Stolen Sisters: Canadaâ€™s Shame Vigils held across Canada remember the nearly 600 known missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada and call for action from the Canadian government
Journalism Chair still to be found By Otiena Ellwand The mystery of why Ryerson’s journalism department has yet to find a permanent chair after more than a year needs no Nancy Drew. Bureaucracy, protocol, constitutions, hiring cycles and budget make finding a new chair a complicated and time-consuming procedure. “There was a failed search last year… I don’t know the details specifically enough to really speak about it at this point,” said Gerd Hauck, who assumed his position as the dean of the faculty of communication and design on August 1, well after the failed search occurred. “What I do know is that there was some kind of wavering by the final candidate.” Due to legal reasons, when the top pick declined, Ryerson was unable to go for the second choice. The search was closed and reopened this fall with the hope that time would allow a new pool of interested and eligible candidates to emerge. In the meantime, the journalism department, alongside theatre and image arts, all have interim chairs. “Having interim chairs is not uncommon…When a chair goes on sabbatical there’s an interim chair,” says Hauck, who was the chair of the University of Waterloo’s department of drama and speech communications before coming to Ryerson. “Most undergrad students wouldn’t notice a difference.” A search committee made up of faculty members, nominated student representatives and two external members is responsible for assessing applications, checking references,
conducting multiple interviews, deciding on a shortlist and finalizing the results. The Jenga-like search relies on one last crucial piece: money from the provincial government. Sometimes the budget cycle and the hiring cycle don’t line-up. “So, we’re advertising positions which we think we can fund, but we’re not absolutely certain we can fund because we may experience significant cuts,” says Hauck. The reason why there are all of these different hurdles is because hiring a full-time faculty member is a long-term investment. “Just like if you were to buy a house and you were investing $500, 000, you’re going to call in an inspector and go to the bank and make sure your finances are lined up. …It’s a very important investment, it’s a very important choice,” says Hauck. To up the ante, after a five-year probation period the employee will be considered for tenure, which means permanent employment no matter what. Now the stakes are even more than a house: “It’s a huge commitment; it’s like a marriage but there’s no divorce process. That’s the only big difference.” Ryerson and Toronto are similar in that both lack self-esteem and both are trying to reincarnate into something greater. Finding the perfect chair is part of that ambition to secure the best students and the most faculty with those coveted three letters on their resumes. Both city and school want to be on par with its peers, to be known not as North New York City or U of T East, but as Ryerson University in the City of Toronto.
“Jails await refugees” York panel discuss the Canadian response to Tamil asylum seekers By Haseena Manek “Jails await refugees” was just one of many sensational and dramatic headlines to grace Canadian newspapers in the past year regarding Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka. Last October, 76 asylum seekers that had arrived on Canada’s western shore were detained for three months on suspicion of terrorism before finally being released, and before the process of their refugee claim was initiated. This past August, another boat arrived with 492 asylum seekers, and they are still being detained.
The Tamil minority in Sri Lanka are currently facing violence, persecution and receiving no international aid. Canada’s actions regarding these refugees and the escalated violence in January of last year (which saw many protests across Toronto, though poorly received by the Canadian government) are being heavily debated and critiqued. Last month, York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies hosted an informative discussion panel on these recent events. Present were Sherry Aiken of the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University, Craig Scott, of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, Jennifer Hyndman of the Centre for Refugee Studies in the Social Science Department at York, and Kubes Navarantnam of the Canadian Tamil Congress. Susan McGrath, Director of York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies, moderated the comprehensive panel. Topics covered the historical, geographical and political situation of Sri Lanka, the dangerous route of asylum seekers coming to Canada and their reception by the Canadian government and Canadian media. When discussing the situation of Tamil refugees, one must consider the political complexity that governs their actions. First, as Navarantnam succinctly explained, “any Muslim, Sinhalese, or Tamil person [in Sri Lanka] opposing the government is in fear for their life.” As we saw last January, the Sri Lankan government’s attempts to annihilate the Tamil Tigers, an organization fighting for an independent Tamil state, resulted in a shameful number of civilian casualties. Though the Tigers, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), have been declared a terrorist organization by the Canadian government, and are obviously enemies of the state in Sri Lanka, there exists scattered support for them among Tamil people in Sri Lanka and abroad. “I’ve had issues with the methods,” says Mera Sivanesan, Law student at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “[But] the Tigers provided infrastructure. They had hospitals set up, courts…schools, a credit union.” “All of that was wiped out during the fighting last year,” continues Sivanesan, “hundreds of thousands of people were herded into camps and now when they’re
told to go back home they have nothing to go back home to. This has also been compounded by an active campaign of colonization of formerly Tamil areas with Sinhalese settlements.” Once the decision is made to seek asylum abroad, however, the journey ahead is by no means an easy or safe one. Jennifer Hyndman illustrated this point by quoting an Edmonton Journal headline that described the refugee’s journey, “through hell or high water.” She also mentioned that boats used by refugees are those previously deemed not seaworthy, and headed to the boat equivalent of the junkyard. Hyndman’s presentation, focusing on the media mania that ensued following the arrival the asylum seekers, illuminated one of the central issues, that the “spectre of boatloads of refugees seems to stir up hysteria.” This may be because as a part of the process of confirming the refugee status of the Tamil asylum exiles, they must also be cleared of their almost automatic status as terrorists. Accused of being involved with the LTTE, these émigrés, are detained first, perhaps welcomed later. Even after the brutal assault on LTTE institutions last winter, the Sri Lankan government “has been repeatedly saying they are regrouping,” explained Navarantnam. Though there is “no evidence of other violent mobilizing” on the part of the Tigers. “The Tigers have demised but the fight for Tamil independence has not,” he says. Consequently, anyone coming out of Sri Lanka is guilty until proven innocent. But, Mayoori Malankov, graduate student at York University and attendee to the panel, brings up a valid question: “How would we even know if they are terrorists?” Considering they have spent such a short amount of time in Canada and that virtually no information is coming out of Sri Lanka, it is viable to question the process by which the Canadian government determines who is terrorist and who is not. Despite Canada’s international reputation for being open and accepting, it is obvious that the government’s political ties to Sri Lanka and the Western ‘War on Terrorism’ have affected their welcome of these asylum seekers. In this case, it appears that while the Canadian government loses respect, Tamil refugees are just plain losing out. PHOTO: NORA LORETO
Ford misses Mayoral debate at University of Toronto By Graham Slaughter
With less than a month until election day, mayoral frontrunners met at the University of Toronto’s Innis Hall to answer questions about affordable housing, creating jobs and expanding the TTC. George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi, Joe Pantalone and Sarah Thomson sat down with John Tory on September 15 for an “interview style” debate. Rob Ford, who is leading in the polls, did not attend. The event, titled “Building a Fair City for All,” was organized by Equity Toronto, a network of Toronto groups that promote access and equity across the city. The 200-seat auditorium was full, and the audience spilled over into the aisles. George Smitherman kicked off the night, describing how, as a gay man, he has experienced what it’s like to be part of a minority in Toronto. Smitherman’s platform focused on improving community health centres in Regent Park and other neighbourhoods, rethinking the city’s annual budget and hiring a diverse mix of Torontonians to run city hall. “City hall needs to reflect the composition of what a street car looks like,” Smitherman said.
The closest candidate to Ford in the polls, Smitherman says that he wants to pull Toronto out of its perceived financial problem. “The city of Toronto does have its fiscal challenges...but I don’t buy into the sense of helplessness,” Smitherman said. Sarah Thomson spoke next. The businesswoman and publisher for the Women’s Post also addressed a plan to hire Torontonians from minority groups into the municipal government. “I have always hired those most qualified. I have found time and time again that diversity is the best route to success,” Thomson said. When asked about creating affordable homes in the downtown core, Thomson took a stab at Toronto Community Housing. Thomson cited bed bugs, lack of proper heating and poor management as reasons that city hall needs to reconsider the program. “[Toronto Community Housing] is one of the worst landlords in Toronto. They need to be accountable for what they have done to so many Torontonians,” Thomson said. Pantalone was the third candidate to sit down with Tory. The current deputy mayor suggested
that his 29 years of experience in city hall make him the best prospect for mayor. “If you get people with good intentions with no experience, you could be putting Toronto at risk,” Pantalone said. Pantalone, a first-generation Canadian from Italy, appealed to the audience’s diverse crowd by explaining how an ESL program taught him English at the age of 13. It is these community programs that Pantalone says he will fund to create jobs for Toronto’s large immigrant community. When asked if he will “keep doing what Mayor Miller is doing to Toronto,” Pantalone was frank. “I like a lot of the Miller legacy,” said Pantalone. “It’s because of him that Toronto is called ‘the greenest city in the world,’ and that’s amazing. I think that the present is much more critical of him as mayor.” By creating green jobs and investing in what he calls “priority neighbourhoods”, Pantalone wants Toronto to “take the road to be a city like Paris.” Rocco Rossi began the night’s last interview boldly, stating that he is the only candidate that won’t call a tax freeze if elected.
Rossi outlined his plan to invest $450 million annually into improving the TTC’s “efficiency.” Wheelchair access in subway stations would need to be completed by 2020 rather than the projected 2024 deadline. Rossi did not mention his controversial plan to build a tunnel from the Allen Expressway to downtown. When asked about Toronto’s annual budget, Rossi heated up. “It boggles my mind that a $9.2 billion budget keeps being reorganized year to year. If we don’t have multi-year planning, we’re not moving towards anything.” Before the debate, attendees were encouraged through Facebook and Equity Toronto’s website to submit questions to the candidates. Question drop boxes were placed around the room and microphones were set up for the audience to directly ask questions. Throughout each interview, Tory took time to pull anonymous questions from the audience out of a small, white box. During one of the candidate’s interviews, Tory smiled as he unfolded a paper. “This one’s addressed to candidate Rob Ford ... I don’t think he’ll be coming tonight.” The audience laughed.
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
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 Editor Andrea Yeomans
Culture Editor amanda connon-unda
Photo Editor Dan Rios
NO GAY BLOOD
Blood ban upheld by Canada Blood Services despite no scientific evidence to prove its need
By Scaachi Koul The history of blood donations in Canada is complex and sordid. During the 1980s, Canadians were faced with HIV/AIDS, and screening techniques that didn’t adapt fast enough. Consequently, many recipients were exposed to the AIDS virus and hepatitis C. The blanket ban by Canadian Blood Services (CBS) on donations from gay men was intended to protect recipients, but has been criticized for being discriminatory. After a 41-day trial, the Ontario Superior Court ruled against Kyle Freeman, a gay man who lied on his donation forms for CBS. Freeman tried to circumvent their policy of denying blood donations from men who have has sex with other men since 1977, even once. CBS sued Freeman, who then countersued, claiming that their policy violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On September 9, Freeman lost in a 187-page ruling by Madam Justice Catherine Aitken. She ordered that he pay $10,000 in damages to CBS for filing false paperwork. “We were relieved to see that the courts recognized that this is a patient safety position,” said Ron Vezina, the Director of Media Relations and External Communications for CBS. He said that while CBS has no intention of collecting the money, they’re glad the courts understood the dangers of lying on donation forms. “It’s recipients of blood products that bear 100 per cent of the risk. It’s not the donors.” Vezina said that the reason for the ban on gay men - similarly to the ban on donations from people born in Africa and those who lived in England during the mad cow scare - is designed as such to avoid any contamination for the donation recipients. “Don’t get me wrong, our client is very concerned about health and safety concerns,” said Fiona Campbell, lead legal representation for Egale, Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere, during the Freeman case. “Egale is concerned that this is a step backwards in how you look at equality law. The court found a hierarchy of rights.” In the ruling, Justice Aitken stated that the ability to donate blood is not a right, but rather a “gift,” and not one that is covered under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means that discrimination laws don’t apply to CBS’s weeding out of donors. One of the more controversial aspects of the ruling was the statement by Justice Aitken that CBS is just outside of the government’s reach, meaning the Charter doesn’t apply to them as it would any government institution. “We are an independent, not-for-profit organization,” said Vezina. “The Charter
Ryerson Free Press
doesn’t apply to us, but it doesn’t give us a license to behave inappropriately.” Andrew Brett, Communications Coordinator for ACT, the AIDS Committee of Toronto, said that the problems star with the questionnaire. “The ban exists regardless whether [gay men] tell the truth or not. We’re against the questionnaire because it’s not based on science,” he says. “It perpetuates HIV misinformation about HIV risk.” The questionnaire given to donors doesn’t question behavior, but instead, it questions identity. Heterosexual men - or women - who admit to risky sexual behavior aren’t automatically banned; any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 is. “It’s basically a logical fallacy. HIV/AIDS isn’t determined [by] someone’s identity.” Brett continues to call this kind of ban discriminatory against the gay community. “You’ve got to start with the population that is risky. Men who have sex with other men continue to be the most prevalent with HIV/AIDS in Canada,” said Vezina. CBS doesn’t claim that all gay men are infected, but Vezina says that they are at a higher risk than most. According to ACT, men who have sex with men comprise the greatest proportion of HIV infections in Canada in 2008 at 44 per cent. For the gay community, there was a small victory found as the court deemed that the over three decade long limitation had no scientific bearing. “What the court found was a 33-year period is not scientifically justified,” says Campbell. “Other parts were more troubling. The court took a very narrow interpretation to the types of organizations and what types of actions are subject to the Charter.” According to Vezina, the case boils down to Freeman’s actions. “He answered falsely on questions. He let us know that he was lying because he didn’t believe in the policy.” Vezina said that Freeman sent CBS emails from an anonymous account admitting that he lied on his donor sheets out of protest against the ban. “It was only after we tested his blood that we found out he had gonorrhoea and syphilis,” he said. Neither Freeman nor his laywers have confirmed this private information alleged by Vezina. Still, many still protest the ban, including the Canadian Federation of Students, which has unveiled a campaign against the policy. “We’re working with the gay community,” said Vezina. “We definitely did not feel like there was a winner or a loser in the trial.”
john baglow john bonnar michael chu james clark amanda connon-unda raquel da silva katia dmitrieva Otiena ellwand scaachi koul alexandre lalonde patrick lewicki nora loreto martin lukacs haseena manek patricia marcoccia amanda perri john rose Siân Ruddick graham slaughter kate spencer jennifer tse angela walcott
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 october 2010 3
New Ryerson campus group advocates for gay rights in Iran By Scaachi Koul
The U.S. has experienced some disappointing times for its gay community. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell wasn’t repealed in spite of general public support and there has been a sudden spike in gay teen suicides, as four boys have taken their own lives in the past month in separate incidents. Gays, lesbians, bisexual and trans people continue to fight for their human rights in the Western world. Human Rights in Iran is one of the newest groups at Ryerson that fights for the rights of those on the other side of the world. On September 29, they held a panel at Oakham house titled, “Queers in Iran” which hosted three speakers to discuss the struggle of the LGBT community in Iran. “Queer modern history is not a long history,” said Hamid Parnian, a gay blogger from Tehran, who was one of three panelists discussing the struggle of queer communities in Iran to further their civil and human rights. “Homosexual human rights must be respected.” This feels like an impossible feat considering that even Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has famously declared that Iran doesn’t have a gay population, as it is a purely American affliction. Still, with gay teen suicide rates reaching a plateau, Iran and the Western world have more in common with how they treat gay rights than many may want to admit. The panel also included Saghi Ghahraman, a writer, poet and activist within the Iranian gay community. She explained how the biggest enemy to queer people trying to come out of the closet while still in Iran can be the people
closest to them. “If [their] parents know, they are kicked out. In some societies, they have honour killings,” she said. “[A] gay man is more likely to be shot by his own friends if he comes out.” Without the support of family, friends or communities, those trying to be openly gay sometimes have trouble even staying alive. “The gay community went from the camouflage to the underground. Numerous homosexuals and transsexuals were hanged,” she said. Ghahraman explained that because of the human rights conditions of the LGBT community in Iran, many of them choose to flee, and the ones who stay are often outed and ostracized. Samira Mohyeddin, an Iranian-Canadian human rights activist and performance artist, rounded out the panel, offering a more frustrated voice regarding how gays and lesbians are treated in Iran. “Do we define ourselves or do we allow others to define us?” she asked the overwhelmingly Middle-Eastern audience. “For some, I am not Muslim enough, and for others, I am not queer enough. And for some, the two shall never meet.” She argued that queer communities should not wait around until society is ready to deal with them. “I don’t care if the Iranian public is ready,” she said. “The acceptance of the moral majority is not something we should be harping on.” It may be hard to be a teenager in the United States, but Ghahraman said it’s even harder as a high school student in Iran. “When they are teenagers in Iran in high school, they
don’t even have a chance,” she said. “When they leave, they are more mature to go for those rights.” Teens in Iran need to first get out of the isolated world of high school to be able to start fighting for the rights they want without as many serious repercussions for being out. It sounds all too similar to the Western world. But Mohyeddin argued that it’s not up to Iran’s gay community to placate their detractors. “Why are we trying to appease these people?” she asked. “I don’t really care if you think that I am whatever because I love women. We have to stop trying to make ourselves acceptable.” Mohyeddin continued to explain that queer communities in Iran need to take more than one approach to further their human rights. “You have the Martin Luther King strategy, and the Malcolm X strategy,” she said. “I think we need to employ all of them.” Parnian recalled hearing the news of the teen suicides in the U.S. and considers it a call to action for the LGBT community in Iran. “It gave [Iranian gays] a sense that there are things to be done. It wasn’t like we shouldn’t work. We have to work here, there, everywhere,” he said, with some help through a translator. One gay teen suicide is a tragedy, four is a grotesque pattern, but an entire country where the LGBT community is maligned is a harsh reality for those in Iran. At least in the U.S. and in Canada, the law is on the side of punishing violence, generally, whereas those in Iran are less stringent against hate crimes. “We have to work, still,” said Ghahraman. “We don’t get discouraged.”
New Minister a “Declared Enemy” of First Nations Indigenous leaders, activists raise concerns about John Duncan’s track record By Martin Lukacs John Duncan’s appointment in August as the new Minister of Indian Affairs was greeted with praise and hopeful expectation from many mainstream Indigenous organizations. “I look forward to working with him in his new role,” said National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn A-inchut Atleo in a press release. “Minister Duncan understands the issues that he will have to address to deal with the many challenges First Nations are experiencing in this province,” said British Columbia Treaty Commission Chief Commissioner Sophie Pierre in another release. But other First Nations leaders and activists believe Duncan’s past tells another story, and they are forecasting a hostile course as he takes responsibility for steering the Canadian government’s relationship with First Nations. According to them, Duncan has established a record of words and deeds over the last thirty years, as a forester and parliamentarian, that amount to a crusade against Indigenous peoples—stoking flames of racial bigotry, attacking constitutionally-protected aboriginal rights, and advocating for their assimilation and permanent status as impoverished, second-class citizens in Canada. Guujaaw, President of the Haida Nation on the north-west coast of British Columbia, recalls the First Nations struggles to end MacMillan Bloedel’s clear-cut logging of Haida Gwaii’s world-renowned old-growth forests. Duncan was a forester with MacMillan Bloedel on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii from 1976 to 1993, including a stint as chief forester on Haida Gwaii. In those years, MacMillan Bloedel was the largest forest corporation in the province, and the Haida’s campaigns alongside environmentalists established the archipelago as the key battleground in the coastal forest wars in the 1980s. The company was responsible for shaving bald entire islands, leaving the landscape scarred from poorly-managed clear cut operations and dumping logging debris into fish-bearing waters. Ethnobotanist and author Wade Davis worked as a forestry engineer for MacMillan Bloedel in the late 1970s. “Concern for the cultural heritage of the Haida was not even a remote thought,” he said in Ian Gill’s book about the Haida, All That We Say is Ours. Forestry companies fought tooth-and-nail against the Haida, who persevered and won an agreement establishing Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in 1987, which saved the
southern third of the archipelago from logging. They’ve since made strides with the provincial government, according to Guujaaw, but the federal government has only “stonewalled” them politically. “If the intention of the present government is to put someone in there who will make sure that nothing happens, maybe they put in the right man,” he said. “Sometimes it is better to deal with a declared enemy than a pretend friend.” Duncan left his forestry work to run for election in North Island-Powell River, BC, in 1993 as a Reform Party MP, serving as their Aboriginal Affairs critic from 1994 to 1997. He filled the same role for the Canadian Alliance from 2003 to 2006, while representing Vancouver Island North. After losing his seat in 2006, he was reelected in 2008 and served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minster of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. He used his parliamentary pulpit to take vocal positions on fishing disputes in British Columbia as First Nations dependent on sockeye salmon from the Fraser River began winning limited legal recognition of their fishing rights. Ernie Crey, a member of the Cheam Indian Band and a policy advisor for the Sto:lo Tribal Council, which represents eight First Nations in the Fraser Valley, has vivid memories of Duncan “cheerleading” for the BC Fisheries Survival Coalition, an aggressive group that represented non-native commercial and recreational fishermen. “Some people seem to have been struck by amnesia,” Crey said. “Duncan was one of the most vociferous critics of aboriginal people and their constitutionally protected rights.” “His alliance with the BC Fisheries Survival Coalition says a lot about him,” Guujaaw said. “[The Survival Coalition] organization has never moved to protect fish from overfishing or offshore drilling or tankers, but rather have organized for the purpose of keeping the First Nations from regaining any rights to a livelihood.” While Duncan was still working as a forester, the Sto:lo and other fishing First Nations received a boost from the Supreme Court in 1990 when the landmark Sparrow decision recognized they had a constitutionally-protected right to fish for food and for social and ceremonial purposes. Panic set in amongst government policy-makers and industry. Suddenly there was legal uncertainty about fish sales and quotas, so the federal government responded with a plan
to contain and control the aboriginal fishery. They created a commercial licensing regime for aboriginal fishing that included financial support for employment, but also caps on numbers of fish that could be taken by First Nations. In 1992, the federal government introduced regulations for two native commercial fisheries, one on the Lower Fraser River and the other in Port Alberni. Critics of the government policy noted that First Nations, by accepting the regulated fisheries, were essentially giving up most of their rights to property and full compensation for stolen resources, in order to be guaranteed a fragment of rights adequate to sustain their economies. The BC Fisheries Survival Coalition saw it differently. They launched their own campaigns against the Native fisheries, saying they were “race-based,” and organized illegal fisheries on the Lower Fraser to show their opposition. “As a member of parliament, Duncan took up their argument,” Crey recalls. “He associated with groups like these that played the race card.” “In some summers, I was witness to Indian boats being swamped by much larger commercial vessels apparently manned by supporters of the Survival Coalition,” Crey said. “Trucks and boat trailers owned by Indian fishermen were damaged and trashed. There were buildings in Fort Langley, close to the mouth of the Fraser River, that were burnt as an act of vengeance.” In Parliament in 1998, Duncan backed up non-Native fisherman who had engaged in illegal fishing. “The fisheries minister keeps insisting that a race-based commercial fishery is legal,” Duncan said. “Will the minister ask the crown to drop the charges against 22 BC commercial fishermen who protested his racial policy?” Provincial and federal courts have consistently ruled that commercial allocations for First Nations are not discriminatory but based on inherent rights that precede asserted Crown sovereignty and provincial legislation. “My children grew up when Duncan held office,” Crey said. “I can remember my kids telling me, ‘When we go to school people spit on us. People call us thieving, poaching Indians.’ That was the kind of climate created by people using the race-card.” John Duncan’s office refused repeated requests for an interview. As the Reform Party’s Aboriginal Affairs Critic, in 1995 ‘NEW MINISTER’ continued on page 13
OPINION Dead workers, complicit governments Migrant workers and representation By John Rose In January 2010 hundreds of community members, activists and unionized workers participated in a vigil to mourn the deaths of four migrant workers. Vladimir Korostin, Aleksey Blumberg, Alexander Bondorev and Fayzullo Fazilov died on December 24, 2009. All from Eastern Europe, they fell 13 stories from an apartment building in Toronto where they were working on scaffolding. A fifth worker, Dilshod Marupov, was seriously injured. Now, less than a year later, it has been reported that two Jamaican migrant labourers have died in a workrelated accident. Raltson White and Paul Roach died days ago at Filsinger’s Organic Foods apple orchard near Owen Sound. Employers hire migrant workers under government purview through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Migrant workers are not granted the same rights as workers with Canadian citizenship. They travel far, are separated from their home communities, often have harsh living conditions and they consistently encounter language barriers and racism. These kind of precarious working conditions make it difficult for migrant workers to stand up for their rights to safe work because they can quickly be sent home at their own expense. Those of us not familiar with migrant labour might not be aware of the struggles for representation that have gone on for the last 15 years in Ontario. Provincial governments have taken active roles in trying to deny migrant workers the right to organize and bargain with employers, thereby denying them the chance to improve working conditions and make workplaces safer. In the case of seasonal agricultural labour, the former NDP government passed the Agricultural Labour Relations Act in 1994 to allow agricultural workers to bargain. The Harris Conservatives repealed this legislation in 1995, which caused a court case (Dunmore v. Ontario) to be launched against the Ontario government. This spurred a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2001 that interpreted the Ontario Labour Relation Act, in its exclusion of agricultural workers, to be an infringement of freedom of association rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This ruling forced the government to act. In 2002, the Agricultural Employees Protection Act was passed. Subsequently, a number of agricultural workforces voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in Ontario. One lesson learned from the last 15 years is that if workers fight for their rights, they can win. The unique ability for unions to collectively bargain and take action creates more legal pressure on employers to maintain high health and safety standards. Unions also possess more resources to educate members about health and safety risks and legislation. However, the government did not bestow bargaining rights upon labourers, but Charter rights were judicially enforced through cases put forth by migrant workers and their allies. History shows
A more sombre historical lesson is that governments only seem to respond in defense of workers after they die.
that the governments have routinely and actively tried to deny migrant workers equal labour rights, and the creation of unions that would help improve working conditions. A more sombre historical lesson is that governments only seem to respond in defense of workers after they die. In 2004, Bill C-54 amended the Criminal Code of Canada to allow corporate executives, managers and directors to be charged if they are negligent in keeping healthy and safe workplaces. In the Toronto case, a stop work order was issued twice by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, yet the workers continued to be employed under unsafe working conditions, costing them their lives. A postmortem investigation took place and charges were laid against supervisors and directors of Metron Construction Corporation and Swing ‘N’ Scaff for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It is one thing to charge the corporations and employers, but who holds the Ministry accountable? In Owen Sound, two more migrant workers are dead. Surely an investigation will take place. But where is the prevention? Where is the enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and other regulations on employers? Why, after being issued stop work orders, are employers allowed to continue to operate under unsafe conditions? The continuous and preventable deaths of migrant workers constitute a crisis of equity and human rights. Organizations like No One is Illegal, Justicia 4 Migrant Workers, Agricultural Workers Alliance, and the UFCW have all been rigorous in their support and advocacy for migrant workers. It is through these organizations that migrant workers find representation and help, because governments have consistently failed to act. History demonstrates that labour activists must be proactive, and they cannot wait for governments to act. Through organized labour, workers possess one of the most effective ways to defend their jobs and lives.
In which Islamophobia becomes official government policy By John Baglow (Dawg’s Blawg) ...and the Speech Warriors™ crash and burn. Peter MacKay, Minister of Defence, has shut down a scheduled speech by Imam Zijad Delic, a Muslim originally from Bosnia, because someone else from somewhere else made some unacceptable remarks on a little-known television program six years ago. Delic, currently the Executive Director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, was in the news not long ago for signing a fatwa opposing violence and in favour of gender equality. That’s nothing new for him: as early as 2003 he denounced inflammatory comments by Ottawa Imam Gamal Solaiman, and in 2005 he forthrightly condemned anti-Semitic remarks by the incendiary Sheik Younus Kathrada of BC. Not good enough. Delic spoke in 2008 at a similar function at the Department of National Defence. Speech Warrior-in-chief Ezra Levant was beside himself at the time, as he so often is. He ludi-
crously accused Delic of supporting “Saudi-style censorship” (Saudi, Bosnian, whatever) and linked to this article which, it must be said, falls somewhat short of that benchmark. This time, the ubiquitous Charles McVety undoubtedly played a part in having Delic’s address cancelled, claiming that Delic’s very presence at DND constituted a security risk. MacKay’s subsequent denial that McVety had anything to do with it are frankly implausible. McVety, a frightful right-wing Christianist, is a close friend of Stephen Harper, and we know very well that not a single leaf can stir on the trees of Ottawa without the latter’s express permission. Meanwhile, the Speech Warriors™, who have never found a Nazi or a raving homophobe not worth defending to the death, are celebrating their role in shutting Delic down. Delic himself, who has always promoted the integration of Muslims within Canadian society, sounds deeply shocked, as I think most of us would be in his shoes:
I don’t know why [MacKay] decided this. His decision is totally unfounded, it’s baseless. This decision tells me quite a lot in terms of how [the government] is disengaged from the Canadian Muslim community. It hurts definitely. Knowing my background, knowing what I’ve done with building bridges with different interfaith groups, this definitely undermines many of the activities we have done. On October 1, 2010, the government of Canada effectively announced that Muslim Canadians, of whatever stripe and whatever origin, are second-class citizens, hatemongers and jihadists. And the Speech Warriors™ proudly declared themselves to be in a state of irredeemable hypocrisy. This article originally appeared on Dawg’s Blawg on October 2, 2010: drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/2010/10/in-whichislamophobia-becomes-official.html
Ryerson Free Press october 2010 5
What the Galloway court decision means for free speech in Canada By James Clark, Features and Opinions Editor Eighteen months ago, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney blocked then-British MP George Galloway from Canada, labeling him a terror supporter and a national security risk. At the time, Galloway was scheduled to appear in four Canadian cities on a speaking tour called “Resisting War: from Gaza to Afghanistan.” Galloway and his supporters protested, saying the move was a crass political attempt to silence criticism of Canadian foreign policy on Afghanistan and Palestine. Weeks before the ban, Galloway had led a humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza as part of an international campaign to break Israel’s illegal blockade. This week, after Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley issued his 60-page decision on the matter, Galloway and his supporters were fully vindicated. But you wouldn’t know it from reading the mainstream media’s response to the decision. Most headlines declared that Galloway “lost” his appeal because the judge dismissed the case. Justice Mosley ruled that, since Galloway had not been denied entry into Canada at the border, a final decision on his admissibility had not been made. This meant that Justice Mosley had no decision to overturn. Consequently, Justice Mosley dismissed the case, but not before agreeing with every other claim made by Galloway and his supporters. This is what most mainstream media seems to have missed. The ruling is a victory for three reasons: First, it exposes and documents the Conservatives’ hamfisted attacks on Canadians’ free-speech rights. Galloway and his supporters argued that Kenney’s decision was purely a political one that had nothing to do with national security. Justice Mosley agrees: “[T]he evidence is that the government wished to prevent Mr. Galloway from expounding his views on Canadian soil. I agree with the applicants that based on the evidence of the e-mails and public statements in the record, the concern with Galloway’s anticipated presence in Canada related solely to the content of the messages that the respondents [the government] expected him to deliver.” Justice Mosley also acknowledges that the “highest levels of government” tried to influence the outcome of a potential admissibility assessment by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) at a Canadian port of entry: “It is also clear that the preliminary assessment was prepared with the intention that it be used to justify a CBSA officer’s determination that Mr. Galloway was inadmissible should he appear at the border.” This vindicates Galloway’s concerns that he would be deemed inadmissible at the border -- which is what he was told in a letter from the Canadian High Commission before he left the U.K. Galloway was right to worry about the possibility of being detained indefinitely at the Canadian border or, worse, being returned to the United States (where he was conducting a speaking tour at the time) for being a “national security risk” in Canada -- an event that would have jeopardized his status on American soil. Justice Mosley anticipates such a scenario in his ruling: “Had Galloway actually been found inadmissible by a visa officer relying on the preliminary assessment and the alerts sent to the border points, I would have had little difficulty in concluding that the officer’s discretion had been fettered by the process followed in this case and that the e-mails and statements to the press raised a reasonable apprehension of bias.” This leads to the second reason the ruling is a victory for Galloway: it paved the way for his return to Canada. In light of the decision, it would be impossible for an officer to deem Galloway inadmissible based on the politically compromised preliminary assessment. The ruling should be seen as a warning to the government to end its political interference to block Galloway’s entry to Canada. The third reason the ruling is a victory for Galloway is that it unequivocally dismisses the government’s claims that Galloway is a national security threat or a supporter of terrorism. Justice Mosley writes: “From the evidence on the record, the question of Galloway’s admissibility was never an issue of national security. As indicated above, CSIS was consulted prior to the writing of the CBSA assessment and had no national security concerns about his visit.” During the Federal Court hearing, it became clear that Jason Kenney’s Director of Communications -- Alykhan Velshi, the staffer who set the ban in motion -- did not include CSIS’s findings in the preliminary assessment.
Justice Mosley also slams how the government made its assessment: “The assessment is not reasonable, in my view, as it overreaches in its interpretation of the facts, errs in its application of the law and fundamentally fails to take into account the purposes for which Galloway provided aid to the people of Gaza through the Hamas government. I think it necessary to discuss my reasons for this conclusion in some detail to assist the parties should the question of Mr. Galloway’s admissibility arise again.” In addition, Justice Mosley dismisses the government’s familiar refrain that Galloway’s humanitarian support for the people of Gaza is the same as support for terrorism. Justice Mosley writes: “To suggest, however, that contributions to Hamas for such purposes makes the donor a party to any terrorist crimes committed by the organization goes beyond the parliamentary intent and the legislative language. The purpose to which the funds are donated must be to enhance the ability of the organization to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity. Absent such a purpose, the mere assertion that material support was provided to such an organization is not sufficient. To hold otherwise could ensnare innocent Canadians who make donations to organizations they believe, in good faith, to be engaged in humanitarian works.” The last sentence is critical: it makes clear that similar initiatives by Canadians -- think of the Canadian Boat to Gaza -- cannot be labeled as support for terrorism. They are humanitarian in nature. By these criteria, even though the application was ultimately dismissed, the ruling sides overwhelmingly with Galloway and his supporters. The government and its backers in the press may try to spin it as a defeat for Galloway, but they really have nothing to cheer about: the government’s political interference has been exposed and condemned, the door is now open for Galloway to return to Canada this weekend, and the government’s unfounded allegations against Galloway have been dismissed. But the ruling also raises some very troubling questions. The most alarming concern is the way in which the government continues to exploit Canada’s so-called anti-terror legislation to stifle dissent. This is a long-standing criticism of Canada’s post-9/11 restrictions on civil liberties. Legal experts have pointed to the vague and undefined language of anti-terror laws that allows for the broadest possible interpretations of “terrorism.” Justice Mosley makes a similar point: “As there is no evidence of Galloway actually participating in a terrorist activity, complicity is the only basis upon which it can be asserted that he could fall within the scope of paragraph 34(1) (c) as ‘engaging in terrorism’, assuming that this extension of the complicity principle is warranted. Again, I think that it is overreaching on the facts of this case and the law to suggest that Galloway is complicit in the terrorist activities of Hamas.” This is significant for civil liberties campaigners and legal experts who criticize Canada’s anti-terror laws: the ruling raises questions about their constitutionality and opens the door to further legal challenges. Justice Mosley seems to anticipate this by identifying the way in which the government’s political interference undermined Canadians’ free speech rights. He writes: “In the result, I agree with the applicants that the activity for which they seek s. 2 (b) protection is a form of expression. I also agree with the applicants that the main reason why the respondents sought to prevent Mr. Galloway from entering Canada was that they disagreed with his political views. If the respondents’ purpose was to restrict the content of the expression in order to control access by others to the meaning being conveyed, it limits freedom of expression...” If the Galloway ban was an isolated incident, it would be serious enough on its own to raise concerns about the state of free speech in Canada. Sadly, it is part of a much wider pattern of government-led repression against critical voices in Canadian civil society. In the last few years, the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper has exercised its political power to attack and smear its political opponents. The list of its targets is long: • Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin who blew the whistle on the torture of Afghan detainees. • MPs who requested access to secret files about the involvement of Canadian troops in the torture scandal.
• New Democratic leader Jack Layton, who was labeled “Taliban Jack” for suggesting a negotiated settlement to the war in Afghanistan. • The Canadian Arab Federation, whose funding was cut following its criticism of Canada’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza. • KAIROS, a human rights organization representing 11 of Canada’s largest Christian churches, which was labeled “antiSemitic” following its criticism of Israel’s occupation. • Rights and Democracy, government-supported human rights body whose leadership was stacked with conservative ideologues. • The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was smeared as having “terrorist” links. • Independent Palestinian MP, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, whose speaking tour in Canada was delayed because the government held up his visa. • Students involved in Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and other Palestine solidarity campaigns. • Maternal health and women’s organizations which were told to “shut the fuck up” on abortion to preserve their funding. • And hundreds of G20 demonstrators and ordinary citizens swept up in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. The list goes on. These attacks have contributed to a McCarthy-like atmosphere in Canada where critics of government policy can expect state-led retribution for expressing their views. The significance of the Galloway ruling is that it exposes how the government organizes these attacks: the court record that documents the minute-by-minute chronology of the Galloway ban is instructive. The Galloway ruling also contradicts Kenney’s statements to the media and in the House of Commons in which he either denies involvement in the ban or avoids answering questions about it. See Kenney’s response to Olivia Chow, New Democratic Party critic for Citizenship and Immigration, who questions Kenney in Parliament about his government’s double-standard in welcoming hate-monger Ann Coulter to Canada while blocking Galloway. The sharp contrast between Kenney’s public claims and the court records raises questions about the credibility of his comments in the House of Commons. This alone should justify Kenney’s dismissal from cabinet. But who will hold Kenney to account for his role in attempting to ban Galloway? What about Alykhan Velshi? Will Kenney stand by his statement that ministers must take responsibility for the actions of their staff? In May 2010, Kenney stated on CTV’s Power Play with Tom Clark: “The principle is a very simple one: that ministers are accountable to Parliament for the conduct of their ministries and their offices...The political staff of ministers are there to serve the minister. The minister answers for their conduct, is responsible for their conduct to Parliament... They’re not accountable to Parliament; their boss is. We’re saying it’s the bosses who should be answering for their conduct and that of their office. And that underscores the principle of parliamentary responsibility.” See the full statement here. And what will opposition MPs say about the ruling? Will they demand that Kenney be censured or forced to step down as minister? How much more blatant does a government-led attack on civil liberties have to be to merit serious and sustained criticism from the Opposition? Aside from a few lone voices like those of Olivia Chow, very few MPs have made this an issue. As a consequence, the responsibility to hold Kenney and the Conservative government to account falls largely to ordinary people and the social movements. Activists must mobilize in greater and greater numbers to defend any semblance of democracy and accountability in Canada, and to push their elected representatives to express the public’s outrage. In the coming days, Galloway is returning to Canada, to deliver the message he was prevented from delivering in person 18 months ago. His return will be a test of all of us who support free speech, free expression, and civil liberties. It is up to us to hold Kenney to account for this most recent abuse of government power. Let’s not miss this opportunity. James Clark is an applicant in the case brought by supporters of George Galloway against the Government of Canada. This article originally appeared on rabble.ca on September 29, 2010.
MAJORITY OF MPs DO NOT WANT U.S. IRAQ WAR RESISTERS DEPORTED Send a message to Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff War Resisters Support Campaign The defeat of Bill C-440 on Wednesday September 29 is a setback for U.S. Iraq War resisters. There is a real danger that Jason Kenney will take the defeat of a bill as a green light to resume deportations. Bill C-440 received significant support, but seven more votes were needed to pass it at Second Reading. Stephen Harper voted against it, and the leaders of two of the three opposition parties – the Bloc Québécois and the NDP – voted for it. But the leader of the Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, left the House of Commons before the vote. Last week, Mr. Ignatieff ’s office told supporters of Iraq War resisters that “party leaders do not vote on Private Members’ Bills”. This is clearly not true, as the results of the vote demonstrate. What is true, however, is that Mr. Ignatieff could have voted for the bill to allow it to be considered by a Parliamentary committee and shown leadership by proposing amendments that would have improved it. Mr. Ignatieff ’s presence and his vote would have sent a message to Canadians that the Liberal party is indeed in support of finding a way to let war resisters stay as he publicly claims.
An overwhelming majority of Liberal MPs voted for both Parliamentary motions in support of war resisters, and for this Bill. Mr. Ignatieff himself supported the two motions. Mr. Ignatieff needs to hear loud and clear that people across this country want him to reflect the views of the majority of Canadians, and the overwhelming majority of his own MPs. Please write, call or email Mr. Ignatieff. Ask him to: • demand that Stephen Harper’s government not deport any U.S. Iraq war resisters • press the Conservative government to enact a provision that would allow Iraq War resiters to stay in Canada, as the Trudeau government did with Vietnam draft resisters and deserters • vocally support any Iraq War resister that is targeted for deportation by the Harper government • commit to ensuring that Iraq War resisters will be able to stay in Canada should he become Prime Minister The result of last week’s vote is not an endorsement of Harper’s desire to punish these courageous men and women for taking a principled stand against the Iraq War.
Twice, in 2008 and 2009, a majority of MPs supported a motion that instructed the government not to deport war resisters, and to enact a provision that would allow them to stay in Canada. Twice, the majority of Parliament expressed the views of the majority of Canadians on this question. A poll conducted by Angus Reid showed that 64 per cent of Canadians want Iraq War resisters to be allowed to stay in Canada. Tell Mr. Ignatieff that people who, like himself, changed their minds on the Iraq War have the support of Canadians. The consequences for the U.S. soldiers who changed their minds are severe, if we allow the Conservatives to impose their minority views by sending war resisters back to face harsh punishment. Send your letters to: Michael Ignatieff House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6 (613) 995-9364 (Parliament Hill) (416) 251-5510 (Constituency Office) email@example.com
Islamophobia in the U.S. Breaking the Silence
By Haseena Manek
Islamophobia is not like a man who was stabbed on the street and whose wound is now healing. Islamophobia is a chronic and resilient disease, predating 9/11 and ingrained in Western society. Cases like Reverend Terry Jones of Florida and his Qur’an burning madness are often treated like random cases of violent hatred, longstanding products of a ten-year-old tragedy. But the 2001 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Centre, and the subsequent media circus surrounding pseudorevenge plots and invasion of the Middle East did not create islamophobia in the United States. It has been a by-product of a litany of incidents in a lengthy political history of East/West relations. The media frenzy surrounding Reverend Jones’ retaliation to controversy surrounding plans for an Islamic centre, (supposedly two blocks away from 9/11’s Ground Zero in New York) sensationalized the incident, making it appear like a random or unique example of a hate crime in America. The goal here is not to understate the issue, or to imply that bargaining burned holy scripture in exchange for moving the Islamic centre is anything but abhorrent, but the question that needs to be asked is: Is this really something new? Reverend Jones is obviously not the only American citizen plagued by intolerance. Close to this year’s anniversary of the attacks, the editor of a Maine newspaper had to issue a front-page apology for putting an image and accompanying story about the end of the holy month of Ramadan on September 11, 2010. This came in response to local readers being ‘offended’ by the sight of peaceful Muslims, one Portland Press Herald reader wrote to the paper, “I don’t want to hear how caring the Muslim religion is on 9/11” (as reported by news.gather.com). By continually overstating and re-examining these incidents, media is not necessarily exhibiting how rooted islamophobia and anti-Arab racism is in America, which is what it should be doing. These examples should be used to reveal the depth and reach of islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, which in turn would be helpful in deconstructing the historical and contemporary processes that foster this hatred. Instead, Reverend Jones is a mascot for the supposed “randomness” or unsystemic nature of islamophobia, which only serves to gloss over the particular features of this painful and destructive phenomenon. Additionally, media coverage is then forced to shift to the response to Reverend Jones’ crass pronouncement, which included a number of violent protests across the globe. ‘ISLAMOPHOBIA’ continued on page 9
By Nora Loreto, Editor in Chief
The Ryerson Free Press was recently leaked a copy of an email the subject of which was Toby Whitfield, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union. The text of this email made me think of two things. The first is my experience as having been in an elected executive position at the Ryerson Students’ Union. The second is a video of an interview by Anderson Cooper of Andrew Shirvill, a man obsessed with the president of the students’ union at his former school. Toby Whitfield has experienced his share of harassment. From being photographed, filmed, accused of everything from stealing lots of money to stealing only a little, his tenure at the Ryerson Students’ Union has been delivered through strong mandates from year to year, despite the occasional wild allegation that is eventually proven to be untrue. I met Toby when he was a first-year who got involved with the Drop Fees campaign. I was the vice-president of education and was facing my own attacks from random people, the vast majority who were not RSU members. He was fresh out of high school in the same school board where I was from and he inserted himself in RSU campaigns wherever he could. He remained involved and has been elected three times. Here’s the email we were leaked [truncated to size]: From: Biggie BadNews <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Anonymous Tip: Toby Whitfield Hello, We spoke briefly by phone earlier about Tobias “Toby” Whitfield, president of the Ryerson Students Union. It seems Mr. Whitfield was an officer of the Concordia University Graduate Students’ Association way back in 2003. This means that Mr. Whitfield was a graduate student of that University seven years ago. It seems really odd that he would attend Ryerson simply to pursue another undergraduate degree. It is more likely that Mr. Whitfield attends Ryerson simply as a function of his near complete devotion to the CFS, and the attached salary. You may remember that Mr. Whitfield was caught red-handed, for the second year in a row, interfering in UTSU elections at the University of Toronto earlier this year while campaigning for the CFS slate. The fact that Mr. Whitfield has attended so many different schools, at many different academic levels, seems to indicate that he is simply an operative of the CFS, sent to whichever school needs a bagman. […] Mr. Whitfield did not come to be a student at Ryerson by any organic means. He was placed there by the CFS. He is an operative, not a student. You can contact me directly at 416 725 6659, anonymously.
Good luck! The email offers a phone number that can be easily linked to Antonin Mongeau through a Google search. Mongeau is a former student from the University of Toronto, very involved with the French student club on campus and has in the past, taken to filming Toby. His films generated a small amount of news last year when BlogTO and the Varsity wrote stories about them. His obsession with Toby seems to lie in his opposition to Toby’s support for his friends; other activists he knows through the student movement. This email obviously makes assertions that are so overthe-top that no newspaper with any sense should investigate its claims. Toby is not a 40 year-old parading as a fifth-year business student for the purpose of collecting 25k a year and working for the Canadian Federation of Students. But there’s something much more disturbing about this email than just how outlandish are the allegations. Many of the rumours that float around the invented histories of the student movement in Canada have their roots in allegations as ridiculous as Mongeau’s. In the absence of diligence, these rumours are repeated and repeated, and the rumour, regardless of its origins of fact, becomes fact on its own. When I was in office, I was called every name possible. Comments about my race, my appearance, my gender, my sexuality, my nefarious intentions, my hatred toward particular groups and my ability to make up my own mind where made everywhere: online forums, Facebook, the campus press, bathroom walls and so on. In many cases, these comments were unchallenged, and a simple Google search of my own name turns up a great deal of these troubling allegations. No one deserves to be the target of such harassment, but students’ union representatives have to deal with it all the time. Really. They probably wont advertise it and they sometimes wont admit it, but this kind of harassment is rampant. For me, my skin was thick enough for anything leveled at me. My line was crossed however when I stood up against racism on campus and became the subject of dozens of online threats and a phone call from white supremacists that resulted in a police investigation. That was my wake-up call, proof that there are people out there who will do anything to shut someone like me up. None of them were students or members of the RSU. When video footage of the assistant attorney general being ripped apart by Anderson Cooper from CNN circulated on Twitter and Facebook, peoples’ reaction was appropriately shocked. The most shocking part of that story is that this harassment is coming from a man who holds a position of relative power, which makes his actions toward students’ union ‘SILENCE’ continued on page 9
Ryerson Free Press october 2010 7
An open letter to Toronto Voters Dear Toronto Voters,
Oooh, I am mad at you. I liked you. I really liked you. After moving to Toronto from one of the most conservative ridings in Calgary, growing up with Ralph Klein for a premier who occasionally waltzes into homeless shelters, drunkenly tossing money around and then gets reelected—again —I thought that this was the start of a beautiful relationship. I thought it would be different with you. Compared to Southern Alberta, Toronto seemed like an uninhibited, liberal, socialist playground where everyone gay marries their dog and getting high is mandatory. Granted, that wasn’t the case once I moved here but it was clear that you, my dear Toronto Voters, would be so different from Calgary Voters. No, you weren’t perfect. We fought over David Miller now and again, we had arguments about the TTC and during the garbage strike but I thought they were innocent tiffs! The love between us was real. I had found something wonderful: you voted without wearing cowboy hats and that was the first time I decided that this had the potential to be a life-long relationship, Toronto Voters. So when I found out that Rob Ford was leading the pack a few weeks ago by more than 25 points in the municipal election, I didn’t judge immediately. Toronto Voters will have a reason for this, I thought. They wouldn’t do this to me. They understand me. They appreciate meats beside rare beef and they have seasons besides “kind of cold,” “cold” and “fucking cold.”
I waited for an explanation because I wanted to give you a chance. As time passed, I got nothing: no call, no email, not even a text justifying your behavior. It was like you were leaving me for an abusive boyfriend from your past - one that wanted to rip out the trees in your city and replace them with monuments of roaring SUVs and bronzed statues of Kokanee cans. Even still, I understood you. I knew that you weren’t blindly supporting him because you wanted to, but because you didn’t know where else to go. Voters tend to side with the evil they know rather than the one they don’t. While Ford may be a drunk-driving, bigoted, racist, homophobic Neanderthal who called fellow Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby “a waste of skin” when discussing a pothole, he is consistent. There’s no waffling when it comes to Ford: you know where he stands, even if it happens to be on the wrong side of logic. It’s the reason why Klein was re-elected over and over, and why George Bush got a second term—if who you vote for screws you over, at least you can say that you probably saw it coming. Who wants to delve into the unknown? Candidates have the responsibility to be more clear about their platforms, but politicians don’t operate like real people. While they’d have a greater chance of getting elected if they didn’t pontificate with political jargon, they don’t, and it’s your job as voters to look past it and try and find a reasonable message. But I know you’re busy. You’ve got school, work, kids, hobbies, bills and a life. That’s why I love you - you’re busy making this city what it is. So this is my plea to you, Toronto Voters, the once-love-
of-my-life and the relationship I want to salvage most: don’t vote for what you know. Venture into what seems unknown. Take a chance and vote for someone - honestly, anyone who hasn’t asked a man at a Leafs game if he wanted his “little wife to go over to Iran and get raped and shot.” But he was drunk and we all say things we don’t mean when we’re drunk. Right? George Smitherman may have promised a year-long tax freeze that could mean higher taxes once its over, Joe Pantalone is vague at best about his environmental plans for the city and Rocco Rossi’s name sounds like a cartoon character that sells chocolate-dipped cereal. I know it’s hard and I know you’re busy and I know scribbling Ford’s name on your ballot would be so much easier. But I know you’re not dumb, Toronto Voters, and I know you love me too much to do this to me, and I know you love your city even more to see your bike lanes disappear, your cultural festivals get pushed indoors and your fabulous gays told to cover up during Pride Week. I think you’re the best, Toronto Voters, but if I see Ford smiling at me while accepting the position of City Mayor, we are through. I left Calgary once, so please don’t make me do it again. In the end, I don’t care who wins this election as long as we as voters win it too. When you’re staring at your ballot on the 25th, remember that - and remember that I love you. Yours, Scaachi Koul
We need One Toronto By Nora Loreto, Editor in Chief
Last may, I resolved to start a movement to encourage Torontonians to eat their ballots on October 25. I’m not normally one to promote and encourage movements of entrenched disenfranchisement but this mayoral election had so disappointed me, eating my ballot seemed to be a better option than any other, i.e. voting for a candidate. As I talked to others who are normally just as engaged in local politics as I am, it was clear that disenfranchisement was widespread. I wondered why, until I went to an all-candidates debate hosted by Brian Mulroney’s son Ben. The debate more resembled a cheesy sitcom scene where
family members in peril are speaking over each other arguing. Unlike a sitcom however, the comedic elements of everyone yelling was not stopped by the sad child wishing people would stop fighting, or an elderly woman pleading for sanity. No. That role was played by a failed and uninspiring former mayoral candidate (Stephen LeDrew). He shut them up by announcing the need to go to commercial rather than moralizing for decorum. This leaves the viewer unfulfilled and uncomfortable, as the moral order has remained disrupted. I really hoped for a last minute addition to the race. When the deadline passed and the race’s frontrunners remained unchallenged by a new candidate, my resolve for encouraging people to spoil their ballots changed. With no more possibility for an election saviour to deliver the vision and sobriety to the debate for which I yearned, I resigned my frustrations and sought a more constructive venue to engage. Somehow the frontrunners in the mayoral debate have been allowed to focus squarely on the relatively small amount of tax we pay to City Hall. Assisted by a seemingly colluded media strategy, tax cuts, tax increases, new taxes, taxes are bad and no taxes have dominated the public discourse, and unless you’re willing to sift through the noise, this is the only issue one is likely to hear. Journalists have flooded the coverage about this election with stories from night after night of mayoral debates. In absence of dialogue that is constructive, many people connected to social justice and environmental organizations decided to force a constructive dialogue. The result was the creation of the One Toronto campaign. One Toronto has issued a call for Torontonians to demand that candidates respond to them; respond to the issues that they care about. Through the campaign, One Toronto has delivered a simple but important message to voters: vote for
the candidates whose vision of our city is to continue to build on our strengths and not the candidates that focus on what can be torn apart. One Toronto presented these principles as the purpose behind their movement: Fighting for a city hall that: * confronts the challenges of this century: climate change, pollution, urban growth and aging infrastructure, * welcomes newcomers into an excitingly diverse and cosmopolitan city, * enhances services designed to improve the quality of life for all and address economic, social and racial inequality, * invests in education, quality housing, and social infrastructure, * invests in accessible public transit and pushes it into more neighbourhoods across the city, * values and nurtures a vibrant cultural and arts community; * will create a greener economy with good jobs for all. The campaign committee for One Toronto called for an old-fashioned community meeting on Monday, September 27. With only a few days’ notice, almost 500 people packed into the seats of the Church of the Holy Trinity, behind the Eaton Centre. The message of attendees and presenters was clear: Torononians stand to lose a lot if the current discourse of slashing taxes, ending social programmes and cutting arts funding, is put into action at City Hall. Torontonians are a diverse and progressive group. Fighting for equity and creating an inclusive city is embedded in so much of what unites the city. Activists strive to build community through a variety of programs and artistic and athletic endeavours. This work normally comes to a head at City Hall. Unlike Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill, Torontonians can actually force change in City Hall, but not if city council refuses to listen to its constituents. Toronto needs elected folks who have a vision of our city that isn’t rooted in the incorrect belief that our city spends too much. Candidates must be able to engage in debate without vilifying another person, or group of people. In this last three weeks of the campaign, I challenge you to find out which candidates share the One Toronto vision; which candidates support ideas that go beyond the shallowness of the current campaign. Yes, we need ideas. In the current state of the election, if ideas were currency, we’d all be paying back a massive, collective mortgage.
why is ford Unite to fight the on the rise? right-wing agenda In the past 15 months the people of Toronto have organized two massive movements against austerity—24,000 city workers on strike in June 2009, and 40,000 people marching against the G20 in June 2010— and yet we are facing the threat of a mayor who promises brutal austerity and vicious scapegoating. Why is Ford on the rise? Rob Ford is dominating the polls of decided voters for the October 25 mayoral election, and has been disturbingly open about the type of regime he would like to impose: concessions on workers, bans on immigrants, attacks on gays/lesbians and on the homeless, restrictions on cyclists. Ford represents a threat to everything progressives enjoy about Toronto: a multiracial and inclusive union town where people strive for social justice and environmental sustainability. So why is he leading in the polls? Ford: the local face of global austerity We are two years into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Around the world governments at all levels are trying to make ordinary people pay for a crisis they did not create. Governments used billions of dollars of public funds to bailout banks and corporations, and now attack the living conditions of ordinary people to reduce the resulting deficit. Scapegoating is on the rise to justify austerity measures. From Greece to France to Britain, European governments are demanding deep wage cuts from the public sector, while stoking islamophobia and deporting Roma people. After providing $700 billion in bailouts, Americans are facing a 15-year high unemployment rate, along with rising hysteria against Mexicans and Muslims. In Canada Harper has promised $18 billion to fighter jets and hundreds
of billions to tax cuts, while demonizing Tamil refugees. Provincially the McGuinty government has promised billions of dollars of corporate tax cuts, while threatening a wage freeze on public sector workers. Ford is not “crazy”, he is the municipal face of global austerity. And Ford is not alone: nearly all the mayoral candidates promise concessions from workers, and privatizing public transit. Only Joe Pantalone supports public transit and is not demanding workers pay for the economic crisis. Right-wing populism fills the void Rob Ford is a right-wing populist, whose appeal grows from people’s frustration with the status quo and the refusal of the left in office to articulate a progressive response or support fightbacks when they emerge. This is a common process. Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP government disillusioned the left with attacks on workers, leading to the Mike Harris backlash. When the British Labour Party and the Italian Prodi government supported war, they demobilized their supporters and led to the return of the Conservative Party and Berlusconi. Obama’s continuation of Bush policies undermined progressive movements and opened up space for the Tea Party movement. In all these cases a right-wing backlash won not because the left in office went too far, but not far enough. When the left abandons the terrain, the right makes gains. De-
spite having a “left” mayor in office during the 2009 strike, Toronto city workers ironically had less support from council, than when they struck against Mel Lastman, while council voted themselves a pay raise. Without a progressive response to this hypocrisy, Ford has captured people’s anger with a right-wing response--attacking both workers and city council salaries. The silence of the left city councillors opened the floodgates for Ford’s right-wing backlash. This spilled over from city workers to transit workers, who faced a sustained media campaign against them at the start of 2010, along with calls by all right-wing mayoral candidates--both Ford and Smitherman--to privatize public transit. Mass resistancea against the G20 austerity measures and the $1 billion “security” enforcing it provided an opportunity for the left council to recover and reunite with progressives. But after the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, city council passed a unanimous motion to “commend the outstanding work” of the police. Facing no progressive response, Ford could carve out an even more reactionary position, arguing the police were too restrained in their brutality and that there should be no inquiry. If the left on council had supported city workers and G20 protesters, the left would have gained momentum over the past year and a half and the election terrain would be much more favourable. Instead Ford’s rightwing populism filled the void.
‘ISLAMOPHOBIA’ continued from page 7 Quotes from General David Petraeus, the U.S. and NATO commander Kabul, Afganistan, Robert Gates, the U.S. defence secretary, President Obama himself and even the Vatican peppered online media coverage on the incident. They appropriately denounced the burning of the Holy Qur’an, but by this time, who can even remember that the Reverend Jones’ controversy was in response to another storm altogether? American citizens had taken issue with the idea of an Islamic centre being built so close to Ground Zero, so close to the anniversary of the tragic incident. The Associated Press quotes Editor Richard Connor of the Portland Press Herald as saying “the newspaper should have shown sensitivity ‘toward the pain-
ful memories stirred by the anniversary of 9/11.’” What I would like to see discussed is why painful memories of this national crisis are so profoundly and acutely linked to Islam. Why do the uncreative antics of a bigot get more headlines and more discussion than the root issue itself? Let us revaluate how and why the very sight of American citizens practising their faith is immediately linked to the mediacultivated and propagandic enemy of the American people. Terry Jones is a dime a dozen, and will remain so as long as the Western media climate persists in avoiding the genesis, the ground zero of islamophobia and instead favours the token attention-seekers of hatred and racism.
Ford/Smitherman: same privatization face As Ford’s policies have been decontextualized from the global recession, there have been calls for so-called “strategic voting” to elect Smitherman as a way of stopping Ford. But Ford and Smitherman are two sides of the same face of privatization and austerity. Smitherman was the deputy premier and has strong backing from the McGuinty government, which has cut corporate taxes, pursued environmentally destructive nuclear and coal energies, allowed tuition fees to skyrocket, and is threatening to freeze public sector wages while privatizing hydro and the LCBO. This is Smitherman’s right agenda, and voting for it in no way prevents the Ford agenda because they both represent corporate interests. Supporting Smitherman means downplaying the issues he shares in common with Ford: privatizing public services and making ordinary people pay for the recession. Accepting these arguments before the election makes it much more difficult to resist them after. It’s no wonder so many voters are undecided: they don’t like Ford,or Smitherman, but they don’t yet see a viable alternative. This could change. Be strategic: vote for Pantalone The real way to be strategic in voting is to support the only candidate who opposes privatization and supports public transit: Joe Pantalone. As Deputy Mayor he represents the good and the bad of Miller’s legacy: while he did not rise to defend workers on strike or protesters facing police brutality, he is the only candidate fighting to defend the mass public transit plan of Transit City. Focussing on issues that matter to Torontonians, Pantalone is the clear choice. The Public Transit Coalition--including transit workers, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and others--is calling on public transit to be well funded, and as they point out only Pantalone is against privatization. There is also a groundswell of support for One Toronto--a campaign to counter the negative campaigns and reassert what Torontonians really care about: action on climate change, welcoming immigrants, enhacing public services, protecting transit and creating good green jobs. Campaigning on these issues can push back against the austerity agenda, and show Pantalone as the alternative to the twin corporate policies of Ford-Smitherman. Fight austerity in the workplace and the streets. Building campaigns through the election will not only help Pantalone get elected but will also put the left on better footing to resist austerity after the election, whoever is pushing it. Around the world workers are striking to challenge austerity measures by both right (France) and “left” governments (Greece, South Africa). The right-wing government of Quebec just dropped plans to introduce user fees in response to a public outcry. In Toronto the city-workers strike and the G20 protests show the mood of resistance, which can be further built through the election. What you can do Support Joe Pantalone Visit www.mayorjoe.ca * Join the Public Transit Coalition. Visit www.publictransitcoalition.ca What you can do to learn more about the Toronto election *Join the One Toronto campaign. Visit www.onetoronto.ca
‘SILENCE’ continued from page 7 president Chris Armstrong even more outrageous. Explain the Armstrong thing. Cooper highlights that Chris Armstrong is known for fighting for right of people to share appartments with people of different genders. This, and Armstrong’s “radical homosexual agenda,” has justified the harassment that Shirivelli has leveled against Armstrong. Students’ Union representatives who stand up for progressive social change must expected to be attacked, but should not have to be. It remains to be true that speaking out about racism, women’s rights, queer liberation, students’ rights and so on can still attract severe harassment from a fringe, strange set of people. And that harassment can be severe, personal and extremely difficult to deal with. Students’ unions and their national organization the Canadian Federation of Students have relatively little power. The resources of students’ unions and the CFS pale in comparison to the resources
held by institutions and government. Somehow, though, there remains a small few dedicated to destroying the credibility of their leaders and harassing them into silence. Toby’s support hasn’t wavered despite how many accusations he’s had leveled toward him and neither had mine. Armstrong’s popularity is likely not influenced by the actions of Shirvell and Shirvell has now been placed on leave as a result of the publicity of his actions. There is a power in mobilizing young people, and this may be why so many students’ union representatives are in the crosshairs of extreme critics. Perhaps it’s a desperate attempt to gain favour from party insiders in a slow and sad path to become the next Prime Minister. Perhaps, like the strange case of Andrew Shirvell, it’s an unhealthy obsession with a person and a particular issue. Either way, it’s not right and must be called out.
Ryerson Free Press october 2010 9
Sisters in spirit
On Monday October 4, the Sisters in Spirit vigil was held in Toronto. People gathered to remember the nearly 600 known missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Peter Lewicki attended the vigil and photographed the vigil at Allen Gardens. Write your Member of Parliament and demand that the government investigate why so many Aboriginal women have gone missing in Canada.
PHOTOS: Peter Lewicki
Ryerson Free Press october 2010 11
FEATURES NDP introduces G20 public inquiry bill By John Bonnar On Tuesday afternoon, NDP leader Andrea Horwath introduced a private member’s bill that would establish an independent commission to perform a full public inquiry into the decisions and actions of the McGuinty government and the police during the G20 Summit. There were more than 1,100 arrests that weekend, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian peace-time history, extensive violations of civil liberties and charter rights, peaceful protesters silenced and innocent bystanders detained. “There are now six separate reviews underway,” said Horwath. “Yet none of these has the mandate or the jurisdiction to ask the most fundamental questions or provide Ontarians with the answers they are seeking.” Horwath’s bill requires that a commission shall be appointed within 60 days after the G20 Public Inquiry Act comes into force that will make recommendations to the Ontario government and police about how to reduce spending, arrests and violence at similar future events. The commission will also report on whether the rights and freedoms of Ontarians were put in jeopardy during the G20 Summit and the exercise of power under the Public Works Protection Act. The Act calls for the commission to begin the inquiry within 60 days of being appointed, submit an interim report within six months after the inquiry begins and present a final report within 12 months after the inquiry starts. When asked whether the commission’s report might get lost in the shuffle as time passes or a change in government, Horwath said, “I think there’s more risk of getting lost in the
shuffle with the mishmash of reviews that are underway. There are six other reviews under way. Those are what’s going to get lost in the shuffle. The public inquiry is the only thing that will survive governments and provide the information we want.” Howard Morton, a lawyer who defended the only person charged under the province’s Public Works Protection Act, said the bill has the support of the Law Union of Ontario. “It represents what we have been trying to do at various levels,” he said. “None of those five or six reviews are able or willing to look at the sort of thing that a public inquiry can do. A review is quite crippled when it comes to attempting to learn the full picture of what happened on that weekend. The real important issues will slip through the cracks and we’ll be left with a hodgepodge of reports that really go nowhere.” According to Morton, none of the reviews have the power of subpoena or the ability to compel documents, adding, “The federal government has completely stonewalled any attempt to find out what their role was and, in particular, what the role of the RCMP was.” He urged the public to get behind the bill, saying their rights and freedoms are in peril. “If the public accepts what the police did and lets this just ‘go way’, then the risk is that the police will believe in the future they are entitled to do that (what happened on the G20 Summit weekend),” said Morton. “You need clear guidelines about what the police can and cannot do in terms of stopping people and demanding identification and demanding to know why you are where you are.” This article originally appeared on rabble.ca on October 6, 2010.
M A L A L A I J OYA The TRUTH about CANADA’s mission in AFGHANISTAN Wednesday, October 13 Doors open 6:30 p.m. | Talk begins 7:00 p.m. Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, 427 Bloor Street West | TTC: Spadina Admission: Adult—$10; Student, youth, senior—$5; Unwaged—pay what you can Former Afghan MP Malalai Joya has been described as “the bravest woman in Afghanistan.” In April, Joya was named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. A former Afghan MP, Joya has been leading the struggle inside Afghanistan to end the NATO-led war and occupation. Please join us to hear Joya speak on the truth about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, and why NATO can’t bring peace. Guest speakers include Josie Forcadilla, a peace campaigner and mother of a Canadian Forces soldier recently deployed to Afghanistan, and Scott Taylor, a Canadian journalist who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who is editor of the military magazine Esprit de Corps. Malalai Joya interview with CNN: U.S. get out of Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/ cHzRja Canadians rally in Toronto to end the war in Afghanistan: bit.ly/dsqkoG Organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and Canadian Peace Alliance The Toronto Coalition to Stop the War is Toronto’s city-wide peace coalition. Comprised of over 70 labour, student, faith and community organizations, TCSW is one of the largest member organizations of the Canadian Peace Alliance. Please donate! Make cheques and/or money orders payable to TCSW Canada and mail to: TCSW, 427 Bloor Street West, Box 13, Toronto ON M5S 1X7 email@example.com | nowar.ca | 416-795-5863 | Twitter.com/TdotCSW
ARE MEN FROM MARS AND WOMEN FROM VENUS?
The idea that biology leads to fundamental differences in men and women’s behaviour has become common sense. Cordelia Fine spoke to Siân Ruddick about why this pseudo-science is wrong—and is a justification for women’s oppression We are regularly told that men and women play different roles in society because of fundamental biological differences. It is often assumed, for instance, that women are less able to think logically because their brains are less structured for reasoning than men’s brains. Men, meanwhile, are said to be better suited to disciplines that use logic, such as maths and science, but not so good at communicating, empathising or multi-tasking. In reality, these myths are a cover for a system that continues to discriminate against women. The human mind is much more fluid than the stereotypes claim, and differences between male and female behaviour aren’t biologically determined—they are learned from society. Cordelia Fine, a scientist researching the brain, has written a new book called Delusions Of Gender—The Real Science Behind Sex Difference. She told Socialist Worker, “I’ve been really horrified by how information has been misrepresented in books like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. “When I got knee deep in the scientific literature, what seemed to be a very solid structure is actually full of holes and crumbles away in your hands. “I decided to write my book to explain how these popular books misrepresent and misunderstand what neuroscience can tell us about the differences between men and women. “I wanted to take all this fascinating research that tells a much more complex and interesting story about gender—and make it accessible to everyone.” Fine looks at research that knocks down some of the myths about male and female behaviour, and highlights the impact that the stereotypes themselves have on the way people act. Underestimated One study looked at two groups of students in France. The first group was asked to rate the accuracy of stereotypes about gender differences in maths and art capabilities. They were then asked to rate their own abilities in these subjects. Next they reported their scores on art and maths tests that they had taken a couple of years earlier. The girls reported that they had done better in the art test than they really had, while they underestimated how well they had done in math—and the boys inflated their math scores. A second group of students were not asked about gender stereotypes before reporting their scores—and did not distort their results. Fine says that, because the first group had gender stereotypes at the forefront of their minds, this influenced how they assessed their own abilities. She also draws on studies in schools and universities that have shown that stereotypes and expectations not only affect
how people rate themselves—they can also affect actual performance. Shape-rotation tasks are frequently used to measure gender difference in cognition and 75 per cent of those who score above average are male. This is used to justify the fact that men are over-represented in science and math. But expectations based on gender play an important role in shaping the results. Fine reports that, when a group of students were told that the task was linked with success in aviation engineering and nuclear propulsion engineering, “men came out well ahead”. But when the test was “feminised”—and students told the task tested skills needed in clothes design, interior design and flower arranging—the effects were reversed. In other research, different groups took the same tests. One group was told that, due to genetics, men do better. Another was told that women do better for the same reason. Women’s performance differed between the two groups— they performed just as well as men in the “women do better” group. The pseudo-science that declares different behaviour in men and women to be rooted in biology also draws on differences in brain size and shape. But as Fine writes, “Unless we’re happy to start comparing the spatial or empathising skills of big-headed men and women to their pin-headed counterparts, we may have to abandon the idea that we will find the answers to psychological gender differences in grey matter, white matter, corpus callosum size or any other alleged difference in brain structure that turns out to have more to do with size than sex.” Vacuum In any case, as Fine shows in the research quoted in her book, it is impossible to separate the way people’s brains work from the society that surrounds them. And Fine stresses another failing of this idea—that scientists can’t examine gender in a vacuum. Fine told Socialist Worker, “Nobody is just male or just female. We’re all lots of other things, based on class, ethnic background and so on. “Gender interacts with all these other social identities so it won’t affect everyone in the same way.” Myths about male and female biology aren’t new, but they are resilient. The Essential Difference—a book by Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen—is an irritating reminder of how far we have to go. He still pushes the theory that, “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.”
‘NEW MINISTER’ continued from page 4 Duncan helped launch a policy statement, the Interim Aboriginal Policy, intended to transform the government’s relationship with First Nations. It advocated for the conversion of reserve and treaty settlement lands into private property, the abolition of the Indian Act and tax exemptions, and an end to federal funding of aboriginal political associations. In other words, he advocated “full-blown assimilation,” said Arthur Manuel, a member of the Shuswap Nation and a spokesperson for the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade. With Duncan as Indian Affairs Minister, the Conservative Government recently sent letters to select First Nations requesting their participation in a study on economic successes, a move Manuel says is the latest salvo in a campaign to insinuate private property ownership onto Native reserves, breaking apart
and opening to encroachment lands that are still mostly held in collective tenure. As an Aboriginal Affairs critic, Duncan became one of the most outspoken critics of Canada and BC’s treaty negotiations with the Nisga’a Nation of 6,000 in the north-west of the province. Signed in 1999, the first modern treaty in BC granted the Nisga’a $200 million, access to fisheries and wildlife, rights to a form of municipal self-government, and about 2,000 square kilometres of land, less than one-tenth of their traditional territory. “I find it incredible that a package like this could be offered to that many people,” Duncan told the Vancouver Sun in 1995. “Taxpayers have had it. They’re at their wits’ end. They’re not being represented in this whole exercise. Who is looking after the non-Native Canadian? That’s my concern.”
According to Manuel, Duncan was lambasting an agreement that undermined and extinguished the constitutional rights of the Nisga’a, but the terms of settlement were still considered too generous by the rightwing Reform Party. “The objective was [to] eliminate aboriginal title and rights by replacing them with a new form of reduced and restricted treaty rights,” Manuel said. “Under this model, Indigenous peoples will have to give up their tax exemption, take their land in fee simple, and agree to be under provincial control.” Duncan floated the idea of Reform MPs using their free-mail privileges in Parliament to shower British Colombians with a 14-page document that attacked the Nisga’a deal. Such a suggestion won him the label of “dinosaur” from John Watson, then Director-General of the Department of Indian Affairs’ Pacific region. Duncan also spoke out fre-
But real changes in the way we live have had some impact on science. Fine points out that the transformation that has taken place in men’s and women’s lives undermine claims that biology determines our behaviour. If women are “naturally” maternal and hardwired to have children, for example, why are more and more women choosing not to? “The differences that ‘hardwired brain’ theories are trying to explain are getting smaller,” said Fine. “No one would put forward a neurological theory now explaining why women shouldn’t be able to vote—because women have not only proved themselves capable of voting but also of being voted for.” Popular So why do such theories persist and become so popular? “Scientists are influenced by the society they live in—and the gender inequality that surrounds them,” said Fine. “Our society is so stratified by gender that it seems like a very important division. It has an impact on science—so when scientists look at male and female brains they will, by default, look for differences. “Any difference they do find seems important. That study will then get picked up by the media, which is also preoccupied with sex differences, and it feeds into popular culture.” Despite the changes that have taken place in women’s lives and the resulting changes in ideas, Fine argues that these shifts aren’t automatic. She stresses the need to keep fighting against ideas that turn women and men into caricatures. “We can’t just assume that gender inequality will continue to decrease,” she said. “It reduces our motivation to work at gender equality.” Fine concluded, “There is a popular, widely held view that science has definitively shown that we are hardwired in such a way that to strive for equality is pointless and futile. “But science has not shown this and it’s very important to remember that.” The impact of gender stereotypes is not confined to the classroom. Men and women are constantly bombarded with messages about how they “should” behave and what roles are “suitable” for them. For women, the message is often that there is a limit on our horizons. The prevalence of the pseudo-science that backs this up, despite evidence to the contrary, reinforces how much we still have to fight for. Article from Socialist Worker (Britain) 2222, 9 October 2010 (www.socialistworker.co.uk)
quently against the British Columbia Treaty Process, province-wide negotiations over unextinguished Aboriginal rights and title to land that began in 1993. The Nisga’a “extinguishment” agreement is widely considered a template for these negotiations, which the federal and provincial governments are eager to complete. “The public is clamouring for a new approach,” Duncan claimed in 1998 in Parliament. “What will the minister do to create an affordable process and reduce Aboriginal expectations so that BC can support modern treaties?” Reducing aboriginal expectations, Manuel said, is a euphemism for the federal government’s continuing strategy to keep Indigenous peoples impoverished, which he believes will continue with Duncan’s appointment. “Bluntly put, they want the province to be rich and us poor,” he said. “The federal and provincial governments want to maintain
exclusive jurisdiction over our lands. The results we’ll get from Duncan and his bureaucracy will be the same as we got from Indian Affairs Ministers Jean Chretien, John Munro or Chuck Strahl.” Since his appointment as Minister, Duncan has toned down the rhetoric, and in late August issued an apology to Inuit from northern Quebec who were forcibly relocated to the High Arctic in an attempt to establish claims of Canadian sovereignty in the 1950s. Ernie Crey, for one, isn’t convinced. “Just because 20 years later he is putting on pleasant appearances— that’s not good enough,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that people can turn around and say the leopard has changed his spots. I think he needs to be held to account for all the things he did and said.” Originally published in The Dominion at dominionpaper.ca
Ryerson Free Press october 2010 13
CULTURE Peacemaking is not the same in every context Lessons learned while shooting a documentary in Israel/Palestine By Patricia Marcoccia
Daniel Reisner paused for moment and let out a deep breath after I posed the question: What is peace? What is the goal of peacemaking? Reisner was among the dozens of people I interviewed in Israel/Palestine this summer for my documentary project on the challenges of peacemaking. Reisner, the legal adviser for the Israeli government on peace negotiations, responded: “strangely enough, I’ve never been asked that question. I think my gut reaction is that I have a very low threshold for peace. For me, peace—the basic definition is no war.” “What is peace?” It’s a simple and maybe obvious question, but posing it to people working in and out of the peace industry this summer revealed one of the interesting reasons why peacemaking has failed for so many years. When I asked Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian human rights lawyer and former speaker The wall surrounding the Occupied West Bank represents peace and security for Israelis, but is the bane of Palestinian existence. for the Palestine Liberation Organization she immediately had a lot to say. “If I were to think of what peace means to me, I would think of what Nelson Manunequal power balance. Palestinians don’t have self-determination. dela says: it’s not the absence of violence; it’s the absence of what causes violence in the first They are tried under an Israeli legal system, policed by Israelis, and governed by an place.” internationally-funded administrative body. They are “negotiating” for land that is still As a Canadian with no previous connection to this particular conflict, I approached actively being colonized. When Israelis and Palestinians participate in dialogue programs, the issue of peacemaking from the well-intentioned Western mentality that if both sides Israelis often leave with an eased conscience, while Palestinians often leave with feelings of could better understand each other—appreciate each other’s connection to the land, their disappointment as they find out that their new Israeli friends are going to join the army. respective needs for self-determination, and that behind the guise of an enemy lies a human This does not mean that there is no place for building understanding and challengbeing—then maybe they could achieve peace. But I soon learned that that isn’t enough. ing stereotypes, but as Shbeta said, “if you keep it at this level in our context, then you just “Peacemaking is not the same in every context,” said Fadi Shbeta. He is the former ignore the colonization of the place.” director of Sadaka Reut, an Arab-Jewish youth movement located in Jaffa. Peace has become an overused term that is devoid of real meaning in the region. It Shbeta said that people tend to generalize the term “peacemaking,” but it doesn’t actualso holds negative connotations. This is not merely because people are cynical after having ally mean the same thing in every situation. “If we are talking about peacemaking between experienced so much trauma and disappointment. It’s because peace is a vague term that the two populations in Belgium in terms of two languages and having a binational system masks the fact that Deputy Prime Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman means something with two national groups that want to live together, or if we are talking about the apartheid different from Mahatma Ghandi when talking about peace. in South Africa where one group is the masters and one group is the slaves, those are totally For most Palestinians, peace would be defined as justice, self-determination, freedom. different contexts,” he said. But for most Israelis, peace means quiet. Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, hundreds of peacemaking NGOs were And for foreigners following news headlines that focus on governments trying to reach established in the region. Many run dialogue programs between Palestinians and Israelis a peace agreement, it’s easy to believe that such an agreement will result in a solution to the that focus on building understanding between the two cultures. conflict. Shbeta is not opposed to dialogue, but he urges that people need to think about how But according to Buttu and many others I interviewed, the emphasis on overarching they conduct such programs, and what the results are. “If we are bringing Israelis and Palsolutions to the conflict detract from the real issues people are facing on the ground. estinians together to talk, but they’re not politicians making decisions, then we must think “I think that a lot of the talk of the two-state solution, the one-state solution, focuses of what the point of these talks are,” he said. on the superficial part of peace, which is ‘can’t we all just get along?’” said Buttu. “Whereas The biggest problem with how people conceptualize peace in the context of the Israelito me it’s not about coming up with a convenient arrangement or conflict management so Palestinian conflict is that people think the problem is conflict and the solution is peace. we can all get along. It’s more about getting to this deep-rooted element, not just ending But this simplistic definition detracts from the fact that Israelis and Palestinians have an conflict, but ending the reasons that cause conflict in the first place.”
PHOTO: PATRICIA MARCOCCIA
The pros and cons of the GroupOn phenomenon By Michael Chu
Who doesn’t love a good deal, especially in this day in age? Limited and scarce economic resources have meant squeezing every penny has become the norm – but consumers are not completely willing to give up their adventurous spending habits. This phenomenon has entered the online shopping realm as websites like GroupOn and TeamSave, showcase a different (mostly local) business daily with extreme deals up to 75 per cent off regular prices on services and products including gourmet foods, fine dining, spas and excursions. Think of it as modern-day coupon clipping, but with a social media twist. A deal becomes valid if a minimum number of customers commit to the deal, thus the social media component takes off as links start to pop up on Twitter and Facebook for these amazing deals. The exposure a small business receives (there is only one featured business for the day) can be considered invaluable. However, it is still difficult to gauge just how much this temporary spurt in business translates into repeat customers. And with a focus on providing goods and services at astronomically low prices – considered the least favourable marketing strategy, businesses feel tremendous financial burden especially if their deal really takes off.
Consider Jessie Burke, owner of Posies Café in Portland, Oregon, and poster child of what can go wrong with advertising on GroupOn. She lost US$8,000 and had to pull from her own savings to pay her employees, who lost significant tip money due to customers not tipping on bills tallying zeroes. She wrote about her experience on her cafe’s website, posiescafe.com. Burke’s website – a major hit in the current blogosphere, continues to show the fragility of advertising with GroupOn. “John [the GroupOn Rep] told me that when the consumer pays less than US$10, Groupon usually takes 100 per cent of the money,” Burke wrote on her website. Her coupon US$6 for US$13 in value, was highly suggested by the GroupOn rep even though Burke knew she would not be able to cover her costs. Knowingly, she continued on – despite suggestions Burke should reconsider. GroupOn usually commands a 50 per cent royalty for every deal. Burke’s decision was based mostly on the fact that she felt pressured to feature her business on GroupOn because many of her local competitors had already featured their businesses on the site. “GroupOn is not about establishing loyalty,” says Anthony Francescucci, marketing professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management. “It is about stimulating trial.” “Buying groups make [competing] all about price,” adds Francescucci. “Sellers are going to run into challenges because consumers will expect you to sell at prices comparable to what they have paid for in the past.” But what happens if the consumer can’t even attempt to try out the product or service? Margaret Doan, a business management student at Ryerson, purchased a zip-line package from GroupOn Toronto in August. She wanted to book her excursion before her schedule would start to fill up with courses and homework. “Thankfully there is a one year expiration date so I can always go later,” says Doan. That didn’t detract her from committing to another deal – this time on a spa package she was hoping to use for her mother’s birthday. “I knew that you can’t use the deal on the day you purchased it,” says Doan. “When I tried to make a booking with them for the weekend after Thanksgiving, they said I couldn’t book that day because they needed to accommodate their regular customers first.” Luckily, her mother was willing to be flexible and book the weekend after. Even with these distractions, Doan swears she will use GroupOn again in the future. “I’m living on a student budget,” says Doan. “I’m just glad I could afford to treat my mom for her birthday.”
Inside Disaster explored Haiti from within By Amanda Connon-Unda, Culture Editor The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010 became the subject of much sensational media coverage in the months that followed and then it slowly faded into the background as different news items filled out the daily news cycles of major news networks. However, the earthquake’s destruction lived on in Haiti and so it became the subject of an in-depth three-part documentary series directed by Nadine Pequeneza, as well as the subject for an innovative website, also aptly called Inside Disaster. As soon as the PTV Productions team who were responsible for creating Inside Disaster, heard the sad news of the quake they immediately went to Haiti to document the momentous events. Katie McKenna, the in-house internet producer at PTV Productions in Toronto hired Nicolas Jolliet, an experienced internationally travelled photographer and filmmaker, to be their website producer from the field. He landed in Haiti with the film crew, carrying only his backpack, camera, laptop, GPS and satellite modem in order to produce photos, videos and blog entries four times each week. He worked separately from the film crew, uncovering the stories of survivors and humanitarian aid workers. Jolliet’s mandate was clear, recalled McKenna, “find out how people are surviving without humanitarian aid.” Flash backward several months to September of 2009. McKenna was a recent graduate from the Master’s program in humanitarian studies at the London School of Economics. She had just become the internet director at PTV Productions and was securing funding to build an interactive website that would run parallel to a documentary film which would follow the international Red Cross to their next destination, wherever disaster would strike. On October 1, 2010 PTV submitted their Bell Fund application, and they ended PHOTO: MARC KJERLAND/FLICKR
up receiving several grants to produce an interactive website. They proposed using existing web 2.0 tools and some savvy media techniques to deliver in depth content and a historical context to current events. They also offered educational resources for those interested in learning about humanitarian efforts, volunteer work and fundraising. They were going to produce a unique website that was in an innovative form for distributing important information. Their website also served as a platform to connect desperate audiences of people from Haiti and people in Canada, as well as the Haitian community living abroad. By February of 2010 they had already begun developing their experiential interactive component to their website; a flash website with video clips from the film embedded. Flash forward to September 2010. McKenna discussed the lessons she learned while working on the Inside Disaster website to a room full of interactive web producers and film producers who want to create similar projects. The event was hosted by the Documentary Organization of Canada’s Toronto chapter, and by the DOC Shift project. McKenna explained how she and her team were able to pull off fabulous results in both the real world and online, by providing critical information and unique perspectives. The results of their project were remarkable. Inside Disaster produced over 60 blog posts and garnered 7,000 flickr photo views. They produced 30 videos which were seen over 43,000 times on youtube and and they had coverage on all of the major Canadian news networks. They received over 400 comments on their content and approximately 31,000 visitors went to the website in a number of months. Even more tangible than the online results were the results that came about because of their reporting efforts.
Haitians in Canada were able to learn more about what was going on with their loved ones and could connect with a broader community of Haitians around the world to make sense of it all. McKenna retold the story of how a Haitian they hired to write a blog for them, Emmanuel Midi was able to launch his own successful career as a fixer for other news organizations after he worked with Jolliet, putting him in contact with people so Jolliet could document their stories. With PTV’s support and testimonial, Midi now widely offers a fixer service (haitifixers.com). One of his more light hearted blog entries that he wrote for Inside Disaster, which was about two innovative brothers doing good in Haiti also got redistributed on globalvoicesonline.org and received hundreds of reader comments. McKenna said, “This is the power of the web – You create someone who exists and now they exist online too.” How can others interested in creating an interactive project like McKenna, succeed? McKenna advises, “Write a confident funding application... Get a blog and mailing list up fast... Don’t be afraid to be simple... Hire someone for outreach... Crowdsource and talk to your audience.” Finally, she said, “Prototyping works!” She also reminded film producers that the website has to be beneficial to the filmmaker, and that they need to be involved in the website development process. Hiring a writer who knows the web medium is a good idea too, she said. Finally, McKenna was enthusiastic about working with young employees who have a lot to gain, and a lot to give, on the job. For more on the new Inside Disaster website now in beta, visit: insidedisaster.com.
PHOTO: amanda connon-unda Ryerson Free Press october 2010
Recap of TIFF 2010 By Angela Walcott
The thirty-fifth Annual Toronto International Film Festival was an eleven day spectacle of press conferences, red carpets, gala presentations and over 2,000 volunteers who helped to bring it all together. With 300 films screening from over 60 countries and the Bell Lightbox Cinemas open for screenings, the choices available to attendees were almost limitless. Choosing a favorite film was a difficult task when there were many stellar performances from top actors like Helen Mirren Javier Bardem and Colin Firth. Here are a few films worth keeping in mind for when they are likely to appear in the future at regular cinema screenings in Toronto. The King’s Speech follows the story of King George VI, played perfectly by Colin Firth, and his quest to rid himself of a speech impediment. Tom Hooper’s film was nominated as the audience Cadillac People’s Choice Award. Voted by TIFF audiences, according to TIFF CEO Piers Handling, it is a bit of an Oscar predictor for which many are saying Colin Firth will take home a statue. Pink Saris documents Indian activist, Sampat Pal Devi’s fight to stop violence against women. Belonging to some of the lowest ranks of society, fiery Sampal fearlessly battles for equal treatment of the women in her village. Despite Devi’s strength and determination, we see a glimpse her vulnerability. Biutiful starring Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem has received rave reviews for Bardem’s performance. Portraying the dying father of two, this multi-layered film manages to cover every topic imaginable; single-parenthood, sweatshop factories and a bit of the paranormal all wrapped in one. West is West, the sequel to the 1990’s hit East is East, is a story about a Pakistani-born man whose unruly British born, bi-racial son is sent to Pakistan in an attempt to embrace his cultural roots. This beautifully written story is touching. The Japanese film Confessions follows the story of a high school teacher who discovers two of her students are responsible for the murder of her daughter. It addresses themes of “acceptance” in an unusual way. The audience will keep asking ‘Is revenge sweet?’ Gabriel Range’s I Am Slave is a chilling tale based on Mende Nazer’s book Slave. Kidnapped in Sudan, I Am Slave is an account of Nazer’s life of modern day slavery, in of all places, London England. The harrowing story offers frightening statistics that thousands of slaves are living in England and thousands more globally.
Director Ingrid Veninger with stars of the film MODRA: her daughter Hallie Switzer with newcomer Alexander Gammal
Director Ingrid Veninger explores her roots in new film MODRA By Angela Walcott
Lina, 17, lives in Toronto with her mother, and for one week during her summer holidays she plans to visit her extended family in Modra, a small town in Slovakia. When Lina is dumped by her boyfriend she invites Leco instead, a cute boy from school. From there, producer and director Ingrid Veninger’s film takes off. Playing the part of Lina is Veninger’s eighteen-year-old daughter, Hallie Switzer. As both Hallie’s mother and the director, Veninger said, “Hallie exceeded my expectations. She really caught on to the mechanics of acting; take after take. She is a very good listener and she is essentially playing herself.” For Hallie Switzer, this was her first time acting. “We have a
good relationship and she (Ingrid Veninger) is a good director,” she said. Switzer concedes she might pursue acting in the future, but for now she is not quite sure what she wants to do. MODRA is the sister-film to ONLY (it debuted at TIFF in 2008) which starred her son Jacob Switzer. He was at an in-between age, not quite an adolescent. She made that film as a family and in the process experienced something profound. She says that she is now closer to her daughter as a result. “It is an important film to reach young audiences,” she admits. “Young kids don’t know about their roots, don’t speak to elders, and passing on a sense of community is lost.” Ingrid Veninger says the Canadian community has been
very supportive of her work, which means so much to her and because of this, she will continue to work in Canada. She is currently working with Peter Mettler on a Canadian/Swiss co-production. Veninger’s looking forward to traveling and writing roles for other festivals. Veninger, who came to Canada from Bratislava (Slovak Republic) in 1968, started acting at the age of 11 and says her strengths as an actor come in handy as a director. Former West Wing actor Richard Schiff, who appeared in the film Made in Dagenham this year at TIFF, also said he would love to work on another project with Veninger as the director. The two starred together in the 1998 TV movie The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.
A still from Confessions, a Japanese film about murder and revenge.
Fashion forward Ryerson students hope to strike gold The beginning of Paria Lambina
By Amanda Perri When it comes to shopping in Toronto, it seems that fashion conscious students just can’t get a break. Either we pay through our teeth for high-quality (or even just OK quality) or we pay super low prices for clothes that last a few wears, or simply last until you realize that everyone else on campus is wearing the same thing (because it was so cheap). For those of us who are passionate about fashion and use it as an outlet of expression, this is a frustrating problem. It’s a problem that Ryerson Business student Yanina
Chevtchouck decided she would do something about. Through the advice of a supportive professor and her own determination, Chevtchouck approached an extremely gifted Ryerson Fashion student Paria Shirvani who had just completed her first fall line for her final project. Seeing the huge potential in Shirvani’s work, Chevtchouck proposed an idea. They would start a business and sell beautiful, high quality garments for reasonable prices, and in the words of Chevtchouck “make us rich, and make us rich young.”
This however, was no easy feat, in the midst of school and other obligations, but Chevtchouck set aside time to complete a detailed business plan and after 100 odd pages of dedication, a brand was born: Paria Lambina. In September, the hard work and initiative of two Ryerson students paid off as Paria Lambina’s spring line rocked the runway at Montreal’s Fashion Week. Although not for sale yet, you can judge the collection for yourself at www.parialambina.com.
Notable Movie Mentions By Amanda Connon-Unda, Culture Editor New film on youtube reveals the saga of Girl Talk’s 2009 New Year’s Eve show “Getting the New Year’s Eve show was Greg’s idea. Leading up to the show he had an idea that he wanted to build a house,” says JP Coakley, the director of a new film about Girl Talk, on the phone from New York. The idea was simple. Build a life-sized house on stage in Manhattan for the New Year’s Eve show and invite concert-goers to the house party of the year. The movie by Coakley is like a slickly produced diary of the show and the events surrounding the show. Coakley was pleased to capture the live footage of the show because he said that the set designer who could not be there for health reasons, got to see the result of all of his hard work building the house. After seeing the film he immediately called Coakley and said he was so happy to see it. “I love editing,” says Coakley because he said he likes to create evocative moments. “One of my favourite parts is the beginning of the film when Greg is on stage dancing around... It is daylight and everyone is taking photos [of him].” “I’m trying to say—Look at how popular he is. He’s far bigger than he is.’ I am trying to instill that message,” said Coakley, who is perhaps one of Girl Talk’s oldest friends. The film reveals the nature of Girl Talk’s performances and as Coakley described, “Girl Talk fans all want to be on stage. That’s their only goal.” “The whole phenomenon of people wanting to go on stage started because Greg (Girl Talk) was shy and he wanted his friends to dance on stage to take the pressure off him.” Since then the craze has really taken off, as strangers vie for attention on his stages all over the world. Coakley has been on tour with Girl Talk as his videographer many times since the two met in college when they were studying to be engineers. Curious viewers can check out the film online. The first of three videos is at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ZmzFte9uG6o
Manifesto Film Festival delivered two films that showcase human resilience On September 22, 2010, the Manifesto Festival packed a full house of attendees at the Royal Cinema during their week-long hip hop arts and culture festival. Two films were featured, giving the audience a glimpse into the harsh reality that poverty and violence create and how different communities become resilient. Both Invisible City and Bouncing Cats resonated on local and global levels as they highlighted the potential of the arts to transform and empower youth and give a voice to the voiceless in urban society. Invisible City is a moving documentary which gives viewers a stark up-close look at two teenaged men living in Regent Park during the redevelopment period over the last few years. The two teens, Kendell and Mikey were pulled by social pressures into criminal activities and then coaxed back into more productive activities by their mothers and their mentor who supported them to succeed. Directed by Academy-award nominated Hubert Davis, the film was produced in association with the National Film Board of Canada. It elegantly illuminates how urban poverty and racism can isolate individuals and entire communities from mainstream society. Invisible City is a must-see film that won “Best Canadian Feature Documentary” at Hot Docs in 2009. The fill will airs on TVO on October 17 2010 at 11:00 p.m. Bouncing Cats is another powerful documentary that tells the inspiring story of Abraham “Abramz” Tekya, an AIDS orphan and b-boy who started Breakdance Project Uganda in order to create opportunities for artistic expression and friendship for children in Uganda. He helps them to use hip hop breakdancing
as a means to regain their own sense of identity. Having suffered greatly in the North of the country under the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.), many children have been separated from their families and displaced or mutilated as a result of brutal abductions. The film is a powerful testament to the spirit of resilience that many of the b-boys and b-girls have. Narration for the film was done by Common and there are interviews with Will.I.Am, K’Naan and Mos Def. Further information about the film, a trailer, and details about how to get involved on youth issues in Uganda can be found at: www.bouncingcats.com.
Discovering the designs of Yasmine Louis at the Clothing Show By Jennifer Tse
Over the last weekend of September, Toronto’s fashionistas may have found a little something—or two or three pieces—at this year’s iteration of the Clothing Show. More than 300 independent designers and retailers filled the Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre, flaunting fresh threads, statement jewelry, and other colourful goodies in a vast array
of styles. Toronto textile artist Yasmine Louis was no stranger to the event, having been a vendor at the Clothing Show for the last 10 years. The half-Egyptian, half-Swiss francophone moved to Toronto in 1992 and instantly fell in love with city’s vibrant multiculturalism. Since then, she’s based her silkscreen designs on a select number of esoteric perspectives of the city. “The designs are just based on my daily life,” she said. “They are all my photographs and writing.” She described the walk she takes through Trinity Bellwoods Park between her home on Dundas Street and her studio on Queen Street West. It’s the inspiration for a design that reads, “Picked up a coffee on Dundas — perfect day”, which also features a small map of the area and the silhouette of an actual tree she found and photographed at the park. In the past, Louis has been commissioned to design an eco-friendly bag for Yonge-Dundas Square and a shirt for the Art Gallery of Ontario store. In particular, her t-shirts have
TOP PHOTOS: RAQUEL DA SILVA; BOTTOM PHOTO: JENNIFER TSE
been a hit among those who love the city, but don’t necessarily want to walk around sporting apparel plastered with CN Towers. These aren’t tourist shirts — they’re Toronto designs for Torontonians who see the city at street level, day to day. Louis’s personal touch makes them all the more appealing. “I get a different audience,” she said of the crowd at the glamour-based Clothing Show. “I usually do handmade shows, but this is more of a fashion clientele versus a craft clientele.” However, Louis is not the only designer who is selling fashion items that divert from the mainstream. Even as speakers overheard announce the next runway show and other independent retailers hawk plastic baggies of tacky jewelry mass-imported from overseas, other vendors are also selling vintage blazers, upcycled bags, and hand-cut sterling silver necklaces. For many designers like Louis, the Clothing Show offers the chance to display her work to more people. Still, for her unique point of view on both the city and fashion and a tailored shopping experience, Louis’ collection can be seen by appointment at her studio, at Fresh Baked Goods at 274 Augusta Ave., or at Fresh Collective at 692 Queen St. West.
Ryerson Free Press october 2010 17
FILM Lapland Odyssey director a ‘Toronto guy’ at heart
irector Dome Karukoski’s Lapland Odyssey is the comical story of unemployed Janne’s quest for a digital TV box for his girlfriend or she will leave. His mission takes him to the city of Rovaniemi where Janne and his friends face challenges, obstacles and temptation. Set in the north of Finland, Karukoski says the inspiration came from the birth of screenwriter Pekko Pesonen’s first child. “His father-in-law insisted that he buy a video camera,” says Karukoski. “It became a very difficult task for Pekko and we decided to make a comedy about that experience.” He says it is about a man’s indignity and insecure feelings when he has reservations about what he must do. Shooting started in September 2009 with 37 shooting days spread over a five-month period. Karukoski says the weather was the greatest obstacle while filming. “During the shoot we had minus five degrees to minus thirty-six degrees celsius weather, plus winds that multiplied the cold.” Sometimes it would feel like minus fifty-four celsius on exposed skin. While snowstorms, fog and rain were the norm, the first aid and camera assistant suffered frost bite. The crew
Go on an entertainment whirlwind with Scott Pilgrim
cott Pilgrim vs. The World is a curious movie, it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be – an action film, a romance or even a comedy. Despite the film’s indecisive attitude it is a very enjoyable picture that succeeds in entertaining the viewer. It stars Brampton’s own Michael Cera, who interestingly plays a character drastically different from his previous roles. Cera plays a bassist named Scott Pilgrim, who we learn is dating a high-schooler named Knives Chau who is played by Ryerson’s own Ellen Wong, a radio and television student who graduated in 2007. Scott lives with his “awesome gay roommate” named Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin) and lives a decidedly average existence until his new love interest Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is thrust into his life. Once he falls for her he must defeat her seven evil ex’s. Director Edward Wright of Dawn Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz fame pulls the viewer into the movie’s version of Toronto, where high flying, super powered fist fights seem to be a norm. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is jam-packed with amazingly choreographed fight scenes, all wonderfully accompanied with beautifully rendered CG (computer generated) graphics that result in some of the most aesthetically pleasing scenes since the adoption of CG. The choreography really shows during the final fight between Scott and Gideon
really had to show the Finnish “Perkele” which means stamina or “damning the gods” to make this film. Even hidden within the heart of the biggest loser, a hero can be found and within the biggest cynic you can still find hope. Perkele is the film’s main theme in a land where there is high unemployment, no sun in the winter and constant sun in the summer--the people of Lapland demonstrate Perkele. In 2008, Karukoski’s The Home of the Dark Butterflies was nominated in 10 categories for the Finnish National Film Awards for which he won in the Best Director category. While he debuted Beauty and the Bastard at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival in 2006, the director is ecstatic about having this film screen at TIFF. “I’m a “first time Toronto guy,” he says. “It’s nice, because I get immediate response and feedback. They even applauded in the middle of the screening.” He added, “I had to go party [and enjoy] that feeling in Toronto’s night life.” Dome Karukoski is currently getting ready to work on a goodwill project about the street kids of Nairobi later this month. —Angela Walcott
Graves (Jason Schwartzman) in which, not one, but two fight scenes are shot simultaneously. However, due to the film’s chameleon like nature, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World cannot be exclusively considered an action flick. Practically every scene involving Kieran Culkin is pure comic gold. Culkin finds a way to make even the most serious fights and showdowns completely ridiculous, whether he be shouting pointless comments and insults, or making out with another character, in the middle of a battle he will definitely make you laugh at least once. Even so, while the film has it’s comedic moments (many) it also retains a very deep and romantic plot. Scott is introduced as having recently gotten out of a relationship and has begun dating Knives, but then, as their relationship peaks Scott cheats on Knives with Ramona. The plot thickens and Scott goes on to learn some valuable lessons. From the beginning the movie is painstakingly slow, drawing out character introductions even for each minor character that is covered in some depth. However, from the second that Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) bursts onto the set the movie picks up and is instantly hurled into an entertainment whirlwind. This film is a must-see. Great music. Great effects. Great movie. Rating 4.5 out of 5 —Alexandre Lalonde
BOOKS How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less
regory Levey was sick of hearing about the Middle East in North America, so he wrote a book about it. Levey’s book chronicles his comedic quest to solve the Palestine-Israel conflict on his own - preferably without leaving his home much. What he describes as a ‘festering wound’ that dogs him, the Middle East conflict has made its way into his second book, How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving your Apartment. Along his path, he contacts former White House representative Condoleeza Rice, as well as peace proponent Jimmy Carter. He also plays a Middle East conflict-simulating game called Peace Maker (he ends up losing, causing a virtual third intifada) and goes undercover as an Evangelical Christian to a hard rock concert where Jesus makes him dance. His anecdotes are engrossing. His awkward attempts at sparking a conversation about politics with a Palestinian grocer down the street are laugh-in-public funny. Over the course of a few months, Levey begins to have serious doubts about his approach to peave. The grocer might or might not be Mexican and chances are high that he thinks Levey is hitting on him. Levey’s intentions for How to Make Peace in the Middle East were pure. He was tired of emotionally-involved North Americans arguing heatedly over a conflict which simply cannot be solved through screaming matches and extremism. He highlights this threat of extremism in his chapter entitled “A Very Dangerous Suburban Dad,” where a Zionist extremist’s suggestion was the complete destruction of the Palestinians and all Arabs in the countries surrounding Israel. Speaking from his office at Ryerson, where he works in communications, Levey explained his “whole-heartedly secular” view on a seemingly intractable conflict. “The Middle East is infused with religious arguments, making the conflict less likely to be solved,” he said.
It turns out that his book is not so much about the Middle East as it is about the way the conflict manifests here in Canada and the United States. “Palestinians and Israelis never say that they ‘get it,’ they just live the situation day to day,” he said, “but North Americans label everything ‘antithis’ and ‘pro-that,’ where they think they understand the conflict entirely - and have a solution.” Levey’s point is well taken. In some cases there’s an undeniable disconnect between the West and the West Bank. Levey’s writing style os hybrid. He reaches for the comedic. “The book is funny, that’s all I wanted,” he said. He was fueled by the personal. “The conflict follows me, like it follows anyone it touches,” he said. Meanwhile, he was still able to incorporate the political angles of the topic. He sprinkled the text with his adhoc knowledge of Israeli politics, despite his lack of study in the field. The result of Levey’s seemingly contradictory literary styles is, at times, unfortunate. While trying to be political, his bias results in omitting the brutal realities on the ground. By adding comedy to the mix, in what he even admittedly describes as a horrendous situation in Israel and the Occupied territories, he trivializes the suffering of millions. This is highlighted mid-way through the book, as he’s speaking to Samar Assad, the executive director of the Palestine Centre and former negotiations advisor to the Palestinian Authority. Assad admits that disgust often motivates her, reflecting on the brutal occupation’s effect on the children of Gaza. All that Levey can write about the suffering of over one million children, and the hundreds dead and injured during Israel’s invasion two years ago, is “the children of Gaza truly had it rough.” Kids in a ‘bad’ Toronto neighborhood have it rough. Children in Gaza live in hell. But these attempts at glossing over the reality on the ground can be found throughout the book. Levey even warns of his bias in the forward, saying that his secular Jewish upbringing would come into play. His two-year stint in Israel, and the fact that he can’t recall in any detail whether he visited the West Bank likely reinforced it. Still, Levey contends that humour in the face of tragedy is essential to coping in the Middle East. “Critics who say I’m making light of the conflict are absolutely right,” he said. “Humans find humour in tragic situations,” he said from behind his desk at Ryerson. “It’s how we cope with tragedy.” Levey views the book as satire, and you should, too. If you take it seriously, you may just turn into one of his anecdotes, a North American with too much opinion on the Middle East. —Katia Dmitrieva
Taking another look at Manhood for Amateurs
ne summer several years ago when I was in need of a little intellectual stimulation, I decided to treat myself to a really good book. Figuring that winners of the Pulitzer Prize were most probably good books, I limited my search to award winners. What I had not realized is that the surest way to win the Prize is to write about something really depressing – racism, violence against women, post-apocalyptic worlds. Nothing appealed until a title caught my eye – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a book written by Michael Chabon in 2000. This, I decided, had the look of a book with a sense of humor, even while it featured the plight of the Jews during World War II. Author Michael Chabon is noted for mixing the light and the serious, and it is a style beautifully demonstrated in his newest book, Manhood for Amateurs. The author’s first full-length nonfiction work (it follows Maps and Legends, a grouping of literary essays) focuses on his life as a husband, father, and son. It acts as a combination autobiography and collection of essays, which give the readers peeks into Chabon’s life, as well as into his opinions about being a man. Far from being an instructional manual on how to become a “Man,” Chabon raises more questions for his readers than he answers. He remembers fondly his childhood of days gone by, while grieving for his children, whom he fears will never be afforded the same freedoms he had. Modern Lego blocks, he says, are not as free form and open-ended as they were when he was young. Children are not sent out into the world to find amusements for themselves. Children, in fact, are less capable of keeping themselves entertained, less able to use their imaginations without being told what to dream of. It is certainly enough to make readers look back on their childhoods and ask, “Was I free as a child? Has my imagination been stagnated by Barbie? Am I incapable of being independent?” Chabon also admits freely to his own inability to allow his children to be as free as he was, citing his largely baseless fears for their safety and well-being. But, as he says, “I’m a father. Being a hypocrite is my job.” In order to enjoy the book fully, the
reader must appreciate Chabon’s own distinctive writing voice, which while hilarious and insightful, occasionally tends to use his books as a soapbox, a platform where he can air his ideas and grievances. With a surprising lack of self-mocking Chabon sometimes holds forth his own preferences and beliefs as a great and golden truth. Take, for example, the chapter devoted to defending the 1970s, the time Chabon was coming of age. While I am sure it must be hard to have grown up in a so universally mocked decade, was it really necessary to spend seven pages telling his readers that, in fact, the 1970s are laughing at them for not understanding the joke? Possibly not. He goes on to emphasize that in fact the 1970s were truly the most innovative, revolutionary, and above all absolutely free decade that has ever been. But you forgive Chabon quickly in his next chapter. In fact, you could forgive this man almost anything over the privilege of being invited into his world of exquisitely beautiful writing. Chabon has always been the kind of author to be read aloud – whether the other people in the room have an interest in his book or not. The compulsion is to share his sentence structures, his delicious word choices, to marvel at the mind that put it all together. In spite of being a work of non-fiction, Manhood for Amateurs still reads like a novel. He makes readers laugh and then cry and then sigh and turn the next page to repeat the process. He also, thank goodness, is one of the best at having a real conversation with his readers. Reading the book feels like being invited out to 306 cups of coffee with a favourite writer, who is going to make you feel like you have a friend in this very famous Pulitzer winner type person you will almost certainly never meet. As a bonus to particularly nosy readers, some of those coffee klatches become shockingly intimate. Your peeks into his life include details of his first failed marriage, his current wife’s bipolar disorder, his parents’ divorce, his sexual encounter with a friend of his mother’s, his fears over his children, his fears for himself. No topic seems too personal to be discussed in this very public forum, and every topic is treated with such a delicate brush that you feel somehow that it is in no way vulgar for him to be discussing his ex-wife’s personal problems. While women are certainly not the most often discussed subject in this book about men, each woman he brings up – be it is mother, his grandmother, his first or second wife – has obviously had a huge impact on his life, and are treated in his writing with respect and deference that has been earned by the people who helped shape the man he became. Chabon speaks in his first chapter of the relationship between an artist and the person experiencing the work. Every work of art, he says, is “one half of a secret handshake…an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing.” In writing Manhood for Amateurs, Chabon has flashed out his heliograph to his readers, inviting them in to share in his life, to poke around in his mind and take what they will from his experiences and his very human self. Readers would be well advised to flash their light back, and dive into this wealth of warmth, humor and insight. —Kate Spencer
Ryerson Free Press october 2010 19
Published on Oct 9, 2010