and why it started. “It was a knee-jerk reaction. All of a sudden, people started dropping dead,” he says. “I lived through the era.” Both Awad and Yee say that the way to change the policy is to continue mobilizing and trying to change minds about the ban. “We have a role to play in terms of being challenging or writing the rules,” said Awad. He suggests teaming up with other organizations to develop campaigns, and to find where the gaps in understanding and resource are. In spite of advancements made by queer communities, stigma is still sometimes stronger than what’s fair. While rates of HIV/AIDS are higher in heterosexual women, they’re not the ones banned from donating blood. Still, Yee has hope. “I have faith that this ban will be modified,” he said. “Seeing people’s attitudes change is a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing to see the young take up the sword. Society does change.”
Governments and big business tighten grip on Wikileaks Students warned about distributing leaked documents By Simon Wallace An anonymous official with the U.S. State Department has warned students at Columbia University not to share, read, post or distribute Wikileaks material online. Citing the extensive background checks that job applicants to the American public service face, he said that online engagement with leaked material could have a negative impact on a student’s career prospects, implying that the U.S. State Department checks the Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts of job applicants. The official, who is an alumnus of Columbia, contacted the school’s Career Centre who, in turn, emailed the student body. Sharing WikiLeaks material, the note warns, “would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.” The warning, says State Department spokesperson, Phillip J. Crawley, has no official sanction from the federal government. However, it comes on the heels of instructions, issued to federal government workers across several departments, forbidding individuals without security clearance from reading or seeking out the material. The government ban has developed considerable traction, reaching such a point that the WikiLeaks site (and many of its mirrors) was blocked from the Library of Congress – the world’s largest and most exhaustive library. Governments and major corporations are likewise working to disable WikiLeaks at the source. As of press time China and Thailand were blocking access to the website (although there are well known ways around the firewalls), Australia was considering adding it to an internet “blacklist” and the French government had sent letters to internet hosts saying that it was “not acceptable” that they do business with WikiLeaks. Not be outdone Amazon has also booted WikiLeaks from its servers, PayPal has cutoff
Ryerson Free Press The monthly newspaper for continuing education, distance education and part-time students at Ryerson Address Suite SCC-301 Ryerson Student Centre 55 Gould Street Toronto, ON CANADA M5B 1E9
an avenue for individuals to donate money, Swedish banks have closed accounts, and the domain name wikileaks.org has been rendered unviable by the American everydns. com. Simultaneously, as the website, and its databases, are moved from server to server and country to country in a search for friendly jurisdictions, an almost relentless stream of shadowy cyber attacks, with provenance unknown, follows it wherever it goes. The limits of the attack on WikiLeaks, however, have proven to know some bounds. Seven days after the initial email written to Columbia students, the university has distanced itself from the advice of the anonymous alumnus. Writing on behalf of the administration, the School of International and Public Affairs’ Dean told students “Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution. Thus, [the university’s] position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences.” Likewise the Library of Congress faced a backlash both online and on the editorial pages of many newspapers. Even as more people were told, or argued, that they are allowed to point their web browsers at WikiLeaks the campaign waged by global enterprise and several governments to damage the organization’s infrastructure has only intensified. Perhaps in part provoked by WikiLeak’s claim that its next target is to be the American financial sector, global institutions have cooperated extensively to tighten a legal and economic noose around the organization and its founder, Julian Assange. As a WikiLeaks press release put it: “One of the most fascinating aspects of the Cablegate exposure is how it is throwing into relief the power dynamics between supposedly independent states like Switzerland, Sweden and Australia.”
Phone (416) 979.5000 x7715
Fax (416) 979.5223
Email ryersonfreepress@gmail. com
Editor-In-Chief Nora Loreto
News Editor James burrows
Features and Opinions Editor James Clark
Layout and Photo Editor Andrea Yeomans
Interim Culture Editor Nora Loreto
Cover Photo jennifer tse
Toronto to remain under police surveillance By Jes Sachse Nearly six months have passed since Toronto hosted the G8/ G20 summit, and it has come to the public’s attention that much of the surveillance equipment may be in the city to stay. Toronto police Chief Bill Blair hopes that the majority of the closedcircuit television (CCTV) cameras temporarily purchased in the billiondollar security budget the city witnessed in June can soon be acquired and re-installed in target areas throughout the city. This would triple the stock owned and used by the force. Currently Toronto police have 24 cameras, many of which have been assisting police work in the Entertainment District. But according to Chief Blair, activity has migrated further west, which he is proposing to mitigate with further surveillance. According to the National Post, Chief Blair finds, “[the] entire area, from Queen south to Front, and what is really University all the way over to Bathurst now has elements of the Entertainment District and we want to make sure they are safe.” Toronto police bought 77 cameras for the G20 summit this past spring, and are seeking police board approval to retain 52 of these in a
cost-sharing agreement with the federal government. If the government agrees to shoulder half the bill, according to Chief Blair, this would leave a remaining $90,000 for the police to be responsible to spend. Additionally, it has been reported that the force also plans to buy back 400 of the 5,200 sets of tactical riot gear, including helmets, gas masks and eye shields, as well as three of the widely disputed sound-cannon LRADS (long range acoustic devices) on-hand during the summit. In order to install a camera on a specific street corner site, Chief Blair states that the service is required to justify the action in reference to reports on local crime levels, followed by adhering to a protocol to notify the public. This would involve the installation of several signs, “so that everyone knows they’re there.” Though police are describing the cameras as a deterrent from crime, they have also stated that use will include criminal investigation. The footage acquired by each camera is retained for a period of 72 hours, before being recorded over. Blair is expected to bring forward the formal request to the police board meeting set to occur in January.
Contributors john bonnar nick falvo richa gomes iftekhar kabir meaghan kelly david koch scaachi koul deanna macneil haseena manek max mertens manori ravindran tyler roach rhiannon russell jes sachse maya sokolovski paul stevenson jennifer tse simon wallace amy ward Publisher CESAR The opinions expressed in the Ryerson Free Press are not necessarily those of the editors or publisher. Advertising Ryerson Free Press’ advertising rates are as follows. All prices are for single insertions. Discounts apply for Ryerson groups and departments. Full page—$750 Half page—$375 Quarter page—$195 Eighth page—$95
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 3
Cheques (not) in the Mail Migrant workers deported after wildcat strike By Tyler Roach In late November 100, migrant farm workers began a wildcat strike in attempts to bring attention to the thousands of dollars of unpaid wages that are owed to them from their employer Ghesquiere Plants Ltd in Simcoe Ontario. These workers are owed between 1,000 and 6,000 dollars each by the company that employs the migrant labourers but after attempting to stage a strike have found themselves deported back to their home country. Many of the farms workers had been on the farm for months and had begun the contract being paid in a timely fashion. But this soon changed and paycheques began arriving late and soon would not arrive at all. In the fall Ghesquiere began filing for protection from its creditors, receiving funding from Century Services, a financial services company, in order to make it through the next harvest. The owners of the farm have avoided comment since the event but representatives from Century Services told media that “Sales haven’t materialized for the plants shipped to California,” adding that “We were told there was a shortage of berry plants, but there is an abundance of plants, so there are not the sales the company had anticipated.”
Adding insult to injury, after not receiving the back wages from Ghesquiere, the workers had the electricity to their residences cut and were being evicted as of November 25, leaving many of the workers homeless and facing deportation. All 100 members are expected to be deported back to their home countries where they will lose any chance to appeal for lost wages. The workers have been told by the Canadian government not to expect any further compensation. Each year more than 200,000 immigrant workers that come to Canada from countries all over the world, primarily from Central and South America, to work at difficult and often dangerous jobs planting and harvesting our crops, working in Canadian slaughter houses and factories. These workers come to Canada to work the jobs that Canadians have become unwilling to do. Immigrant workers have been an integral part of the Canadian economy for decades and due to agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade the numbers are growing rapidly but the workers rights and labour standards have not increased in turn. Migrant workers apply through government run programs,
leave their friends and families for months at a time to come to Canada where they are often housed in cramped and unsafe housing and work long hours with fewer protections than Canadian citizens have come to expect from their employers. Critics of these programs argue that the workers that come to Canada have a higher likelihood of being exploited through unfair labour practices that give the workers few rights, make unionizing illegal, and give the workers few channels to deal with grievances towards their employer. The decisions to deport the workers is not sitting well with many activists who have spent time working with migrant workers to gain rights to fair employment such as Justica for Migrant workers. Justica lobbies all levels of the Canadian government on behalf of migrant workers and fights to instill rights to migrant workers in Canada so that they do not have to face the injustices we have seen this fall. Early in October Justica helped organize a 50 km march with workers to promote rights for migrant workers and help raise awareness to the issues. But for now the workers have been deported back to their countries and have been told not to expect to receive any further payments.
The future of Parkdale’s psychiatric survivors By Manori Ravindran
A public lecture is forcing Parkdale residents to question the fate of psychiatric survivors living in the West End neighbourhood. More than 100 people came to the Parkdale library on November 4 for “Locating Parkdale’s Mad History: Back Wards to Back Streets,” a free public lecture by academics David Reville and Megan Davies. Presented as part of History Matters, an ongoing speaker series in Toronto, the lecture shed light on mental health issues plaguing Parkdale after two neighbouring psychiatric hospitals discharged patients into the area. Deinstitutionalization, the release of institutionalized patients into the care of a community, has had serious consequences for the neighbourhood. “They were releasing people into the community with a welfare cheque and a pill,” says David Reville. The former city councillor is a psychiatric survivor and lectures on mental illness at Ryerson. Reville’s co-presenter, Megan Davies, is an academic leading a Canadian Institution of Health Research funded project investigating deinstitutionalization in Canada, Great Britain and the United States. The problems faced by people with mental illnesses in Parkdale began in the late 1970s when Queen Street West and Lakeshore psychiatric hospitals closed. The institutions started releasing patients into nearby neighbourhoods without adequate support services in place. Housing, in particular, was a major concern throughout the relocation. After being discharged, many patients settled in the neighbourhood’s rooming houses
where they lived in appalling conditions. As early as 1979, cases of mistreatment and abuse were being reported to social services. Incidents such as landlords pocketing welfare cheques of psychiatric patients were widespread. “But the sad part of the story is that there are still people living in terrible rooming houses in Parkdale and many people with mental health histories continue to be poor,” says Reville. “And it’s primarily because housing is expensive and they don’t have work.” Throughout their lecture, Reville and Davies referred to the mentally ill as “mad people.” “These words are provocative. They reclaim what’s been known as a negative term,” said Davies. “Parkdale is more connected with madness in the post-institution era than any other neighbourhood in Toronto.” This connection may have to do with the community’s long history of mental health activism. Psychiatric survivor Pat Capponi and members of the Parkdale Athletic-Recreation Centre (PARC) have been vocal advocates for the mental health community since the 1970s. Housing initiatives like newly constructed Edmond Place were partially funded by PARC and strive to connect its residents with social resources as well as sustainable housing. Despite community activism, Reville says gentrification may be the greatest obstacle for Parkdale’s mentally ill. The former chair of the Ontario Advocacy Commission says if renters cannot find affordable housing, some may have no choice but to move to suburbs like Etobicoke. “Parkdale is gentrifying. That is going to put pressure on remaining lodges and houses and owners may be pressured to sell. What will become of those people?” One option may be the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) Queen Street Redevelopment Project. The new site is being rebranded as an “urban village” with cutting-edge medical facilities, shops, businesses and parks. Most importantly, the multi-phase development will provide social housing and medical services for psychiatric patients. Though familiar with the development, Reville is questioning CAMH’s strategy. “It still tends to concentrate on people’s medical problems rather than their social problems...We need to get a mental health system that is prepared to address what we call the social determinants of health: employment, income, social inclusion, those kinds of things.” Reville and Davies spoke to a packed room of Parkdale’s psychiatric survivors, students and residents, many of whom asked what they could do at the ground level. “There’s an extremely well-funded national movement to discuss mental health,” said Reville, referring to the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions. The group was formed by the Ontario Legislature to develop ways of improving access to mental health and addiction services in the province. The existing system provides services through ten different ministries and is often criticized for a lack of cohesion. A new report by the Select Committee provides 23 recommendations to improve a system that has long suffered from lengthy waiting lists and limited support. “What people can do now is get involved in this national conversation going on about mental health,” said Reville. “If you think that having a decent place to live is important, you need to tell these folks.”
Mumia Abu-Jamal in greatest danger since 1981 arrest By Iftekhar Kabir On November 9 in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the U.S. Courthouse at 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, judges Anthony Sirica, Robert Cowen and Thomas Ambro, heard oral arguments concerning the death penalty. Specifically, they were considering whether Mumia Abu-Jamal would be granted a new-sentencing phase jury-trial. This is the latest chapter in a trial that has lasted over twenty-eight years, becoming an iconic case for the abolition of the death penalty. Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is arguably the most well known death-row prisoner, was sentenced for the December 9, 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer David Faulkner. Prior to his conviction Mumia was an activist, a journalist, a radio broadcaster and a part-time cab driver. In his teens Mumia had dropped out of high school to join the Black Panther Party. He was a member from May 1969 to October 1970, during which time he had lived in New York and Oakland. His involvement with the Black Panther Party led to him being subjected to surveillance by Federal Bureau of Investigation, under their COINTELPRO program until 1974. After leaving the Panthers and finishing school, Mumia returned to Philadelphia to work as a radio journalist. He gained repute as the “voice for the voiceless,” for his coverage of the raids on the MOVE Anarcho-primitivist commune by the Philadelphia Police. He was also elected as the President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. Following multiple witness testimonies and the recovery of a .38 caliber revolver, belonging to Mumia, at the crime scene, a jury unanimously passed the verdict of guilty in 1982. Mumia has always maintained that he was not given a proper trial and that the presiding judge, Albert F. Sabo had “deceitfully stolen” his rights. Sabo had not accepted Mumia’s request to represent himself, or permitted him to receive defense assistance from John Africa, the leader of the MOVE commune. The defense also was not allowed to provide information to the jury about the character of the witnesses brought forth by the prosecution, which they believe would have rendered the testimonies unreliable. Added to that, no test was ever performed to confirm that Mumia had handled and fired the revolver. Ever since the verdict, this case has been through multiple appeals at both the State and the Federal level, with all
petitions for rehearing or re-trial being denied. Evidence that came to light after the conviction, including the recanting of testimonies by the prosecution witnesses, has yet to be considered by any judicial body. Social justice and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, see this as a product of the U.S. judicial systems racial and class bias. They believe that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s work for the oppressed and voiceless has led to him being targeted. During an appeals hearing on December 18, 2001 Judge William H. Yohn Jr. of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, upheld the conviction but voided the death sentence, citing irregularities in the original process of sentencing. He believed the jury in AbuJamal’s 1982 trial had been provided with a poorly-worded and confusing jury ballot form and flawed instructions from the trial judge during the penalty phase. A Third Circuit Federal Appeals Court panel of judges Sirica, Cowen and Ambro upheld the voiding of the death sentence in 2008, similarly citing confusing and incorrect jury instructions. This was quite literally a lifeline for Mumia, whose death warrant has already been stayed twice. This meant he would avoid execution, instead serving a life sentence without possibility of parole, or that the Philadelphia district attorney would have to request a new penalty phase trial, with a new jury hearing arguments for and against imposition of a new death sentence. However, in January 2010, the US Supreme Court threw a wrench in the proceedings. It sent back Mumia’s case to the Third Circuit Federal Appeals Court for a review of their decision, in light of a ruling regarding a similar case. Frank Spizack, who is a Neo-Nazi who sported a Hitler moustache to his trial, was sentenced to death for the random killings of Jews and African Americans. In Spizack’s case the death sentence had been voided by a lower court in Ohio, citing irregularities in instructions to the jury during the penalty phase of the trial. The U.S. Supreme Court found the Spizack ruling to be an error. As it was considering the Mumia appeal at the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to send his case back to the Third Circuit Court for a review of their decision. This, according to Mumia’s former attorney Robert R. Bryan, has put him “in the greatest danger since his 1981 arrest.” The
hearing on November 9 was the first time that the panel of Sirica, Cowen and Ambro have reconvened to hear arguments from the prosecution and Mumia’s new attorney, Widener University law professor Judith Ritter, as a part of the review of their 2008 decision. To rally support for Mumia and the abolition of the death penalty, several demonstrations were organized on November 9, across major cities in the western world. In Toronto, a coalition of activists, social justice groups, unions and alternative media outlets, demonstrated in front of the U.S. Consulate. The message from the gathering of about a hundred was loud and clear, “Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and abolish the racist death penalty.”
Neo-Nazis attack Calgary activists in their home By Meaghan Kelly An anti-racist activist was attacked in his Southeast Calgary home last month, allegedly by members of an active neo-Nazi white supremacist group. Jason Devine and a guest were brutally beaten with weapons while his partner, Bonnie Devine, was upstairs and their four children were sleeping. Devine, who was a candidate in the recent mayoral election, awoke after hearing the break-in and was able to call police. Both men sustained injuries and were rushed to the hospital. Devine’s guest’s arm was broken, requiring surgery. Multiple weapons were used, including hammers, bats, clubs and pipes. There was damage to the house, but Devine has reiterated that nothing was stolen and theft appears to have not been a motive. A swastika was also spray-painted onto the exterior of their home. The Devines are members of Anti-Racist Action (ARA) Calgary. The couple has been raising awareness of the presence of Neo-Nazis in various neighbourhoods, putting up posters and handing out flyers to warn communities about white supremacists and their leaders in the area. ARA Calgary names active neo-Nazis in this material. The Devines participate in organizing anti-racist rallies, and they have been vocal opponents to groups such as the Aryan Guard, Blood and Honour, and Western European Bloodlines. The Devines have been the victims of several attacks in recent years, such as the fire-bombing of their previous home. According to a popular independent Calgary newspaper, Fast Forward Weekly, “Neo-Nazism is not new to Alberta. In the 1980s and early ‘90s, the Aryan Nations’ Canadian branch was led by Alberta-based Terry Long, who staged a major rally and cross-burning in Provost, Alberta.” The Aryan Guard started organizing in Calgary in 2006. They had offered subsidies to neo-Nazis to cover moving expenses in order to promote the re-location of white suprema-
cists in order to make Calgary a white supremacist stronghold. Neo-Nazi groups have organized counter-protests on the March 21 International Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination every year since their resurgence in Alberta. They have protested against Muslim women wearing a veil while voting, and espouse an “activism” of “white pride.” In an interview with CBC on November 10, Jason Devine states that the Aryan Guard has become the Blood and Honour organization and according to their website, their goal is to “[secure] the future of our [white] race and culture under one common banner.” After neo-Nazis protested the March 21, 2008 rally, Bonnie Devine told the Calgary Herald, “We’ll always meet them head-on every time. I’m scared, but I’m not going to stand down, ever.” In the last two and a half years the attacks against her family have only increased, but the Devines still refuse to cease organizing. After the home invasion and attack, Calgary Children and Youth Services had informed the couple that their “activism was causing an unsafe place for [their] children” and the children were not allowed to return to the Devine home, according to the CBC interview. It was argued that the Devines had put their children at risk through their political organizing. Social Services have since permitted their return, and the children are at home with their parents. While the Aryan Guard had apparently disbanded in 2009, the attacks demonstrate the continued presence of white supremacists in Calgary. While the recent mayoral election of Naheed Nenshi, the first Muslim mayor in Canada, has the city celebrating (or at least the 40% who voted for him), Calgary has serious work to do in combating racism. According to a 2008 Statistics Canada survey, Calgary is the “hate crime capital of Canada,” with the rate of hate crimes at three times the national average.
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 5
No Room in the Warehouse: Canada’s prison system is growing Prisons expand despite drop in crime rate By David Koch Overcrowded federal prisons are becoming “warehouses for bodies” that make criminals more likely to reoffend when they are released, according to advocates for the rights of prisoners. Concerns of academics and social justice activists reverberated in Ottawa early last month, with the release of a report by Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada and Federal Ombudsman for Prisons. According to Sapers, conditions inside overcrowded prisons are preventing rehabilitation. These conditions are leading to more incidents of violence and preventable deaths in custody, and the people hit hardest will be the most vulnerable segments of the population, including those struggling with mental illness, according to Sapers. “As a society, we are criminalizing, incarcerating and warehousing the mentally disordered in large and alarming numbers,” Sapers wrote. He noted that Aboriginal people are also vastly overrepresented in the prison population. The federal government, while pushing for mandatory minimum sentencing, has announced millions of dollars in
new money to expand federal prisons. Critics have responded that an enlarged prison system and severe punishment will make matters worse. “The knee-jerk reaction is to build more prisons,” said Peggy Chrisovergis, a doctoral candidate in criminology at the University of Ottawa. She said that even as crime rates are declining, prison populations expand with the application of severe modes of control and surveillance. Parole officers can put convicts back in jail based on a condition known as a “lack of transparency.” In at least one case, Chrisovergis said, an officer applied this punishment after a convict failed to disclose breaking up with his girlfriend. “Lack of transparency is used much more now,” Chrisovergis said, adding that parole officers have entered into even more intimate territory in some cases. “Parole officers will call your girlfriend and ask questions like ‘how’s your sex life?’” And as prisons fill beyond their capacity, convicts are forced to share cells designed for only one inmate, a condition known as “double-bunking.” Marie Beemans, a longtime advocate for the rights of prisoners, said that double-bunking is leading to more violence behind bars. She said she doesn’t expect riots on the scale of riots of the 1970s, when prisoners took over the Kingston Penitentiary for four days. But as rates of violence increase among tense prisoners, it becomes harder for them to make their way back into society when they are finally released, she said. “When they do come out, you’re getting people on the street who don’t trust, who are on the defensive all the time,” she said. “This is not protecting the public.” Meanwhile, social programs serving those inmates who suffer from mental illnesses are being cut, she added, even as these people find themselves behind bars more and more. Beemans said the federal government is e femal leveraging the public’s fear to support their 5 f o t 4 ou adian agenda despite a decade-long drop in crimes FACT: ads on Can rs of ivo gr reported by police, as measured by Statistics under es are surv elationship r s Canada. campu in a dating ce n The crime rate was 17 per cent lower e l o i v in 2009 than it was in 1999, according to StatsCan. As for rates of violence, the Crime Severity Index, which measures the seriousness of police-reported crime, dropped by 22 per cent over the course of the decade. But despite this measured decline, the Department of Public Safety has been rolling out millions of dollars in new money to accommodate spiking prison populations. And according to data compiled by Justin Piché, a PhD candidate in sociology at Carleton University, the budget for the federal penitentiary system is expected to grow massively. Make a difference, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org The prison budget, he writes, will likely top $3 billion in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, almost double what the federal Liberal govern*This ad is in memory of the 14 women killed at École ment spent in 2005-2006. Polytechnique University in Montréal on December 6, 1989 In terms of the expected spike in the incarcerated population, government officials have equivocated. Piché’s blog points to Bill S-10, which is currently before the Senate. S-10 would impose “mandatory mini-
Violence Against Women is Real
VIOLENCE TAKES MANY FORMS Speak Out! Stop Violence on Our Campus
mum” sentences on minor drug convictions, effectively tying the arms of judges who could otherwise use discretion when sentencing convicts to time in jam-packed prisons. CSC Commissioner Don Head said “there isn’t enough data” to predict how swollen the prison population will be if S-10 passes. The prison boss has floated some numbers around, but they seem likely to change. Head told a parliamentary committee in October that he will need to spend about $2 billion to deal with nearly 4,500 new prisoners. But that is already more than 1,000 prisoners beyond his projection in June. At that juncture, he estimated there would be 3,400 new prisoners housed with 2,700 new beds. Double-bunking would take care of another 700. Now, Piché notes, it is unclear what the government intends: more beds or more double-bunking? He described the government’s approach to crime as a “punishment agenda.” “The punishment agenda is about not actually meeting the needs of victims, but…creating additional victims,” he said. “This agenda is justice for none.” Mandatory minimum sentencing has also drawn fire from organizations like the John Howard Society, which provides a number of services to people who run afoul of the law, or who face the risk. Don Wadel, Executive Director of Ottawa’s John Howard branch, said that mandatory minimums take discretionary power away from judges who know that conditions inside prisons aren’t conducive to rehabilitation. Yet, as the government continues to invest in construction, one may ask what companies will benefit from these projects. And what are some of the alternatives? One suggestion comes from Giselle Dias, a Toronto-based activist who has been working with prisoners for 17 years. She said she favours the abolition of prisons as a long-term goal. To Dias, this means rearranging priorities in government spending. “It’s about putting money on the front-end instead of the back-end,” Dias said. “Putting money into social programming, affordable housing, putting money into better health care, better education.” Dias also called for a reassessment in the way people think about punishment and healing. An over-reliance on authority figures to settle disputes starts at childhood, she said. At a young age, children could be learning how to mediate conflict among their peers instead of resorting to the use of force by police. “Some kids who have those skills are going to be capable of actually solving problems within our community versus calling in authority figures,” she said. But punishment seems to be the order of the day, as money flows for beefed-up prisons in Canada. This article originally appeared on www.mediacoop.ca PHOTO: amandabhslater/FLICKR
OPINION A New Minister Should Offer Students a New Deal It’s time for John Milloy to step down By Nick Falvo While the McGuinty government showed interest in post-secondary education in its first term, under Minister of Colleges, Training and Universities John Milloy, it’s been coasting in neutral, to put it mildly. In October, Ontario residents went to the polls in municipal elections. When post-secondary students cast their ballots, I hope they thought beyond the strong personalities who’d grabbed headlines. Indeed, we must not forget the “new deal” many of our municipal leaders won from the McGuinty government a short time ago, and we should strive to bring about a similar outcome for students. A decade ago, it became widely accepted that Ontario municipalities were being dealt an unfair hand. For starters, Ontario municipalities were funding provincial programs in a way that simply wasn’t the case in Canada’s other provinces; in fact, Ontario was the only province where municipalities paid for social services. What’s more, Ontario residents paid the highest property taxes in the country. But by 2003, Ontario had a minister responsible for municipal affairs who understood municipalities. Not only had John Gerretsen been mayor of Kingston, he’d been president of the Association of Municipalities, the umbrella group representing most Ontario municipalities. Gerretsen got it, and during his four years as minister, he made things happen. Shortly after the 2003 provincial election, the Ontario government introduced a provincial gas tax to fund transit. But that was only the beginning. Negotiations ensued and, by 2007, just after Gerretson finished a four-year stint as minister, Ontario announced a “new deal” for municipalities. Through a phased-in, multi-year arrangement, municipalities would no longer be funding social assistance benefits, drug benefits, disability benefits, or court security. Municipalities also gained new taxation powers, which resulted in both a car registration tax and a vehicle tax. The above outcome represents a happy ending in many
ways. The McGuinty government, with the help of a strong minister, understood early in the game that it needed to fix a problem. It came to the table to negotiate in good faith and the problem was solved. And this brings us to Ontario post-secondary students. Admittedly, one should not accuse the McGuinty government of doing nothing on post-secondary education. McGuinty dubbed himself the “education premier,” and in its first mandate, his government delivered on a number of fronts. The provincial Liberals announced a total of $6.2 billion in new spending for universities, to be phased in over a four-year period. Around the same time, and in line with an election campaign promise, the student grant system, which had been cut roughly one decade previously, was restored, providing a portion of student loans as up-front grants to Ontario’s lowest-income students. The McGuinty government even froze tuition fees for two years. But context is everything, and there is much more than meets the eye here. Indeed, university and college enrolment has increased very significantly since McGuinty came to power, in part owing to aggressive enrolment targets set by the provincial government, and in part owing to the so-called “baby boom echo.” To be sure, enrolment has increased at a greater rate than provincial funding. Moreover, according to the Canadian Federation of Students, for every $1 in new money invested by the province in grant funding, $1.30 has been clawed back via tuition fee increases. And while Ontario undergraduate students paid the fourth-highest tuition rates in Canada when the Liberals took office, last year their tuition rates became the highest. Ontario’s graduate students have actually been paying the highest tuition rates in Canada for the past four years. Ontario is in last place nationally in terms of per-student funding in post-secondary education, and it has the lowest professor-tostudent ratio in Canada: that is, the largest class sizes.
Thus, much the same as in the municipal sector a decade ago, Ontario is the outlier in Canada when it comes to postsecondary education. The average undergraduate university student in Ontario pays $6,307 in annual tuition fees, roughly $1,100 more than the average Canadian. For graduate students, it’s even worse: $6,917, or roughly $1,700 greater than the average for Canada. John Milloy has been Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities since October 2007. Under his leadership, the McGuinty government’s interest in post-secondary education has been on the wane. It would be one thing if, under Milloy’s watch, tuition fees had increased steadily. But Milloy has set a new standard for ministerial feebleness. According to a September Statistics Canada report, undergraduate tuition fees for domestic students in Ontario increased by 5.4 per cent in the previous year, while graduate tuition fees for domestic students had increased by 10.6 per cent during that time. Consider that in light of Milloy’s ministerial stipulation that tuition increases for domestic undergraduate and graduate students not surpass five per cent and eight per cent respectively. In short, Milloy hasn’t just demonstrated that he won’t stand up for students, he’s made a case for the fact that Ontario universities don’t even recognize him as the minister in charge. Premier McGuinty should demonstrate that he really is the “education premier,” willing to offer students a new deal. And he should start by replacing John Milloy as minister. Nick Falvo is a doctoral candidate at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration. He is also vicepresident finance of Carleton’s Graduate Students’ Association (Local 78 of the Canadian Federation of Students). This article originally appeared online at www.academicmatters.ca.
If I were president of Ryerson University… …I’d ask for all your money By Scaachi Koul Please give me all your money. I will accept cheques, money orders, and cheques. Give me all your money. Around six grand will do in a pinch. Do you not have enough money to give to me and survive? You can take out a high-interest loan that will bear down on you well past the day that you graduate. In exchange for your money, I will give you an education. Do you want a Bachelor’s degree? Maybe a Master’s. I can give you both! But I don’t have that class. I don’t have that one, either. No, there aren’t any professors for that course. That class is so severely underfunded that the equipment required is poorly maintained and generally outdated. Well, that was fun. Please give me more of your money for the next three years at gradually increasing levels. In exchange, I will give you this piece of paper. I wonder what Sheldon Levy thinks about when he sees students giving prospective students tours around campus. Does he see the pink-faced 17- and 18-year-old high schoolers, walking past Lake Devo, staring up in awe at Egerton Ryerson’s massive frame on Gould Street? I’m sure he feels pride in the vibrant community he has helped foster at Ryerson, at the impressive grads that the school has churned out over the years, at Ryerson’s achievements in sports and academics. I’m sure that the six-figure salary he makes probably gives everything a rosy glow, too. I have a sordid history with Ryerson. After I was given early acceptance in the School of Journalism, Ryerson conveniently had “no record” of me the August before my undergraduate degree started in 2008. It was only with the persuasiveness of my litigious brother that squeezed me in last minute – the Friday before the first day of class. I missed orientation, lost thousands of dollars in deposits, and had to scramble to find an apartment in three days, but I got in and it didn’t matter. While my school spirit may be at an all-time low these days, I still defend Ryerson to any University of Toronto sweatpants-wearing detractor. At the very least, we can always say that Ryerson students are often the best dressed. Everyone has issues with their programs, particularly in undergraduate departments.
There are unprepared professors, underpaid professors, seemingly useless courses that are mandatory and time-consuming, budget cuts, and red tape. But never mind the institution, those problems persist at nearly every Canadian university. Then Ryerson cut courses from programs, hired last-minute teachers that weren’t prepared, shuffled classes around (making some inaccessible to certain students), and then gave me a call and asked for an additional thousand dollars for the year in my tuition. For what? Even now as the semester ends, I have no idea. This column itself is an exercise in futility: if Sheldon Levy were actually wasting his time reading this, I’d be insulted that he wasn’t spending his time figuring out a way to stop budget cuts while also not raising our tuition and giving students the value they are owed in their education. But on the off chance that he’s using the Ryerson Free Press to train his new dog and this catches his eye, I have a quick suggestion: Pay attention to your students. When they make complaints in droves about a program, when they come out by the masses to protest tuition fees, when they have to drop out because they simply can’t make ends meet, you should be listening to that. Regardless how small the matter may seem, it’s your responsibility to us to listen and try to find a way to fix it. If education is not yet a right, then it’s a service. Ryerson should treat us like disgruntled customers and try to find a way to fix our complaints or risk losing revenue. Just like any other business, a university is a money-making institution and Ryerson has a long line at your Customer Complaints department. I’m too undereducated to offer any big plans for how to “fix” the school. If I were president of Ryerson, I’d do a lot, but pontificating about “ifs” is meaningless. I’m not the president and none of us are, but Levy is. And to his credit, maybe he just can’t hear us from Kerr Hall or the Chang School. Maybe we just have to be a little louder. In the meantime, please give me all of your money. Let Ryerson’s president know what you think. E-mail him at email@example.com
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 7
Will Canada ever leave Afghanistan? Harper extends mission another three years By Haseena Manek Will Canada ever leave Afghanistan? This is a difficult question. I believe the answer is yes. When attempting to answer this question, there are three things we must consider. First, Canada’s relationship to the United States; second, the reasons given for the military occupation of Afghanistan; and third, public opinion. Canadian involvement in Afghanistan started in 2001, with a small contingent aiding the U.S.-led invasion, increasing slowly until today, where we have almost 3,000 troops, largely based in and around Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. While it was Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government that initially gave support to U.S. operations in Afghanistan with about a hundred Canadian troops, it has been Harper’s Conservative government that has increased support of the American initiative, continuing to extend the Canadian military presence in Afghanistan. Despite Obama’s campaign promises to decrease the American military presence in Afghanistan, it looks as if the troops won’t be coming home anytime soon. In Canada, as the previously announced term for the combat mission ends (mid-2011), the Harper government has managed to extend, once again, the mission by another three years. While the majority of troops are to return to Canadian soil (or to another mission the government has yet to announce), about 950 troops will remain in a “training” capacity. The newly extended, now so-called humanitarian mission, will have four main goals, at least according to the Canadian government: “investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programming in education and health; advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, including through the provision of up to 950 trainers for Afghan security forces; promoting regional diplomacy; and helping deliver humanitarian assistance.” The government elaborates its goals on a website called “Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan.” Now that our mission no longer appears to be a combat initiative, I believe it is less likely that the general public will find reasons to be opposed to Canadian military presence in Afghanistan.
Humanitarian missions and development initiatives are currently so popular with liberals-wanting-to-be-leftist/Free-the-Children-but-go-fair trade/hippie/hipster youth culture that converting the mission mandate from war to development was probably the most clever PR move yet. By playing up the “bring our troops home (preferably not in body bags)” angle, those opposed to foreign occupation garnered much support. However, if people start to think that the newly extended post-2011 mission is a friendly and safe expedition, then it may become hard to convince them otherwise. On the other hand, it appears the Canadian public is hardened by a decade of the “War on Terror.” A recent Canadian Press/Harris-Decima poll shows that the majority of Canadians are opposed to a continued military presence in Afghanistan, and will only tolerate the extended humanitarian mission if it there is no combative engagement. Of those that responded to the poll, 60 per cent were opposed to having Canadian troops in Afghanistan. The poll also brings to light another reason why public opinion – and making our voices heard to the powers that be – is so important. From this poll, we can see that once again the Harper government (this time supported by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff ) is “paddling against the tide of public opinion.” “It’s a rare instance…” says Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg, “where the two major parties have come together, knowing that they’re probably on the wrong side of public opinion, to do what they believe in their heart of hearts is the right thing.” My question is this: how much longer can our government make excuses for a mission so obviously opposed by the majority of Canadians? While this would not be the first time public opinion is ignored for the sake of war and political power, we have to believe that our elected government will only be able to oppose us so openly for so long. At the very least, Harper only has two years left in his term, and let’s hope opposition to his global affairs strategies will translate into general opposition at the ballot box. Most Afghans want troops to leave their country. Read about the poll here: bit.ly/gPYnPZ
Three more years of war With the support of the Liberals, Harper extends the mission—again By Paul Stevenson
Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government, with the unanimous support of the Liberals, has extended Canada’s military deployment in Afghanistan to 2014. That amounts to one thousand more days of war and killing in the long occupied country. Their plan is to keep almost 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to train the Afghan police and army to take over security duties when NATO forces leave. This isn’t a surprise. Since Liberal MP Bob Rae’s visit to Afghanistan this past summer, the Liberals had hinted that they are in favour of an extension. After all, it was the Liberals that got us into the Afghan quagmire in the first place. The Tories, although repeatedly stating that they would not support an extension, have always been a pro-war govern-
ment and have left the door open to a longer “mission.” The arguments put forward by the Conservatives and Liberals are utter nonsense. They say we will keep our troops out of combat operations and in a “safe zone” in Kabul. This is designed to placate Canadians and win support for the extension, but it cannot be done. Kabul is seen as a soft target by the resistance; even Afghan President Hamid Karzai has difficulty conducting meetings in the capital because of the lack of security. The notion of a safe, non-combat training role is ridiculous, as was evidenced by the attack on November 29 when newly-trained Afghan army recruits turned their guns on their NATO trainers, killing six. The idea that a training mission is a new
role for Canada is belied by the fact that we have been told, with every extension, that the new mission would focus on training. In fact, as early as January 2002, George W. Bush was saying that the key role of U.S. forces was to train Afghan police and army. It still isn’t working. It seems absurd that almost 10 years of training is not enough. After 30 years of war, many Afghans are quite capable of fighting. After all, the resistance is doing just fine without new training. The fundamental issue, which is rarely addressed, is why NATO can’t seem to build up the Afghan security forces. The reason is simple: the Afghan people won’t put their lives on the line to support a government of drug lords and warlords that keep themselves in power through fraudulent elections and that steal all the aid money to build palaces. This is why the rates of desertion from the Afghan army continue to rise. This point is not lost on our prime minister, but by a trick of absurd logic, Harper still defends keeping the troops there. Harper said that he would not send any aid money to the Afghan government unless there were assurances that the money went to the people who need it, but he would still send Canadian Forces. As Jack Harris, New Democratic Party defence critic, put it during the debate in the House of Commons on November 25, “We are saying that we do not trust that government with a dime of our money but we are prepared to give them an army.” The reality is that the West has been losing in Afghanistan for several years and it is looking for ways to buy time. The U.S. needs to maintain strategic control of Afghanistan. It is a linchpin to control the resources of Central
Asia and to keep those resources out of the hands of regional rivals: China, Russia and Iran. Afghanistan is also seen as an important physical barrier between what the U.S. considers the Pakistan-Iran-China security nexus. With its economy in tatters, the U.S. needs to gain ever more control of resources and geography in the area. For Liberals and Conservatives, the extension is important for many reasons. One is that Canadian gas and mining corporations want their share of Caspian Sea gas reserves and the nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral reserves in Afghanistan. Canadian corporations are already making millions off of the resources of Central Asia, particularly from mining gold and uranium. The Conservatives are also keen to expand the Canadian military to keep their friends in the defence industries on side. Understanding the type of instability that the U.S. is forcing on the world, the government wants to make sure that it is ready with its new bombers for the next time NATO calls for war. The Canadian anti-war movement needs to be ready to challenge this new extension and to redouble our efforts to end the war before the official withdrawal date of 2014. Even as the Lisbon meeting was setting the 2014 drawdown date, some delegates were publicly musing that this was an “aspirational” date and not a firm timeline, saying that we may need to keep NATO there for many years to come. It is up to us to build the anti-war movement to make sure that the Liberals and Conservatives pay a political price for their actions. This article originally appeared in Socialist Worker, issue 525, December 2010: www. socialist.ca/socialistworker/SW2010/issue525/ war.html
Why 2010 was Toronto’s worst year ever By Haseena Manek Any self-respecting Torontonian knows three simple truths: 1) that he or she lives in the Centre of the Universe; 2) that the rest of Canada is merely jealous; and 3) that we’re closely becoming as hip (especially after 2009’s garbage strike) and dirty as our meaner American counterpart New York City. But 2010 was not a good year for our fair and growing metropolis. In fact, and allow me to be frank, it kind of sucked. We failed the city and the city failed us. The establishment showed an unprecedented display of violent policing during the G20 Summit earlier this summer, and the citizens displayed a disheartening lack of presence of mind when they elected Rob Ford in October. Even Mother Nature lost her grip: Toronto streets were rocked in June by what our capital declared to be the most powerful earthquake to hit central Canada in 65 years. This came literally days after Toronto’s other success story of the year, the 2010 G20 Summit. The Summit, a regular meeting place for world leaders, finance ministers, and bankers, claims that its goal is “to broaden the dialogue on key economic and financial policy issues among systemically significant economies and to promote cooperation to achieve stable and sustainable world growth that benefits all” – at least according to the Statement of G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. Translation? To talk about money and how to get more of it. Systemically significant economies? As usual, the international power dynamic is that a handful determine the fate of many. In this case, that means the 20 countries that were invited out of the 195 on the planet. And “sustainable world growth that benefits all”? I hope they’re not referring to the illustrious work of the International Monetary Fund
or World Bank Group, organizations that have been successfully increasing the debt of developing countries since their inception in 1945. But, I digress. That Toronto was hosting an event like the G20 is problematic enough, and definitely worthy of mention when discussing reasons why Toronto should be just a little ashamed of itself right now. But that’s not even the worst of it. Torontonians should be embarrassed about the other blight on our record that week: the $1 billion spent on security for the summit, the 1,100 people arrested and, though this may be a matter of opinion, the fact that anyone thought it would be necessary to bring water cannons into our city. Water cannons? Seriously? Since when did our thriving cultural capital start masquerading as a police state? Since when is it okay to flood our streets with not just officers of the Toronto Police Service, but also the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Canadian Forces, and with additional officers from the Peel Regional Police, York Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, Barrie Police Service, Waterloo Regional Police, Niagara Regional Police, Hamilton Police Service, Ottawa Police Service, Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, Calgary Police Service and likely others? Coverage of the unprecedented arrests that week included dozens of accounts of abuse; “kettling” (a technique of corralling demonstrators and containing them without food, water, or access to toilet facilities); homophobic, sexist, racist, and ableist remarks by police; and instances of outright violence by security forces, who used tear gas, rubber bullets, and physical force on everyone from peaceful protestors to passersby. One notable citizen, though, had this to
say: “I don’t think there should be an inquiry or review … I think our police force was too nice.” This is coming from none other than our new mayor: Rob Ford. To be honest, there is not much I can say about Mayor Ford that he cannot succinctly explain for himself. The following three quotes, taken from the “Anyone but Rob Ford for Mayor” Facebook page, are some of many gems cropping up in news articles, blogs, tweets, and status updates of GTA residents. They very perspicuously illustrate why I am just a little concerned about the next four years. Rob Ford on AIDS prevention: “(AIDS) is very preventable, if you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line.” Rob Ford on the contentious debate over bike lanes: “I can’t support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.” And finally, Rob Ford on the work ethic of a certain racialized population: “Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life…I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.” Again, there is little I can add to the words of our esteemed mayor that could further illustrate how I, and many other Torontonians, feel about the result of the 2010 municipal election. But overall,
Ravishing May, robbing December By Maya Sokolovski Despite media portrayals to the contrary— think Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, or Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford—dating older men may not be as great as it looks. Before I outline the reasons why a relationship with an older man is risky, I have a confession to make: I used to date a man 13 years my senior. I was madly in love with him. So much so, that when an essay assignment came up and the profs told us we could write about any topic we wanted, I chose relationships between younger women and older men. I was in for a few surprises. Although relevant and credible research about them is scant, I managed to glean a few things. First of all, several studies have shown that, besides unwanted pregnancy, young women are at an increased risk of contracting sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) the “higher up,” age-wise, they date. This makes sense, as sexual experience and, thus, potential for exposure to STIs tend to increase with age. Also, an analysis of Canada’s 2001 Census of Population reveals that the greater the age difference between married couples, the lower their combined income as opposed to couples who are nearer in age, and the more likely they are to be below the low income cut-offs. Thus, rather than receiving a boost in income and status, younger women may risk their health and financial future in entering an age-disparate relationship. Instances to the contrary exist, as noted at the beginning of the article, but movie stars, despite their god-like standing in Western culture, make up an elite whose experiences cannot be considered representative of the rest of society. Another caveat: recent scientific research indicates that an age difference of 15 years or more in a younger woman/older man couple is often interpreted and reacted to in the same manner as father-daughter incest. Respondents to a questionnaire asking for
their opinion on age-different relationship scenarios tended to believe that the younger partner was looking for a surrogate parental figure, was interested primarily in the older partner’s resources, and that, as a whole, these kinds of relationships are unacceptable. These findings challenge the media’s praising of age-discordant relationships, and show that, although our culture strives not to discriminate against lessthan-orthodox partnerships, certain biases continue to exist against them. But before you give older men the red light, you should know about a possible advantage to dating them. It turns out that choosing an older man as your partner may have evolutionary advantages to the human species. Evolutionary theorists have long posited that, in searching for a mating partner, men tend to seek out young, attractive females, while women look for a mature, reliable male who can provide for them and their offspring. Taking that as their starting point, scientists compiled data on several indigenous tribes whose lifestyle most resembles that of our ancestors, with a focus on the fertility rates of older men. They found that, in choosing younger women, the much older men pass on the genes that allowed them to live that long to their children. On an individual level, young women bearing the children of older men may not necessarily guarantee that either partner will live longer, but a “spillover effect” can take place which benefits the human population as a whole. But, despite these possible benefits, an analysis of contemporary research reveals that the younger woman in an age-gap relationship risks social disapproval, unwanted pregnancy, venereal disease, and even, surprisingly, financial insecurity more so than a woman in an equal-age partnership. These findings point to the need for a re-evaluation of commonly held beliefs, as well as further research.
what is it about these three things (other than the obvious) that makes me worry for Toronto? What is it about militant force by the police or the fact that we are now facing conservatives in every level of government that makes me concerned? That should make you concerned? What is it about a simple 5.0 on the Richter scale that makes me cringe for future generations? Maybe it’s the fact that these events were all preventable (excepting possibly the earthquake, but that’s a point to be debated by environmentalists and weather experts). Torontonians know, deep down, that these are not just everyday news items. These are frightening and depressing historical events that deserve our attention. They deserve our derision and critique, and they deserve to be challenged and protested. If we really care about our city, our families, or ourselves, we will care about these issues, and we will speak out against everything that’s wrong about them. We will speak out against violence and oppression, against the environmentally destructive policies, against the underfunding of Toronto’s Pride Parade, and against the baseless condemnation of streetcars (Ford again). And only when these messages of peace, solidarity, and change reach the right ears, will Toronto have a real future.
EXAM HOURS IN EFFECT Starting December 6 Hours of operation for all service offices of the Ryerson Students' Union are reduced From Mon, Dec 6 to Fri, Dec 17 the hours of operations for
MEMBER SERVICES OFFICE
are Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 6:00 pm
Effective Saturday December 18 through to and including Monday January 3, 2011 all offices of the RSU will be closed for the winter break. For more info visit www.rsuonline.ca
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 9
The People Welc
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty organized a family-friendly p 10 ryersonfreepress.ca
PHOTOS: JOHN BONNAR
ome Mayor Ford
protest to welcome Toronto’s new leader, Mayor Ford on December 1.
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 11
FEATURES Palestine, Canadian militarism and the BDS campaign An interview with Jon Elmer By Iftekhar Kabir In late September of 2000, demonstrations erupted throughout the West Bank and Arab communities in Israel. What began as an expression of popular outrage, at the failure of the Oslo Peace Process, quickly transformed into calls for national liberation for Palestinians. The Israeli security forces greeted the protestors with a barrage of bullets, initiating a period of intensified violence. Known as the Second Intifada or Al-Aqsa Intifada, these clashes have been significant in shaping the conflict. To mark the tenth anniversary of this event, Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) organized a talk by Jon Elmer at Beit Zatoun on November 8, 2010. Jon Elmer is a Canadian journalist and photographer, who has been living and working in Palestine since 2003. His work has appeared in publications such as Le Monde Diplomatique and Al Jazeera English. I met up with Jon after his talk to discuss the Second Intifada and the current state of Palestinian struggle. Ryerson Free Press-Your arrival in Palestine coincided with the Second Intifada. What made it evident that a popular resistance movement had gained momentum? John Elmer-I was in Southern Morocco when the Intifada began in September of 2000. Even the reactions from the people on the streets in Morocco would have made one realize that something unique was happening on the ground in Palestine. It is now called the Second Intifada, but it is actually the third or fourth uprising against the Zionist project. The Oslo Peace process of the 1990s was launched as an effort to change the paradigm of the conflict after the first Palestinian uprising in 1987. It was an attempt at a diplomatic engagement in the conflict, which did not have anything to do with peace. It was a way of using the diplomatic arena as a tool in the occupation. This was Israel’s response as it realized that the first uprising had shifted the political landscape of the conflict. By the time of the second Intifada, it was soon clear that this was a popular uprising. There were a lot of accusations that Yasser Arafat was in control of the Intifada. In reality, it was a popular movement that the leadership ran with for their own political expediency. On the 28, 29, and 30 of September 2000, thousands of people throughout the West Bank and within Israel proper took to the streets. There was a cross-border uprising for national liberation. This part of the movement ended quickly, in large measure due to Israel’s military response. Palestinians realized that taking to the streets and protesting meant soldiers, tanks, and helicopters would fire them on. Helicopters and tanks were seen to be patrolling the streets of the West Bank by the first of October, firing on people to enforce curfew. There is a perception of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as two people fighting over disputed territory. What you have, however, are Palestinian communities that are completely encircled by the state of Israel. So, the war took place inside these communities. As Amos Malka, the former Director of Military Intelligence for Israel said, “the Israelis fired 1.3 million bullets,” within the first month of the Intifada. This, he said, meant that, “we [Israel] are determining the height of the flames.” When Israel turned a popular uprising into a war, the militant response from the Palestinians was within the paradigm established by Israel. RFP-You mentioned before that it was the children leading the charge. Is this dynamic at work often on the ground in Palestine? Or is there a very organized group who work to bring people to the streets? JE-First, the Palestinian leadership has been decimated by Israeli campaigns throughout the Intifada of targeted as-
sassination. They went deep within the Palestinian resistance community and quite literally dismantled its leadership. The children you speak of are coming out on the streets on their own. Mostly, what they are doing is leading a defence of their community with anything they have. It is sometimes called symbolic when children throw stones at tanks. This is not a fair characterization. What is happening is that they use whatever means available to resist a war that is coming to their doorsteps. The vast majority of the stone-throwing confrontations happen when the Israeli soldiers come into the community. During the Intifada, the Israelis were enforcing curfew two out of every three days. The tanks were patrolling the streets and coming to people’s front doors. So, a lot of the resistance is a reaction to the repression at people’s doorsteps. These children who are leading the charge grow up within this war and have never known anything else. This highlights the degree to which the Israelis control the everyday lives of Palestinians. Curfew meant everything was closed. It meant a shoot-to-kill policy on the streets. Any semblance of normal life was completely removed at the whims of the Israelis. RFP-Struggle is a part of the everyday for Palestinians. What then marks the end of the Intifada and is there a significant shift in their strategies for resistance? JE-Well, there is no end date to the Intifada. No leader was able to say that it had begun and no leader was able to declare its end. This is a testament to its popular nature. However, if you look back you can see some trends that may help identify an end. Suicide bombings became one of the most talked about aspects of the Intifada. If you look at the numbers, you can see that they are concentrated between mid-2001 and early 2003. There was a precipitous drop in the number of bombings in late 2003. And apart from a couple of isolated attacks, there have been virtually none since 2004. This is an indicator. An even clearer indicator of the end of the Intifada was Israel’s unilateral initiative at transferring the terrain of the conflict to the diplomatic arena. This happened through their announcing their withdrawal from Gaza. This was not a withdrawal, and Israel’s military never specifically referred to it as such. Rather, it was a re-deployment, where they moved their forces from bases inside Gaza to bases on the border. What they did do was remove 6,000 Jewish Settlers who were living amongst a million and-a-half Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This was the first territorial withdrawal from Palestinian land in the history of the conflict. These actions were a response to the Intifada. The Israelis called it a security response. Ariel Sharon announced they were going to leave Gaza and wall off the West Bank, creating a series of “Gazaesque” territories. Israel’s response to the uprising was to wall off Palestinian communities and to affect a de-facto resolution, as the wall has no legal justification according to International Law. The wall was also controversial in Israel because the right-wing nationalist movement saw all of the territory in question as a part of greater Israel. To them, the Palestinians are a temporary annoyance, if you will, in the process of the realization of the greater Israel. When Sharon announced “the disengagement,” he started by saying, “we had a dream, but the dream could not be implemented.” So, the end of the Intifada was really the announcement by Israel that it was withdrawing. But there were other factors that contributed. In three years of uprising, the Palestinian population paid a terrible price. Around 5,000 people died, thousands of houses were demolished, hundreds of acres of farmlands and produce were stolen and uprooted, and about 7,000 Palestinians were confined as political prisoners. This made it impossible to maintain the resistance.
RFP-What are your thoughts on the overt changes in Canadian foreign policy? Is the Harper government’s support for Israel and the increase in military ventures around the globe emblematic of new shift? JE-First, it is important to note that the Liberal and Conservative parties are in consensus with regards to foreign policy. Harper’s rhetoric is simply more harsh and frank. But in terms of actual policy outcomes, there is no difference. In most cases when you are speaking of foreign policy, you are talking about major institutions and bureaucracies that function outside of the bent of this or that minority government. What Harper has done is politicize what was always Canadian policy, which is support for Israel. Canada has had a part in every major UN body dealing with the conflict. Many leading politicians have been involved in the creation of key diplomatic initiatives and resolutions, such as resolution 242. So, we do not want to focus too much on Harper and lose sight of the major trajectories. Similarly, we do not want to say that Canada’s posture, with the war in Afghanistan, the expeditionary disposition and global interventionist alignment, is presenting something new. The Canadian military was always angry at this perception of Canada as a peacekeeper. That mythology was a political expedient created during the Cold War, when Canada was unable to interact otherwise. At a time when the major forces were preparing for mechanized tank battles in Central Europe, Canada couldn’t field 200 to 500 tanks. So Canada’s peacekeeping posture was a way for it to maintain its seat at the table. The seat is now better attained through an interventionist counter-insurgency disposition. Insofar as any kind of foreign policy has to be rooted in domestic support and policies, projecting the peacekeeper narrative was an important way of keeping Canadians on board. We have seen, since the war in Afghanistan, a major shift in how Canada has projected its military forces. Now they repel down to drop the opening puck at a Leaf ’s game. We witness an overt militaristic disposition being projected to rally popular support. The interventionist foreign policy cannot happen if Canadians reject it. This is where the foreign policy work and the work in Palestine are connected. You connect the understanding of what is going on abroad with Canadian policy at home, and show Canadians how they are involved. You also show that we have the ability and the responsibility to interact with these issues, as it is our governments that are carrying out the most central aspects of these conflicts, which then manifest in street fighting in foreign lands. The realities on the ground in the areas where we intervene, and the histories of how those policies came about, should serve as potent and important material to begin a serious accounting of Canadian actions. RFP-Has the Palestinian struggle moved to the diplomatic arena? And is it of utmost importance to convince the populations of Canada and the U.S. that they need to pressure their governments? JE-Yes, and that should have happened long ago. This is one of the more interesting things about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in contrast to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The BDS movement is taking place and really flourishing at a time when the political formations and movements in Palestine are in recovery. I think the potency of the BDS movement comes from the fact that it isolates Israel and shows the links between the local political and economic situation and the conflict. This provides a way for people to engage. So, the BDS campaign is doing the double work of pressuring governments abroad to act and creating space for Palestinians to carry out their own struggles. ‘ELMER’ continued on page 13
A student’s guide to Toronto in The Winter Make the most of the city during holidays By Jennifer Tse “Staycation.” It’s a term usually loaded with barely concealed disappointment, and a portmanteau that would irritate any self-respecting admirer of the English language. But maybe being stuck in the city over the holidays isn’t such a bad thing. Here’s a list of the best things to do in Toronto in December, for shoestring budgeters and occasional splurgers alike.
BEST SHOPPING Christmas Market in the Distillery District When: Dec. 3 - Dec. 5 Where: The Distillery District Price: Free Toronto’s historic Distillery District will take on a festive charm with carolers, a Ferris wheel, a giant Christmas tree, and good food and drink galore. Inspired by European Christmas markets, the event will also showcase hundreds of unique and local handmade gifts. City of Craft When: Dec. 18 & 19 Where: The Theatre Centre and Cream Tangerine Café & Gallery, 1087 Queen Street West Price: $2 admission Give something truly unique this holiday season. This celebration of all things local and handmade features over 40 vendors. Swag bags will be given to the first 100 attendees each day. The fun doesn’t stop there: art installations and craft workshops will happen on-site.
BEST EVENTS Newmindspace Blanket Forts: Festivus! When: Dec. 17 Where: Secret location on Queen West, emailed after registration Price: $15 in advance A labyrinthine maze of blankets, musical guests, art installations, and holiday-themed activities? And let’s not forget the late-night snacks and bedtime stories. What’s not to love? Pyjamas are highly encouraged at this artbased slumber party. If that still doesn’t leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling, new, unwrapped toys will be collected at the event for donation to Sick Kids. Improv in Toronto: Gifts for Strangers When: Dec. 18 Where: Nathan Phillips Square Price: Free Non-profit urban event group Improv in Toronto has got the spirit of giving down to a “t” with this simple mission. Make gifts or buy affordable presents, wrap them, and show up at Nathan Phillips to wander the streets giving them out to strangers. Trail of Lights at Downsview Park When: Nov. 26 – Jan. 2 Where: Downsview Park Price: $25 drive-through, $8 walk-through Drive or stroll through beautiful, animated holiday displays featuring over 400,000 LED lights. The trail weaves through Downsview Park and Canada Forest, a fun adventure with friends or a romantic night out. You can even enjoy holiday songs and park commentary by tuning into Downsview Park Radio.
‘ELMER’ continued from page 12 It is very natural to ask: “How do we help Palestinians?” But to go there to provide bread and milk for the struggle is not effective. It is actually the most logistically and financially challenging way to help, let alone the political complications that arise from being involved in somebody else’s resistance struggle. These were challenges that the ISM had to navigate. The BDS movement, on the other hand, is rooted in local communities, engaging the local body politic. That is where the success of the movement lies, as was seen in South Africa. So the BDS movement is in the fortuitous position of acting in solidarity with Palestinians by operating in our local communities at a time when Palestinians need a little bit of space to PHOTO: ALEX BARTH/FLICKR
Christmas by Lamplight When: Dec. 4, 11, & 18 Where: Black Creek Pioneer Village Price: $26-35 program fee For three nights, Black Creek Pioneer Village will be transformed into the world of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Live music, food, and activities will be available, including chestnuts roasted over an open fire, hot apple cider, a lesson from Scrooge’s School Master, and carols popular during Dickens’s lifetime.
BEST MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT Buskertainment When: Nov. 12 – Dec. 19 Where: Downtown Yonge Price: Free Busking isn’t just for warm weather or TTC stations. Stumble upon outdoor buskers of all kinds between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Caricature artists, mimes, stilt walkers, illusionists, and musicians will take their craft to the streets. It’s truly a pay-what-you-can, serendipitous entertainment experience. Sounds of the Season When: Dec. 3 Where: Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front Street West Price: Free The CBC hosts a day of live performances and shows in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank. Drop by throughout the day to hear some great live music, meet your favourite CBC personalities, and support a great cause. Bring a donation of a non-perishable food item for the Daily Bread Food Bank. A TSO Christmas with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra When: Dec. 12 & Dec. 13 Where: Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe Street Price: $32-$96 Perhaps you feel the winter break is the time to indulge in your more refined tastes, or you’re looking for something parent-friendly. Erich Kunzel conducts a TSO Christmas musical feast, featuring baritone Daniel Narducci, the Mississauga Choral Society and the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus. The event will feature traditional carols
breathe. We can work to create a truly international movement, where there is a complementary component between the Palestinian struggle and local efforts. Would you say people in Palestine feel the effects of the BDS campaign? There is a legitimate skepticism on the part of the Palestinian body politic regarding international solidarity. Too often in Palestine bombs are falling with people asking: “How are people just watching this?” So, there is this bitter history with the so-called “international community.” The question is always this: how can they stand by and allow something like this to continue? This creates a level of legitimate skepticism amongst the Palestinian people.
and Christmas songs and an audience sing-along.
BEST OUTDOOR WINTER ACTIVITIES Ice Skating When: Dec. 4 and onward for most outdoor rinks Where: Ryerson Rink, Nathan Phillips Square, Harbourfront Centre, Mel Lastman Square, local rinks Price: Around $7 for adult skate rentals, or bring your own One of Canada’s oldest and most popular winter recreational activities, skating will help you shed that winter flab, improve flexibility and balance, and get some fresh air. Rinks open early, and there’s even one on Ryerson campus, if for some reason you just can’t get away from school this holiday season. Tobogganing When: Weather permitting Where: Trinity Bellwoods Park, Riverdale Park, High Park, Christie Pits and Bickford Park, other parks Price: Free A thrill-ride on the cheap for all ages! Whether you’ve got a sled, a crazy carpet, or even a plain old garbage bag, tobogganing fun this December is as simple as finding a good hill – weather cooperating, of course.
BEST HOT CHOCOLATE Finally, here’s a quick run-down of the best places to fuel up with a mug of chocolatey warmth and comfort—you’ll need your energy before you start whizzing around town to all the fun events in this guide. SOMA Chocolatemaker Where: 55 Mill Street Phone: 416-815-7662 Bulldog Coffee Where: 89 Granby Street Phone: 416-606-BARK Dark Horse Espresso Bar Where: 215 Spadina Avenue Phone: 416-979-1200 Manic Coffee Where: 426 College Steet Phone: 416-966-3888
However, when they look and see what is going on abroad, with the BDS movement, it buttresses the national sentiments of resistance. I don’t want to overstate its importance, but it is crucial to the realization of Palestinian rights and justice. The only way that Palestinian voices will be heard is if the international governments support their cause. That will only happen through pressure and popular outrage. So, whenever Palestinians hear about pressure on governments from communities abroad, it creates a sense of optimism. The international community has to understand that struggle is part of everyday life in Palestine, so they need to sustain the pressure at all stages. Visit Jon Elmer’s website at jonelmer.ca
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 13
Public hearings give G20 protesters a platform But a public inquiry is still needed By Scaachi Koul Most Torontonians have long forgotten what happened last June: the police checkpoints when entering the downtown core, the rioting, the mass arrests, the city overrun with the angry politics of protest. For those involved with the G20 protests last summer, however, the memories are still vivid. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) along with the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) held public hearings last month into the “unlawful police activities during the G20 Summit” in response to how police mistreated the rights of civilians. “We wanted to reflect on the G20 at this point a few months out and get a sense of how people that were affected are feeling,” says Graeme Norton, Director of the Public Safety Program at the CCLA. “I think we want to reflect on ways that things would be done better the next time around.” The three-day event included nearly 50 speakers who offered anecdotes about their experiences during the G20 weekend and how their civil liberties were violated. The hearings focused on police misconduct during the protest, and were organized after authorities took hardly any steps to discipline the nearly 100 police officers who removed their nametags during the protests. Selena Flood was present during the protests last summer, but instead of joining activists, she was helping street-medics take care of injured civilians. On Saturday, she joined the protest at Queen and John streets with two of her friends. “We saw a guy with a chunk out of his head and blood was squirting out,” says Flood. “We assisted over three dozen people. We were just helping people who were injured and moving debris so people wouldn’t get hurt.” Once the protest moved to Queen’s Park, she helped move activists from the front lines to the medic camp on the lawn. By Saturday night, she and her friends had been detained. The group they were following ended up at the Esplanade, where police had blocked off both sides. “They told us they were going to take us in for a couple of hours but we were taken in for about 20 hours.” Director of Policy Development at NUPGE, Derek Fudge, helped organize the logistics of the hearings, while the CCLA found contacts willing to speak. “We did it because we want to increase public pressure on exactly what went down in the G20 in terms of civil
rights,” says Fudge. “For those of us who actually sat through the hearings, we were appalled, shocked by the horrific and dehumanizing claims that many of the presenters made. It was unbelievable.” Flood knows she was treated better than most, even after being put in a cage with 20 other women and one Port-A-Potty. She believes that the story is more complicated than the black-and-white narrative told by most mainstream media outlets. “There were some officers there that were really amazing and compassionate and tried to be nice,” she says. “On the other hand, there were some that were completely arrogant and rude.” Fudge also places blame on the mainstream media’s treatment of G20 coverage. “They did a disservice to Canadians in reporting exactly what happened.” He hopes that these hearings will nudge police and government officials towards taking responsibility for the infringement of civil rights during the protests. “If [police] were guilty of criminal behavior, they should be judged criminally.” Norton also hopes that hearings like these will keep the events of the G20 fresh in the mind of the public, and will hopefully lead to a public inquiry. “This is a severe black mark against the reputation of Canada.” Norton looks at CCLA’s hearings as a step in the right direction towards responsibility. “A full comprehensive inquiry is needed,” he says. “If you build it, they will come.” Flood, however, is disheartened by her experience at the CCLA hearings. “I’m tired of talking about how tragic that was and I really want to be focusing on what we can do to make sure that never happens again and what we can do to restore people’s faith,” she says, adding that the CCLA hearings were too focused on police violence and missed the big picture. “I see on both sides of the situation. Yes, there were police officers that were great and there were police that were really dumb and the same with protesters.” While she may have given her time and emotional energy to speak at the CCLA’s hearings, when and if a public inquiry is launched, she doubts she’ll take part. Her detainment during the G20 has changed her enough. “I spent the whole day trying to do the very best I could for people that were being hurt and then [I] was treated like I was doing something wrong,” she says. “The feeling around that is still something I don’t know how to express yet.” Visit the Canadian Civil Liberties Association online to find out more: http://ccla.org
Free at last, but for how long? Aung San Suu Kyi released from house arrest in Myanmar By Rhiannon Russell Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for a meeting with the head of the military junta. She says she will consider cooperation with Senior General Than Shwe and his army if they agree to support the Burmese people. “I think, firstly, we have to start talking affably – real genuine talks,” she told reporters after she was released from house arrest on November 13. “I don’t want to see the military falling. I want to see the military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism.” Suu Kyi lived under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years. Her willingness to compromise with the junta is likely a tactic to avoid arrest yet again. Nonetheless, she expressed her dedication to the fight for human rights in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, in front of thousands of cheering supporters. Her message was simple: “You have to stand up for what is right . . . Please do not give up hope, there is no reason to lose heart,” she told the crowd. On November 7, the junta’s proxy party won the country’s first election in 20 years, with a staggering 75 per cent of the seats. Many think it was rigged. U.S. President Barack Obama called the election “anything but free and fair.” Some speculate that the junta released Suu Kyi to divert attention from dishonest polling methods. Others say her release is meant to entice countries like the United States and Canada to lift the economic sanctions they’ve placed on Myanmar. In mid-November, the country’s prime minister told regional leaders in Cambodia that Myanmar was “creating a pro-business environment.” Suu Kyi, however, doesn’t think the junta had any hidden motives. “My detention had come to an end and there were no immediate means of extending it,” she says. “I don’t think there were any other reasons.”
Despite her regained freedom, Suu Kyi’s safety in the corrupt country is by no means guaranteed. After her second release from house arrest in 2003, her convoy was attacked and some of her supporters were killed. Many suspect the culprits were hired by the junta. Maung Zarni, a Myanmar expert at the London School of Economics, told the Toronto Star, “If she becomes a serious threat as an iconic leader, a rallying point, there is a distinct possibility of Burma’s generals assassinating Aung San Suu Kyi.” Suu Kyi is aware of the risks. “I’m not scared. I know that there is always a possibility of [arrest]. They’ve done it in the past, they might do it again,” she says. Some of her supporters say the desire for democracy runs in her blood. Her father was General Aung San, a freedom fighter who was assassinated in 1947, two years after she was born. Suu Kyi studied philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford, and married Michael Aris, a fellow scholar, in 1972.
She returned home to Myanmar, named Burma at the time, when her mother fell ill. The country was in turmoil under military rule. Suu Kyi decided to enter politics and created the National League for Democracy (NLD). She was first arrested in 1989 just before her party won the election in a landslide. The junta accused her of endangering the state. After the NLD’s victory, the junta refused to relinquish power. They jailed, tortured, and killed many of the party’s supporters. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In the late 1990s, her husband became terminally ill in England. Despite pleas from Suu Kyi, the junta didn’t allow him to enter the country to visit his wife. Suu Kyi was not imprisoned at the time, but she decided not to visit him because she feared the junta would deny her entry back into Myanmar. Aris died in 1999 without seeing his wife before his death. She was released in 2002, then imprisoned again the following year. Up until now, the junta had ignored pressure from other countries to free her. Ten days after her release, the junta allowed one of Suu Kyi’s sons into the country. He lives in England and had been waiting in Thailand for weeks to obtain a visa. “I am very happy,” Suu Kyi told reporters before she greeted him at the airport. It’s been ten years since she last saw her two sons. She has grandchildren she’s never met. Despite the separation that she’s endured from her family, she accepts the sacrifices she’s made. “I knew there would be problems. If you make the choice, you have to be prepared to accept the consequences,” she says. Visit Suu Kyi’s website at www.dassk.org
CULTURE The art of the music video? By Max Mertens Scott Cudmore wants to do away with traditional music videos. For a man who has spent a good part of his working life directing videos for local Toronto and Canadian bands such as The Hidden Cameras, Sloan, Timber Timbre, among others, this statement might sound a bit out-of-place. After all, it’s his clip for The National’s “Fake Empire” that has more than 1,260,000 views on YouTube and counting, a pretty respectable number for an ‘unofficial’ music video. Yet as Cudmore explains it, its all part of a bigger picture. “I’ve never been that influenced by music videos,” admits the director, over coffee at a small cafe on Ossington Avenue.” A music video can be so many things, but recently they’ve gotten kind of safe,” he says, “I think the whole form needs to be shaken up.” Born in London, Ontario, Cudmore has spent the last twelve years living in Toronto. After graduating from Ryerson’s Image Arts program in 2002, he decided to pursue directing music videos, because he felt it would give him the chance to make something for someone with an already built-in audience and he already knew many local musicians. Following the famous German director Werner Herzog’s “just make something” approach to filmmaking, Cudmore began shooting videos for friends’ bands. “It doesn’t really matter whether you shoot in on your cell phone or you shoot it on a pixel vision camera,” says the director, “I think a lot of aspiring filmmakers allow themselves to be intimidated by money and the fact that you do need money to make films, but there’s a million ideas you don’t need money for.” Since then, Cudmore has filmed approximately twenty music videos. He also directed a ten-part documentary for Toronto’s The Wooden Sky, during the band’s 2009 Canadian tour. “No one wanted to do a traditional documentary, much less Scott,” says Gavin Gardiner, the band’s lead singer and guitarist. “With him you don’t even notice the camera’s around.” “We did that documentary instead of doing a music video, which I think was a much better idea,” says Cudmore, “It’s a lot more ambitious, and I think it’s kind of more immediate.” “That pushed the envelop for what he did with Camera Music,” adds Gardiner. Camera Music is an series that Cudmore shoots for Internet/television music channel AUX, which follows bands around and catches them performing in intimate settings. Currently in its second
season, it has featured Dan Mangan, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Wintersleep, and more. Partially inspired by Vincent Moon’s “TakeAway Shows,” Cudmore considers these episodes as ‘anthropological’ documents rather than just a set of songs being played. “I want the performance to be a part of a greater whole rather than, “We’re going to drag out this band and have them play in an alley”,” he says, “It started out that way, but now I’m trying to steer it away from that, and have it more like a film.” Speaking of films, then there’s the director’s most recent project, the short film/sound installation A Film for Ollie Gilbert. The title refers to obscure American folk musician Ollie Gilbert, whose field recording is featured in the five minute film, and was originally intended for a well-known Canadian musician. “I got asked to do a music video for Matthew Good,” explains Cudmore, “He called me, and was a big fan of some other stuff that I’d done, so I agreed to do it. We shot it and he ended up hating it. He hated it, his management hated it, the label hated it, the whole team just hated it.” Frustrated, but not discouraged, the director decided to go ahead and put it out anyways, debuting the film described as “too dark” at Toronto’s 107 Shaw Gallery. Even though he was the sole creative and directorial force, Cudmore struggles to describe the experimental film in words. “It’s hard to call it a story because it’s really just a fragment,” he says, “With a music video, the song provides a lot of context for the images to exist, but when you take that away? Imagine any music video and no song. It loses a lot a lot of its meaning.” Speaking to Cudmore, it’s clear to see that it’s these last two projects that excite him as a director. And while he says that he won’t be completely giving up shooting music videos just yet (he’s also recently tried his hand at directing commercials), he says that he’s more interested in what a music video has the potential to be. He points to Kanye West’s recent “Runaway” project as a popular example of a video that is changing the traditional limitations of the art form. “It doesn’t have to be like song starts, video starts, song ends, video ends, and then there’s a series of images accompanying the album track. I think those walls can sort of be taken apart.”
Bring Us Your
BOOKS We Will Sell Them For You
usedbookroom.ca • rsuonline.ca/services
Student Centre, 55 Gould St.
Above: Stills from Scott Cudmore’s short films made with musician Justin Rutledge
The Used Book Room, a consignment used bookstore. Run by students, for students.
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 15
MUSIC Forever Storm dek
orever Storm is a classic heavy metal band from Serbia and Soul Revolution is their first album release. Themes rally against oppression and alienation on a national and individual level. Stefan Kovacevic’s vocals are impressive. He will astound with more releases, studio time, and live shows. The effectual musicality, polished to perfection, with the emotional fragility of Stefan’s voice, draws the listener in. Soul Revolution has heart. Anthems begin the album and the context is fierce. “Gunslinger” tells of battle with metaphor and meaning: “spoke with raven, betrayed a child …Silent screams torn up by the wrath / Still haunt him in the night…He was on the way to the Dark Tower.” The album follows with “It Rains,” “Battle Cry” and “Soul Revolution.” I understand why metal fans in Serbia love this band so much. Each song is as powerful as the first with a sound that is reminiscent of Iron Maiden and Megadeth. You will hear the influence of their forefathers. Dissension from the norm is “Outcast” and “Who I Am.” Metal fans are dissidents of society with
To learn more about Forever Storm, visit their official webiste at www.foreverstorm.com
algary’s own The Unravelling has blessed us with the deepest most meditative album since Pearl Jam’s Ten. 13 Arcane Hymns is thought expanding, mind altering progressive Canadian metal, influenced by Chomsky, Hunter S. Thompson, and Malcolm X. Prepare yourself. The Unravelling will unfold the layers of the mind, getting deep into the psyche; the part we do not explore living in a world where our minds are plugged into a wall (Disconnect-Connect). It is difficult to lose yourself to the heavy, fast, melodic sound of this album. This is metal with intelligence that requires the listener to wake up and hear the message. The flow will be interrupted with a switch of sound and words; requiring thought and an unsettled feeling. “Last Rights Protest” plays like Tool in sound and scope, “Breaking through these chains / I’m metal through veins.” The song channels something higher in the listener, “I will move through you if you stand on ground”. The ego is our ultimate weakness, strength lies in the id, “Ego’s drawn him close / now we change the plan”. The repetition of “I’m not dead” gets inside your head, asking for your wakeful state. Gun shot guitar riffs speak of death on “Revived,” suffocation and bodies buried alive, “a freefall that never ends / when I gasped for air / your hands / your hands covered my mouth.” The silencing of words must not be, even when those words speak what we wish not to hear. “Revived” invites the memory of Anthony Burgess: “Never try to tear the sound from my tongue”. Transcendental song writing is “Unscripted Disclosure;” “ born with no explanation / reckless abandon moving my tongue / feeling it’s way through my tongue / feeling it’s way through my lungs / unknown voice singing my song”. The chants and screams in the background are “gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh” ( Burgess, A Clockwork Orange). Through the embrace of darkness we find peace. “In The Safe House” is familiar of Gord Downie; poetic and Canadian. Our harsh literary landscape is
expression of exclusion unequivocally. The songs are a call of alliance; a unity for all. Forever Storm will “fight for you.” “For You” is an acoustic ballad that is so intimate, it almost feels wrong to listen. Forever Storm calls to Ronnie James Dio: “when a star shines on me / I will know that it’s you;” though it is still more personal. It was written for Vuk Stefanovic’s grandmother who passed away. The song bleeds through skin and vein, pulsing with love. It is impossible to not connect with such beauty. Forever Storm is destined for great things. They were voted top metal band in Serbia and went on to play Wacken (an open air heavy metal festival in Germany) where they placed third among 28 bands from all over the world. Forever Storm played a live show on OBN TV Sarajevo; broadening their fan base, gaining more exposure, and intensifying their craft. —Deanna MacNeil
written in song, a metaphor for the call of individual survival: “calloused finger tips gripping / my tongue appealing to the sky / “Fire”...all the hopes, all the fears, all the allusions...the blood, sweat and tears...I will persevere.” “How long? / How long will we let ourselves be pushed around?” The Unravelling asks this question as the music speaks of our illusions daring our selves to be shed of skin and facade: “let this be an open vein of blood / smeared all over the face of our illusions.” Our purest of selves will be spread all over our skin, revealing our sickness and complicity in intolerance. “Aruna” has a pulsing bass line driving the message and flow. The medium is where it takes you. This song feels very Tool with a sound that unites power within the mind; a rejection of the outer world that enforces dominance over our thoughts: “Rattling the cages / frightening the guards / and they send a message.” The album jacket contains this message about the first song on the album. “Move Forward Until You Are Dead” is a solemn promise to oneself. It is a personalization of the determined thought form ‘Enough is enough!’ An answer to the question “What should I do?” It is the idea of rejecting the outer realms and embracing the inner. Through this process the inside appears everywhere, and the world is merely oneself. The “dead man,” who feels disconnected from an apathetic world, reclaims his existence and seizes authenticity on his own path. He demands compliance from no one but himself, and in so doing lets go of all worldly attachments. His enemies that once latched on to him now cower in terror. He stands fearlessly in his own power and asks for nothing. He is revived. 13 Arcane Hymns can be downloaded in entirety off the website. I highly recommend it. Stay posted for an interview I will conduct with singer / song writer Steve Moore. —Deanna MacNeil To learn more about The Unravelling, visit www.theunravellingmusic.com/home.cfm
FILM Reel Asian Film Festival
oronto filmgoers celebrated Asian culture at the Reel Asian Film Festival from November 9 to 15. For the fourteenth year, the festival brought diverse films representing the international range of Asian experience to audiences at downtown theatres including Innis College and the Royal. An estimated 6,000 people came to see martial arts films, political dramas, animation, short films and documentaries from countries in East and Southeast Asia, as well as Canada. The festival also included cultural experiences such as a night of Asian pop music and a karaoke party. The film choices balanced an even split of foreign and Canadian content. Reel Asian Artistic Director Heather Keung noted the festival group strives to achieve this balance, but does not pre-define what themes to showcase. “We go in with an open mind,” Keung said. “There are always things that will surprise us as they become more timely to an issue or event.” The range of experiences offered something for every taste. Festival surveys find that about half of the audience self-reports as being of Asian descent, and even within that group the diversity is as wide as Toronto itself. Identity is a key focus of the festival. “The organization looks to push those kinds of boundaries when it comes to identity issues. You can’t talk about identity without talking about class, gender, economics, or sexuality, and breaking down those boundaries to redefine ourselves,” Keung said. The films are as much a depiction of cultures crossing and intertwining with one another as they are about celebrating those differences. A number
of the films this year were co-productions between Asian and North American, European, or Australian filmmakers. This year’s festival tagline was “Sewing new narratives into the picture,” a play on both the style and the craft of filmmaking. “We’ve lightened up a bit this year,” said Keung, reflecting the goal not only to challenge audiences but also to entertain. “We have films that are sweet and lovely and we have politically conscious films.” The Audience Award this year went to Toilet, a comedy from Japanese director Naoko Ogigami, which was filmed in Toronto with a predominantly Canadian cast and crew. The sold-out film comedically explored bathroom rituals as cultural divide between a set of Canadianborn siblings and their Japanese grandmother. In order to expand accessibility, the festival also presents its films to audiences in Scarborough and Richmond Hill. Throughout the year it brings exhibitions to school groups across the country. “That is true to our mandate as a national organization to have that outreach and increased visibility to the worlds we’re showcasing,” Keung said. In order to nurture the next generation of pan-Asian filmmakers, Reel Asian is particularly focused on providing accessible learning opportunities. Industry passes are available to students and the public. This year’s industry features included networking events, career discussions, animation classes, and scriptwriting workshops. Perhaps the next Ang Lee or Quentin Tarantino was among their participants. —Amy Ward
t’s a Japanese take on the Fugitive story. Delivery man Aoyagi, the antihero in Yoshihiro Nakamura’s Fugitive-meets-JFK conspiracy tale, Golden Slumber, goes on the run after being framed for the murder of the Japanese president. In this comedic thriller, which played at the Reel Asian Film Festival, being a fugitive is a collective mission and in the end one’s honour is most important. Our protagonist relies less on his wits than on his friends, both old and new, to help find his freedom. A cast of oddball supporting characters – including a charmingly quirky serial killer, a mobster with a secret, and an industrious ex-girlfriend – help Aoyagi redeem himself. The title of the film refers to the Beatles song “Golden Slumbers,” which itself is an adaptation of Thomas Dekker’s poem of the same name. This circular reference is reflected in the structure of the film, which seems to draw from The Fugitive in its choice of scenes – a parade, a darkened hospital, a dash through a subterranean sewer drain, followed by a leap into the river – depicting Aoyagi’s escape. Nakamura builds on this cyclic structure, with absurd jokes that build in hilarity on recurrence, references to a circle that marks the spot and a prologue scene that only becomes clear by the end. Throughout the story the characters sing Paul McCartney’s refrain, “Once there was a way to get back homeward,” a chant to climb back out the looking glass and return to the beginning. This is Aoyagi’s ultimate desire, to trust his friends and allies to create the safe path home. MAHARAJAH PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AGO
At times the plot is unnecessarily convoluted. Some of the lengths to which his opponents go to frame Aoyagi seem excessive, when they could be explained in easier ways. Yet sometimes this complexity works. Many of the solutions to Aoyagi’s problems involve multiple steps that must be carried out by numerous parties with perfect timing in order to work. For the most part the plot pleasingly twists around itself like a spiral, weaving together all the tangential bits and pieces by the end. Nakamura knows how to weave tension and drama to keep an audience gripped. His previous credits include horror films The Booth and the screenplay for Honogurai mizu no soko kara, which was remade in the United States as Dark Water, starring Jennifer Connelly. His Fish Story won the Audience Award at last year’s Reel Asian Film Festival. With Golden Slumber, Nakamura’s attention to comedic elements diffuses the anxiety and makes the film feel shorter than its 139-minute runtime. For a 10 p.m. screening that ended well after midnight, keeping the audience wide awake with laughter is no small accomplishment. It is this eye for comedy that distinguishes the film as more than just a political thriller. Aoyagi may be a political pawn, but he is first introduced to us as a very real character of his own, an everyday working guy who once saved a starlet from a home invasion. Although he is the quintessential antihero, we trust from the beginning that he possesses the heart and the bonds to find his way back home. Watch it with a friend who loves to laugh. —Amy Ward
Savour 250 years of Indian royalty at the AGO
erenity and simplicity greet you upon entering the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) highly anticipated exhibit Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, but don’t let the lone lotus in the centre of the room or the soothing sounds of flowing waters and string music fool you. This sumptuous exhibit is anything but simple. In collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, Canada now exclusively showcases more than 200 magnificent pieces that reveal the power, luxury and legacy of India’s greatest kings from the past 250 years. The spectacular paintings capture the kings’ power and prowess. The exquisite royal costumes and ornate jewellery bespeak opulence and finery. And the extraordinary ceremonial weapons command respect and admiration. Maharaja opened to the public on November 20 and will end its reign at the AGO on April 3, 2011. In its 110-year history, the support the AGO has received from the corporate community for this collection is unprecedented. The generosity of four Canadian corporate benefactors has allowed admission to the collection to be free for those 25 years of age and younger. The Maharaja collection recognizes and celebrates Indian royalty not for their frivolous indulgence in jewels and ornate trappings, but because the maharajas cultivated a legacy for Indian arts and culture. Indian kings and queens were strong patrons of the arts. Naturally, the maharajas supported artists’ beautiful creations and precious objects because they reinforced a king’s sense of majesty. But at the root of it all, Indian royalty celebrated and rewarded creativity, imagination and encouraged the freedom of expression. Art, at the very core, stripped of its gold and glamour, allowed both artist and king to express individuality. Some of the key pieces at the exhibit were commissioned by Indian royalty and demonstrate their passion for artistic expression, such as the beautiful Mysore Procession painting, the stunning Patiala necklace, Maharaja of Bhavnagar’s spectacular silver carriage and award-winning photographs by Cecil Beaton and Man Ray. “The AGO aims not only to tell compelling stories and display dazzling artwork,”– said Matthew Teitelbaum, AGO’s CEO and director of Michael and Sonja Koerner, in a press release for Maharaja, “but also to present programming that reflects our community.” According to Teitelbaum, Toronto is home to more than half of Canada’s South Asian population and with the city being one of the world’s most heterogeneous, he hopes this exhibit will entice a variety of visitors to “experience the wonder of India’s legendary Maharajas.” —Richa Gomes
WRITE for the
Ryerson Free Press For more info, contact
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 17
f it isn’t broken, then why fix it? That’s the thought behind Pittsburgh DJ Greg Gillis’ (who you probably know better as Girl Talk), latest album entitled All Day. If you’ve listened to either 2006’s Night Ripper or 2008’s Feed The Animals, then you should be familiar with how Gillis operates - using only a laptop and hundreds of unlicensed samples from popular songs by every artist and
band you can think of (and some that you can’t), the DJ creates elaborate mashups and then releases them online for pay-what-you-can. Nothing from that formula has changed here. Is what he’s doing still illegal copyright infringement? Yes. Is it a blast to listen to? Absolutely. Critics of this album may say that mashups are so mid-2000s and that Gillis isn’t doing anything new, but does it matter? People are still going to download this album (in droves too, as evidenced by the Illegal Art website crashing almost immediately after the DJ released it), and dance to it, in their cars, rooms, and at parties. That’s about as much as you can ask for and expect from a Girl Talk album. Picking one highlight from this album is tricky, but Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” sandwiched in-between rappers Waka Flocka Flame and Birdman, Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” over the Stones’ “Paint In Black,” and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” alongside Radiohead’s “Creep,” are among the standout sections. While rappers over indie or classic rock songs are the most common pairings, there’s something to be said about the guilty pleasure of listening to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” over Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker” (and yes, before you ask, Ke$ha is here). 373 samples, 12 tracks, 71 minutes of music equals one hell of a dance party. That’s Gillis’ recipe for success and All Day proves that he’s still got it. —Max Mertens
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
n a 2007 interview, Kanye West told Blender magazine that his goal was to one day become as recognizable and successful as U2 singer Bono. There are more similarities between the Chi-Town rapper and the Irish frontman than you might think. Both have Mount Everest-sized egos, have been parodied on South Park and have been known for wearing ridiculous-looking
sunglasses in the past. If 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak was West’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (a few hit singles, but nothing groundbreaking), than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his Achtung Baby. Like Achtung Baby, West’s fifth full-length album is ambitious and incredibly diverse musically. Unlike Bono & Co. however, Kanye leaked eighty percent of MBDTF online for free before it even hit the shelves, in the form of his “G.O.O.D. Friday” releases. To his credit, he kept fans guessing until the last minute as to which of these songs would make the final cut. Out is the soulful, Beyonce-assisted “See Me Now,” in are ferocious posse cuts “Monster” (featuring a spotlight-stealing verse from Nicki Minaj) and “So Appalled,” while “Runaway” and “Devil in a New Dress” appear here as extended versions. Despite his fame, it’s clear that the rapper still has some demons to exorcize, which he does over marching band brass (“All of the Lights”), progressive-rock bombast (“Power”), and a sample that Black Sabbath fans will immediately recognize (“Hell of a Life”). No other artist today in any genre is making music this daring, this grandiose or this self-confessional. It’s Kanye’s world now, we’re just living in it. —MM
Matt & Kim – Sidewalks
att Johnson and Kim Schifino, otherwise known as indie-pop duo (and real life couple) Matt & Kim, must be the two happiest people in Brooklyn. Just watch any of their music videos, read an interview with them, or see them perform live, and you’ll see just how
overwhelmingly positive they are. The duo’s joie de vivre has certainly translated into several great songs in the past. Their breakout single “Yeah Yeah” in 2006, was a catchy, three minute and a half-long pop sugar-rush, and “Daylight” (from 2009’s Grand) followed the same formula to get inside our heads (the song being featured in a Bacardi commercial didn’t hurt either). Unfortunately the band’s third album, Sidewalks, mostly fails to see Matt & Kim translate their unbridled enthusiasm into any memorable songs. With the exception of “Cameras” and “Silver Tiles,” the rest of this album is pretty forgettable. Last year’s Grand was a success, despite many thinking moving to a larger label would be the duo’s downfall, but Sidewalks suffers from too much studio tinkering. Here they pile on layers of repetitive synths and gloss over Schifino’s pounding drumbeats, until the band who still prefers to play $10 all-ages shows and pride themselves on their DIY roots, is almost unrecognizable. It’ll be interesting to see where the duo go from here, but there’s too many cracks in this Sidewalks to make it hold up to repeat listens. —MM
PHOTOS BY JENNIFER TSE
Girl Talk – All Day
4 1 (Cover photo) A skater watches his friends on Nathan Phillips Square ice rink. 2 A Christmas tree glows under Toronto City Hall. 3 Mannequins dressed in the season’s latest winter fashions pose in The Bay’s festive window on Yonge St. 4 An enormous Christmas tree made of lights sparkles in Yonge-Dundas Square.
5 Trees wrapped in wintry lights glitter in Bloor-Yorkville.
Ryerson Free Press December 2010/January 2011 19
Ryerson Free Press welcomes you to Ford Country: unpaid migrant workers, Toronto under surveillance and "If I were president of Ryerson..."