Clothes on Our Backs 3 Bhopal 2010 6 Toronto’s Iranian Protests 4 Environmental Refugees 7 Honduran Resistance 4 Cuban Environmentalism 10 Environmental Racism 5 Canada in El Salvador 5
Fall Issue 1, 2009
ARTS & CULTURE (19-22)
Conservative Greens? 15 York’s Ableist Curfew 15 Vegetarian Activism 17 3903 Contradictions 18
Go-Ogle Photo Essay 19 Loving Jane-Finch 20-21 Meritocracy 22 Les Rues des Refuses 22
Your Alternative News Magazine at York
Volume 2, Issue 1
(THE maiz IS OURS!)
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Environmental Justice T
he YU Free Press is pleased to offer you our ﬁrst issue of the 2009-10 academic year: Environmental Justice! We chose this theme in particular (notably different than simply, the Environment) to critically examine the ways in which race, gender, nationhood, sexuality, disability and class (amongst others) are embedded in environmental destruction. In doing so, we demonstrate that particular groups of people are speciﬁcally targeted by conservative governments, military regimes, and multinational corporations (MNCs) that are responsible for social and environmental catastrophes. Such an approach situates the “Environment” within a context of on-going forms of colonialism and resistance to corporate and neoliberal expansion. We are particularly happy to feature Shaunga Tagore’s “Violence Against her Land, Violence Against her Body”, which tackles important links between environmental degradation and sexual violence. In particular, she looks at how environmental damage and nuclear testing primarily occur on Indigenous territory, which has signiﬁcant consequences for the sexual and overall health of Indigenous women. Complementary to Tagore’s piece, Nate Prier’s, “Beyond Binaries – Locating the Environmental Refugee” critiques the ways in which natural disasters are framed as “natural” when state and corporate interests reproduce social hierarchies. Prier argues that these processes become acute
COVER IMAGE The Maiz is Ours! By Favianna Rodriguez
within contexts of environmental crises, often resulting in increased deaths and forced migration for poor and racialized communities. See also Diana Katgara’s “Bhopal 2010: How Many Years Will it Take to Get Justice”, for a look at the role that MNCs play in creating environmental damage in racialized communities while denying responsibility. As well, this article gauges the various forms of resistance and mobilization that are taking place against corporate acts of violence. This issue of the YUFP also attracted a substantial amount of articles on Latin America in our News and Features sections. Ashley McEachern’s “The Coup in Honduras: A Tale of Resistance and Repression” gives us a narrative of this summer’s on-going events and poses important reﬂections for activists around the world. Chris Vance’s “What is to be Done with Blood on our Hands from Canadian Mining in El Salvador?” alerts us to the murder of an anti-mining activist while also suggesting ways in which we can act in solidarity with Latin American activists. Importantly, Michael Romandel’s “Environmental Sustainability, Socialism, and the Bolivarian Revolution” and Yuri Yarin’s “Socialism and the Environment in Cuba: A Debate to Question and Consider”, emphasize the importance of examining socialism and class as a major point of consideration within environmental movements. Bringing our attention closer to home, Jesse Zimmerman’s “Is the Green Party of Canada Progressive number of small farmers who are the keepers and original developers of such a valuable resource. Favianna Rodriguez is a celebrated printmaker and digital artist based in Oakland, California. She is known for her bold imagery and vibrant humanist composites reﬂecting social movements, migration, globalization, and the changing cultural landscape of the United States. Rodriguez’s artwork reﬂects local and global issues, such as war, environmental destruction, and immigration policies. Rodriguez can be reached at: email@example.com
The Maiz is Ours! The planting of transgenic maize in Mexico is a historic crime against the peoples of maize, against biodiversity and food sovereignty, against ten thousand years of indigenous and peasant agriculture that bequeathed this seed for the well being of all the peoples of the world. Corn Farmers are the keepers of tradition. Corn Farmers are the protectors of biodiversity. It is unconscionable that the Mexican government, along with the NAFTA administration, wilfully designed an economic policy to drastically reduce the
Corrections From Last Issue Summer Vol.1(5)
1. Carolyn Hibb’s article “Undermining Union Solidarity: Equity in the CUPE 3903 strike”: Some sentences are lost through the page change. It should read: “At the same time, this work was particularly expected of women, racialized members, and members with disabilities. At the special TFAC meeting, members spoke about being asked (or pressured) to talk to drivers on the picket line, because
or Regressive?” comments on the extent to which progressive politics (or perhaps, the lack thereof) is found in the Green Party. Ian Hussey’s “The Clothes on our Backs, the Coffee in our Cups, the Food on our Plates” examines Fair Trade policies at York, offering ways to become aware and get involved in organizations that promote better wage and working conditions for those who produce the goods that we consume. We have also published some articles and art that reﬂect our social justice values even if they do not fall within the Environmental Justice theme. We would like to highlight Laurence Parent’s “Home by Midnight: A Short Story Concerning a Political and Economic Curfew at York” which outlines York University’s cutback to independent living assistance that has major consequences for students with disabilities. Parent’s article is also a call for support and action that the YUFP Editorial Collective believes that every community member at York must take very seriously. York University continues to be an unwelcoming space for many groups of people and the YUFP Editorial Collective wants to make clear that women’s safety on campus remains an important issue. Our university is already known for several gender-based sexual assaults in the past years and two women were recently sexually assaulted at Scott library on September 15 and September 18, 2009. These incidents are extremely unfortunate and devastating reminders that we must “women are better at that work.” At the same time, the connection between these types of labour was rarely discussed. What was the emotional impact of stress on the members providing their intellectual labour on the bargaining team? How were members picketing able to imagine their intellectual identities as academics, when the strike constructed them as simply physical bodies? Attacks on groups and individuals had the effect of silencing people through discrimination and harassment. Tactics of silencing included a developing culture of fear. The culture of fear often relied on setting an example of an individual in order to show other members what they could expect if they challenged the status quo. Attacks on character, spreading false rumours, destroying social networks, developing a culture of suspicion and distrust, and physical and verbal intimidation were some of the tactics used to make examples of members.” 2. A contributor’s name was misspelled: It should have read Morgan Berg, not Morgane. 3. WomanSpace writer: The name “Carmen Teeple Hopkins” was misspelled. 4. Carmen Teeple Hopkins was the translator of Pauline Haller’s photo essay explanations into English.
prioritize women’s experiences and focus on how to address inequalities that lead to such violent circumstances. Although we have quickly mentioned these occurrences in the News in Brief: York section, the YUFP Editorial Collective sees Tagore’s analysis as an excellent look at systemic and intersectional factors that comprise a necessary approach when considering sexual violence. Focusing on gender (though not separate from race and class, etc) as an important site of inquiry and activism through our summer edition, the Women’s Issue has stimulated a great deal of positive feedback. We encourage readers to write us with comments, suggestions, or critiques in order to make the YUFP a better newspaper. The YUFP Editorial Collective
worked very hard over the summer and into the fall to bring you this issue. Despite the ups and downs, we are very excited to be entering our second year of existence and we are still going strong! We would like to take a moment to recognize the new members of the Editorial Collective: Qara Clemente, Zubaira Hussaini, Jen Rinaldi, and Shaunga Tagore. We would also like to thank the many volunteers, copy-editors, writers, photographers, and artists who have made this newspaper possible. Victoria Barnett, Troy Dixon, Nathan Nun and Carmen Teeple Hopkins have stayed on since the beginning of the YUFP and look forward to working with the new team to bring a fresh perspective and energy to this work. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! YUFP Editorial Collective
Journal Launch: Critical Disability Discourse By Jen Rinaldi York University’s Critical Disability Studies Graduate Student Association (CDSSA) will be launching an annual graduate student journal in November, 2009. Critical Disability Discourse (CDD) is a bilingual, interdisciplinary journal, which will publish articles focussing on experiences of disability. The journal’s review board consists of over 30 students and faculty members from York University, the University of Toronto, and Laval University. CDD was conceived and is managed entirely by graduate students. The goal was to create an academic space where graduate students would make valuable contributions to the ﬁeld of Disability Studies. In an environment where academics are pressured by the mandate to “publish or perish”, graduate students are given very few opportunities to compete successfully for space in journals. CDD is meant to facilitate an academic community and provide
a more promising opportunity for those just beginning universitybased careers. Journal topics will share a dedication to non-discrimination and social justice. It is the intention of the CDSSA to bring disability-related issues to mainstream scholastic conversations by promoting and publishing arguments that critically assess disabling social conditions. Discourse about disability is arguably not taken seriously enough in mainstream academic circles. Without theoretical backing, it is difﬁcult to effect social change. For CDD’s team, therefore, the journal will serve as part of a greater effort to bring disability to the table and to redress not only physical, but also attitudinal and theoretical discrimination. Critical Disability Discourse will be published entirely online, and is available via York’s digital library. To access the journal’s ﬁrst issue, or the next issue’s call for papers, use the following link: https:// pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/ cdd
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
News The Clothes on our Backs, the Coffee in our Cups, the Food on our Plates By Ian Hussey On March 6, 2008, over 40 York students marched to President Shoukri’s ofﬁce on the ninth ﬂoor of the Ross building to demand a commitment by the University to adopt and implement a No Sweatshop policy. The action was the culmination of eight years of trade justice organizing at York. The President initially said he would not meet with the students to discuss the prospects of potentially commiting to a No Sweat Policy. As a result, over a dozen students spent the night of March 6 outside Shoukri’s ofﬁce on the thinly carpeted concrete ﬂoor of the hallway. The students weren’t leaving without talking to Shoukri and getting a commitment that the University would take every possible action to ensure the York-branded garments sold in the campus bookstore were not made under sweatshop conditions. After 45 hours and some media pressure, Shoukri cracked. York now has a No Sweat policy which ensures that the garments sold in the bookstore are veriﬁed No Sweat by the Workers’ Rights Consortium and Fair Labor Association. In response to student concerns, Shoukri established a Sustainability Council that comprises administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The Council has a Student Subcommittee whereby students can discuss policy initiatives and propose ideas to the larger Council.
The Subcommittee gained approximately 30 new members during a session on fair trade at the September 24, 2009 Sustainability Purchasing Policy event organized by the Business & Society department. The Subcommittee drafted a Fair Trade Certiﬁed Product Purchasing Policy based on a similar policy that was adopted by Trent University two years ago. They plan to discuss the drafted policy at their next meeting and present it to the Sustainability Council later in the fall. The policy would ensure that agricultural products purchased by York University, such as coffee, tea, and perhaps sugar and chocolate, are produced and traded under fair trade conditions that have been veriﬁed by TransFair Canada and the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. The policy would also give the University the option to purchase Fair Trade Certiﬁed garments instead of No Sweat garments. Fair Trade Certiﬁed clothes are new to North America, which is why this option was not written into York’s original No Sweat policy. The market for fair trade garments has grown substantially over the last year. There are two main differences between Fair Trade Certiﬁed and No Sweat garments. First, No Sweat monitors garment factory conditions and workers have the chance to raise complaints with the monitors. However, the descriptor, “No Sweat”, does not mean that the working conditions of farmers who produce the cotton necessarily for clothing have been monitored. On the other hand,
York Faculty Members Rally to Pay Costly Fines Imposed on SAIA By the Concerned Faculty for Palestinian Human Rights We are a group of York faculty members concerned about the right to free speech at York, concerned about the right to dissent, and concerned about Palestinian human rights. During the spring of this year, 40 of us agreed to make personal contributions to help Students Against Israeli Apartheid-York (SAIA-York) defray the cost of a $1000 ﬁne imposed upon the club by the York
“Fair Trade” certiﬁcation ensures improved working conditions for both cotton farmers and garment makers. Second, unlike No Sweat factories where there is a separation between workers and owners, fair trade garment producers organize themselves into coops. In fair trade coops, the workers are the owners. After ensuring that the University adopts and implements a Fair Trade policy, the Sustainability Council’s Student Subcommittee will continue to work to bring fresher and fairer food to campus. A Local and Sustainable Food Policy would connect York University to Local Food Plus, a certiﬁcation agency that has already partnered with institutions, such as the University of Toronto, to ensure that the amount of local and sustainable food on campus increases every year. The next meeting of the Student Subcommittee is 2:30-4:00PM, October 23, Vari Hall 3017. To join the group’s listserv, email Daniela Trapani: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fair Trade coffee locations on campus: 1. The Grad Lounge (coffee, tea and hot chocolate) (South Ross) 2. Timothy’s (Schulich) 3. Las Nubes Cafe (Computer Science and Engineering Building) 4. Complex 2 Cafeteria (Stong/Bethune) 5. Complex 1 Cafeteria (McLaughlin) 6. TEL Cafeteria (TEL Building) 7. Osgoode Cafeteria (Osgoode) 8. Central Square Cafeteria (Central Square) 9. Fine Arts Lobby Cafeteria (Fine Arts)
rights. In addition, on numerous occasions they have disciplined and ﬁned SAIA and its members. Such actions bring discredit to York University, and they create a climate hostile to free speech and legitimate dissent.
administration following a demonstration in Vari Hall on February 12, 2009. We did so because we see these ﬁnes as part of a larger pattern of repression on those who speak out at York in defence of Palestinian human rights on our campus.
For these reasons, we have chosen to support SAIA with our wallets. We will do so again, should it be necessary. In the coming weeks and months, we will inform the York community about further actions in defence of free speech and Palestinian human rights.
In recent years, York administrators have attempted to expel a student and to discipline a faculty member for speaking out on campus in support of Palestinian human
Sincerely, Concerned Faculty for Palestinian Human Rights
The YU Free Press is a free alternative monthly newspaper at York University. Our principal objectives are to challenge the mainstream corporate media model and provide a fundamental space for critical analysis at York University and wider community.
ADDRESS York University Student Centre Rm. 448 4700 Keele Street Toronto, Canada EMAIL email@example.com WEBSITE http://yufreepress.org Editorial Collective Victoria Barnett Qara Clemente Troy Dixon Zubaira Hussain Nathan Nun Jen Rinaldi Shaunga Tagore Carmen Teeple Hopkins
Copy Editors Hammam Farah Canova Kutuk Stefan Lazov Daniel Pillai Jamie M.A. Smith Jessica Bundy
Contributors Rashin Allzadeh, Lida Alizadeh, Raji Choudhury, Kareem Dabbagh, Enzo Di Matteo, Ian Hussey, Diana Katgara, Seongcheol Kim, Laura Lee, Ashley McEachen, Elizabeth Morrisanti, No One Is Illegal Vancouver, Nathan Nun, Laurence Parent, Nathan Prier, Laila Rashidie, Jasmine Rezaee, Jen Rinaldi, Michael Romandel, jes sachse, Sarah Sackville McLauchlan, Nicole Sullivan, Shaunga Tagore, Carmen Teeple Hopkins, Sharanja Thangalingam, Chris Vance, Yari Yurin, Jesse Zimmerman
PUBLISHER The YU Free Press Collective The opinions expressed in the YU Free Press are not necessarily those of the editors or publishers. Individual editors are not responsible for the views and opinions expressed herein Kareem Dabbagh
News in Brief: York University By Carmen Teeple Hopkins
Violence against Women at York University Two women were sexually assaulted at York University’s Scott library. The ﬁrst occurred on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 and the second took place on Friday, September 18, 2009. One suspect has been arrested in relation to the ﬁrst incident while the second incident is still being investigated. 21-year old York student Aaron Zukewich has been charged with sexual assault in relation to the ﬁrst incident.
Editor’s Note: Violence against women has been a serious issue at York over the years and while approaches to question the way in which the University Administration handled the issue need to be challenged, the YUFP Editorial Collective sees Shaunga Tagore’s “Violence against her Land, Violence against her Body” as a solid way of situating violence against women as a problem that requires an intersectional and systemic analysis.
Women’s Only Weight-Training hours Tait MacKenzie gym is in the process of training volunteers for this program and
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is organizing volunteer schedules. It is expected that Women’s Only weight-training hours will begin in November, 2009.
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Black to York Rally & March
The YU Free Press welcomes typed, articles and letters and short creative works and visuals. All submisions must be accompanied by the author’s name (with relevant afﬁliations)
On Monday, September 28, 2009, students at York campus marched to raise awareness about how tuition hikes disproportionately affect Black students. Organized by the York University Black Students’ Alliance, this event also intended to mobilize for the upcoming November 5 anti-poverty and education day of action.
Materials deemed libelous or discriminatory by the YU Free Press Collective will not be printed.
Send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Look at the Iranian Protests in Toronto By Rashin Alizadeh After the June 12, 2009, election in Iran that saw the return of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to power against three opponents, including reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi, many concerned Iranians in both Iran and the diaspora marched onto the streets of major cities across the world to show their discontent with the Islamic Republic and the government of Ahmadinejad. Many have expressed concern that Ahmadinejad’s government is illegitimate and that the election was cloaked in fraud.
my vote?”, was interpreted quite differently by many people. While some tried to frame the protests as a simple demonstration against electoral fraud, others preferred to contextualize the resistance as alack of having a real vote over the past 30 years under Islamic rule, in addition to the recent election. Some of these differences included those who requested the return to a monarchy and the son of the Shah as the ruler, communists, and the green (neither communist nor supports of the monarchy, but those protesting the alleged rigging
of the elections and Mousavi supporters). At the same time, these groups shared the mutual goal of wanting raise awareness about the injustices committed by the theocratic regime. On June 12, 2009, the theocratic government of the past three decades allowed Iranians to vote for a candidate from an already modiﬁed and pre-selected list. Once elected, the president still wouldn’t have much inﬂuence compared to that of the Supreme Leader, the head of the theocracy. In other words, the votes of 70 million Iranians would count for little amidst the resonating voice of a single man. As the protests continued, many people who had initially favoured
FALL ISSUE 1 2009 Mousavi became more critical of him. More became aware that he remains a member of the ruling elite. Despite being branded a reformist, he is part of the same Islamic regime that justiﬁes acting hiding behind a veil of religion. Many began to argue that a basic principle of democracy is the independence of the state from religious associations. The cry for a secular republic may perhaps be a ﬁrst step. One of the top demands from the movement in Toronto is the freeing of all political prisoners and labour activists in Iran under Ahmadinejad. People must have the right to voice their opinion, to politically organize, and to choose the type of government that they
want without foreign interference. Meanwhile, the Canadian government, along with other Western governments that claim to be “fair and peaceful”, must allow all Iranians ﬂeeing internal repression to seek refuge in their countries. The Toronto protests proved that opposition to the Islamic regime would be seen by millions. It also gave participants real meaning to a slogan that was used by the revolutionary movement in Iran: “Don’t be afraid, we are all in this together.” This article was originally printed in “Nedayeh Mardom”, the ofﬁcial publication of the Afghan-Iranian Youth Network.
Protests against the Ahmadinejad government were ﬁghts for basic democratic rights and human rights, including equality for women and minority groups. Demonstrations outside of Iran were aimed at showing solidarity and support for those inside Iran’s borders, both on the streets and in prison. In Toronto, there were several rallies that attracted thousands, including one in front of Queen’s Park and many outside of Mel Lastman’s Square. However, there was a lot of confusion about how to connect the different protest and how to deﬁne the aims of the movement. A prevalent slogan throughout the early stages of protest, “Where is
The Coup in Honduras: A Tale of Resistance and Repression By Ashley McEachen On September 21, 2009, I received an email from a friend living in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It read: “The legitimate President of Honduras is in Tegucigalpa and I am going to the Brazilian Embassy now”. However, due to a military enforced curfew, he and 30 other youth were silenced and found themselves trapped in a friend’s home just two blocks away from the embassy. The ongoing brutal military repression that has silently permeated Honduras for over 100 days since the coup must not go unnoticed. My friend counts his blessings, proclaiming: “luckily, my neighborhood has not faced such repression, we are in dialogue with the police and we continue to march”. Unfortunately, not every neighborhood is so lucky.
The leader of the National Congress, Roberto Michelleti, replaced the ousted Zelaya. Under Michelleti, the military imposed a curfew on its citizens. Zelaya was unable to return to the nation that many of his supporters still believe he legitimately governs. On September 23, 2009, Mel ﬁnally returned to Honduras and has sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy while thousands of his supporters returned to the streets despite the curfew and threat of violence by the military regime.
The National Front Against the Coup is a grassroots movement led by the people of Honduras to reclaim their political rights, freedom of expression and dignity. The Front has strengthened, continuously hosting peaceful marches, highway blockades, meetings, concerts and creating political art to send the message to the world that the people – the women, the youth and the workers of Honduras – will not be silenced by the military regime. Although optimistic that they can reinstate Mel, the ﬁght to do so has not been without conﬂict. Repression Remains “The systematic violation of human rights in Honduras has increased, the nation has become a vast prison without access to the wounded, tortured; and unable to provide water and food to people who have been arbitrarily imprisoned or detained in stadiums, sport courts, secret prisons, detention centers and military police outposts.” – Juan Almendares, September 22, 2009
The Backstory On June 11, 2009, I traveled to Honduras to pursue research for my Masters thesis at York University. Two weeks after my arrival, on June 28th (the day slated for a vote on the national constitution, the Cuarta Urna), legitimately elected President Manuel Zelaya Rosales “Mel” was violently taken from his home in the middle of the night and exiled from the country by the military. What followed was 100 days of resistance and repression.
We do not want a de facto government
A report by Dr. Juan Almendares, a well-known Honduran doctor, teacher and activist, reveals the ongoing repression of social activists by Michelleti’s military government. Since September 28th, thousands of claims have been made against the military for throwing toxic gas bombs into the homes of children, women and the elderly. Youth activists have been captured
Lida Alizadeh and tortured while human rights advocates face threats of death, torture, rape and detention. Canadian-based NGO Rights Action reports the use of toxic gases being sprayed into the Brazilian embassy harming upwards of 85 people. Almendares has called on the United Nations to send an emergency medical brigade to Honduras to attend to these people, as well as the thousands of endangered anti-coup activists. Almendares and many others in the movement against the coup
needs to show and declare the coup d’état a military coup d’état, call it by that name. With regard to the human rights violations in the last hundred days, those, too, need to be denounced.” Many Hondurans, alongside Mel, are calling on both Canada and the United States to take a more active role in undoing the coup. Shame on Canada Since I am a Canadian student living in Honduras, Canada’s role remains of utmost importance to me. Peter
“The National Front Against the Coup has strengthened, continuously hosting peaceful marches, highway blockades, meetings, concerts and creating political art to send the message to the world that the people of Honduras will not be silenced by the military regime.”
are now referring to the de-facto regime as terrorists guilty of crimes against humanity. Soldiers trained at the School of the Americas are committing these crimes, and their actions are being compared to those carried out under Pinochet. One of my colleagues remarked: “this coup has brought back the worst ghosts of humanity’s past: the cold war and fascism”. Protestors take to the streets marching with signs declaring that Michelleti and CNN are the dictators of Honduras today, upholding a regime based on lies and manipulation. The Role of the US The United States has condemned the coup, although President Obama remains reluctant to ofﬁcially declare it as a coup. In an October 5, 2009 interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, exiled President Zelaya demanded: “the United States
Kent, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, maintains neutral calling for non-violent solutions to the problem, without actively condemning the violence against the people. Meanwhile, Canadian mining corporations (which are awaiting decision by Michelletis government to cancel Zelaya’s recent ban of highly destructive open pit mining projects in Honduras) have been accused of paying their employees to attend pro-coup marches. I call on you, my classmates and my colleagues, to inform yourselves further about the repression that is occurring in the Honduran capital. At a minimum, contact your Member of Parliament to denounce the military coup. For more information, please visit: www.democracynow.org or www. rightsaction.org
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
What is to be Done With Blood on our Hands from Canadian Mining in El Salvador? By Chris Vance On July 3, 2009, the people of El Salvador learned that the Canadian mining corporation, Paciﬁc Rim, had bloodied its hands through the discovery of popular local antimining activist Marcelo Rivera’s mutilated corpse in the Cabañas region after his ‘disappearance’ on June 18, 2009, and assassination by torture soon after.
declaration that their purpose is to violently force the surrender of anti-mining organizers and more neutral community media workers. The National Roundtable on Mining in El Salvador effectively summarized that Paciﬁc Rim would waste 90,000 liters of water per day in the main strategic reservoir while families in one of its targeted towns receive water only once per week.
are given to foreigners and paid at North American wage rates.” El Salvador’s seven million people in a country slightly larger than the size of Lake Ontario makes it the most densely populated in the Americas. The past war for national liberation against USbacked dictatorships between 1980 and 1992 ended with the agreement that multi-party democracy would be established and upheld. Nevertheless, the right-wing unofﬁcially continues tactics of extrajudicial disappearances, torture, and assassinations. rights
Marcelo Rivera’s death was so graphic that in the words of an In addition, according to Canadians informant in the Cabañas region Against Mining in El Salvador, all who spoke with me while I was conducting preliminary “When everyday human ﬁeldwork: “Did you know abuses escalate as they have this the context of Marcelo was chopped up summer in El Salvador in direct In intimidating violence and the pieces thrown into relation to Canadian business in recent years, street a well for dogs to eat? His cheeks were cut open and investment, Canadians are especially demonstrations of 70,000 people then sewn up again”. This noticed for our action or inaction.” over and other forms of is the context of abuses that resistance against reﬂect the general effects of Canadian mining corporations’ 29 Paciﬁc Rim mines would use mining companies, as well as a “a minimum of 211,700 tons of consistently polled 80% of people exploitation. cyanide which in turn would poison opposed to gold mining, all In El Salvador, after years of rivers, underground water reserves, exemplify widespread Salvadoran rejection of Canadian corporate popular mobilizing at the grassroots soil and air”. mining exploitation. level, and despite a so-called “green mining” media campaign by Paciﬁc Even by conventional economic in Canada face the Rim, the government suspended measures, Canadians Against We the Canadian corporation’s mining Mining in El Salvador estimates responsibility of transforming our that “Paciﬁc Rim’s infamous El complicity in structural violence to permits late last year. Dorado mining project will leave active solidarity with Salvadoran Since then, instead of more freely only 2% of the potential $800 communities struggling against self-determining their own land million it intends to earn in revenue Canadian mining exploitation. uses, Salvadorans have been to El Salvador. confronted with legal proceedings The jobs created by the company Comparable imperatives to action by Paciﬁc Rim to extort $77 million are temporary, poorly paid and have also been raised in Toronto. in compensation from their federal unsafe. While Salvadorans are In recent years, the Tyendinaga Committee–Toronto government. This is combined provided with menial jobs paid Support with systematic, gross human rights at local wage rates, management, has been involved in supporting violations, including Paciﬁc Rim’s technical and engineering positions the Tyendinaga Mohawks (near
Belleville, Ontario), against openpit gravel-mining on their sovereign territory. As another example, the Latin American Solidarity Network– Toronto condemned the recent coup against Zelaya in Honduras where
Committee: http://www.ocap.ca/ supporttmt or support.tmt@gmail. com. The Tyendinaga Support Committee is also on Facebook. Approach afﬁliated groups within the Latin American Solidarity Network – Toronto. A central contact is email@example.com and the Network is on facebook. If you are a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), contact the International Solidarity Committee through the
Ashley McEachen rallies in favour of the illegitimate dictatorship were ﬁnanced in part by mining corporations. When everyday human rights abuses escalate as they have this summer in El Salvador in direct relation to Canadian business investment, Canadians are especially noticed for our action or inaction. Act now! Here are some ways to get involved:
Ontario Division ofﬁce at 416 2999739. Answer the Oct 13 action alert by groups in Canada and the U.S. to call Paciﬁc Rim’s C.E.O Thomas Shrake and demand that Paciﬁc Rim withdraw its lawsuit and respect the will of the Salvadoran people by closing the mines (604689-1976 – leave a message with the corporate secretary; for a call script go to cispes.org).
Contact the Tyendinaga Support
News in Brief: Canada and International By Carmen Teeple Hopkins
Proposed BC law: $10,000 fine and 6 months jail time for Anti-Olympic Signs On Thursday, October 8, 2009, a law was proposed in BC parliament that would allow authorities to enter homes to take anti-Olympic material and signs, also potentially setting a $10,000 fine and up to six months in jail for anti-Olympic signs. If this law is passed, it would be an amendment to the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act. The BC Civil Liberties Associations claims that the definitions of what constitutes anti-Olympic material is general and vague. Several critics of the proposed law worry that free speech in Vancouver is at risk. Some anti-Olympic activists have already commented on the surveillance and harassment of family members and friends by Olympic Security officials.
Montreal 4 hr-strike On Wednesday October 7, 2009, more than 5,000 city of Montreal workers went on strike for 4 hours. Michael Parent, president
of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 301 led the striking marchers who ended outside of Montreal’s City Hall, where contract negotiations are being held. City workers have been without a contract since 2007 and sources say that current negotiations have reached a standstill. The half-day strike was organized to put pressure on the negotiations. The Oct 7 action marked the second time in two months that city workers have gone on strike.
Ottawa Museum of Civilization Workers On-strike Over 400 workers at the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum in Ottawa, ON, have been on strike since September 21, 2009. These workers are represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada local 70396. A return to bargaining table negotiations ended after only a few hours on Thursday, October 8, 2009. The union is demanding wage parity with other museums and job security. Both museums have remained open during the strike and their websites encourage members of the public to continue visiting but to expect
delays as a result of picket lines. The museums have hired temporary non-union workers to replace strikers, and other staff and managers continue to work to compensate for the striking workers. Members of the public will have to cross picket lines in order to enter the museums.
Resistance to G20 Summit in Pittsburgh On Thursday, September 24, 2009, activists gathered outside the G20 summit in Pittsburgh to express discontent to the economic policies being discussed. An organizing group, the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project, made links between capitalism, patriarchy, racism, imperialism and homophobia. Activists were met by tear gas from police. Over the course of 2 days, approximately 200 activists were arrested and many claimed that police brutality was a major problem.
13th annual March: Paris
On Saturday October 10, 2009, activists gathered in Paris, France at metro Jourdain at 2pm for the 13th annual Existans, a march
for the rights of transgendered and intersex people. Some of the demands included: the de-pathologization of trans identities and being taken off lists as a mental illness (such as the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, or DSM), recognition that transphobia operates as a form of discrimination, easy access to a civil status change, without forced sterilization, a 100% reimbursement of medical costs related to transitioning without condition, including operations needing to be done abroad, stopping operations for intersex children whose lives are not in danger, without clear consent from the intersex child/ adult. For more information please contact: Le collectif Existrans (firstname.lastname@example.org or http:// www.existrans.org)
2 Indigenous leaders killed in Guatemala On Sunday, September 27, 2009, a Qeqchi leader was shot and killed on land that the community of Las Nubes has claimed. A branch of Manitoba’s HudBay Minterals, Compañia Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN)
also claims ownership of the land. On Monday, September 28, 2009, another Indigenous leader was shot and killed on a bus by CGN private security attempting to forcibly remove families from their territory. Others were left wounded by the shootings. Thousands are demanding that HudBay leave the area immediately.
Coup in Honduras: Calling for Zelaya’s Return A recent poll indicates that a majority of Hondurans want to see Zelaya back in power in Honduras. The June 28, 2009 coup d’etat that saw Michelleti seize power from Zelaya has resulted in widespread resistance to Michelleti’s regime. In a recent poll, among those who responded pro or con in relation to the coup, 75% were against and 25% were for. These statistics were gathered before Michelleit’s September 29, 2009 “state of siege”. Furthermore, of those who responded pro or con to state repression of resistance, 89% were firmly against state political repression of anti-coup resistance.
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Features Bhopal 2010: How Many Years Will it Take to Get Justice in Bhopal? several smaller ones
By Diana Katgara
ecember 3, 2009 will mark the twenty-ﬁfth anniversary of the Union Carbide (Dow Chemicals Ltd.) gas disaster in Bhopal, India. For survivors of this disaster and the subsequent water contamination caused by the company’s unethical and ill-conceived practices, it has been 25 years of perseverance and courage in the face of corporate crime. Twenty-ﬁve years of ﬁghting for the right to life, dignity, and justice. Like most small cities around the world, on the night of December 2, 1984, Bhopal was relatively quiet in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. At around midnight on December 3, 1984, as families were tucked into bed, there was an explosion at the Union Carbide plant. Within minutes 27 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) and other toxic gases, including hydrogen cyanide, began to spew out of the chemical plant owned by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) USA--now a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company--and operated by Union Carbide Ltd., poisoning half a million people.
Possible corroding material in pipelines and poor maintenance of the plant
Failure of several safety systems (due to poor maintenance and regulations)
Deﬁcient stafﬁng policy
Negligence on the part of UCC and the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh
Despite these obvious ﬂaws, UCC denied any negligence and insisted that the disaster was an act of sabotage by a disgruntled worker. For those who survived the ﬁrst three days of intense horror, the story continues with the ongoing health implications caused by the effect of gas exposure that even now impacts the local population and a new generation of children born after the disaster. Of the half a million people exposed to the deadly gas that night, over 8,000
heard about is the ongoing water contamination. UCC continued its destruction of life and land through the contamination of ground water by the toxic waste left behind. The drinking water in the communities surrounding the factory has been contaminated by toxic waste that Union Carbide dumped in sacks around the factory area, which seeped into the ground and ground water after years of monsoons. In fact, some of the most vulnerable populations who have no other access to water have been forced to consume this contaminated water for their daily needs for the last 25 years. These are amongst some of the same people who were initially affected by the gas leak in 1984. There are also those who moved to the area surrounding the abandoned factory after the gas disaster who continue to get sick. Hence, the bad business practices of UCC in the 1980s continue to claim the lives of Bhopalis, and hold the same fate in store for generations who are not yet born. For these families who live in communities that are only able to access water contaminated by Union Carbides’s toxic waste, the consequences are horrendous. There has shown to be higher incidents of congenital anomalies in children born to gas exposed parents and families who are forced to use contaminated water. One of the ongoing demands of Bhopali survivors is to increase research on the effects of the gas and contaminated water.
“Although Bhopal holds the uninvited
title of being the location of the world’s worst industrial disaster, it’s not at the centre of the world stage.”
The accounts of that night are horrifying; families began to run out of their homes, mothers and sons separated from fathers and daughters in the panic stricken crowds. People were foaming at the mouth and dying in the streets, their bodies trampled in the chaos, community members didn’t know where to go or what do. They were being gassed in the safest place they knew: their community and their homes. As the world watched in shock, what would be the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster began to unfold. Today, almost two and a half decades since that ghastly night in December, Bhopalis continue to raise their voices so that the rest of the world does not forget this catastrophe.
died in the ﬁrst three days. 20,000 more have died as a result of the gas exposure that night, and a whole new generation continues to be affected. Today, an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 continue to suffer chronic illness from the exposure. Although Bhopal holds the uninvited title of being the location of the world’s worst industrial disaster, it’s not at the centre of the world stage. If people have heard about the situation there, it’s the 1984 gas disaster that comes to mind. What most people haven’t
Bhopali survivors and activists contend that the Right to Life is being violated. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) studies indicate that the consumption of that water is linked to morbidity. They contend that the lack of ongoing research into the effects of the gas disaster and the use of contaminated water on people’s
Diana Katgara Those who demand for justice in Bhopal come in all ages health results in them not getting adequate medical treatment for the consequence that the poisons have. Instead they are given pills at the government hospitals, a treatment which has been ongoing for 24 years. Without more research on the effects of the gas and water, effective treatment is difﬁcult. The current situation in Bhopal is a human rights issue. In 2004, Amnesty International put forth a report called “Clouds of Injustice: Bhopal Disaster 20 Years On”. In this report, Amnesty outlines the rights of Bhopalis, which have been denied since the disaster. The report documents several human rights abuses including: the denial of the right to life for thousands of people who died in the initial aftermath of the disaster and thousands more who have died as a result of exposure since the disaster; the denial of the right to a remedy, and to a decent standard of living; and their right to live in a safe environment that is free of contaminated drinking water. In
The plant location (built near a densely populated area, instead of the other side of town where the company had been offered land)
To learn more about what Bhopalis are struggling for and what you can do to support this struggle for justice, visit: www.bhopal.net www.studentsforbhopal.org
Using hazardous chemicals (MIC) instead of less dangerous ones Storing these chemicals in large tanks instead of
However, speaking about the devastation is only part of the story of the Bhopal chemical disaster. Through this story also runs the hope and strength that Bhopalis have, in ﬁghting for their right to life and for achieving justice with regard to Dow Chemicals Ltd. being held responsible for the devastation that their subsidiary caused. Along with supporters who are connected through an organization called the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) survivors continue to raise their voices to let the world know what’s really going on behind the discourse of development and ﬁght for health care, clean up of the factory site, economic rehabilitation, and for Dow Chemical Ltd. to be held liable in an Indian court of law. Bhopalies ﬁght not only for justice in their lives but also to ensure that such an event never takes place again, a campaign they refer to as ‘No More Bhopals!’. According to gas survivor Rashida Bee, who lost ﬁve gas-exposed family members to cancers, “We are aware that the day we succeed in holding Dow Chemical liable for the continuing disaster in Bhopal it will be good news for ordinary people all over the world. From that day chemical corporations will think twice before producing and peddling poisons and putting proﬁts before the lives and health of people”.
How could this happen? It began with a chemical plant that was improperly designed by UCC in an attempt to cut costs. It continued with UCC using inferior technology, lax operating procedures, and maintenance and safety standards resulting in the inevitable disaster. On that night of December 3, 1984, none of the six safety systems were operational, resulting in this avoidable disaster. A few of the deciding factors that caused this outcome were the following: •
addition, the lack of access to clean water and the lack of economic rehabilitation schemes for those who can’t work the labour intensive jobs, which they would have been able to if they hadn’t been made sick, deny Bhopalis the right to have a decent life.
Diana Katgara Bhopal Mein Insaaf Nahin tho, Rasayan ka Vyapar (No Justice, No Business)
To get connected and ﬁnd out how you can support Bhopalis email: email@example.com
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Environmental Justice: Race, Displacement and Land Public Statement By No One Is Illegal Vancouver
n light of the devastating reality of environmental destruction globally, there is an urgent and critical need to expose the root causes of environmental injustice as stemming from systems of domination. Predatory capitalist expansion and imperialist militarization has devastated the lands, resources, and communities of primarily people of colour locally and globally. Toxic industries are largely located on Indigenous lands and closest to people of colour communities. While people of colour communities are disproportionately victims of environmental degradation, they are often scapegoated as responsible for the environmental crisis and excluded from the leadership of the environmental movement.
Colonization as Environmental Destruction Environmental degradation, with climate change as one obvious manifestation, is intimately linked to the forced displacement and migration of people. By the year 2050, an estimated 1 billion people will be displaced from their homes because of global warming and state-sponsored climate terrorism. Populations of the global South and Indigenous communities in the North have been ravaged by centuries of colonial-corporate theft and environmentallydestructive “development”. Colonization brought with it not only the displacement and genocide of peoples across the world but also an exploitative view of the natural world. Early colonial imagery of nature presented it as something to be tamed, conquered, and exploited; in the same way that indigenous peoples were. The colonial project centred on gaining access to natural resources in order to fuel the growing capitalist industry. This continues today. For example the top ﬁve mining companies of the world are run out of the UK, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the USA (with many of their headquarters in Vancouver). The mining industry is responsible for causing severe environmental devastation including loss of food supplies, ﬂooding of entire communities, releasing lethal concentrations of acid into water supplies, and displacing millions of people. Other industries such as ﬁshing, cattle and dairy, farming, oil, and lumber are also responsible for displacement, the destruction of entire ecosystems, emission of toxic substances, and intensifying deadly natural disasters such as landslides, hurricanes, and ﬂoods. Within displaced populations, Indigenous people--particularly women and children--are the most affected as their resources for survival, such as subsistence farming and hunting, rapidly disappear and they are driven to urban slums or refugee camps. For
example, in Canada, the Inuit, who have lived harmoniously with nature in the Arctic North, are now facing reduction of their stocks of walrus, seals, and whales, and the erosion of their coastline. In Mexico, farmers struggle to grow food as highly subsided US corn is dumped into their economy.
reality, much of China’s pollution is generated by the North’s demand for cheap manufactured goods. Approximately 30% of industry in China is foreign-owned by companies such as Wal-Mart. Also, greenhouse gas emissions are 1.2 tonnes per capita in India compared with 23 tonnes in the US and 18 tonnes in Canada.
One o f t h e m o s t significant ways in which racism is perpetuated within the environmental movement is the invisibility and marginalization of those most directly affected by environmental Yet the colonial and racist underpinnings of the nation-state Within the Western world, certain degradation. Indeed, in stereotypic the environmental system are revealed by the lack of environmental movements propose fashion response of those states that in reality restricting immigration in order movement often traces its origins have the most resources (as a result to control population growth. to the efforts of visionary white men to protect the natural world from industrialization, Within displaced populations, Indigenous people-rather than acknowledging particularly women and children--are the most affected the historic ties that most people of colour communities as their resources for survival, such as subsistence globally have had to the farming and hunting, rapidly disappear and they are natural world. They readily ignore the wealth of traditional driven to urban slums or refugee camps. knowledge that land-based peoples have on how to live of theft) to protect environmental The most well known example harmoniously with the land and refugees. Indeed, these people are of the pervasive nature of such how to appropriately steward the not even legally recognized as discourse is in the 1990s when a land. refugees. The borders of Western large anti-immigrant bloc within countries have remained tightly the Sierra Club pushed for a ballot The mainstream environmental guarded against refugees of all initiative supporting a reduction movement has also perpetuated a stripes, and particularly so against of net immigration as part of mythology of the environment as those who have been displaced by a “comprehensive population separate from humans (the man vs. nature myth). In Canada this has policy”. environmental destruction. often meant the pitting of Indigenous This is despite the fact that such In addition to promoting racism, peoples against environmentalists states hold the most responsibility such measures obscure the reality as environmentalists become for the global environmental that the fundamental cause of complicit in the displacement of crisis and hence the creation of environmental degradation is not Indigenous peoples in order to soaring numbers of environmental overpopulation of the Earth by support “conservation efforts” refugees. For example, Australia, humans but overpopulation of that ignore the ways in which which has one of the highest rates of the Earth by pillaging state and Indigenous peoples relate to carbon emissions per capita in the corporate interests! While policing the land. For example anti-fur world, refuses to open its borders borders, such measures regulate activists do not recognize that to citizens of Tuvalu, a Polynesian women’s reproductive choice by non-commercial trapping is one of island facing catastrophe from blaming women--predominantly the main sources of livelihood for poor indigenous and racialized Indigenous peoples in the North. rising sea levels. women--for having too many Environmental Justice and Racialized peoples in the First children. Capitalism World are also victimized by this ideology, as witnessed in the handling of Hurricane Katrina. Most disgustingly, Katrina facilitated the government’s injection of funding into compliant NGOs to legitimize the current world order under the veneer of charity and awarded corporate contracts for “reconstruction”. Katrina made clear that beyond state lines, we are still thoroughly crisscrossed by borders of race, language, religion, gender, class, age, ability, sexual identity--borders which continue to be socially, politically, culturally, and violently enforced so as to divide us and discipline us into believing that some lives are worth less than others.
Greening of Hate Unfortunately, within the environmental movement, we have seen a rise in the “greening of hate”. This ideology blames environmental degradation on poor populations of colour. For example, the rhetoric of governments and many environmental organizations in the North place the blame of excessive CO2 and other pollutants on countries from the South such as India and China. This is done in order to shift the blame from the real culprits to those countries that have been exploited by the imperialist project for centuries. In
The ideology that capitalism and colonialism can co-exist with genuine social and environmental justice is disproven when we recognize that it is a social, economic, and political system that is fundamentally and necessarily rooted in exploitation and expansion. Sustainable development and the creation of ‘green industries’ within capitalism continue to remain heavily resource-extractive and costing the lives of millions of people. The production of bio-fuel, for instance, is directly linked to the food crisis in the global South. We reject the developmentalist framework that guides so much of economic policy, including in Third World states. While the impoverishment and destabilization of the Third World has been one of the primary consequences of First World imperialism, so is the imposition of an environmentallydestructive capitalist social organization (a.k.a. “liberal democracy”) in the Third World. Such development is not designed to alleviate the poverty and inequality of the Third World visà-vis the First World. It is designed to give corporations access to land, natural resources, and cheap labour; to grant power to the state to police and regulate human beings as economic units and Mother Earth as a commodity; and to alienate people from their connections to the Earth, to themselves, and to each other. It is absolutely not meant to develop people’s ability to build self-sufﬁcient and self-determining communities in harmony--indeed in reverence--of that which gives us life and sustains us day by day, the Earth itself. Conclusion In our struggles for social and environmental justice, we must insist on striving for a holistic understanding of issues and the complex ways in which they are interconnected; it is this understanding that must ground our visions for the future. We demand that residency status be given to all migrants who have been displaced by environmental destruction. We are speaking especially to First World states that have through violence and exploitation reaped the most beneﬁts from--and therefore bear the most responsibility for--the pillage of our Earth. We believe that Indigenous women must be placed at the centre of the environmental movement as they are the most impacted by environmental degradation and they also possess generations of knowledge on how to protect the Earth. We desire a world where people can move freely and no one is forcibly displaced. We envision a future of joyful and truly sustainable communities that are held together not by domination, but by a deep connection to each other and to the Earth.
Doug Minkler: www.dminkler.com
This article is a reprinted public statement from No One Is Illegal Vancouver. You can visit their website at: http://noii-van.resist.ca
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Beyond Binaries: Locating the Environmental Refugee By Nathan Prier
ulture/nature. Human/nonhuman. Binaries supported by centuries, perhaps millennia, of tradition in Western thought, and reformulated in the modern era into a multitude of legal, political, and social knowledges that position the environment to be something out there, beyond our immediate involvement in its production and reproduction. Certain strains of the environmental movement have been noted to hold up this dualistic conception that humans are somehow apart from nature. Nature in this line of thought is something to be ‘saved’, ‘protected’, made to ‘balance’ with humanity; it is something we’ve ‘lost touch with’ and something to ‘redeem’. This is no space for a launch into the very rich theoretical debate around grasping the concept of nature. However, sufﬁce it to say that the consideration of power relations and how they structure relationships to the non-human in different times and places can often be ignored in the variously justice-oriented, yet commodiﬁed and manipulative use of notions such as ‘sustainability’ and ‘green’. Phrasing the environmental question differently can ask “what are we sustaining” in a way that highlights the ways that speciﬁc ecological relationships have developed, and how those are infused with very social p o w e r relations. More so, it c a n bring out
dimensions of responsibility that had gone unconsidered when focusing on environmental problems as such, making environmental justice not so separable from social justice. A well-worn political ecology maxim is, “ecology is always constituted through power.” Following this, those struggling for a healthy environment (the ecological relationships that make up the space of living, which can spread from the immediately local to the far-ﬂung connectivities that help make up the global) should always look at those
Artist Rini Templeton depicts resistance against state-sanctioned violence during the reconstruction of poor neighborhoods in Mexico City, 1985, post-earthquake. governance over the last two decades. Images of Bangladeshis ﬂeeing ﬂooded plains, or Salvadoran farmers seeking refuge in the Southern United States, still unable to return to Salvadoran ﬁelds strategically laid waste by aerial herbicides during that country’s civil war during the 1980s, come to mind. More recently, there has been news that the Carteret Islands, off Papua New Guinea, will become the ﬁrst case of full abandonment due to rising sea levels induced by globally warmer temperatures. And perhaps closer to home, in a process with hundreds of historical precedents nationwide, Cree ﬂeeing the devastation of their lands in Northern Alberta and British Columbia by bitumen tar sands petroleum operations, arriving in nearby cities or ﬂeeing to adjacent reserves with soaring cancer rates.
“the burdens of an untenable environment tend to fall on the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, the most disempowered.”
power relationships that made that environment. Who deﬁnes the land, air, and water, and how do they deﬁne it? What histories of colonization, racism, patriarchy, or other human dominations are written onto the landscape? And, for the sake of this speciﬁc rant, who gets displaced when life becomes untenable in a given place? The notion of environmental refugees or environmental migration has gained currency in policy b u z z circles at multiple levels of
Rini Templeton:http://riniart.org Artist Rini Templeton’s interpretation of resistance against eviction and displacement after an earthquake hit Mexico City in 1985
The concept seems pretty simple: the burdens of an untenable environment tend to fall on the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, the most disempowered. Those forced to leave a place, due to immediate devastation (like ﬂooding) or longer-term change (like desertiﬁcation or rising sea levels) are often those without the resources and power to set the terms of not only the production of an environment, but the way in which environment itself is conceived. Perhaps this helps explain why such a seemingly basic concept--if people cannot live with basic dignity in an area, they will leave when the opportunity arises-has not integrated itself whatsoever into our own immigration and refugee system. Most immigration and refugee systems on the globe still uphold a notion of state sovereignty when conceptualizing whether “they” should be granted access to “here”. If the state cannot protect you, goes the logic, that is the beginning of deﬁning a “legitimate” refugee. Immigration by other means tends to follow lines of legitimization based on class and race provisions that are made legible in state balance sheets deﬁning “proper immigration levels”. “Environmental” circumstances, curiously, never ﬁgure into the calculations of a state’s ability to provide safe and adequate conditions for its citizens--even if, as mentioned before, environmental migration is, by every measure, a burden placed on those already attacked by any number of other
marginalizations, be it poverty, racialization, or gender inequity. Take the notion of natural disasters, for example. It is said that 96% of deaths due to “natural” disasters occur in the “developing” world, that lovely moniker for that vague space of the world that supposedly hasn’t ﬁgured out development yet. Even so, bring that same tilted balance back into an analysis of a great bastion of development, the United States, and one wonders why two people are dead in welloff exurban Los Angeles after the some of the most ferocious wildﬁres on record this summer, while 4081 died in New Orleans waiting for relief during Katrina. Los Angeles County will rebound in style, with public money aiding reconstruction, while much of New Orleans remains abandoned, many of its (poor and racialized) inhabitants given one-way tickets and encouraged never to return. Taken in this light, there is nothing natural about natural disasters. That
corporations (as one example) to poison landscapes with impunity in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, to say nothing of their role in displacing Indigenous peoples within Canada’s borders. While the Harper government has sought to stir up a hysterical strategic storm around “bogus” refugee claimants since its election to government, it has staunchly defended the trading rights of Canadian corporate interests in international fora, with little recognition of the immediate connectivity between toxic living environments and displaced populations. The rejiggering of our already punitive and restrictive immigration system by the same government that is actively undermining the most skeletal of international climate change agreements, occurring at a time when various international panels are suggesting one billion people could be displaced by the effects of rapidly shifting climate patterns, comes as no surprise. While environments are constituted
“The inseparability of environmental justice from social justice speaks to moving beyond binary conceptions of nature/culture, human/non-human, and recognizing the degrees to which all landscapes are infused with histories of power and oppression.”
is not to suggest there aren’t nonhuman elements at play, but the disastrous element of a “natural” disaster is more a question of long histories of inequity, oppression, and neglect than the convergence of air masses or the moisture content of forests. So even if we are to accept the basic principles of state sovereignty and citizenship (as barriers to the mobility of humans) that guide our immigration system, wouldn’t another state’s inability to mitigate environmental inequity, unwillingness to prevent and intervene in environmental calamity, or active encouragement of environmental persecution together form a justiﬁable rationale for open immigration? The Canadian state, performing poorly in the ranks on almost any environmental indicator, would seem to be the last to acknowledge degraded “environmental” conditions as a form of persecution, as a denial of the right to health or the right to subsistence. Those “rights” are placed far lower on the rights hierarchy than the rights of property and contract in transnational legal arenas anyhow, which not coincidentally has allowed Canadian mining
through power (and this statement extends well beyond imperialist power), the bodies affected by them, poisoned, displaced, and further marginalized, are managed as threats and controlled accordingly. The idea of the environmental refugee is one of the easiest concepts to grasp--and, if climate change predictions are right, will in the near future be a booming population-but at the same time this category may appear subject to a limiting statist notion of obligation and justice which attempts to perform the trick of separating “the natural” into a void of power relations. The inseparability of environmental justice from social justice speaks to moving beyond binary conceptions of nature/culture, human/nonhuman, and recognizing the degrees to which all landscapes are infused with histories of power and oppression. The very human content of “environmental” issues forces one to remove oneself from understandings of the natural as something outside of ourselves to be saved, but as a living landscape where human inequity is an indivisible part of the struggle for healthier ecological relationships.
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
? t a Wh
The “Left” can Discriminate?
Dealing with Internal Dynamics amongst Community Organizations
Interview By Carmen Teeple Hopkins Janet Romero identiﬁes as a queer, working class Latina woman activist/performer who has been a member of several community organizations including Latina Lingua and the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre (TRCC). More recently, she has been part of the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (TWB) community for over ﬁve years. Has gender-based, race-based or other kinds of discrimination (class, sexuality, ability, etc) shaped your politics, your identity, or your relationship to organizing?
a person of colour, not because there was a class issue. I feel like that is the hardest conversation to have because not enough of it gets talked about. I ﬁnd that to be one of the more frustrating pieces.
Discrimination is why I feel like I needed to break out of how I was being raised in mainstream society. From a very young age I remember being treated differently than my brothers who were three years younger than me. I remember always being angered by it, which inﬂuenced why I needed to follow this path. When I came to Canada, at the age of seven, racism surfaced. I remember being very aware of a racial and language divide. It came in terms of not looking like the other kids at school as well. To this day, my parents speak English, but it’s limited. A lot of my responsibility came to translate for them and what that meant.
I would say in terms of groups, things often get avoided with jokes. If we’re talking about race, speciﬁcally within communities of colour, where somehow it becomes okay to make fun of another group of colour because we are all people of colour, it gets seen as not really being racism, but it is. It’s challenging to tackle those things. Because we get lumped into a people of colour group, it’s assumed we can do no wrong onto each other. When I hear racist jokes in people of colour spaces, I feel like I don’t always know what to say but I have to say something.
study and read constantly, and to engage in different things within that dialogue, and through growing up in North America. What are some techniques for dealing with internal discrimination within groups? One of the things, I think as hard as it is, is dialogue among any group. At the TWB, we have tried to incorporate this on a daily basis; we have discussions around, for example, the kind of books that we carry. And to incorporate, if possible, (because ﬁnancially it can be difﬁcult to do), anti-oppression training. To make sure that the person who’s doing it is the right person is another challenge in that kind of work. I feel like anti-oppression work can often become very therapeutic for people involved, and it loses its value in terms of it being an anti-oppression tool. For example, we talk about how oppression affects us, and in some ways can have a more proactive approach to it, taking it
every month. I’ve been part of groups where checking-in is a very important thing, and not just the kind of checking where you say, “I’m ﬁne”. But a check-in that is truly about what you’re bringing to that space at that point. So if you just had a really shitty thing happen to you for example, and what you’re bringing to the group, in that moment, is the only thing you can really think of
“When I hear racist jokes in people of colour spaces, I feel like I don’t always know what to say but I have to say something.” so you’re not thinking about the meeting. I think check-ins open up the dialogue for conversations around anti-oppression. To just to be able to come to a space and say, “I’m actually not ok, I need to be here today but this thing happened to me today so my brain is not there”. Then maybe that can become part of a larger discussion.
The things that happened, I just didn’t have the language to describe racism to them, or issues around class or gender. It became this thing that was so visible to me. I didn’t have a way of communicating that, but it was deﬁnitely based on race and class. We lived in a working class neighbourhood, but there was the side that was more upper working class and those differences were noticeable in the way that kids would dress for picture day, for example. Where you notice, “okay, these people deﬁnitely have more money”. My coming out was another time of my life when that pushed me even more into organizing, and the need to have a say in the way things happen, and however the organizing looks. So absolutely, all those identities or pieces that I identify with, dictated my activism, my organizing and the work that I do or where I choose to put my energies. How have you seen group members avoid dealing with discrimination within groups? What have been some of the results? Racism tends to come up more often, I think because it’s the most visible. I feel like we have more language to talk about race because it’s the thing that people most visibly see. When it comes to issues of class, for example, it goes so unnoticed because people will associate it with being about race or being about gender instead of really acknowledging that this is an issue about class. Even though all those issues come up, I feel like we don’t have enough of a dialogue about it and it gets dismissed. You know, that thing happened to you because you’re queer or
Neal Jennings The Toronto Women’s Bookstore is not only a bookstore, but an organization committed to dealing with internal power dynamics and oppressions And then I know people respond with, “you always have a problem with this so of course you have a problem with this”… This can be within a group of fairly progressive people. I’m always surprised when it comes from people that I think should know better. But I also come from a place of privilege because I have the language for it, I work from a place where I’m constantly being challenged to look at these things and have conversations about it. There’s always this piece of it, where I’m conscious about that piece of privilege that I carry with me having had the opportunity to
further than just a discussion that happens within a workshop of 10 people. How would you take that further within a group? If a group had an anti-oppression training session, how would this group maintain this type of training through its existence? More than one training is important, but I think that as far as the training, [it is also important] to ask for guidelines to get ideas on how to take it further. This could be anything from having a list of readings, for example, that the group is going to commit to doing
[Another thing that I ﬁnd within that,] especially when you’re working within a group whose mandate is so politically heavy, is that it’s also important to take that out and do something fun, so that you actually get to know each other outside of that political piece that you do together. So it can be beneﬁcial if you go to the park together and play on the swings, or you go for a walk, or you all have food together. Because I feel like it can get so heavy, or that people burn-out, or that people don’t come back, because they know that the next time you meet it’s going to be the same kind of heavy.
I think fun makes a big difference in the morale. Ultimately that’s the concern for a lot of folks, just the morale of the group. If it’s not fun, then it just makes the work so much harder. And the work is already very difﬁcult. If we’re only doing that, then we’re going to burn-out. Do you think that discrimination coming from outside of the group can affect internal dynamics of the group? If so, can you give an example of how that’s impacted an organization? Absolutely. I think that all people that have come into activism or organizing in any kind of way come from a place where they have experienced discrimination. Discrimination inevitably ﬁlters into the group, either because you bring it as an individual, or because it’s something that is happening in the world--we’re not outside of that. We’re a part of those things, so I think that at some point it’s inevitable [for] things that are more pronounced, that are happening within the world, to affect the group. Not everyone is going to be affected evenly and those that are more affected will feel it quite differently than those that are just looking on. And even though it can be argued who is affected more by it, it will affect the whole group. So whether it affects my personal relationship with one person within the group, or whether it affects everyone, if it affects my relationship with one person, it will affect everyone in the group, even though it more directly affects the two of us. Everyone else to some degree is witnessing that that’s happening within the larger dynamics of the group. For example, the TWB still gets calls around the Israel/Palestine issue; people ask us where we stand politically. That is a perfect example of something that is outside, that impacts the organization. Even though it’s something that’s happening outside, people who are part of the TWB vary on the spectrum of where they stand on the issue. We’ve lost customers, but we’ve also gained customers, and have gained a population of people who maybe before didn’t know what the TWB stands for and I think in some ways this has given people an opportunity to partake in a political and active action that is not so obvious. What advice would you give to newly forming organizations to create a positive and strong internal group dynamic? Anti-oppression training, as I mentioned, would be ideal. It would also be useful to maybe begin with a list of readings or things that you can read together that speaks to the idea of what the group is around anti-oppression and around other issues that are covered with that. It’s not about having the answer, but to even just have a conversation about the fact that when difﬁcult things come
CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Socialism and the Environment in Cuba: A Debate to Question and Consider By Yuri Yarin
he year 1989 marks a difﬁcult period in the history of Cuban people. However, it also marks the beginning of Cuba’s transition to becoming an ecological society. On many counts prior to 1989, Cuba emulated the economic strategy of the Soviet Union. Cuba was integrated into the economy as a sugar producer, for which it received a price that was ﬁve times higher than the global price and in return received subsidized oil and heavy machinery. Since 1959, Cuba has become a socialist country and has enjoyed tremendous development due to the favourable trade conditions it had with the Soviet Union.
down the same path. However, throughout Cuba’s history this path meant terrible ecological costs as much of the island had been deforested for the purposes
“Cuba sets the example by asserting the environment as an important element of concern within a socialist state.”
of creating more land for growing sugar. This meant that a good deal of the soil would be harmed. Cuba is almost completely surrounded by ocean, which means strong winds often blow that contain salt that ends up in the soil. If trees,
Unfortunately, the Soviet Union’s society, though it claimed to be socialist, consisted of two castes: the working people and the bureaucracy that reaped the beneﬁts. To a large degree, the bureaucracy organized itself in interest blocs around particular industries from which they beneﬁted and which they uncritically developed to increase and maintain their privileges. As a result, large industries wreaked havoc on the environment (i.e. agriculture around the Aral sea). Cuba’s socialism did not go in the same direction as the Soviet Union and an entrenched cast of bureaucrats never developed with the same capacity. This is why Cuba took on such a different path from the USSR after their relations broke down in 1989; however, organizing itself in economic synchronization with the Soviets meant that it was going to do ecological harm to its environment. Before 1959 Cuba was primarily known for the production of sugar and secondary products (i.e. rum). After 1959 Cuba continued
of the soil and desertiﬁcation of arable land are major problems peasants and farmers have to face around the world due to such practices of agriculture. As mentioned, the years following the economic crisis of 1989 changed things signiﬁcantly. In 1989 the favourable trade relations with the Soviet bloc of countries broke down and Cuba was left almost completely isolated. However, in 1989, Cuba was not the country it was in 1959. Cuba still has one of the best medical systems in the world with a life expectancy of 77 years, almost no illiteracy, and with 2% of the population of Latin America, it is home to
project is one of the most extensive in the world and provides a majority of the vegetables required for urban residents cutting down on the need for the transportation of these goods. However, Cuba still faces a large amount of difﬁculties. One of the biggest problems for Cuba is that it still needs to import many goods on the market, including some of its food. In order to accomplish this, Cuba must export something, and the good that it sells to the rest of the world is tourism. Unfortunately, the tourism industry is very harmful to the environment. Tourists who come to enjoy the beaches for one or two weeks don’t care what happens after that. The damage they leave behind through littering and energy use has to be borne by Cubans.
RED & GREEN UNITE!
Marcelo Montecino Economically iolated in 1989, Cuba was forced change its policies and now sets an example by asserting the environment as an important element of concern within a socialist state which add protection, are cut down the soil will become damaged. In addition, Cuba had been using chemical pesticides and herbicides that would often harm farm workers. The intensity of such agricultural practises often causes large tracts of land to lose their productive capacity and take years to restore. Salinization
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11% of the scientists. Cuba’s achievements for its size and history as a former Latin American colony can take pages to list. Thus, Cuba embarked on one of the most important ecological series of experiments in history. Cuba, facing a severe economic crisis, pledged its commitment to the environment as a top priority. Since this happened, signiﬁcant progress has been made, particularly in the sector of agriculture.
The old formula of exporting sugar and importing chemicals and fuel for growing that sugar along with food would no longer works. Cuba has moved toward independence of the import of fuel. This means that Cuba has to become much more self-sufﬁcient in its food production mostly through organic farming methods, referred to in Cuba as agroecology. In order to combat the fuel shortage much of the country’s people now use bicycles in place of cars and buses.
However, a threat to the environment also often comes from within. Many Cubans are not convinced that the environment should be a number one issue and emphasize immediate economic beneﬁts in their work and planning. Thus, the ministry of the environment, despite its many successes, still faces a lot of difﬁculties. Cuba’s initiative in protecting its environment from being economically dependent on fuel
environment and there was even policy to implement it; however, because of Stalin’s policies to keep the control of industries in the hands of bureaucratic elites, the environmental policies were kept on a back burner. This is precisely why the Cuban example is so important. The Cubans show us that it is possible to create a country where the environment is important, not just in rhetoric, but in practise. The key to the successes of Cuba lie in the democratization of the work place. One of the most important things Cuba did on its farms which were previously run by managers was to allow the workers to control the running of the farm. Although some workers opted to keep things traditional, the workers who follow the agroecological principles are proving to be more successful. The truth is that we cannot expect everyone in this country to become environmentalists, but when the debate comes up and the people are faced with a well reasoned and informed decision, they will choose the environment. In Canada the battle is quite literally between the people who bear the brunt of the negative impacts of the environment and the corporations that stand to proﬁt from harvesting resources and selling them. In a socialist Canada that would be an issue. Cuba is not only just a lesson for Canadians, it is both an inspiration and a call for help. Those who care about Cuba’s commitment to its people, social justice and the environment, must help Cuba. The best way we can help Cubans is by making change right here at home. The example of Cuba’s tourist industry shows that Cuba is not independent of the world market, and the only way to overcome these obstacles is for other countries to change their foreign policy towards Cuba. As it stands, Canada does not have a blockade against Cuba like the United States does, but it is hostile toward socialism. We have to change this, not only in our attitudes, but by practically assisting the Cuban people with our resources. This is the only way we can ensure Cuba’s commitment to the environment.
“In order for a country to seriously
commit to protecting its environment it must abandon capitalism; it must protect its environment for a socialist country to succeed it.”
More importantly, the land and the environment suddenly became much more precious and many steps have been taken for reforestation, protecting vulnerable environmental areas and preventing degradation of lands. In the cities, vacant land suddenly gained new value. It is now used for urban gardening. Cuba’s urban gardening
is a lesson for us all. Many people think that the ﬁght for socialism and the environment are separate struggles, but the Cuban example proves otherwise. In order for a country to seriously commit to protecting its environment it must abandon capitalism; it must protect its environment for a socialist country to succeed it. For capitalist countries, the environment is an externality to the general economic formula of investment and proﬁt despite the green image. In its early years, the Soviet Union was one of the ﬁrst countries in the world to even consider the environment as needing of protection. There was a good deal of experts who knew how to protect the
Today, more than ever, environmentalists have to assist with the struggle for socialism, not only because it means a more just society, but because without such a society, a genuine commitment to the environment is impossible.
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Environmental Sustainability, Socialism and the Bolivarian Revolution By Michael Romandel
oday, an important, primary political issue that attracts the attention of many young people is the problem of environmental sustainability, or to put it more bluntly, the continued survival of human civilization on this planet. In comparison to the issue of environmental sustainability, the struggle for socialism receives little attention from youth. However, it remains crucial for university students emerging from a working class background and allies to play a role in the struggle of the working class for socialism and environmental sustainability. How, though, should we educate ourselves so that we may ﬁnd viable solutions to struggle against capitalist exploitation of our labour and our environment? It is within the context of this imperative that we should examine the process of a socialist transformation occurring in Venezuela called the Bolivarian Revolution (named after the nineteenth century revolutionary Simon Bolivar) and how the issue of environmental sustainability is playing out in this revolution. I believe that a critical analysis of this issue can teach us important lessons about our own political practices in Canada and throughout the rest of the world. First, before analyzing the relationship between environmental sustainability and the Bolivarian Revolution, it is important to deﬁne exactly what the Bolivarian Revolution is and how it has developed over time. The Bolivarian Revolution can be seen as a historical process in which President Hugo Chavez has entered into a dialectical relationship with the poor and working class residents of Venezuela to aid them in their struggle for a better life. Although Chavez was not always a socialist, the playing out of this dialectical relationship has forced Chavez to become one. The exploited and
company, Petroleums of Venezuela (PDVSA), to be brought under democratic workers’ control, so that workers can have a direct say in how the The question I will now try to answer is how the issue of Due to the contradictions inherent transition away from an oil sector environmental sustainability has in Venezuela’s continued reliance that is dependent on foreign become of utmost importance in on the capitalist-dependent oil investment for oil extraction toward a more independent the playing out of this oil sector and eventually historical relationship and a complete break from the continued progress an oil-based economy. of Venezuela toward However, the current form socialism. Since coming of democratic workers’ into ofﬁce in 1998, control that is dominant Chavez has attempted to in Venezuela, known as aid Venezuela’s rural and co-management, must be urban poor by allowing transformed in order to them to have greater achieve real socialism. In control over the nation’s Initiated by Chavez after his electoral victory in co-management, direct food production. Chavez 2006, the PSUV united many parties that support control of workers over has done this through the the Bolivarian Revolution. Though it has made enterprises is shared with development of various important reforms, it remains heavily reliant on representatives of the agrarian reform laws, as the capitalist dependent oil sector. bourgeois state bureaucracy well as a voluntary program for the purpose of balancing that encourages the residents of Venezuela’s growing sector for funding, the Maoist societal needs with workers’ urban slums to move onto farmland Revolutionary Communist Party control. and help Venezuela achieve greater USA (RCP-USA) has criticized food security and move toward a Chavez and the PSUV for taking a Journalist Iain Bruce in The more environmentally sustainable petit-bourgeois stance by failing to Real Venezuela argues that new economy. While these laws and propose a break with the oil sector. possibilities for transformation open up if this voluntary communal program are c o u n c i l s beneficial eventually scale to the themselves up Ve n e z u e l a n to the national people, one level to form major issue a new kind has arisen in of political Venezuela’s structure transition to which operates a socialist and more sustainable What the RCP-USA proposes as a economy. The issue is the solution is a complete break from separately from the current continued reliance of Chavez oil dependence and a more decisive bourgeois state. Chavez and the and his Uniﬁed Socialist Party move toward an agriculture-based socialist Left within the PSUV of Venezuela (PSUV) on money economy, which they believe is in would need to support this new from the state owned but capitalist- line with Maoist economic theory. structure. If this structure merges with worker-controlled factories dependent oil sector for the funding of their social programs, What they fail to realize is that in all sectors of the economy, including those programs that are Venezuela cannot simply abandon possibilities for the achievement of moving Venezuela toward a more the oil sector or close itself off socialism could occur. sustainable economy. Oil money is from the global market economy also used to fund the activities of without risking serious threats, The question then remains of what the communal councils, which are including potential food shortages this means for youth in Canada made up of up to 400 families and and coup attempts by U.S.-funded exercise a form of direct democracy forces, most likely emerging at the local scale. These councils from Colombia. It is necessary work outside the apparatuses of the for Venezuela’s major state oil oppressed masses of Venezuela have forced this position upon him through their actions.
bourgeois state at the municipal and state level, receiving the majority of their funding directly from the national government.
“ ..the issue of environmental sustainability has become of utmost importance in the playing out of this historical relationship and the continued progress of Venezuela toward socialism. ”
who are interested in advancing environmental sustainability. The example of Venezuela shows us that the movement for environmental sustainability in Canada or any other nation controlled by an oppressive bourgeois state requires the coming to power of a socialist government with a leader who responds to the demands of the public as Chavez has done and allows for the state through which they came to power to eventually be replaced by a new state with its foundations ﬁrmly rooted in direct democracy and workers’ control. It is now more than ever that the future of human civilization and the well-being of future generations of humans depend on our success in building socialism today. This is necessary for the purpose of unfettering of our mental and technical capabilities from the anarchy wrought by the capitalist market economy and allowing us to democratically plan a more environmentally sustainable economy. Thus, it is the responsibility of all university students of a working class background and allies to aid in our struggle for environmental sustainability. This responsibility can be realized through understanding our material position in relation to numerous social class forces, and thus can point toward what we can do in order to bring to power a socialist government that will respond to our demands and support our struggle for direct democracy and environmental sustainability.
we were warned (about the next issue submission deadline)
The YU Free Press is now accepting submissions for our upcoming issue, “2010”. Our second instalment will focus on various social and political events that will be taking place in Canada, particularly the Vancouver winter Olympics, G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, and the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America. Our “2010” issue aims to raise awareness and mobilize our readers against political decisions that perpetuate systems of oppression and exploitation in Canada and throughout the world.
International Marxist Tendency Workers in Maracay, Venezuela take to the streets, refusing to stay silent.
Submitters are not bound to follow our chosen themes, feel free to submit pieces that are important to you! As well, please send us letters to the editor(s), campus & community events, photos (w/ proper credit), and drawings or designs.
The deadline for the 2010” issue is November 13, 2009. Please submit all articles, photos, community event notices, and art to firstname.lastname@example.org However, it is never too early to send in your submissions. All general inquiries and submissions can also be sent to email@example.com Our past issues have been a great success, and we continue to garner more support and interest as our membership grows. For that, we thank our readers, writers, and for all those who have helped the YU Free Press in our quest to cultivate a space for the critical assessment of the politics around us. We look forward to receiving your submission, YUFP Editorial Collective
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Violence Against Her Land, Violence Against Her Body: It’s Not Just a Metaphor Left: Colonial state and corporate interests cause internalized sexual oppression
Cristy C. Road, http://www.croadcore.org
a result of a colonial, purposeful, and non-consensual violation of their bodies, which is masked and silenced by damaging stereotypes, such as Indigenous women as simply and ‘naturally’ inferior people.
By Shaunga Tagore
hen we’re talking about environmental degradation, we’re talking about ongoing colonialism. When we’re talking about environmental degradation and ongoing colonialism, we’re talking about racial, classed, gendered, sexualized violence. We’re talking about systemic violence committed against women and their bodies; against their physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual health. When we think about the connection between the rape of land (facilitated by colonialism) and the rape of women’s bodies (justiﬁed by colonialism), this connection is not a mere metaphor. Rather, it is a direct consequence of a colonial project: strategies that groups and individuals who beneﬁt from possessing an upper-hand in unequal relationships can buy into; strategies that maintain power and the status quo, and that sustain control over lands and bodies that pose a threat to fracturing the legacy of colonialism.
To interrogate the relationship between the environment and sexual violence, it is worth thinking through how to deﬁne sexual violence in the ﬁrst place. To me, sexual violences are actions committed against someone’s body, speciﬁcally without their consent, which then denies them access to healthy or empowering sexuality, or to a healthy and empowering state of mind or well-being. In this sense, it is not enough to imagine sexual violence as individual acts of rape against individual
women, as dominant liberal discourses would have us believe. Liberal discourses, including liberal feminism, encourage us to understand sexual violence as isolated incidents committed by an ‘extreme’ individual: this is done by characterizing perpetrators of violence with individualistic language, such as ‘an evil rapist’, ‘a bad seed,’ or ‘a sexual predator’. What this kind of language does is fail to recognize sexual violence as a systemic problem and as a strategic tool to maintain hetero-patriarchal and colonial dominance. Systems of oppression, such as sexism, racism, heterosexism,
and violence: ignoring the crucial part racism and colonialism play in sexual violence centralizes the only “victims” of sexual assault to be white women. This renders invisible the ongoing and everyday affects that sexual violence has on Indigenous and racialized women. I owe much of my understanding of the relationship between the environment, colonialism and sexual violence to the theorizations of the Native American writer, theorist, and activist Andrea Smith. By her analysis, colonial reasoning justiﬁes environmental destruction with the logic that certain lands are inherently rapeable. In the same way, it reasons that the people who live on these lands are expendable and rapeable as well. For example, she notes that nearly all uranium dump sites take place on or near Indigenous land, and reserves are most often targeted for waste dumps. This kind of environmental destruction has signiﬁcant consequences on Indigenous women and their sexual health, especially their reproductive health. Women who are exposed to certain toxins often experience reduced fertilities, genital anomalies, abnormalities in their immune system, or pollutants stored in breast milk. The list can go on, but the story at the end of the day is that this kind of pollution severely hinders Indigenous women’s access to health and reproduction. The recognition that the conditions to which these women ﬁnd themselves exposed is
“Colonialism asserts Indigenous lands as expendable, the same way it asserts Indigenous bodies as expendable too..” classism, and ableism, allow for the continuation of dominance, and I argue that they shape and inform all of our relationships with each other. Because a culture of oppression is maintained through the ways in which we relate to and treat one another, often on an individual level, we contribute to a system that allows for the commitment of systemic violences against certain people, especially if we leave power dynamics between ourselves uninterrogated. Furthermore, it is signiﬁcant to acknowledge how readily and easily available liberal discourses about rape dangerously de-racialize this topic of dominance
Andrea Smith illustrates that Indigenous lands have been signiﬁcantly and strategically used as sites for nuclear testing and U.S. imperialism. For example, the Marshall Islands in the Paciﬁc, land that is mostly populated by Indigenous people, has been used by the U.S. to test nuclear weapons. After World War II, the U.S. dropped a bomb that was 1,300 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it was the ﬁrst of 66 bombs tested on the Marshall Islands. The residents were not properly informed that this testing would take place or about the damaging and unsafe effects it would produce. Not only is this piece of history often left silenced and untold, Marshall Islanders are still feeling the consequences today. People on the islands experience low birth rates, high death and cancer rates, and children are born with severe physical impairments. I emphasize again, these conditions are not innocent accidents: colonialism asserts Indigenous lands as expendable, the same way it asserts Indigenous bodies as expendable too. Violence against these lands and these people is justiﬁed and encouraged; people are blamed for their circumstances w i t h o u t acknowledgment that acts of economical, physical, and sexual violence have taken place.
used racism as a central piece of their analysis and mobilization. In this sense, environmental rights have also been a site of strengthening and legitimizing colonial projects and relations. In positing that overpopulation is a signiﬁcant environmental problem, many environmental activists will place the blame on racialized third world communities for overreproduction; in other words, they argue that the presence of third world communities on the globe is what is causing environmental damage. This reasoning, I argue, is part of a strategic project to dehumanize and destroy certain communities and women on the basis of racism. Blaming overpopulation on communities of colour explains the ways in which forced sterilization is justiﬁed and enforced upon many women of colour--often without their consent, or without them even receiving proper information of what is being done to them. When racialized and Indigenous women have non-consensual sterilization forced upon them, no matter what kind of logic deems such practices to be acceptable,
CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
It is important to locate environmental destruction as a prime means of colonial control, especially because of the way dominant environmental groups and movements have
Colonialism and environmental destruction have direct consequences on the sexual health of racialized and Indigenous women
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Photo Essay of Aamjiwnaang First Nation
hese pictures are inspired by a situation that was documented in a 2007 report issued byEcojustice, previously Sierra Legal. The report outlines the high amount of air pollution in “Canada’s Chemical Valley” (Sarnia, Ontario) as a result of several neighbouring industrial buildings. According to the news release on the Ecojustice report, “there are 62 large industrial facilities within 25 kilometres of the City of Sarnia and adjacent Aamjiwnaang First Nation reserve. In 2005, these facilities released more than 131,000 tonnes of air pollution – a toxic load of more than 1,800 kilograms per Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang resident”. The Ecojustice report indicates that health of Aamjiwnaang residents are suffering health problems from the industrial chemical toxins.
Pictures By Nicole Sullivan
“Strawberry Flavour” - “Measure Up” “Chemical Valley” - “Preserve”
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
The “Left” can Discriminate? CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9 up, we will talk about it. And we may not necessarily have the script of what that conversation is going to look like, but that people are committed to having it, in a way that is not attacking, but in a way that will invite the other person to talk back instead of just silencing. I also think self-reﬂection is really important and key, instead of just looking at what everyone else is doing wrong and not look at how you also play into that and may contribute to some of the difﬁculties.
terms of how more experienced activists can really train people because I believe that in political work, you have to be committed and dedicated, but that there is a really schooling and education in itself in terms of how to do it and participate within groups. I’ve seen that happen with so many groups, there’s someone who just comes and leads in a way that is very dynamic and just gets people on it, and that person leaves and
really negative impact if we don’t pay attention. Things will just happen and people will say, “I don’t know how that happened”. Meanwhile, the situation has been brewing for a year and we haven’t seen the warning signs. Sometimes in the initial discussion, it can be very scary. I really appreciate when someone says, “I know that something needs to be done, but I don’t really know what that is”. And for me, that’s better than not saying anything at all. And you’re not saying that you have the answers, but you’re inviting other people to think about it with you.
“It’s not about having the answer, but to even just have a conversation about the fact that when difﬁcult things come up, we will talk about it.”
It seems that if you also start with an anti-oppression training, there’s an acknowledgement in the beginning that certain dynamics may arise within the group but that there’s an initial acknowledgement that this could happen amongst us, as “Lefty” people, and we need to be very cautious about how to do it. What advice would you give to individuals beginning to work in activist groups, in terms of things to keep in mind or how to pay attention to internal dynamics? I think that whatever group that you’re approaching, make sure it’s something you genuinely want to know more about, not because someone else is there that you like. Also, that you recognize that your time is up and when to move on. There are times where it ends up being one person’s vision who guides the group and that if you were to leave, the group would not fall apart. I think that piece of constant mentorship is important. I think it’s something we really need to pay more attention to, in
the group is done. Meanwhile, there were other people in the group doing really great things too, but we didn’t really get a chance to see. For those who are leading, they have a responsibility to bring other people on that journey with them and be open to listening to what they have to say. It’s also a question of whether people are allowed to play different roles and that we all do this, we fall into a speciﬁc role within any particular group, and how easy it is for us to play another role? Often, it’s really difﬁcult. That’s where it can fall apart … moving around and being conscious of that so that we don’t get too comfortable. And if one person is more comfortable doing one thing than another, maybe two people can work at it together so that it’s less intimidating. What is the importance of paying attention to internal dynamics within political organizations? It can make or break any organization. I think it can have a
Do you have any concluding thoughts or comments?
… I think it’s really important to stop responding from a place of being irritated, but instead, to think about how it might look if you respond from a place of love. I remember for a while being irritated again and again but if I actually approach something from a place of love, it’s a completely different situation. I want to live my place in the world positively … so if I approach something from a place of love, then I feel that I am doing just that. The answer might not always be there, but I feel like I can at least challenge myself to look at it from that place … what’s most challenging is reacting to a difﬁcult situation with, “how do I respond from a place of love when you’re annoying, irritating, inappropriate and a sexist pig? Where’s the love in that situation?” It doesn’t always work, but it’s a good way to look at situations. Janet, thank-you very much. No problem, thank-you.
Violence Against Her Land CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12 the underlying objectives for such actions remain the same: in order to maintain colonial unequal relations, Indigenous and racialized women need to be dehumanized and demoralized, and their sexuality and ability to reproduce must be regulated and controlled. Otherwise, as healthy and empowered individuals, they pose a severe threat to the sustenance of a colonial system and to the luxuries privileged individuals receive as beneﬁciaries of that system. There is also something to be said about the ways in which women cope with the conditions colonizers enforce upon women, such as living in extreme poverty, not having access to clean food or water, or when both subtle and blatant violence of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, or ableism is their everyday reality. In Toni M o r r i s o n ’s novel, The Bluest Eye, her characters respond to racial, gendered, and sexual violence in a number of ways. For example, when the character Pecola is subject to a violent sexual experience, her narrative goes as follows: “‘Please me make disappear.’ She squeezed her eyes shut. Little parts of her body faded away” (45). Morrison, here, articulates how Pecola must distance herself from her own body in order to relieve the pain and trauma she is experiencing. She must disembody herself, and become an outsider watching what is happening to her, rather than actually fully possessing her own body; it is only through doing this that she can survive the act of violence that is committed against her. Arguably, this can be a common coping mechanism racialized women tap into in order to face the everyday normalized violences they are forced to endure. However, distancing oneself from one’s bodily senses can also readily translate into a loss of sensual or sexual pleasure, or into not so
easily being able to ﬁnd ways to feel sensuality or bodily pleasure. For all these reasons, I ﬁnd it impossible to assume that sexual violence and sexual assault can at all be separated from other kinds of oppressions that constantly shape and hold the world in which we participate. While one can go further into the disgusting details of the position colonialism has forced certain women into, one thing I can say otherwise is that in order to understand sexual violence and the ways through which it is enforced, one must understand it as a central tool of ongoing colonialism. It is also crucial to challenge colonialism if you hope to mobilize against sexual assault. Andrea Smith critiques the ‘pro-
“...in order to understand sexual violence and the ways through which it is enforced, one must understand it as a central tool of ongoing colonialism if you hope to mobilize against sexual assault.” choice’ movement for centering issues of reproductive rights around a few groups and individuals-namely, white, middle-upper class, heterosexual women--who have access to reproductive choice. What Smith pushes us to acknowledge, however, is that some women who are marginalized by race and class, who live in conditions of poverty and environmental degradation do not have the luxury of ‘choosing’ what to do with their bodies. In this sense, it is essential that we ﬁnd a new frame for discussing and mobilizing reproductive rights in order to do justice for women left out of these dominant narratives. Racism, colonialism and class need to be central in mobilizing against sexual violence. Only then can one begin to combat the many ways in which colonialism uses environmental destruction and other systems of dominance to distance Indigenous and racialized women from their mental, sexual, economical, and spiritual health and well-being.
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
COMMENTS Is the Green Party of Canada Progressive or Regressive? Employment Histories and Policy Mandates Tell an Eerily Conservative Tale By Jesse Zimmerman The Green Party, encompassing both its federal and provincial counterparts, has made some gains within the past few years and is being taken more seriously by Canadian voters. Here at York University, seeing people with Green Party pins is becoming increasingly more commonplace, and there seems to be an underlining consensus that the Greens are a grassroots, progressive, and even a deﬁant political choice. This was
once exempliﬁed to me when a friend of mine was declaring with a rebellious tone that he had voted Green before. Now more than ever, there is a perception of ‘coolness’ and ‘originality’ connected to voting Green rather than one of the other so-called traditional Canadian parties. On the surface this phenomenon appears to amount to a bandwagon effect, but how many ‘supporters’ have taken the time to fully interrogate their new choice? When examining the Green Party’s platform in great detail though, one
would be surprised at how regressive, conservative and even rightwing its policies actually are. Green Party policies signiﬁcantly vary depending on which nation one resides in, with some versions being more akin to Social Democracy, as is often the case within the conﬁnes of Europe, while other variations are more centrist or conservative in their political leanings. Canada’s Green Party was founded in 1983 and did indeed start off as a tiny grassroots party focused on environmental politics. The project grew at a slow pace over the following years, ﬁnally seeing a slight bump under Jim Harris in 2003. Harris, a former Progressive Conservative and motivational speaker for large corporations, started to shift the Party signiﬁcantly rightward. He hired David Scrymgeour, a former aid to Canada’s current Conservative Finance advisor Jim Flaherty. Thus in response to those who
falsely believe that the Greens are grassroots and communal-oriented, such individuals would be surprised to learn that under Harris’s leadership the Greens suddenly became the most top-down federal Party in all of Canada, with immense power amassed in the group’s top leadership positions while little to no control was afforded to riding associations and local Party activ-
May’s wishes to start from a ‘clean slate’, many Harrisites still held incredible sway on various councils within the Party’s internal apparatus.
ists. Under Harris, the Greens had barely anything that resembled a comprehensive party platform either, making their policies more or less unknown.
recently announcing just this year that he will not be running for reelection as leader. De Jong is a selfdescribed Eco-Capitalist, citing big business as a tool for environmental sustainability and criticizing extensive government subsidies and funding for crown corporations. Is unregulated capitalism going to solve the global climate problem? Is it just me or is unregulated, rampant capitalism the root cause of the current global climate problem? De Jong also cited two types of Green Politics: those that favoured government subsidization and those that favoured marketfriendly approaches. He chose the latter, claiming that less -
A close look at the Ontario Green Party displays other right-wing trends in their leadership and policies. Frank de Jong has held the torch of leadership since 2001,
When examining the Green Party’s platform in great detail though, one would be surprised at how regressive, conservative and even right-wing their policies actually are.
In 2006, Elizabeth May became the leader of the Federal Greens. It is believed that Jim Harris, although he resigned voluntarily beforehand, was not pleased about this development, as he openly expressed contempt toward the Party’s female members on several occasions. May herself is not excused from having a background in Conservative politics. In 1986, she worked under Brian Mulroney’s government as an assistant to then Environment Minister Thomas Michael McMillan. Moreover, despite
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Home by Midnight: A Short Story Concerning a Political and Economic Curfew at York By Laurence Parent
On September 8, 2009, two students living on our York University campus learned that they will have to go to bed before midnight this year. I am one of those two students. No study nights at the library, no nights out at Hoops, no rush to catch the last 196 bus to campus after good times downtown. To be more explicit: no student life. Welcome back? This is a short story of a political and economic curfew on York’s campus. Don’t worry, I don’t become a werewolf, vampire, or pumpkin after midnight. I am disabled. I know, this can still sound a bit scary in 2009, but I need the assistance of a personal support worker in order to accomplish the basic activities of daily living. This assistance is essential, for it basically gives me the means to... live. Furthermore, since my life is based on 24 hour shifts just like yourself, the basic right to have access to a personal support worker 24 hours a day is highly evident. At least I thought that it was. On September 8, Ontario March of Dimes (OMOD), the organization that provides personal support worker services on York University campus, sent a memo to its users to let them know that there would be no overnight services this year. OMOD, a provincial non-proﬁt organization that provides many services for disabled people
throughout the province, runs an independent living assistance program which offers services to students, staff, faculty, and visitors. This program is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health, and many independent living assistance programs like this one at York, are the result of advocacy campaigns led by disabled activists since the 1960s. This movement has come from the
ies. In October 2009, York will be launching its new Critical Disability Studies Journal. As a result of some of these efforts at what some might call inclusion, one would think that an on-campus independent living assistance program would be routine and reﬂective of these other initiatives. Cutting the overnight service is a major step back and provides evidence that the philosophy behind the OMOD program at York is in peril.
call the personal support worker on-duty to ﬁnd out if I can postpone my booking. However, cutbacks to social services can affect even these so-called advantages because often the busy schedules of personal support workers can mean that there is little ﬂexibility for changing pickup/drop-off times. OMOD-York calls this a “shared service”. I call this neo-liberalism and ableism. I’ve been using OMOD-York
On September 8th, Ontario March of Dimes (OMOD), the organization that provides personal support worker services on York University campus, sent a memo to its users to let them know that there would be no overnight services this year. U.S. and throughout the years has expanded in the U.S. and in Canada. There is no doubt that these services are essential and that their funding is a public responsibility. However, they remain poorly funded and due to inadequate funding, many people do not receive the services that they need. York is known for its architectural accessibility and the variety of services offered to students with disabilities. Since 2003, York has offered Masters and Doctoral degrees in Critical Disability Stud-
The OMOD-York program is simple. Each user makes requests and OMOD-York is responsible for organizing a weekly schedule which meets the needs of its users as best as possible. A weekly schedule usually lasts for one semester. The main advantage of having an independent living assistance program on campus is that users are supposed to beneﬁt from some form of ﬂexibility. For example, if I’m at the library and my work is taking longer than I have expected, I can
services for one year. Last year, OMOD-York provided 24 hour service on campus, which allowed me to lead a student life at York. However, on August 30, 2009, I sent all my requests for the fall semester, including one request at 1:30am on Saturdays. Six days later on September 5, I received my schedule and noticed that my 1:30am request had been omitted. I emailed the OMOD-York supervisor about this and he regrettably replied by stating that there was a lack of demand so as to warrant overnight services.
This is probably the nicest way of delivering a forced curfew. Cutting the overnight service doesn’t only mean that my Saturday nights have been taken away. As well, it means that all my nights will be ﬁnishing before midnight. OMOD-York deﬁnes a midnight limitation as a result of a lack of requests. I deﬁne it as a curfew and I don’t like being treated like a child who needs to be disciplined. I recently met with my new neighbor, who is also another OMODYork user. He told me that his requests for overnight services have also been turned down. He had been told that nobody else requested overnight services. It is at this moment in time when I realized I had another ﬁght waiting for me, waiting for us. How many other users have been told the same lie? My neighbour has been ﬁghting for a month to get services during the night. We recently met with the OMOD-York supervisor and attempted to get the answers to the following questions: why have the overnight services been cancelled? How had this decision been made, and upon which principles? What does independent living mean for OMOD-York? After discussions with the OMODYork supervisor, we learned that this decision was based on ﬁnan-
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16 CONTINUED FROM P. 15 -cial reasons and the supervisor’s own understanding of independent living. We were told that the 2008-09 CUPE 3903 strike meant that OMOD-York spent more money than usual last year. How-
have never planned study nights, movies nights, and dates, months in advance. Have you? Furthermore, I don’t have any prophetic superpowers (yet!) and cannot predict whether I will need assistance in the middle of the night...because, as you are aware, life operates 24
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OMOD-York has re-deﬁned independent living under neo-liberal and ableist values. The fact that we live between midnight and 7am is apparently too costly. Our need to live independent lives has been denied. At York University. In 2009.
A community of OMOD-York users needs to be built in order to create solidarity and promote independent living. We are the ones living the experiences that should dictate how assistance can be most usefully and effectively given. ever, OMOD-York is funded by the Ministry of Health, not by York University. This reason is grossly insufﬁcient, and OMOD-York has totally ignored one major principle at the essence of their mandate: the importance of independent living. I
hours per day. A community of OMOD-York users needs to be built in order to create solidarity and promote independent living. We are the ones living the experiences that should dictate how assistance can be most usefully and effectively given.
So, here I am today. Fighting to be able to write papers late at night and have some fun. I am extremely concerned by the attitude of the OMOD-York supervisor who does not take our right to live independently 24 hours per day seriously. This economic and political discriminatory curfew has to stop! We need to take back the night! If you are interested in creating a community of users and supporters who promote and ﬁght for independent living, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurence Parent endures another early night in bed due to recent Ontario March of Dimes (OMOD) budget cuts.
Britain’s Devalued Democracy: The Next General Election May Produce By Seongcheol Kim a Regime Change, but No Real Transformation Is In Sight
The next general election in the United Kingdom is scheduled to take place on or before June 3, 2010. That is, it will occur whenever Gordon Brown chooses to put an end to this ﬁnancially and morally bankrupt regime that is mired in scandals, electoral catastrophes, and policy failures. Five years ago, many people in Britain, including those comprising the Labour Party’s traditional support base, refused to question the direction that the government had taken under Tony Blair. Those who were satisﬁed with the steady economic growth initially brought about by the regime’s neo-liberal policies were content to overlook the insidious seeds of crisis sown by privatization and deregulation. Those who were convinced by La-
bour’s historic electoral successes were content to overlook the steady erosion of the Party’s traditionally progressive and people-oriented outlook. Now, both the country’s initial economic growth and the Party’s recent electoral victories have been unmasked as fraudulent façades. The economic growth achieved in the short term through myopic neo-liberal policies has in turn given rise to a crash of an even greater magnitude, while Labour’s initial success is now being overshadowed by its unprecedented electoral and inner-party debacles. Many people are expecting the upcoming election to be a “realigning” election, with a swing toward the Conservatives possibly as great as the swing that catapulted Labour
to governance in 1997. However, I contend that there will be no “realigning” not only because the differences between Labour and Tory are ridiculously minute, but also because anyone in Britain could attest to the awful truth that the Tories would have pursued the same neo-liberal path and orchestrated the same economic disaster, if not worse, had they been in power for the past 12 years. Nowadays, it seems that the Labour government and its failed policies have come under heavy criticism from all fronts, including Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, who appears to have conveniently forgotten that he and his Party had given full backing to Labour’s neoliberal policies up until the eleventh hour. It is now with the advent of the market crisis that the Tories seem to have undergone a “convenient” retroactive transformation. This goes for the entire cadre of Tories, with the exception of EuroMP Daniel Hannan. He and his pathetic cabal of diehard neo-liberals have actually gone in the opposite direction, criticizing Brown for his supposedly socialist tendencies and representing a shift in rhetoric whilst capitalizing on the present crisis that has hit their former partners-in-crime. One can only wonder where Osborne and the Tory frontbench were when Ken Livingstone took a lone stand against his own party by calling for Brown’s sacking as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1998, back when the idea of criticizing government policies apparently never entered anyone else’s head.
A future British voter reacts puzzlingly to the lack of choice which the ﬁrst-past-the-post electoral system has afforded her in the 2010 election.
The next election, then, regardless of the magnitude of momentum swinging against the Labour Party, will be a rather meaningless election at that. Voters will have a choice between neo-liberalism masquerading in red and neo-lib-
eralism masquerading in blue, as well as two bedfellows responsible for the current crisis, one of which is pretending to have had nothing of the affair.
In an era when Labour and Conservative ideals have converged on the political spectrum in an unprecedented fashion, and abuses of the single-member district electoral system...have accumulated to an intolerable level, it behooves a nation to discard its obsession with continuity and confront the increasingly grim reality that awaits them. Not to be forgotten, it is also to the credit of Britain’s electoral system that the country is increasingly moving toward a failed democracy. Britain’s ﬁrst-past-the-post system has had the effect of keeping out smaller parties and handing disproportionate mandates to the two largest parties. This arrangement has effectively eliminated parliamentary opposition, preventing alternative forces to the two main parties from being elected as parliamentary blocs. Of course, because the British system is designed to be a confrontational, governmentversus-opposition arrangement, the Conservative “Opposition” always ﬁnds some way to attack the government by inﬂating relatively minor partisan issues or by making fun of Brown’s occasional verbal slippage during Prime Minister Question Time (PMQs). Brown himself summarized it well when he called it “opposition for the sake of opposition”, although he said so
in his defense rather than as a criticism of the disintegrating political system over which he presides. One does not have to look toward Russia or Italy to ﬁnd a political arrangement that sweeps out effective opposition; such a system is in Britain, the supposed cradle of parliamentary democracy. Of course, British methods for silencing opposition are not as blatant as the methods employed in either Russia, where opposition parties are openly met with government repression and intimidation, or Italy, where a single leader controls practically the entire media infrastructure. In Britain, strategies are much more subtle, for its pillage is based on a time-honored but now increasingly dysfunctional system of political representation that few dare to question out of respect for tradition or continuity. As a result, Britain’s political system is disintegrating into a grossly undemocratic one. In an era when Labour and Conservative ideals have converged on the political spectrum in an unprecedented fashion, and abuses of the singlemember district electoral system-such as the installation of puppet candidates and the development of patron-client networks in safe seats--have accumulated to an intolerable level, it behooves a nation to discard its obsession with continuity and confront the increasingly grim reality that awaits them. The next general election will be a good indicator of how far democracy in Britain has fallen into oblivion. Still, irrespective of the eventual winners, whether Labour or Tory since they are the only real options, both sides embody the disgraceful culprits who are responsible for the current crisis. Voters may be able to slash one head off the colossus, but they will have to live with another.
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Appreciating Small Incremental Change: One Vegetarian Bit at a Time with activism had taken place last year, during CUPE 3903’s strike. At the time, I certainly felt woefully inexperienced and inadequate when faced with militant picket line duties and intense membership meetings, as if I was new to that kind of work and terrible at it. After some consideration, however, I can conclude that I have been an activist for years, long before last year’s labour dispute, and I’m not nearly as terrible at activism as I had originally suspected. I would argue that opting into a vegetarian lifestyle can itself be a public act, a concrete testament that one is dedicated to a cause.
well. That is, the meat industry is built upon a global trade system whereby grain is produced on a massive scale in order to feed livestock rather than people, and meat is a luxury item that populations dealing with extreme hunger and poverty typically cannot afford.
While it is altogether possible that a person might refrain from meat consumption in order to lose ten pounds, becoming vegetarian might also Liberty Over Violence be a political choice, for the choice Presented by the Toronto Vegetarmight be in response to human proian Association, the VFF has come cesses that actively construct and to be the largest vegetarian fair in ideologically legitimize conditions North America, this year serving that give rise to animal cruelty and over 1500 people. The event creexploitation. I will spare the readerates a space where vendors can ship regarding the more grotesque promote their vegetarian products; details, but factory farm conditions sure, it’s a money-grab. Nonethecontinue to be inhumane. As exless, the fair is also meant to convey amples, severely limited space and a message: in this metropolis, with excessive feeding or hormone inso many food options available to jections often render livestock and us, many of which are delicious, poultry incapable of movement, it is possible to be vegetarian. The and killing methods do not always VFF was thus driven in part by potake pain into account. Vegetarians litical motivations, by a conviction might also have environmentallyshared by many who organized or based reasons. participated in the event, that there is value, for some a moral imperaRaising livestock requires the extive, to being vegetarian. cessive consumption of water and energy, and results in pollution (via Since my weekend at the fair, I have animal excrement) and deforestareﬂected on the nature of political tion. Moreover, since meat producacts. Until this pause for reﬂection, tion involves resources and labour, I thought that my ﬁrst experience human populations are affected as
Also, the act is public not just because its reasons might hold political weight, but also because vegetarians can rarely participate in a meal without being singled out.
government is preferable while citing the concept of ‘an invisible Green Hand of the Market’. This language and this methodology clearly fall into a neo-liberal model, for they promote the idea that the market can solve all problems, including environmental ones.
tax substantially, which would likely result in less equality overall. The proposed Carbon Tax idea, to tax resources, would likely have a negative impact on socially and economically vulnerable people as well. This is a regressive tax that ultimately punishes working citizens instead of polluting corporations. It would likely drive the cost of heating fuel up, leaving many low-income families especially susceptible. As one can tell, the Greens certainly seem to be lacking in the department of advocating for social justice, for the Party may superﬁcially focus on environmentalism but not environmental justice.
tial, and we need to support parties whose installation will not result in rampant job losses or worsening monetary inequality. The two pillars of ‘environment’ and ‘social justice’ should be part of the equation for anyone who deﬁnes themselves as progressive, and the Greens are substantially lacking when it comes to the former pillar, as is evidenced by their callous devotion to regressive Carbon Tax policies.
Both the provincial and federal Green Parties want to cut income
A just transition between our current modes of production is essen-
By Jen Rinaldi On the weekend of September 1113, 2009, I attended the 25th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair (VFF). As is my tradition, I spent the entire weekend at the Harbourfront Center, running into old friends, fattening up on free samples of tofu chicken and non-dairy fudge, and washing it all down with almond milk and sugar cane juice. I leafed through cook books, signed petitions, cheered for the Iron Chef, and stuffed myself with so much food that I had to be rolled out of the fair by Sunday.
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Conservative Green Party?
A vegetarian cannot redress these problems one refused hamburger at a time, but since when did systemic injustice and impossible odds stop activists from protesting? The act of refusal is a public indictment, for it renews an individual’s commitment to any or all of the above causes.
sures, buying tofu at a downtown Toronto health food store is not an option for everyone, especially the working class. In other words, I recognize that opting into vegetarianism is a lot easier to accomplish in cosmopolitan settings, where one might have the resources and the options in order to make this choice. Embedded in this classbased analysis is the idea that class is racialized. While there are communities of colour that may practice vegetarianism (India, for example), general vegetarian trends may largely illustrate whiteness. Such reﬂections could be useful to inciting how class and race-related issues in food and vegetarian activism need to be addressed in order to make vegetarianism more accessible to larger groups of people. Vegetarians do not always limit themselves to dietary restrictions when supporting a cause. Rather, animal rights activism in Toronto ranges from dairy-free mufﬁns offered at street corners to nude
I should have realized out there...during my daily channa wrap, that sometimes small acts of protest are valuable, for sometimes even the smallest acts of protest take a great deal of commitment.
They often settle for french fries at restaurants and fruit platters at parties: “The soup has chicken broth,” I explain to the group, “but really, I’m okay with just the crackers.” They experience opposition, the same tired objections, and sometimes open hostility: “Yes,” I say on yet another ﬁrst date, “I get it, we’re at the top of the food chain.” They deal with humour that people don’t realize is offensive: “It is inappropriate,” I respond to the stranger, “to talk about whether vegans can swallow.”
and bloody protests at Queen’s Park. Demonstrations and letterwriting campaigns might be waged against circuses, seal hunts, KFC, pit-bull legislation, and animal experimentation, as examples. In-your-face activism has led to the general community not taking animal rights protestors seriously, and admittedly, even I laugh over People for the Ethical Treatment of
While I am proud of this particular lifestyle choice, I do acknowledge that political and social conditions exist which would make such a lifestyle difﬁcult, if not impossible. It is thus important to raise class and race-based issues when it comes to vegetarianism: when you have little to eat, you can’t always be picky about what you eat. Granted, meat is often a more expensive food to buy, but because of ﬁnancial pres-
There may be some progressiveleaning members vying for positions within the Green Party, yet still, the fact remains that Conservatives are ﬁlling their ranks for the most part. An example of this is Adrian Visentin, the candidate for Canada’s Green Party in Vaughan during the 2008 Federal Election.
Animals (PETA) proposing we call ﬁsh sea kittens. Nonetheless, vegetarian activists make very clear what their objectives are, have developed creative strategies in order to communicate their messages, and manage to settle most conﬂicts within their activist communities over hearty meals.
I’m not intensely engaged in these communities, but I do eat their fudge. I feel that in so doing, the political statement I continue to make is enough for me to qualify as an activist. During last year’s strike at York--my ﬁrst attempt at a kind of political activity heretofore unfamiliar to me--I burned out again and again, yet I never felt as though my work was acknowledged, never felt as though I contributed enough. I was told to brave the cold, to participate in the meetings, to idolize the martyrs, and to give more than I thought I was capable of giving. I should have realized out there, though, during my daily channa wrap, that sometimes small acts of protest are valuable, for sometimes even the smallest acts of protest take a great deal of commitment.
Laura Lee Visentin was formerly a member of the right-wing Reform Party and a candidate for the Canadian Alliance, the precursors to the Harper Conservatives. The Reform Party was endorsed by the Heritage Front, a now defunct white supremacist group, back in the 1990s. Even though the Reform Party rejected the endorsement publicly, there must have been something in their platform that appealed to white supremacists. It is odd that the Greens, a party many mistake for epitomizing all that is Left, have a former Reform Party member within their ranks. One way to truly understand a political party is to take a thorough look at the people who run for ofﬁce and in the case of the Green Party of Canada, the aforementioned employment histories tell a disturbing tale.
While keeping in mind how environmental issues are of extreme and critical importance to all Canadian citizens, would it ultimately be helpful to have a ‘Healthcare Party’ or a ‘Get Out of Afghanistan Party’? By focusing on the environment, while simultaneously lacking a strong social justice mandate, many informed voters and environmentalists are led to correctly view the Greens as regressive. In order to make positive strides on issues of eco-justice, people should be informed and should truly understand the policies of the various political parties and movements to which they cling. As a result, Canadians will no longer be swept in by shiny Green logos and progressive sounding titles, nor by sound bites that only serve to further obfuscate the entity in question’s primary corporatist agenda.
The York Democratic Forum website provides a space for critical perspectives and alternative views on governance and academic life at York and more broadly at universities across Canada. Visit the forum at http://www.yorkdemocraticforum.org/
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Radical Democracy In-Action: Illuminating Contradictions in CUPE 3903 Strike Strategy By Elizabeth Morrisanti The lead-up to the strike in early November 2008 was a time of much fervour amongst political activists in CUPE 3903. Not only was the strike deadline looming and the likelihood of the ﬁrst picket-action by the local in seven years appearing nearly inevitable, but there was also considerable anticipation of a major event south of the border with the ongoing federal election. Whilst clearly the less important of the two, the American election eclipsed the tensions simmering in North York, at least in terms of Jon Stewart’s nightly faux-news coverage. Such facts aside, however, it is my ﬁrm belief that had Mr. Stewart spent some time at the general membership meetings of CUPE 3903 leading up and into the 85 day strike of contract faculty, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants, I am sure he would have devoted a segment dedicated to us titled “Radical Democracy In-Action 2008” It is this ‘in-action’ for which I would like to address my article. The obvious play on words generated by the hyphen captures the contradiction of the attempt to implement radically democratic procedures and its subsequent failure. Or put more strongly, it is the contradiction of the propagation of the image and rhetoric of radical democracy while simultaneously draining any actual vestige of democracy from the organization in question. Indeed, for all the poststrike commentary on the dastardly deeds of the administration or the voluminous strength of our convictions, epitomized by the slogan “demand the impossible”, what has been truly overlooked thus far is that whatever the strike did or did not accomplish, its legacy is one overshadowed by the return of anti-democratic vanguardism. That the ﬁnal vote on the contract last spring was decided by a mere handful of the membership and its meaning hotly contested by the same few that have been front-andcentre all along only seeks to conﬁrm this hypothesis.
is of little surprise that radical democracy became a standard bearer in a union already tattered by a history of ideological divisions.
ing majority at the largest general meeting (GMM) in recent history (approximately 800 in attendance at the November 20, 2008 meeting), a victory of radical democracy
The end result of the logic of “radi-
[In-action]...is the contradiction of the propagation of the image and rhetoric of radical democracy while simultaneously draining any actual vestige of democracy from the organization in question. Contradictions begin to emerge when the question is raised: how do the relatively few adherents of radical democracy in the Union implement an ideology of mass participation on behalf of the masses? Unfortunately for 3903, this question was never raised and yet the
contradictions still emerged one by one. Adopted by a slew of selfdescribed activists, the ideology of radical democracy was enacted against the very union it was meant to emancipate. Calling themselves “radicals” to distinguish their elite cadre from the “moderate” and “conservative” members that made up the bulk of the Union, the activists sough to instantiate radical democracy through means that, with only a sliver of hindsight, appear immediately contradictory and at odds with the intentions of the discourse itself.
if there ever was one, the radicals bitterly opposed it. Ignoring the calls of rank-and-ﬁle members that cited childcare, work, family and social obligations, or even fatigue in their reasoning, the radicals continued to lay out their quantitative ideal of participatory democracy
against all odds.
This ideal was further put into practice by the insistence of “democratizing” all spaces of the union in order to permit access and participation at every echelon. While theoretically democratic, It is not unsurprising that the term this radical innovation sought nei‘vanguardism’ has yet to rear its ther the approval of the bylaws nor ugly head. Even amongst the most of the membership at large, relyvulgar traditions of Marxism, ing instead on vague references which include both Leninism and to 3903 “policy”--the weakest Maoism, the ideal of a squad of form of union legislation requiring professional revolutionaries comlittle or no membership oversight mandeering and guiding the poor, or participation. Having recourse to a proceduralism they “Ignoring the calls of rank-and-ﬁle members that would otherwise dismiss, radicals ﬂattened the cited childcare, work, family and social obligations, the union. The consequence or even fatigue in their reasoning, the radicals of making every single continued to lay out their quantitative ideal of subcommittee equivalent of the general memberparticipatory democracy against all odds.” ship meeting, however, was that the radicals deblind masses has fallen far out of legitimized the latter space as the favour. In its place, however, has Concretely, the implementation supreme place of authority and acrisen a new emancipatory dis- of top-down “radical democracy” countability. Going forward, every course free of the baggage of So- took many forms during the 85 day space held the status of a general viet and Chinese excesses. In fact, strike. Its most indiscreet usage can membership meeting because, at radical democracy appears to be be linked to the radicals’ desire to least on paper, anyone could atthe polar opposite of a resurgent extend meeting times, even if it tend. The reality, naturally, was vanguardism, opposing the latter meant ﬂagrantly disregarding ex- different. Rather than increase inwith its emphasis on grassroots isting equity guidelines. When the volvement from an exhausted and organizing and its anti-liberal / strike meetings that had previously somewhat strike-weary memberanti-totalitarian critiques. With soared to six, seven, or eight hours ship, the same substratum of selfsuch impeccable credentials and a in length, were ﬁnally capped at appointed radicals were able to pocket full of political currency, it three hours by an overwhelm- monopolize all positions related to
the strike, centralizing and magnifying their voices at the expense of the rank-and-ﬁle.
cal democracy” as implemented in 3903 was the eerie effacement of division within the union. In the case of the Strike Committee (SC), the bastion of radical activists in the union, the ideology of radical democracy that technically granted the capacity for anyone to be a
member of the SC quickly turned into the idea that everyone was, in fact, a member of the SC and as such it was identical with the GMM. Various renditions of the phrase “We Are You” were used to deﬂect both criticism of the SC and to rationalize its decision-making power on behalf of the members. In the rare cases where that was not enough, the activists themselves were deft at playing the victim, effacing their position of power and responsibility by inverting the power relations in the union, crying “witch-hunt” or “McCarthyism” to any challenge from the members. Or conversely, by rumouring aloud that the democratic events of November 20 were nothing more than the work of saboteurs led by a phantom coalition of “right-wing social democrats”. The elimination of difference was also assisted by the disdain the activists had for the term leadership. By attempting to shirk the title, they also shrugged off the responsibility attached, such that they could both act and deny their action in the same breath, attributing all causality to the membership. This sleight of hand was assisted through the creation of the romantic image of the ‘People-as-One’ united together in solidarity. Yet instead of forging such a power-
ful image through the process of working together, this image was thrust upon the membership in an attempt to make it identical to its rogue leadership. Constrained by this totalizing image, the membership ceased to appear on the political stage of the union, as they inevitably did on the cold pavement of the picket lines. This contradiction of a top-down implementation of radical democracy reached a climax of sorts in the previously-mentioned November 20th GMM when select members of the Executive and Stewards Council actively resisted resolutions passed by the membership in order to make heard their presentation on “Bargaining from Below” and the principles of rankand-ﬁle unionism. This contradictory moment of a leadership explaining, against the very wishes of the membership, the principles of membership-driven unionism, encapsulates the contradictory reality of radical democracy within CUPE 3903. In the end, clearing aside the balance sheet of wins and losses in a war that couldn’t be won, it is not the failure to attain a few more trinkets--however signiﬁcant they might be to the vast number of members struggling beneath the poverty line--that rankles. It is rather the failure of the Union, and especially its most active members that even now have recommitted themselves to the struggle going forward, to acknowledge its tragic self-deception. By trading its selfreﬂectivity for moral righteousness, the self-described radicals are the ones that truly “sold out” the blood, sweat, and tears of those who walked the picket lines from November to January. By trading away democracy as we had it for the phantasm of “radical democracy,” the radicals conveniently cloaked the return of our union to the dark days of vanguardism and in so doing, tarnished the shared faith we call union solidarity and discredited the hopes and dreams of truly improving democratic practices in our local. The only question remaining is whether or not we will learn from our mistakes
in the lead-up to the next round of bargaining in 2011 or will we truly need Jon Stewart sitting on our shoulders pointing out what, to everyone in TV land, is the politically tragic.
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Arts & Culture
The inspiration for this exhibit comes from a Google image search of ‘scoliosis’, with results that bore much resemblance to work of Surrealist painter René Margritte, entitled “The Son of Man”. About this work, he stated: “there is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conﬂict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present”. The myriad of images displayed following a search of ‘scoliosis’ produces a similar theme: hidden faces and curving spines. The “aberration” is visible, the identity is not. This produces the effect of the search engine user’s self-sanctioned quest for more knowledge, and further visual exhibitions of disability. Go-Ogle (a play on both the word and intended use of the search engine) displays a series of 18 almost entirely photographic images, staggered in much the same way as an Internet browser would depict. This series is a commentary on the phenomenon of search engines like Google and its use as it pertains to disability and diagnosis. Disability is an idea that is very inﬂuenced by imagery and so, the power of the search engine is quite large. What you see forms your opinions and ideas of what something is. The ability to access such imagery becomes your right. By jes sachse
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About Jane-Finch Reprinted with permission from “Now Toronto” January 31- February 7 2008 Vol 27
1. Jane Finch Mall
On the freshly painted benches outside the Dragon Wok, neatly attired Italian men, the ’hood’s oldest immigrants, mix easily with young Blacks, the new order, keen on a little Chinese fast-food for lunch. At Jane-Finch Mall, there is no cultural divide like the clear line between the haves, living in ranch bungalows, and the have-nots, in circa-70s apartment towers on nearby San Romanoway. A store offering African art mixes easily with roti shops and a Sikh-owned operation selling perfume. At the West Indian grocery, the aroma of root veggies hangs heavy in the air as a shopper complains about the overripe bananas. The ﬂea market every Sunday is a must-see. Sniff at the kitsch if you must, but Jane-Finch Mall has bucked the big-box bully. It’s a beautiful thing.
By Enzo Di Matteo
2. Roger Rowe
Roger Rowe knows what it’s like being an outsider trying to ﬁnd a way in. He grew up in the Jane-Finch area. Most people in his situation would dream about getting out, but Rowe stayed to ﬁght for the marginalized, earning sociology and law degrees from York University--where he tutored at-risk kids--before opening a law practice in the area. His list of accomplishments is a long one: Pro Photo by Ethan Eisenberg Bono Law Ontario Award in 2003, honorary chair of PEACH (Promoting Economic Action and Community Health), a local agency helping high school dropouts. Rowe has won two precedent-setting immigration cases on behalf of residents at the Supreme Court of Canada and has recently been nominated for a Harry Jerome Award. But don’t bother trying to give this son of a retired air force ofﬁcer any credit. In Rowe’s mind, giving back is the least he can do: “Our community often gets a bad rap, much of that undeserved. As a partial antidote, wherever I go, I tell people that I am from Jane and Finch and I am proud of my community”. See what we mean?
3. The Public Art and Architecture Jane and Finch may not be the best-planned community. Blame the ’crats who put pen to paper back in the 60s. But it’s not all grey, wide-open spaces, gangs and grafﬁti. Some much-needed colour has been added to the area thanks to the Downsview Park Arts Alliance, a coalition of nine arts orgs giving young local artists an outlet. The city also joined forces with Ma Bell and Style in Progress to commission the painting of 20 Bell boxes in the neighbourhood. Newer additions to the skyline, such as the funky, steel-clad Oakdale Community Centre, are taking some of the drab out of the local architecture. The Elia Episcopal Church at 1130 Finch West stands as a reminder that the area has farming roots that go back to the nineteenth century.
It started strangely enough for Paul Nguyen, typing “janeﬁnch.com” into the search engine only to have a real estate agent named Jane Finch come up! He bought Jane-Finch.com (with a hyphen), and what started as a personal project to share neighbourhood info has grown into a one-stop site for everything Jane-and-Finch-related. Says Nguyen, “I made short movies on a Sony Handycam on the rooftops of public townhomes as a kid and ﬁlmed just about everywhere in the ’hood.” Then came the music videos that Nguyen says “had a viral effect” on the site. “These were the days before YouTube”. Today the site boasts 10,000 hits a day. And all of it is self-ﬁnanced. Now if he could only get a little funding.
5. Firgrove Public School
6. The Spot
Firgrove is more than just a school. It’s a whole new way of thinking about schools as community hubs. At Firgrove, one of three original “Lighthouses of Learning” set up under the Toronto District School Board’s Model Schools for Inner Cities program in 2006, the emphasis is on making the school a focus of neighbourhood activity – and levelling the learning ﬁeld for the neediest children. “All the community has a voice at Firgrove”, Photo by Cheol Joon Baek says principal Vicky Branco. It’s all happening after hours here: evening cooking and nutrition classes, social clubs, job-search counselling, basketball, and soccer leagues for the kids. Teachers here go out and learn about the community whose kids they teach. Schools alone can’t help eradicate the effects of poverty? Tell it to Firgrove.
Photo by Byron Gray
(Outside Driftwood Community Centre)
Lost in the Jane-Finch community’s hardscrabble rep is that, for all its problems, it stands alone when it comes to embracing diversity. Jane and Finch is in fact the most ethnically diverse of all Toronto communities, home to more than 120 nationalities and more than 100 languages. It has one of the largest proportions of youth, sole-support families, refugees and immigrants, low-income earners and public housing tenants of any neighbourhood in Toronto. Embracing diversity is not a meaningless slogan; it’s a way of life etched in stone.
9. The Music
In Jane-Finch, young people are scared away from community centres by ubiquitous “No loitering” signs. If you’re not playin’ ball, you must be up to no good, right? Welcome to the Spot. Hard to imagine that before it came along in 2005, there was no drop-in centre in the entire Jane-Finch area where young people could just chill. A satellite of Jane-Finch Community and Family Centre, the Spot sprang from a landmark
report commissioned by the city in 2004 and conducted of youth by youth in the area. For the ﬁrst time the hardened and hard to reach were given a say in what was needed in the community. They identiﬁed jobs, sex education and health, and a place to hang as priorities. Says general manager Byron Gray, “Here kids can come and feel safe”.
7. The ‘Embrace Diversity’ Rock
Artist Jully Black
ARTS & CULTURE
FALL ISSUE 1 2009
Photo by Cheol Joon Baek
8. Topcliff Park Follow the treed path leading to the ﬁre-pit behind Yo r k w o o d s Library and you feel like you’re descending into another world. Here, the cacophony of trafﬁc and visual distractions at Jane and Finch seems far away. A jogger. A middle-aged man on crosscountry skis. A hawk--or is it a falcon?--soars high in the sky. Further down the valley, the cackle of kids playing at nearby Topcliff Public School wafts over the treetops, the most daring among them laughing hysterically over yet another spill on the toboggan run that dips behind the schoolyard. This wondrous winterlude isn’t the half of it. On any given summer evening, the young and not-so-young who’ve brought their fend-for-yourself spirit from back home, lower their ﬁshing lines into the nearby creek to catch crayﬁsh for dinner. Delectable.
Photos by Paul Nguyen
How She Move, the Canadian urban dance drama set in Jane-Finch, might have wowed Sundance Film Festival audiences in Park City, but the music has always been bitchin’ in Jane and Finch. It’s in the gait of the young bloods in hoodies, the tunes blastin’ from house stereos. Is there any more musically creative ’hood than Tha Deuce? Malvern, you listenin’? Local lights Dream Warriors started it when we were all wearing the red and black lumberjack jacket. There’s Jully Black. They’ve hit the mainstream. But the Jane-Finch meat grinder keeps churning out tantalizing talent: Blacus Ninjah, Tha Smugglaz, Young Deuce and Nem-S-Iss. Sick of commercial hiphop? They keep telling it like it Artist Blacus Ninjah is. People, listen up!
Tired off writing for the same old fashioned newspapers? Then write for the YU Free Press! Send all submissions to:
Visit yufreepress.org or contact us by email for further information!
ARTS & CULTURE
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Uncovering the Myths of Meritocracy: A Book Review of Rich Dad, Poor Dad By Sarah Sackville McLauchlan Note: The main ideas in this article must be credited to my Mother, Ysabeault d’Valar-Alba, who brought the ideological problem described below to my attention as we read the book in question. Some time ago, my Mother and I read a book entitled Rich Dad, Poor Dad written by Robert Kiyosaki. It is one of those ever-popular selfhelp books from the late 1990s and early 2000s, and in this case, the book attempts to guide its readership on how to become “ﬁnancially successful”. This particular book also happens to be one of the scariest books either of us had ever read, mainly because what was problematic about its advice was not obvious at ﬁrst. Only when given deeper thought and consideration did the book’s seemingly benign instructions become noticeably problematic. The book begins with the assumption that the reader’s ambition is to escape from the necessities of having a job. To achieve this goal, the reader is advised that he/she needs to make enough money for that money to make more money on its own, at which point he/she does nothing more than manage it. The way to do this, according to the author, is to get neither
a higher education nor a good job, but instead to make “smart” investments and asset purchases, that is, to “take advantage” of investment opportunities, as well as deals and bargains when buying real-estate and other commodities for later sale at a proﬁt.
My problem with the book’s advice is found in the concept of being smart, because in order for an individual to be “smart” and to “take advantage of opportunities” someone else has to be the opposite: ignorant of available opportunities for success. This is clear, given that if everyone took the book’s advice, then no one would have sufﬁcient advantage to get ahead. Therefore, while the implication is that anyone could take the book’s advice and become “successful”, in reality not everyone could do so, or else its methodology of opportunity seeking would be rendered useless. The book tells the reader how to win, but also makes clear that there must be losers in order to win. This is where its entire premise became very scary, because it was, quite literally, antisocial. For in order to follow the book’s advice, one cannot afford to have social feelings, seeing that sharing opportunities with other human beings amounts to lost opportunities for oneself. For example, when
being sold property at far less than its value by owners ignorant of its real worth, one cannot afford to be honest about being undercharged, nor offer to pay the appropriate price. To do so would be to lose an opportunity: a bargain on property, and a potentially larger proﬁt later on. Now it might be argued that if the current sellers don’t know the property’s real worth when making
“...if we really want to end poverty, we must let go of the myth of meritocracy, of the self-made person, and recognize that we all help to make each other’s fortunes and misfortunes. the sale, they are at fault for not educating themselves. However, were they to do so, the buyer’s advantage would be gone, as there would be no bargain, and a much smaller proﬁt from the subsequent sale would ensue. Here the problem becomes clear, since only some people can be successful at the expense of others’ misfortune. This would all seem like idle concern over a book that probably
few people will even bother to read, although workshops based on this text are presently being given in order to teach people how to survive and proﬁt in the current economic crisis. This book also encapsulates one of the driving myths of North American culture: the myth of meritocracy or the Horatio Alger ideal, that is, the “American dream” of the self-made individual. This myth became frighteningly clear to me while watching the Democratic National Convention leading up to the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. John Kerry’s platform ought to have been welcomed by poor and working-class Americans, given its emphasis on social programs and aid to those in need. Yet, once again, the Democrats lost the election and leftist pundits stood shaking their heads, wondering why their compassionate platform hadn’t bought them the votes it should have, and why the people who should have voted for that platform voted for Bush instead. However, in light of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the answer is obvious. Whereas Kerry had offered aid and “handouts”, Bush had played to the Horatio Alger myth, to the “American dream”, talking about creating jobs and business opportunities. Americans, brought up on that myth, that dream, preferred to conceive of themselves
as the smart ones who would “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”, take advantage of the opportunities created, and get ahead and achieve status, instead of seeing themselves as poor people in need of an improved social safety net. One can see this attitude taking root in Canada as well, perhaps encouraged by American advertising and media, though thankfully still less virulently than in the States. We in North America have been, and are being, conditioned to perceive poverty as a personal, moral condition rather than as a socially created condition. Nonetheless, if we really want to end poverty, we must let go of the myth of meritocracy, of the selfmade person, and recognize that we all help to make each other’s fortunes and misfortunes. When one person’s success depends on the failure of others, it pits people against one another in a constant battle for success rather than encouraging friendship, compassion, and co-operation. That’s an unhealthy way to exist within society. You can ﬁnd more of Sarah’s writing at http://engagedpaganism. wordpress.com, where she blogs on issues of political engagement and social justice from a Neo-Pagan perspective.
The Corporate-Free Alternative to Nuit Blanche: Les Rues des Refuses Jasmine Rezaee Originally published in “This Magazine” September 30 2009. Taking place October 3, 2009, Toronto’s Nuit Blanche is an annual, all-night arts festival with “a mandate to make contemporary art accessible to large audiences, while inspiring dialogue and engaging the public to examine its signiﬁcance and impact on public space”. However, despite these admirable intentions, Nuit Blanche’s corporate presence is simply too great. After all, Nuit Blanche, as the countless promotional posters endlessly repeat, is ofﬁcially called the “Scotiabank Nuit Blanche”. For those interested in a non-corporate alternative to Nuit Blanche that also celebrates art and showcases some of Toronto’s lesser-known artists, there is another event called “Les Rues des
Refuses” or The Street of Rejects. Creator and curator Stephanie Avery describes the event as “realizing the spirit of Nuit Blanche…of making art more accessible and interesting for people.” Stephanie did not back down after her art installation did not make it into the 2008 Nuit Blanche. Determined to display her art, Avery decided to ﬁnd and connect with other artists that were not ofﬁcially part of Nuit Blanche but still wanted to share their art with the public. Saturday, October 3 marked the second annual Les Rues des Refuses festival. The primary goal, says Avery, is to “create publicity for alternative pieces that otherwise would be discovered only by happenstance during Nuit Blanche”. Sonya JF Barnett, Les Rues des Refuses media maven, ﬁrmly believes that “artists who aren’t as well known need some kind of voice”, which their alternative event provides. This year’s Les Rues des Refuses involved a list of more than 30 artists. Like Nuit Blanche, some exhibits were displayed all night. The program schedule is available on Les Rues des Refuses’ website and in artsy shops around Toronto (try Hartbeat 960 on 960 Queen St. W.). Avery and Barnett carry all costs associated with organizing and promoting the event, proving that corporate sponsorship is not necessary. The response so far has been amazing. “People in general seem to react in such a positive way”, says Avery. Artists that want to be part of next year’s event are encouraged to consult the website or email Stephanie at ruesdesrefuses@gmail .com. Avery and Barnett were looking for an alternative to a corporate event and ended up making their own. “If you want something done,” they told me, “you need to do it yourself”.
W H G E O C I D ?
By Sharanja Thangalingam
EVENTS OCTOBER Break the Silence Congo Week WHEN: October 18-24 WHERE: 252 Bloor St. West, OISE, University of Toronto; Hart House, University of Toronto; 40 St. George, University of Toronto CONTACT: http://www.congoweek.org/english/ DETAILS: Break the Silence Congo Week is a global initiative led by students and community organizers around the world, in association with Congo Global Action and Friends of the Congo, to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in the Congo. Students from around the world will organize events about the Congo (ﬁlms, lectures, demonstrations, and more) on their respective campuses.
Film Screening Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority WHEN: October 19, 5:00pm WHERE: Student Center, Room 313, York University CONTACT: email@example.com DETAILS: An award-winning 90 minute documentary ﬁlm about the current and historical root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conﬂict and the U.S. involvement will be screened and followed by a Q&A.
Urgent Action: Stop the Attack on Access & Equity WHEN: October 19 & 21 WHERE: On October 19, Munk Centre, Campbell Conference Centre, 1 Devonshire Place; On October 21, Woodsworth Residence, Waters Lounge, 321 Bloor Street DETAILS: At this event, university committees will decide the fate of the Transitional Year Programme, a program at the University of Toronto for adults who lack the formal qualiﬁcations for university admission, encouraging applicants from members of the Native Canadian, African-Canadian, and LGBTQ communities. This is a call for a mass turnout of people to stop these committees from rubberstamping problematic changes.
Food Issues Panel: Broken System WHEN: October 20, 7:00 pm WHERE: Hart House, University of Toronto CONTACT: http://www.socialistproject.ca/events/ DETAILS: This event involves the consideration of how we rethink our food distribution and quota systems along with various other antiquated food policies in order to rebuild our food systems based around small-scale local producers.
Mothering and the Environment: The Natural, the Social, and the Built WHEN: October 22-25 WHERE: McLaughlin College, York University, CONTACT: Renée Knapp at firstname.lastname@example.org, 416736-2100 ext. 60366; http://www/yorku.ca/arm DETAILS: This conference examines the interface between the environment and motherhood. Keynote speaker Sandra Steingraber, an internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and human health, will present “The Environmental Life of Children: Eﬀects of Endocrine Disruptors on Child Health and Mothering Practices”.
Jane Street Rally Against Poverty WHEN: October 23, 2:30pm WHERE: Intersection of Jane and Wilson CONTACT: 416-644-2073 ext. 23, janeﬁnchactionagainstpoverty@gmail.com DETAILS: Organized by the Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAP), an umbrella group that represents all community organizers in the Jane-Finch area, the march will take oﬀ from the corner of Jane and Wilson and lead to the welfare and ODSP oﬃce.
Authors Meet Critics: A Roundtable Discussion of American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance WHEN: October 23, 1:30pm WHERE: South Ross Building, Verney Room, York University CONTACT: http://www.socialistproject.ca/events/ DETAILS: This is the second event of the Seminar Series in Comparative Political Economy with critiques by Fletcher Baragar, Ananya Mukherjee, David McNally and responses by authors Scott Aquanno, Eric Newstadt, David Sarai, Sam Gindin, and Leo Panitch. What’s Wrong with Canada’s Immigration System? Migrant Justice Assembly WHEN: October 23, 6:00pm WHERE: 245 Church Street, Room ENG-LG11 CONTACT: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/ node/336 DETAILS: Come and hear about how the broken immigration system is being shattered. Share your own stories. Build relationships. Develop ideas for the way ahead. Come prepared to talk back!
The President’s Sustainability Council Student Sub-Committee Meeting WHEN: October 23 WHERE: Vari Hall, Room 3017, York University CONTACT: email@example.com
Beneﬁt Concert: A New Year of Hearing WHEN: October 24, 2:00-4:00pm WHERE: The Music Gallery, 197 John Street CONTACT: http://www.facebook.com/event. php?eid=138359220487&ref=mf DETAILS: The Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) Lab and Centre for Learning Technology (CLT) are pleased to present a Deaf accessible concert co-produced with Array Music. The concert will feature six Emoti-Chairs, which make contemporary music accessible through the medium of vibration.
Indigenous Sovereignty Week: Toronto WHEN: October 25-November 1 WHERE: Downtown Toronto - TBA. Consult website. CONTACT: http://www.defendersoftheland.org/ toronto DETAILS: The purpose of this week is to build local relationships between groups and individuals, disseminate ideas of Indigenism, and generally, contribute to building a crossCanada movement for Indigenous rights, selfdetermination, and justice.
Towards a Democratic Cosmopolis: Diaspora, Citizenship, and Recognition WHEN: October 22-24 WHERE: October 22-23 sessions will take place at Founders College, Room 152, York University; October 24 session will be held at Vellore Village Joint Complex, 1 Villa Royale Avenue, Vaughan CONTACT: http://www.yorku.ca/cosmop DETAILS: The conference will provide a unique opportunity to understand the emerging cosmopolitan reality that is contemporary Toronto.
Artwork by Lalia Rashidie
Events compiled by Stefan Lazov
Future Threats to, and Possibilities for, Disability Studies WHEN: October 26, 2:30-4:00pm WHERE: York Lanes, Room 280N, York University CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org DETAILS: Dr. Gregor Wolbring will characterize the context for Disability Studies: including new, envisioned and emerging sciences and technologies; as well as social concepts such as transhumanism.
4X4 Festival: An Oﬀ-Road Event of Women Directors WHEN: October 26, 1:30-8:00pm WHERE: Berkeley Street Theatre, Buddies in Bad Times, Theatre Passe Muraille CONTACT: Rebecca Peirson at rebecca@ nightwoodtheatre.net, 416.944.1740 ext. 8: http://www.nightwoodtheatre.net DETAILS: This event will showcase the talents of four of Canada’s top women directors. The shows, culled from the international repertoire of plays by women, represent some of the ﬁnest contemporary voices writing for the world stage.
New College Conference on Racism & National Consciousness “Land and Freedom” WHEN: October 31, 10am-5:30pm WHERE: Wetmore Hall, 21 Classic Ave., University of Toronto CONTACT: http:// racismandnationalconsciousness.wordpress.com/ DETAILS: This conference is free and open to all. Each year for the past seven years it has attracted scholars, students, activists, writers, community and cultural workers from a wide spectrum of interests.
Meal, Rally, March: They are Rich Because We are Poor WHEN: November 5, 1:30pm WHERE: St. James Park, King and Jarvis Streets CONTACT: http://www.socialistproject.ca/events/ DETAILS: Part of the Campaign for a Poverty Free Ontario Day of Action. We demand aﬀordable and accessible housing, decent income, status for all immigrants and refugees, and justice for First Nations.
Sexual Diversity in a Cosmopolitan Perspective WHEN: November 12, 2:30pm WHERE: Founders Assembly Hall, York University CONTACT: email@example.com DETAILS: Renowned psychoanalyst Professor Elizabeth Young Bruehl will speak on sexual diversity.
Call for Cross-Canada Mobilizing: Extinguish the Olympic Torch! WHEN: December 12-January 4 WHERE: Ottawa, Pikwàkanagàn, Akwesasne, Kingston, Tyendinaga, Peterborough, Toronto, Hamilton, St. Catharines, Six Nations, Brantford, Oneida, Leamington, Windsor, Sarnia, London, Stratford, Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph, Barrie, Huntsville, Temiskaming, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Red Rock FN, Kenora, and others. CONTACT: http://www.vancouver2010.com DETAILS: From October 31, 2009 until February 12, 2010, the Olympic Torch Relay will be traveling across Canada. The Olympic Resistance Network, based in Vancouver Unceded Coast Salish Territories, is calling on and encouraging our allies to coordinate eﬀorts in over 2000 communities to oppose and resist the Torch Relay. SEND YOUR EVENTS TO: firstname.lastname@example.org
Artwork by Favianna Rodriguez
Published on Oct 23, 2009