Page 1

NEWS (2-3)

FEATURES (4-10)

COMMENTS (11-14)

ARTS (15-19)

Prison Struggle 2 TO Stop the Cuts 3

University in Prison 5

Greek Resistance 11

Art Saves Nuit Blanche 15

Mad Persons in Prison 6

United in Occupation 13

Review:Outside the Law 17

Post-G20 Reections 9

Lettter to SlutWalk 16

Rebels With a Cause 18

Fall Issue 2, 2011

Your Alternative News Magazine at York

PRISON JUSTICE

Volume 4, Issue 2


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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

Editorial T

his issue of the YU Free Press invites you to explore Prison Justice: justice for the wrongly incarcerated and for abused prisoners, justice through changing the way society deals with its undesirables. Throughout the issue, we explore the role of the state in incarceration and oppression, and the role of prisoners and their allies in fighting for justice. Many of our Features articles present the reader with first-hand accounts from inside prisons. Prisoners themselves emerge through these stories not only as the subjects of state domination, but also as authors and agents of change. In “The University within a Prison,” Martin Merener brings us the story of a university centre created within Devoto Prison in Argentina, where inmates complete post-secondary degrees and prison guards are prohibited from setting foot. Jen Rinaldi takes us inside of Queen West’s ‘Prison for the Mad’ in “Brick Walls, Bed Restraints, and Behaviour Modification: The Incarceration of Mad People,” an account of neglect and mistreatment in the ongoing history of Canadian mental health institutions. We also feature two articles highlighting the extremes to which the Canadian state has gone in its persecution of the organizers of last summer’s G20 protests. Alex Hundert, one of 17 people still facing ‘conspiracy’ charges related to the demonstrations, connects those charges to the ‘austerity’ measures eroding communities in Toronto and around the world in “Conspiracy in the Age of Austerity.” Another ‘conspiracy’ defendant, Mandy Hiscocks, shares with us “Reflections on Prisons and the State, Post-G20,” a personal account of the Vanier Institute for Women federal prison where she was held for a month while awaiting bail.

PRISON JUSTICE The articles also feature accounts of solidarity work from outside prisons. In “Cold Comfort: The Limits of Prisons in Response to Violence against Women,” Rebecca Hall explores the difficult choice between jailing violent men and an anti-colonial position opposing further encroachment of prisons and the RCMP into Native communities. Members of the “Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar” Collective have written an account of their project to distribute the art of political prisoners. The cover image for this issue also comes from the Certain Days project, painted by Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, a Cuban man held as a political prisoner in the United States. Our News section brings you updates from

Prison Struggles in Brief

Evan Johnston

Hunger Strike Ends in California Prisons

another death sentence from a new jury.

The second hunger strike in a year by California prisoners ended on Oct. 13 after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation agreed to review the status of alleged prison “gang members” in Special Housing Units (SHU) within the next year. The hunger strike, which lasted for 18 days, was staged by thousands of prisoners demanding improvements to their living conditions and an end to prisoners being designated as “gang members.” Once prisoners receive this designation, their only chance of being released from SHU is by becoming police informants.

Isolation of Ahmad Sa’adat Continues

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Sentence Thrown Out

Death

Last month, the US Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling throwing out the death sentence of former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, rejecting a request from Philadelphia prosecutors to re-impose it. The Supreme Court’s decision brings to an end to nearly 30 years of litigation over the fairness of the sentencing hearing that resulted in Mumia’s being condemned to death. Mumia’s death sentence was originally thrown out by federal district judge William Yohn in 2001 because the trial jury was given inaccurate instructions in the sentencing phase. Mumia will now be automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole unless the District Attorney decides to seek

Israeli authorities have announced their intention to continue the isolation of Ahmad Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, for at least one more year. This comes only one week after it was announced by Israeli authorities that the isolation of Palestinian political prisoners from the general population would end, a promise made in order to end a nearly month long hunger strike by prisoners. Sa’adat has already been held in isolation for over two and one-half years, and his release from isolation was a key demand of the hunger strike.

around the world on prison struggles. From Toronto, Theresa McGee writes on the Stop the Cuts Network, which is preparing to resist Rob Ford’s austerity agenda in an upcoming round of votes in late November. In our Comments section, we are offered an insightful perspective on the Occupy Toronto movement from our very own Amy Saunders, who has been actively involved in the St. James Park network as a volunteer and comrade. We also catch a glimpse of Juli Rivera’s deconstruction of the politics behind bathroom signs and the problematic gender binary that is forced upon us all. Our short but sweet Comments section also includes York University Professor David McNally’s explorative critique of austerity

measures and acts of resistance throughout Greece as well as the whole of Europe. The Arts and Culture section once again explores the magical yet critical world of contemporary art and film. Accounts of how art saved the corporatized Nuit Blanche and how artist and York student Josh Vettivelu brought a traumatic and orgiastic experience to his audience are articulated by our wonderful Arts Editors Gina Webb and Amy Saunders, respectively. In an open letter to Excalibur, Sheri Granite laments how irresponsible journalism misrepresented her works. In film, Victoria MoufawadPaul reviews the controversial Outside the Law, which poses difficult questions around revolutionary violence. Hadiyya Mwapachu, one of our lovely regular contributors, shares highlights from OPIRG’s recent successful film festival Rebels with a Cause, which tackled the prison-industrial complex among many other social justice issues. The YU Free Press welcomes new members to our constantly expanding Editorial Collective and volunteer team. Theresa McGee joins us as News Editor, Gina Webb has come onboard as an Arts and Culture Editor, Aaron Manton will be assisting with Layout, Alexandria MacLachlan has joined the copy editing team, and Kenneth Mubu is our new Photo Editor. As always, we also invite you to participate in the paper by contributing articles, poetry, art, or fiction, or by joining the Collective. Our next issue will look at the politics and praxis of food, from the delicious to the disturbing. We encourage you all to join us.

COVER IMAGE Artist: Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez Title: “One Day My Prison Shirt Will Be Left Hanging There” See page 7 for information about the Certain Days Calendar Project and a full artist bio.


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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

News Toronto Stop the Cuts Network Readies for a Long Struggle

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.

Theresa McGee The sun sets on a crisp October evening outside the Parliament street Library. Inside, members of the Downtown East Neighbourhood Committee gather in a second floor meeting room. They’re here to organize resistance to the agenda in an upcoming round of budget meetings at City Hall. The committee, like the five other neighbourhood groups that make up the Toronto Stop the Cuts Network, are sending the message that the recent move to delay cuts to social programs and city services is not the same as stopping them.

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Board voted to sell off over one thousand rental units, proposing relocate residents to different neighbourhoods. A recent TCHC Board report states that there are 79,000 people on the waiting list for subsidized

housing in Toronto. The backlog translates to a wait-time of ten years. Even women and children fleeing violence who are considered priorities for supportive housing face an average wait of two to three years before being placed in suitable accommodation. The increased strain on available housing posed by such drastic cuts is difficult to measure, but for the individuals and families

In 2006, a report published by the Wellesley Institute in Toronto demonstrated that maintaining a crisis situation in housing is costing the city of Toronto more than it would to solve it. The average monthly cost of maintaining someone in safe, supportive, permanent housing is roughly one tenth of the cost of housing a person in an emergency shelter and one twentieth of the cost of housing a person in jail. Dismantling social housing in Toronto is not only destructive to communities, it is fiscally unsound. In the Downtown East, the presence of boarded-up buildings that could serve as homes stand as a glaring reminder of the failure of the municipal government to address the needs of the homeless and under-housed in Toronto, where countless people freeze to death each winter for lack of shelter space.

caught up in the shuffle, the impact will be devastating. “We need to start thinking about what we are going to do when these cuts go to a vote, and what we are going to do when they come to start evicting people,” one member of the Downtown East Committee says. Activists here are making it clear that slashes to housing will not be met with indifference from the community.

For Wendy Forrest, an active member of the Stop the Cuts Network, it is particularly important to contextualize the fight against Ford’s cuts in the strength of local peoples’ history. The Downtown East has a long history of grassroots organizing. Forrest was involved in the Days of Action in 1996 and 1997 when the neighbourhood mobilized to fight the Harris government’s cutbacks. “We have a huge history of struggle,” Forrest declares. “Right here in each of our own communities, but particularly here in the downtown east community.” Rob Ford’s plans for Toronto are not simply a flash in the pan. His agenda is rooted in a global austerity agenda, one that some are saying will be a twenty year project in Canada. For this reason it is all the more important for Forrest and others involved in the campaign against cuts in Toronto to take the long view, root themselves in the resilience and strength of their communities, and build resistance from the ground up. “It’s really important so that people don’t think this is just some crazy guy, Rob Ford,” Forrest says. The Network has not been pacified by delays in voting on cuts. Quite the opposite: they are preparing for a fight that may continue for the next several years.

“‘We have a huge history of struggle,’ Forrest declares. ‘Right here in each of our own communities, but particularly here in the downtown east community.’”

In September, city-wide mobilizations took place in anticipation of deep cutbacks and a wide-ranging campaign to privatize public services in the city of Toronto. Community groups and labour unions crammed into City Hall to give deputations on the importance of the programs under threat, in a show of popular force against Mayor Rob Ford’s austerity agenda. Voting on a majority of the proposed cuts has been deferred to January, but Stop the Cuts is continuing to organize at the grassroots level across the city, as cuts begin to be incorporated into budgets and the broader crisis looms. The effects of massive cuts proposed to social services in Toronto are already being felt in the Downtown East, and are set to intensify in the coming weeks and months. The densely-populated neighbourhood has one of the highest concentrations of homelessness and poverty in Canada, and is home to a large immigrant population. User fees have been implemented at community centres in St. Jamestown and Regent Park. The local daycare centre is under threat and the nearby Schoolhouse shelter, formerly a ‘wet shelter’ that provided harm reduction care, is no longer offering those services. The Parliament Street library is slated for Sunday closures and late starts on weekdays. Although all of the cuts being proposed are an attack on the most vulnerable people in the city, those concerning social housing are of particular urgency in this area. At the end of October, the Toronto Community Housing

Food For Thought (and Praxis): The Food and Politics Issue

Submission Call-Out: YU Free Press Over the last two generations, the food system has increasingly become “controlled” by the international market. Farmers are pushed further into debt; diabetes and chronic illness plagues communities across the globe; and entire countries are faced with famine and starvation while their governments continue to export grains. We welcome submissions on any topic related to food, food politics, and the implications of the current food system. We are also interested in your art, poetry, and short stories about your relationship to food. Submission deadline will be January 6t, 2012. Suggested word counts: News: 50 to 750 words; Features: max 2000 words; Comments: max 1200 words; Arts: max 1500 words.

Please email submissions or inquiries to info@yufreepress.org

ADDRESS STUDENT CENTRE 439

YORK UNIVERSITY, 4700 KEELE ST.

TORONTO, CANADA EMAIL info@yufreepress.org

WEBSITE http://www.yufreepress.org EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE Simon Granovsky-Larsen Ashley Grover Evan Johnston Canova Kutuk Amee Lê Aaron Manton Theresa McGee Kenneth Mubu Nathan Nun Jenelle Regnier-Davies Jen Rinaldi Amy Saunders Gina Webb

COPY EDITORS

Stefan Lazov Alexandria MacLachlan

CONTRIBUTORS Certain Days Calendar Collective, Sheri Granite, Rebecca Hall, Mandy Histocks, Alex Hundert, Evan Johnston, Theresa McGee, Martin Merener, Victoria Moufawad-Paul, Hadiyya Mwapachu, Jen Rinaldi, Juli Rivera, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Amy Saunders, David McNally, Jay Wall, Gina Webb

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. Images used by YUFP under various creative commons, shared, and open media licenses do not necessarily entail the endorsement of YUFP or the viewpoints expressed in its articles by the respective creators of such images. Only current members of the Editorial Collective can represent the YU FreePress.

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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). Materials deemed libelous or discriminatory by the YU Free Press Collective will not be printed.

Send all submissions to info@yufreepress.org


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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

Features

Cold Comfort The Limits of Prisons in Response to Violence against Women

Rebecca Hall The true North is our destiny – for our explorers, for our entrepreneurs, for our artists. To not embrace the promise of the true North, now, at the dawn of its ascendancy, would be to turn our backs on what it is to be Canadian.

as a result. Vital was convicted on two other occasions for assaulting Black (he served a total of five weeks in jail); and at the time of her murder, there were two outstanding charges for assaulting Black for which Vital had never been arrested.

– Stephen Harper 2008, speech in Inuvik NWT

Six months after Alice Black was murdered, Vital was tried and convicted, not for the murder, but for beating Black a year before her death. In this incident, Black had called the police after Vital first kicked her in the mouth and then passed out in a Yellowknife hotel room. The police issued a warrant for his arrest, but never actually arrested him. Vital served the time for this assault while awaiting the murder trial.

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n Feb. 27, 2009, the Native Women’s Association of the Northwest Territories received a call: a woman in Gameti, a small community about 240 km north of Yellowknife, had been murdered. The woman was Alice Black. She was killed by Terry Vital, her estranged husband, who had been charged with assaulting her a year previous, but had eluded arrest in a community without a local police force. The tragedy rocked the community. What was particularly upsetting to so many was the perceived preventability of the death: the murderer was, after all, a wanted man. I was an employee of the Native Women’s Association of the Northwest Territories at the time, coordinating a program for victims of violence and – beyond the simple, visceral tragedy of a lost life – what haunted me was how neatly the death fit into the daily articulations of violence against Aboriginal and Inuit women in the Northwest Territories. It was not the ‘preventability’ of Alice Black’s death that struck me, at least not in the immediate way it in which it was discussed. Yes, her death was preventable; but if its prevention simply necessitated a little tightening of the bootstraps by the RCMP, as local media suggested, why was Alice Black’s death an extreme version of an everyday occurrence? Alice Black met Vital when she was in her teens, her first and only serious romantic attachment. Together, they had seven children. Over the years, Vital was charged with, and sometimes convicted of, violent acts on a number of occasions, including an attack on Black and their nine-month old child, who suffered broken bones

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families, and devastating poverty, the criminal justice system – where a bunch of white people in robes flown from in south decide the fate of Indigenous men – is just another arm of a broad colonial project. So, is there a tension between fighting against domestic violence and fighting against an unjust system of justice? Taking a closer look at the context of Alice

In Nov. 2010, the Executive Director of the YWCA in Yellowknife issued a statement expressing her disappointment in delays establishing permanent RCMP detachments in small communities. Referring to Black’s death, she wrote “This is a case where I believe having RCMP in the community full-time would have made a difference. Intervention on site could have saved her life.” Unsurprisingly, the RCMP and the Northwest Territories Department of Justice agreed wholeheartedly.

“Is there a tension between fighting against domestic violence and fighting against an unjust system of justice?”

Because of the time he spent remanded, Vital’s eventual Nov. 2010 conviction amounted to five and a half years, and he would be eligible for parole in less than a year. Whither Prisons Domestic violence – and violence against women more generally – is sometimes perceived as presenting a dilemma for Left activists. On the one hand, feminist and antiviolence activists work hard to demand justice for violence that was once dismissed as a person’s private affairs. Intimate and familial abuse, date rape, sexual and physical assault in marriage, and stalking have all been taken up as manifestations of gendered violence that must be responded to. In this vein, activists balk at sentences like the one given to Vital, arguing that these represent a tacit acceptance of violence against women in the home. On the other hand is a fight against a racialized criminal justice system that serves up anything but justice. In the Northwest Territories, where Black was murdered, prisons are filled with Indigenous men. In a territory where Indigenous communities continue to suffer brutal colonial onslaughts that result in dislocation, broken

Black’s death exposes the wrongheadedness of this perceived dilemma. The response to Black’s death was local and relatively subdued. Even though local practitioners estimate that the rates of violence in the NWT are five times higher than in the rest of Canada, in my work and research I came across nothing that attempted to link Black’s death to movements that expose racialized and gendered colonial violence against Aboriginal women in Canada. Instead, the longer-term community focus was on the lack of permanent RCMP detachments in Gameti and many other small communities in the Northwest Territories.

Take back the night in Yellowknife

In the context of a heavily intensified military and economic encroachment on the Indigenous populations of Canada’s North, to suggest that violence against Aboriginal women must be stopped by setting up more police detachments in Indigenous communities is deeply misguided. And yes, the encroachment is intense, under Harper specifically and neoliberalism more broadly. A quick glance at the federal government’s orientation northward offers a smattering of evidence. There’s Harper’s pet project, the Canadian Rangers: volunteers who patrol Northern borders against ‘outside threats.’ There are the mines that continue to pop up across the Arctic leaving unimaginable scars (like the 250,000 metric tonnes of arsenic left under the city of Yellowknife as

Yellowknife Women'sSociety

a parting gift from the gold mines). And there’s the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, a project that aroused huge public opposition 30 years ago, but passed quietly last year. Colonialism is alive and well in Canada’s North, and setting up RCMP detachments in Indigenous communities forms one part of that project. So, when anti-violence or feminist organizations respond to an act of violence like the murder of Alice Black by calling for more police presence, they’re doing the Canadian state a double favour. First, they’re offering an excuse for expanding a colonial project. And, second, by focusing on prison sentences, they’re perpetuating an individualized approach to violence that lets the state off the hook for gendered, racialized, and colonial structures that perpetuate particular manifestations of domestic violence. In policy and action, the Canadian state has made clear that it is not interested in stopping violence against Aboriginal women. In the fall of 2010, for example, the government cut funding for the continuation of the Sisters in Spirit project, an excellent research initiative that took an anti-colonial approach to investigating and exposing cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. This was done without warning. In fact, the Native Women’s Association of Canada had been expecting a $10 million renewal, only to see the funding ‘re-directed’ to the Department of Justice and Ministry of Public Safety. This withdrawal of funding was particularly clandestine, given that it occurred only months after the Canadian government responded to Amnesty International and the UN Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women regarding the concerns uncovered by the Sisters in Spirit initiative. Rona Ambrose, then Minister of the Status of Women, took credit for the initiative itself, arguing that the federal government had earmarked a great deal of funding

CONTINUED ON PAGE 8


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FEATURES

FALL ISSUE 2 2011

University within a Prison

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“Laferriere brought the proposal to the university’s dean with one change: instead of allowing the prisoners to go to the university, she wanted the university to go into the prison.”

Martin Merener

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he University of Buenos Aires (UBA) has an affiliated university centre within the Devoto Prison in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where prisoners can take degree programs from many of the UBA faculties. Since establishing Devoto Prison’s university centre in 1986, 400 UBA professors have worked there and over 2,000 prisoners have taken university courses; at least 67 of these began and completed their degrees while incarcerated, and many more finished after leaving prison. In late 1985, shortly after the return of democracy to Argentina, the UBA signed an agreement with the country’s Federal Prisons Service (SPF) allowing prisoners to begin or complete post-secondary studies. Prior to that agreement, regulations established under dictatorships had prohibited such an arrangement. The program began with a proposal put forward by the mother of a Devoto Prison inmate, asking Marta Laferriere, a UBA professor, to allow her son and other young people to enroll in the university. Laferriere brought the proposal to the university’s dean with one change: instead of allowing the prisoners to go to the university, she wanted the university to go into the prison. The university authorities accepted the proposal, and the links between the University of Buenos Aires and the Devoto Prison began. With the UBA XXII Prison University established, the program now has around 500 students from all Federal Prisons Service units. Between 1997 and 2005, Argentina’s prison population grew by 87% according to figures from the National Justice and

Human Rights Ministry. The International Centre for Prison Studies also shows that the same trend holds around the world. Devoto Prison was built with a maximum capacity of 1,600 people, but in 2003 2,400 inmates were registered there. The inmate population lives in communal cellblocks where violent conflicts are common, both between prisoners and with the SPF guards. In 1986, a year after signing the agreement, inmates began building the Devoto University Centre (CUD) in a section of the prison given to the UBA by the SPF. The area used for the university was 1,500 square metres in size, and had previously been destroyed in a fire and abandoned. The prisoners used donated materials to fix up and build in the donated space, putting together 12 classrooms, a computer lounge, an assembly hall, a faculty lounge, a kitchen, sleeping spaces, and a library. The library was inaugurated in August 1987 and counts with more than 5,000 books, which were collected through resources and donations provided by UBA students, professors, publishers, and other supporters including the author Ernesto Sábato. As with the rest of the CUD, the library is run entirely by prisoners. The CUD may be located physically within the prison (various security check-points have to be passed in order to arrive), but, since the CUD forms part of the national system of autonomous universities, SPF guards and personnel are not allowed to set foot in the university centre without prior authorization from a judge. Students attend the CUD from Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, and a Prisoners Assembly elects a group

of 12 prisoners to live permanently within the CUD. The Faculty of Law was the first to arrive to the CUD. Next came Psychology, and eventually the prison university centre counted with the Faculties of Social Science (including Sociology), Philosophy, Economy (including programs in Accounting and Administration), Sciences (which offers computer courses), a general program for first-year students, and the Ricardo Rojas Cultural Centre. Laferriere, the UBA professor who supported the initial proposal, explains that the only requirement for attending the prison university is to have a high school diploma and that the inmates who study in the CUD are regular UBA students. The program works on the premise that the educational process should not be interrupted when a person’s freedom has been limited by a prison sentence. Having a physical installation of the university within the prison, says Laferriere, generates a group of students with strong affiliation with the UBA and affects academic performance. Since 2004, prisoners who cannot afford legal defense have been represented by a commission of students (both prisoners and free) in their final year of law school. This takes on even more meaning when considering that, according to SPF statistics, nearly 78% of Argentinian prisoners had not finished middle school when they were arrested. The National Justice and Human Rights Ministry has also shown that barely one-third of all people in Argentinian prisons have actually been sentenced. The rest are being held in preventative detention, awaiting justice.

Alejandro W. Slokar, a former Secretary of National Criminal Policy, has said that, “Our prisons for the most part hold innocent prisoners and, overwhelmingly, the number of prisoners are being held without sentences.” Preventative incarceration is a commonly used instrument, and is in place during extremely lengthy legal procedures. Imprisonment in such a deteriorating and violent atmosphere also means that, after being freed from prison, inmates often find it very difficult to reinsert themselves into a system that they were never really a part of to begin with. Inmates who are CUD students, however, consider their participation in the university to be a form of resistance, and, CUD students have mentioned, a concrete way to escape the vicious circle of prison-crime-prison. In Laferriere’s opinion, the university breaks with prison confinement, allowing prisoners not only to acquire specific knowledge for a chosen career, but also to gain hold of language, a respect for difference, and the opportunity to understand the present and to project themselves into the future. The prison university isn’t a charity; it offers a tool that allows inmates to transform their lives, starting with thinking of themselves as university students and future graduates. It is an inclusionary policy, based in the right to education, which fights against policies of marginalization, assures Laferriere. In this sense, it is worth mentioning that the rate of repeat criminal offense for former CUD students is 2.5%, compared to 30% at the national level. Leandro Halperin, the current

director of the UBA XXII Prison University program, believes that it is only natural that education should affect the rate of repeat offense. “This happens with people outside of prison as well. Anyone who accesses formal or informal education has a better chance at integration than someone who hasn’t been exposed to educational tools. UBA XXII demonstrates what would happen in society if the State complied with everything that it should be doing, not only with prisons. Even from such a small space, the university is able to show us that it is possible to fight against the inevitable.” In addition to its location in the Federal Prisons Service’s Unit 2 (Devoto Prison), the UBA XXII Program has also been active since 1994 in Unit 3, the Ezeiza Women’s Prison, and in Unit 31, Ezeiza’s section for women with children. These provide degree programs in Law, Sociology, Language, Social Work, as well as workshops in computer skills and dance. In addition to these university centres, the UBA XXII Program helps inmates from other federal penitentiaries, providing bibliographies and tutorials and administering exams. For more information, see: www.uba.ar/extension/trabajos/ uba.htm www.uba.ar/academicos/ contenidos.php?idm=56 www.uba.ar/encrucijadas/43/ sumario/index.php Translated from Spanish by Simon Granovsky-Larsen Martin Merener studies and teaches at York University


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FEATURES

Brick Walls, Bed Restraints, and Behavioural Modification:

The Incarceration of Mad Persons F

alse equivalence, you might say, to compare mental health institutions to prison systems. I am in good company, though. French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault wrote extensively on asylums and prisons, drawing explicit connections between the two. He spoke of the rise of the Great Confinement, a seventeenth century movement which led to the institutionalization of those deemed unreasonable or mentally ill. Diagnoses were rendered for the purpose of discipline and control.

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Andrew Scull noted in Decarceration (1984) that despite efforts in recent years to dismantle institutions, to ‘set free’ those who have been imprisoned, the effect has instead been transcarceration; community care is not designed to ease the transition, and so those leaving institutions have faced poverty, homelessness, and criminal charges. Often criminal charges lead to sentences in correctional facilities, where no distinction is made between prison and asylum. Around and around we go, developing labels of deviance so that we might administer correctional treatment for ‘their own good,’ and ‘our general safety.’ In Tranquil Prisons: Chemical Incarceration Under Community Treatment Orders (published this year), Ryerson lecturer and madness activist Erick Fabris investigates the forced treatment of people deemed dangerous. Drawing from survivor accounts, he questions the assumption underlying legally forced treatment: that the medications are safe and effective. Despite all this ink spilled, Toronto has a long history of incarcerating her mad population.

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efforts like Grossman’s, the asylum came to be more heavily scrutinized. In 1997, a Health Services Restructuring Committee (HSRC) report led to the merging of the centre with three other institutes; CAMH was built in an effort to redress, by CAMH’s own admission (found on their website), “quality of care, access to care, fragmentation of services and stigma” – problems which had been identified in the HSRC report.

were brought to the distant location to be treated, effectively displaced from their communities. The preoccupation with wall building only further served to separate persons from their communities, for a wall marked the boundary lines, the separation of city and asylum. Arguably, the purpose of building such an enclosure was not meant to protect patients from outside threats getting in, though this was once a commonly held rationale; rather, it was meant to

Injustices beyond CAMH As recently as 2008, the use of physical restraints triggered a blood clot that ended the life of 34-year-old CAMH patient Jeffrey James, who had been left in 4-point restraints and heavily sedated in solitary confinement for 72 hours.

“19-year-old Ashley Smith hanged herself in her segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener Ontario. Seven guards watched her do it, and were ordered not to intervene” keep patients from getting out. The structure entrapped and incarcerated, and as long as patients were out of sight, out of mind, ‘regular’ citizens did not have to concern themselves with the happenings behind and within the Queen West barrier.

The Birth of CAMH The Queen West site has re-created itself again and again throughout its history. Indeed, it has an organic quality, shifting in response to tragedy and calls to arm. Larry Grossman, responsible for founding the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office in 1983, set up a watchdog program in response to “a series of deaths at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre and newspaper accounts of involuntary drug treatment, electroshock therapy and prison-like conditions”, according to an article published in The Star. Thanks to

But patient imprisonment and abuse are not problems unique to Toronto. Indeed, the Canadian Institute for Health Information studied 30,000 mental health patients in Ontario between the years 2006 and 2010, and found that nearly a quarter were restrained via straps (straight-jackets, bed restraints, staff holding them down), behaviour-modifying medication, or seclusion.

In 2007, 19-year-old Ashley Smith hanged herself in her segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener Ontario. Seven guards watched her do it, and were ordered not to intervene. Smith had been transferred nine times since the age of 14 to various youth correctional systems at both the provincial and federal levels. Her sentences were increased dramatically in response to her noncompliance, and she was subjected to pepper spray, tasers, as well as the ‘wrap,’ described in her inquest: “applying restraint belts beginning at the inmate’s feet, all the way up to his or her shoulders, ceasing all possibility of bodily movement. Then a hockey helmet is placed on the head...Ashley had to be picked up by staff in order to move her to another location as all movements, including walking, are impossible.” In 2009, 22-year-old Kulmiye Aganeh died at the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre in Ontario. The day he died, he was bound in waist to wrist restraints and forcibly injected with a powerful neuroleptic drug. Aganeh had been sentenced to a minimum security facility for car theft, but was transferred to the maximum security centre because he did not agree with his treatment. He was often held in isolation and bed restraints, and he wrote to his sister that the hospital staff subjected him to neglect and abuse.

999 Queen West, Toronto’s Prison for Mad Persons

These deaths should matter. Why do they not? Perhaps it is because inquests and news reports are quick to note that treatment options were carried out in response to what their ‘caregivers’ identified as noncompliant and inappropriate behaviour. Perhaps it is because we continue to treat difference as deviance, as that which needs to be locked up and strapped down and medicated away.

People diagnosed with mental illnesses have been housed and treated at CAMH’s (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) location since 1850, the year when the Provincial Lunatic Asylum was moved from Toronto Street. Until the 1998 founding and building of CAMH at 1001, the asylum was located next door, at 999 Queen West (currently CAMH’s parking lot), and has had many names since.

In June 2011, nine-year old Ayn Van Dyk of British Columbia was removed from her family and forcibly hospitalized so that she could be given two powerful anti-psychotic drugs against the wishes of her father. She was removed from her household on the grounds that her parent, a single father of three (two of whom, including Ayn, are diagnosed with autism), was overwhelmed. She has since been moved to foster care and prescribed an additional drug as a sleeping aid. For how long will Ayn be incarcerated? How young do the victims have to be, how egregious the offense, before potential allies join psychiatric survivors and madness activists in challenging mental health policies and practices in Canada?

During those early days, a regular practice at the asylum was patient labour for the purpose of moral treatment, for it was commonly believed throughout the nineteenth century that people with mental health problems would benefit psychologically from moral discipline, in part cultivated through work. Labour was thus part of treatment regimens, supposedly for patients’ benefit; as such, it was compulsory, and either grossly underpaid or not paid at all. One project fuelled by patient labour was the brick wall encircling the property – a project carried out 1860-1861, then 1888-1889. Patients built their own prison walls. When the wall was being built, Queen West was located on the outskirts of Toronto. Mad persons were thus literally marginalized, removed from the city centre and relegated to the countryside. Throughout the history of 999 Queen West, patients

“as long as patients were out of sight, out of mind, ‘regular’ citizens did not have to concern themselves with the happenings behind and within the Queen West barrier”

So the Queen West location has been reinvented, though old oppressions continue.

Jen Rinaldi

Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman studied twentieth century asylum life, arguing that stigma against mental health gains meaning through relations of power, especially those relations that play out between staff and patient, within the confines of institutions.

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William Notman (1826-1891) CAMH Asylum, Right Wing 1868 (Toronto, Canada)

Jen Rinaldi is a doctoral candidate in the Critical Disability Studies program at York University. She previously studied Philosophy and Classical Civilizations. At York she has organized conferences, founded a journal, and spent her time hoping she might one day finish her dissertation.


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n Freedom for i a t r Prisoners Ce ays Political Calendar D

seemed ripe to remind ourselves of the legacy of COINTELPRO, and the legacy of resistance to it.

Certain Days Calendar Collective

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he Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers in Montreal and Toronto, and three political prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons in New York State: David Gilbert, Robert Seth Hayes, and Herman Bell. The initial project was suggested by Herman over ten years ago, and has been shaped throughout the process by all of our ideas, discussions, and analysis. All of the members of the outside collective are involved in day-today organizing work other than the calendar, on issues ranging from refugee and immigrant solidarity to community media to prisoner justice. We work from an anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anticapitalist, feminist, queer and trans positive position.

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The Context Today’s anti-war, antiglobalization, and anti-colonial movements are rooted in the history of earlier struggles for justice, including the mass movements of the 60s and 70s. Many of the political prisoners and prisoners of war featured in the calendar were organizers during that period: members of the Black Panther Party or the American Indian Movement, Puerto Ricans fighting for their homeland, or white anti-racist allies working in

solidarity with oppressed peoples. Some of them have been in prison since that time – 35 years or more. Yet these prisoners are not relics of past movements; they are still active in their political work, and despite the hardships of organizing in prison, they continue to organize

Recently, we have witnessed growing awareness of state repression of radical organizing in North America, although it is difficult to judge to what extent repression is actually increasing, and to what extent this reflects the success of the work to expose it. Certainly since Sept. 11, 2001, the state has new tools – and new social license – to go after social movements and marginalized sectors of the population alike, perhaps comparable to the Red Scare climate of the 1950s, when COINTELPRO was conceived of.

“Many of the political prisoners and prisoners of war featured in the calendar were organizers during 60s and 70s” for justice in the present day: justice behind bars and justice on the streets. This calendar is our tribute to them.

In some ways, this is to be expected. Effective movements beget repression. That being said, resisting this backlash – directly fighting back (rhetorically, legally, physically, but also via a more general resilience) – is fundamental to the survival of liberation movements. In the wake of the repression associated with the summer 2010 G20 meeting in Toronto, with several cases of infiltration in both the US and Canada coming to light in recent years, and with ongoing legislative changes giving government increasing power to surveil and disrupt us, the time

In putting together the Certain Days calendar, we always aim for a realistic balance between bringing to light social injustice and the challenges we face, and the inspiring work done to meet these challenges. It is important to speak of repression – to share examples so that we might learn from each others’ experiences, and see the patterns and trends in the state’s approach. But it is impossible to do so without also being struck by the many contemporary and historical examples of resistance. We hope that the information gathered in this year’s COINTELPRO-themed calendar can help teach the difficult lessons we need to learn to weather the storm and also provide the inspiration we need to do so. The Certain Days collective can be contacted at info@certaindays. org, or the following address: Certain Days c/o QPIRG Concordia 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. O. Montreal, QC H3G 1M8 www.certaindays.org

COINTELPRO: Repression and Resistance, Then and Now The term COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) has become synonymous with the ‘tricks of the trade’ of state repression: surveillance of organizations and individuals, the use of infiltrators and informants, frame-ups, harassing or disproportionate use of the legal system, and outright physical attacks. While the term is widely used to describe repression of liberation movements, at least in North America, the history of the FBI’s actual COINTELPRO program begun in the 1950s – its details and the lessons to be learned from it – remain relatively unknown.

Certain Days Calendar Collective Certain Days Calendar Collective members visiting political prisoner David Gilbert in Dannemora, NY

“One Day My Prison Shirt Will Be Left Hanging There” Certain Days Calendar Collective

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ntonio Guerrero Rodríguez was born in Miami in 1958. His Cuban parents returned to Cuba after the initiation of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. In 1983 Guerrero graduated as an airfield construction engineer. In the 1990s, when Miamibased terrorist groups intensified their activities against Cuba – with the complicity and tolerance of the US government – Guerrero and four other men, now known collectively as the Cuban Five, went to Miami to monitor those groups. For more than 50 years, the US government has carried out aggressive policies against Cuba, using economic blockade, military invasion, sabotage, infiltration by armed groups, bombings and other cruel acts, to attack Cuba. More than 3,400 people have died, and over 2,000 were left totally or partially disabled from these terrorist acts. The Cuban Five,

The cover image of this issue of the YU Free Press, “One Day My Prison Shirt will be Left Hanging There / Un Día Mi Camisa de Preso Se Quedará Ahí Colgada” (2009), was featured in the 2011 edition of the Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar.

who were working peacefully to prevent these attacks against their homeland, were falsely charged by the US government of espionage conspiracy. However, their actions were not directed at the US government, and they did not harm anyone or possess any weapons. Their trial began in Nov. 2000 in Miami, in a virtual witch-hunt atmosphere, rife with anti-Cuba prejudice. After nearly five years of detention, Guerrero, who was already using poetry as a “weapon to overcome the large periods of unjust punishment,” was inspired to learn the art of drawing from another inmate. Today, his poetry and paintings have toured all over the United States and Europe, touching thousands of people and awakening them to the just struggle of the Cuban people who are still faced with hardship, terror, and aggression from the north.


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Conspiracy in the Age of Austerity Alex Hundert

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ept. 12, 2011 was the first day of what is scheduled to be an 11week preliminary inquiry for what the Ontario Crown Attorney’s office call the “G20 Main Conspiracy Group Prosecution.” This prosecution will require that, myself, along with 16 other community organizers, spend almost three months in court every single weekday. Here, we will watch and listen as the Crown Attorneys from the Provincial “Gangs and Guns Initiative” present evidence, collected by a series of undercover cops who infiltrated community organizations across the country. This permeation took place over a period of nearly two years prior to last year’s G20 (an event which saw the city converted into ‘Fortress Toronto,’ as the heads of state from the world’s 20 richest countries, along with more than 10,000 cops, occupied the city’s downtown).

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co-accused). But the truth is, that the details of this case are not what are most important. It is true that facts will come out about the scary extent to which the state has gone to infiltrate legitimate community organizations; about the state’s willingness curb freedoms and civil liberties; and that this case could potentially set very dangerous precedents concerning people’s ability to organize and speak politically in their communities. It is true that all of these issues are

criminalization of dissent. Because of the precedents that this case has the potential to set, it might be recognized that this prosecution is, in and of itself, an attack on the very idea of community organizing, and it is designed to prevent us all from being able to fight back against the austerity agenda. They do not want us to fight back. They want us not to organize. Austerity is an attack against already targeted communities. The coming cuts in this city are going to make most people’s lives worse and our city less livable. But for many – undocumented people, Indigenous people, poor and radicalized people, people with disabilities, queer and trans people – services are already insufficient and inaccessible; these are people who are going to be the most impacted by the coming cuts. All working people who reside in this city will feel the cuts. People will resist.

“Their only allegation will be that we ‘conspired’ to do things. For this they want to give us serious jail time.”

The Crown will allege that we are somehow responsible for the confrontational demonstrations, including those of the black bloc, which occurred on Jun. 26, 2010. It will not be alleged that any of us actually participated in those demonstrations, broke any windows, or burned any cop cars, nor will it be alleged that we physically caused any damage to anything or anyone, or had any part in coordinating that day’s demonstrations. In fact, several of us were already in jail hours before the day’s protests even began. Their only allegation will be that we ‘conspired’ to do things. For this they want to give us serious jail time. If things go badly, I could realistically spend up to six years in jail (given that I face several ‘counsel’ charges in addition to the conspiracy charges faced by all 17

important here… but what I think is most important is the timing. This is the age of austerity. The Ford budget cuts for which this city is bracing itself are the local manifestation of the austerity agenda that was at the center of the G20 meetings hosted last summer by Stephen Harper. It is the same austerity agenda that people are rising up against all across Europe, which is not entirely unconnected from the uprisings that are still ongoing in Northern Africa and the Middle East. It is no coincidence that here, people’s inherent right to organize is under attack at the same time that the need to organize is so important. The so-called “G20 Main Conspiracy Prosecution” is a quite frightening infringement on various freedoms and a precedent attack on an assortment of rights that are presumably constitutionally protected. It is an explicit

Cold Comfort CONTINUED FROM PAGE 4 to the problem of violence against Aboriginal women, including providing the initial funding for Sisters in Spirit itself.

In the Name of Women’s Safety More than her death, it is Alice Black’s life that shows the limitations of police-based justice in the name of women’s safety. While I never met Black, I worked

with many women who, like her, were from small communities and had partners who were in and out of prison and in and out of their lives. These women constantly expressed their dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system. And why should they be satisfied? Many of them did not want to see the men who had harmed them in jail, and, even if they did, they knew it was a short-term solution that could

While the 17 of us are tied up in court over the next 11 weeks, people in communities across this city will be organizing against austerity. This past September, more than 500 people participated in a mass meeting at Dufferin Grove Park to organize against Ford’s planned cuts. Over the next few weeks and months we will see what comes out of such inspiring processes. The “Toronto Stop the Cuts” campaign is a coordinated network of autonomous neighbourhood committees across the city, creating a growing chorus against the cuts. The voices of this movement are a multitude far more representative of the people who reside in this city, than found in any electoral process.

exacerbate the threat of violence upon his release. What most of these women wanted was safety, and that had nothing to do with prison-based ‘justice.’ They wanted housing. They wanted social assistance that wasn’t tied to their partner’s income. They wanted counseling for trauma. They wanted the right to parent their children without state intervention. Incidentally, while the state did not respond to Black’s call for help the night Vital kicked her in the mouth, they did find the time to take all seven of her children into foster care. A coherent strategy to end violence against women – and, in this particular case, against Aboriginal

Amal Y (Wikicommons) Police cruiser torched during G20 Protest The reason that the state so badly needs to effectively criminalize dissent and community organizing is because, if they choose to ignore the voices of the people who live in this city – similar to what is happening in Spain, Greece, and England – resistance is likely to look more like the riotous scenes from the streets of last year’s G20, than it is to look like the beautiful scenes from the mass organizing meeting in Dufferin Grove Park. ***** Postscript: I want to send my love and respect to Kelly Pflug-Back, Ryan Rainville, and Byron Sonne. They’re not allowed to hear from me, but that does not prevent me from sending a message for them into the world. I also want to recognize that there are many people who are still dealing with the consequences of the G20 legal crackdown; there are people in jail

women in the North – must understand answers to safety as existing far beyond the confines of a prison cell. The call for greater responses to violence against women is right. And it should be a woman’s decision whether or not she draws on the police in her ways of managing in, or escaping from, violence. As allies, however, debating prison sentences is a deadend. To be effective actors against violence, we simply cannot rely upon state structures that enable and perpetuate this violence. Instead, we must be sensitive to the immediate and particular social and economic needs of victims of violence while looking toward a long-term strategy that

right now on G20 charges, all of whom deserve our support. If people want to offer their encouragement, while I can’t speak for those co-accused with me, what I want most is for you to stay involved, or get more involved with the Stop the Cuts campaign, or with anti-tar sands work, or supporting Indigenous sovereignty, land and treaty rights, or organizing to stop the megaquarry, or for queer liberation, or against violence against women, or against the gross racism of the Harper government’s antiimmigration policies. The best support you can offer is to be more active than one otherwise might, in the very campaigns and for the very issues that the state seeks to prevent us from organizing around. And finally, thank you to everyone for all the support.

exists outside the inevitably empty version of ‘justice’ offered by the prison system.

Rebecca Hall is a graduate student in Political Science at York University.

Yellowknife Women's Society


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Reflections on Prison and the State, Post-G20

Mandy Hiscocks

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et down on the ground! Hands behind your head!” And so it began. The Guns and Gangs Unit of the Toronto Police Service showed up at the house in the early morning of Jun. 26, 2010, the first day of the G20 Leaders Summit. There was a bang on the door, then a crash as they broke through. A man with a gun pointed at the two of us ran into the living room and yelled at us to hit the floor. Others went through the house looking for other people, finding one. Still others were looking around the place, and more were waiting outside with a wagon. It was quite an impressive crew to take down three sleepy organizers – I think the guns and the bullet-proof vests might’ve been a bit of overkill, but hey, there was all that money they had to justify spending so I guess it had to look at least a bit dangerous for them. The overblown sense of danger persisted throughout the bail hearings and continues to this day. In bail court last year we were all locked in individual boxes and handcuffed to each other as we were walked through the halls. In the Vanier Institute for Women, the jail where I spent a month waiting for a bail hearing, extra metal detectors had been put up in the hallways in anticipation of G20 arrests. My bail was set at $140,000, an outrageous number for charges related to political activism. And now, in court at 2201 Finch for our Preliminary Inquiry, there are extra court officers in the courtroom, undercovers roaming the halls, an extra metal detector at the door of the court room (in case the one at the door of the court house wasn’t enough, I guess), and a plain-clothes armed security guard sitting beside the undercover cop who is testifying against us. The vibe is oppressive. But it’s well countered by the cheerful accused and our supporters, who eat amazing communal lunches and have birthday parties in the halls of the court house. The discrepancy between who we are and who they think we are (or at least, who they need the public to think we are), which is really the whole crux of this case, has never been more obvious. Unfortunately, a publication ban on everything that’s been said in court since our arrests means that I can’t discuss any of the things you’re probably really interested in. So instead I thought I’d talk about my interactions with the criminal justice system over the past year and a half. I was lucky enough to experience the Eastern Detention Centre, that warehouse full of cages set up just for G20 detentions, in the very early hours before it turned into the brutal place I heard about later. By the time other people started to arrive I was on my way to court and then, because the bail hearing was postponed, to jail at the Vanier Institute for Women. Vanier is in Milton, right beside Maplehurst where the male G20 arrestees were taken. It is part detention centre for people awaiting bail or trial (i.e., the ones who are still, under Canadian law, innocent until proven guilty), and part corrections centre for people who have been convicted. The way people are treated and the resources they have access to differ depending on where you are in the process and which wing you’re imprisoned

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“A man with a gun pointed at the two of us ran into the living room and yelled at us to hit the floor”

in. All people who are awaiting a bail hearing (i.e., the innocent) are kept on maximum security, so that is where I stayed until my release exactly one month later. The maximum security wing in Vanier is a strange place. It’s divided into ranges whose doors all open onto a common space with some sort of command centre in the middle. In addition to the guard who sits in there, each range has a couple of guards who sit on the other side of the window doing, for the most part, it’s unclear what. The range is a large room that can hold 32 prisoners. There are eight round tables bolted to the floor, with four chairs bolted to the floor around them. There are some phones which become active at 9 am, and a television which becomes active in the afternoon. At the back are some pretty dirty showers and a room for clothes and bedding, and there’s also a room with brooms and mops. The cells come off the main range, half of them at ground level and half upstairs. Fifteen of them are doubles and two are singles. Other than one bed and one shelf per occupant, each contains a small table and chair, a toilet, a sink, and a scratched up mirror. Everything is bolted down. You can’t see out of the small window, and it doesn’t open. There’s a window in the door so that the guards can look in whenever they want, and a hatch that can be opened up for things to be shoved through. Every prisoner gets one mesh bag and unless they’ve run out, a plastic box to put things in. These things could be decks of cards, games (chess, dominoes, backgammon), magazines, paper and pencils, junk food, and other such things that can be bought from the weekly canteen.

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2. We clean our cells. Since the only cleaning fluid allowed is what’s put in the mop bucket, and there are no rags, it’s uncertain how clean the cells ever really get. Soap, shampoo, dirty socks, and sanitary napkins are used to clean the sink and the toilet. Once the cells are ‘clean’ we pack up anything we’re going to need for the morning, because now they get locked and we all have to be out on the range until lunch. 3. And now we sit around. We talk on the phone or with each other. We play cards, or do crosswords, or write letters, or take a shower. Sometimes we walk around the range, in circles, for some sort of exercise. 4. Yard! The 20 minutes of outside time is supposed to happen every week day (although it often didn’t while I was there because of understaffing). The yard is a concrete box with a wire screen on top. It is amazing. If you look up, you see the sky, and sometimes a bird perched on the wire. There is also a small crack in one part of the wall that you can see grass through, grass that you can also smell if it’s just been cut. It’s hard to explain how beautiful these things are, and sad that there is such a lack of life inside the prison that a bird and a few blades of grass can be so uplifting. 5. We continue to sit around.

“One woman had been there for ten months, waiting indefinitely to find out whether she would be released or deported”

The day goes like this: 1. The cell doors unlock at 8 am, and we exit the cells and sit down at the tables. Food trays are brought in and we line up to get our plastic spoon. This is the only permitted utensil, which makes eating certain meals pretty challenging and hilarious (I’m remembering the cabbage rolls). Once we all have a spoon, we line up again. Special diets (vegan, gluten-free, etc.) are handed out first, and regular meals afterwards. I’m not a picky eater other than being vegan, so the meals seemed pretty good to me, other than there being far too much food. The waste is incredible. The official explanation is that many women come in with drug addictions and are very underweight. Another popular theory is that the guards want us to be in a perpetual food coma so we keep quiet. After breakfast, we return our spoons. If a spoon is missing, it is the end of the world. Nothing can happen until the spoon is found and returned! This is a hard thing for new people, because they often throw the spoon in the garbage and then have to fish it out while the guards give them shit for not knowing a rule they were never told.

6. Lunch is around 11:30. Again, so much food, so much waste. 7. After lunch we are locked in our cells for about two hours. The lights are dimmed for some reason. I don’t know what most people do during that time, but I wrote letters, read a book if I could find one worth reading, and did push-ups. 8. Back to the range, to sit around. Unfortunately, now the TV is active and there is no way to escape Much Music or General Hospital. 9. 4:30. Dinner. That’s right, we’ve barely digested lunch but a new massive round of food is before us. The garbage can fills up. 10. Back to cells for an hour or so. 11. Back out on the range for an hour or so. 12. 7:30. Locked in cells for the night. 13. 9 pm. Lights out. Well, not really, because the lights are never actually out. All night long they are just dimmed – but there is still enough light to read by. I am lucky and can sleep in the light, but most of my cell-mates had to roll up clothing and cover their eyes. The oddest thing about living on maximum security is the way that it removes you from your contributions to the world. It’s just passing time, existing instead of living. I did more crosswords and sudokus in that one month than anyone ever should. I read books that I never would have bothered to

pick up on the outside, that didn’t seem in the least interesting to me, just for something to do. I tried to write a journal, but with such a limited range of experiences to write about it got dull pretty quickly. No newspapers were allowed onto the range, and our access to mainstream TV news was for about 20 minutes in the evening. You can’t receive books unless they are religious or language instruction texts approved by the social worker. And you don’t do anything for yourself, ever. Other people prepare your food, wash your dishes, and do your laundry. You’re really just being maintained. Every day is so boring that the slightest variation is welcome. I started to teach another prisoner French, but she got deported. The very best moments are visits, and mail. Every prisoner is allowed two visits per week of a half an hour each. There are no limits on mail, although all letters are read by the guards first and some don’t make it through. One of the worst parts of my jail experience was realizing how many people don’t get letters or visits. It’s such an isolating and alienating experience to begin with, and I can’t imagine having gone through it without knowing that I had people who cared about me on the outside. It was awful to walk back to my table with a pile of letters and see the disappointed faces, or even worse, the people who didn’t even come over to see if they received anything because they knew they wouldn’t. These are also the people who have nobody putting money into their canteen fund. Prisoner support is so important – we tend to focus on ‘political’ prisoners, but really, if you’re interested in doing that work please keep mind that all prisoners deserve and would probably love a letter, a visit, a bit of your time. And anyway, all prisoners are political. The notion that justice is blind is laughable. Let me introduce you to a few of the people I met at Vanier. Many of the people on my range were there because of issues with their immigration status, playing an uncertain waiting game with Immigration Canada. One woman had been there for ten months, waiting indefinitely to find out whether she would be released or deported. Because she was detained, her sister had to drop out of grade nine to care for her mother who was suffering from cancer. Another was in on a breach of conditions, for drinking a beer on her porch. The cycle of arrest-bail-breach is a common one that becomes harder and harder to get out of. She was worried about her pets at home, and the bills that were coming due. Nobody she knew could cover them for her until she got out. The effects of poverty and classism are starkly obvious in jail. And racism. One of my cell-mates was a woman who had been charged with shoplifting a $12 toy. It was a Friday, and when she showed up to bail court the Justice of the Peace decided that she needed a translator and informed her that one wouldn’t be available until Monday. English was her second language, she argued, but she understood everything that was being said. She wanted to proceed. The Justice of the Peace refused, and she was sent to Vanier, leaving her six-year-old son to spend his first

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Post-G20 CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9 night without her and her teenage children to wonder and worry about why she didn’t come home. She cried all weekend. Where you are located in society will help determine how and when you come into contact with the police and the courts. Racial profiling is a fact. That the police patrol certain neighbourhoods more than others and that they let certain people get away with things but not others are also facts. Police target sex workers, panhandlers, people struggling with mental health and addictions, the homeless, and on and on. We know this. And then, once arrested, your place in society will help determine whether you get bail. If you don’t have a fixed address, you probably won’t be released. If your family and friends don’t have money and assets,

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can’t take you in to live with them, or just aren’t considered ‘upstanding’ by the courts, you’ll have a hard time getting bail. If you don’t get bail, you’ll show up to your trial in custody, and it’s a proven fact that people who are in custody during their trial are more likely to be convicted. Prisoner support and prison abolition work needs to take into account the social injustices that lead people to end up behind bars. Alliances with groups doing other kinds of social justice work are essential. As I write this article I’m well aware that because of the massive resources that are going into prosecuting the G20 charges, and because of the way the ‘justice’ system props up the powerful and opposes those who resist, I could be going back to jail again soon. I know that the few rights I will have, and a lot of the resources I’ll have access to on the inside have come about because people have fought for prison justice over the years, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Mandy Hiscocks is one of the G20 Main Conspiracy Group defendants.

blogTO.com

The Story Behind the “Why?” During the Toronto G20 Summit in June 2010, I was wrongfully arrested and detained for 28 hours by the Toronto Police. In the detention centre nicknamed Torontonamo, I shared a cell with 25 fellow Canadians who were also illegally arrested and imprisoned in inhumane conditions. Bewildered, we all asked: why were hundreds of innocent citizens picked off the street, thrown into unsanitary cages, and denied access to lawyers? Handcuffed and with limited resources to voice our question, myself and a cellmate gathered styrofoam cups that had been discarded on the floor of our cell. We then arranged the cups into pixel-like letterforms in the side of the cage to write the simple question "WHY?" in clear view of surveillance cameras. Of course, I had no personal camera with me in the cell, but the day after my release, media personnel toured the building and captured these images, providing for the public a glimpse into the experiences of G20 prisoners. Jay Wall former York U design student

blogTO.com

G20 Legal Defence Fund Over the course of the summit weekend 1,105 people were arrested, a number unprecedented in Canadian history. Community organizers were picked up in preemptive morning raids. Others were picked up by snatch squads of plain clothed police in unmarked vehicles. Others still were picked up in one of the countless rounds of mass arrests. Of these 1,105, approximately 250 are facing criminal charges, dozens of whom are facing severe conspiracy charges. The legal battle that now stands ahead of these respected community activists; our cherished friends and allies, will be incredibly long and costly. By conservative estimates legal costs will be in the ballpark of a quarter of a million dollars. In light of this fact, we desperately need your support! We need our friends freed, we need all of their charges dropped, and unfortunately within this capitalist dystopia we will require substantial funds to make this happen. There are several ways in which you can support our fundraising efforts! 1) You can donate directly to the G20 legal defence fund. To transfer funds, transfer to: OPIRG York transit number 00646 institution number 842 account number 3542240 Use your online bank account or contact your bank directly to transfer funds. Please put “G20 legal defence” in the memo.

Write a cheque: G20 Legal Defence Fund c/o Paul Copeland Copeland Duncan 31 Prince Arthur Avenue Toronto, ON M5R 1B2 * Please make the check payable to the TCMN (Toronto Community Mobilization Network). To donate by PayPal, access the link in the upper right hand corner of the page. (www.g20.torontomobilize.org) 2) Help us spread the word! We understand that not everyone has the resources at their disposal to make a cash donation. That’s ok! Reach out to your contacts, your email listserves, websites etc. to spread the call for support. 3) Organize a fundraising event of some sort. Film screenings, house parties, concerts, bake sales and panel discussions are just some examples of potential fundraising activities. Use your imagination!


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COMMENTS

Follow the Money:

Behind the European Debt Crisis Lie More Bank Bailouts David McNally

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lenders are paid back with new loans. The difference is that the new loans are coming from public funds, which is another way of saying that private banks are being rescued once more by the people. Just as in the global bank crisis of 2008-9, bank profits are private, but their losses are public. Not exactly the free market. But it’s a nice deal for profligate bankers.

hile cursing the inane mainstream commentary on the global economy recently, I remembered a pivotal scene in the 1976 movie, All the President’s Men. As two young reporters investigate the burglary of Democratic Party offices in the Watergate Hotel, a disgruntled high-ranking FBI agent, codenamed Deep Throat advises, “Follow the money. Always follow the money.” They did. And in the process, the real-life journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, blew the lid off one of the great scandals of twentieth century politics. Since then, investigative reporting in the mainstream has gone the way of the dodo. As Bernstein noted 20 years after Watergate, “the media – weekly, daily, hourly – break new ground in getting it wrong.” Nowhere are they getting it more wrong than in the coverage of the debt crises in Europe. Over and over again, we are treated to the most vacant banalities. “Greece lived beyond its means,” pundits intone, “and now it must pay its bills.” So too for Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy…all of which are said to be cases of out-of-control people who now must get their houses in order – by way of huge cuts to government programs.

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http://underclassrising.net Tens of thousands of striking Greek workers took to the streets, some throwing stones at police, in a defiant show of protest against austerity measures aimed at averting the debt-plagued country’s economic collapse

equity capital to governments in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. French banks had about a 100% capital exposure to the same governments. The number shoots significantly higher when Italy is added to the equation. US banks

bank triggered an acute financial meltdown in 2008, so little has changed? In the absence of serious analysis, we are repeatedly subject to thoroughly absurd reports blaming

That’s why the European Central Bank, the IMF, and Europe’s leading powers keep bailing out ailing states like Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. Again: follow the money. When debt-strapped governments receive hundreds of

Of course, there has been massive resistance: general strikes, youth occupations of city squares in Greece and Spain, popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond, a student-led upheaval in Chile. But in much of the world, the degree of public anger has been surprisingly low – at least thus far. Part of the responsibility for that lies with a media culture that blames the victims and refuses to follow the money.

Yet these cuts, known in the jargon as austerity measures, represent political crimes of equal if not greater magnitude to that burglary at the Watergate – though you would never know it by consulting the mainstream press, which long ago lost any inclination to follow the money. Bailing out the Banks…Again If journalists heeded Deep Throat’s counsel, they would be forced to draw an inescapable conclusion: the multi-trillion dollar rescue of the banks that started in 2008 has not ended. It continues today under the guise of sovereign debt bailouts. And the cutbacks – to pensions, education, welfare, and public sector jobs – that wreak havoc on the lives of millions are all about funneling public wealth to banks, pure and simple. Consider this. As of the middle of 2011, German banks had loaned out about 170% of their total

meanwhile, hold about $700 billion of government debt from the five shakiest Eurozone economies. While a virtually inevitable Greek default is unlikely to topple banks outside of Greece, it could set off a series of debt crises and further defaults that will bring down some foreign banks. As sovereign debt defaults appear increasingly unavoidable, so do multi-billion dollar bank losses. That’s why the stock of French banks like BNP Paribas and Société Générale has been free falling in recent months. It’s why large firms, banks, and hedge funds have been pulling their money out of Euro banks. We are, in short, very close to seeing ‘World Financial Crisis: The Sequel,’ a disaster with enormous implications. Yet, where is the investigative reporting about the underlying causes of this? Where are the stories explaining how it is that three years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment

the people of indebted nations for the mess. Remember the scapegoating of poor people in the US who took out subprime mortgages? It was all the fault of the poor, you see, rather than the banks that wheeled, dealed, and conned them into borrowing – all in an effort to create toxic but highly profitable mortgagebacked securities that could be sold to investors. It was, in short, predatory lending to boost financial profits. Pretty much the same thing happened in Ireland, Spain, and Britain. At the same time, banks in Germany and France sent their salespeople to sell loans to governments and banks in other parts of Europe. Now, those same banks are watching in horror as their loans turn sour, just as real estate loans did in the US a few years earlier, and they too are blaming the borrowers. Worse, just as they did in 2008-9, governments are rushing to rescue rickety banks with public funds.

billions in new loans, that money is immediately sent into the coffers of private banks as payments on past loans. The whole situation, observes one writer in the Financial Times, “resembles a pyramid or Ponzi scheme” in which original

The scale of this cozy deal is breathtaking. In July, the US Government Accountability Office published a document detailing the bank bailouts. Between Dec. 2007 and Jul. 2010, it shows over $16 trillion was channeled by the American government into US and European banks. More trillions went toward bailing out US-based auto corporations and to funding stimulus programs. Additional trillions were dished out in bank rescues and stimulus programs in China, Latin America, Europe, and beyond. At the time I released Global Slump (Dec. 2010), my estimate for the combined global bank bailout and stimulus spending was in the range of $21 trillion, or more than one and one-half times US gross domestic product. It is now clear that my estimate, among the largest (and arguably most accurate) at the time, was many trillions shy of the real total. That astounding bailout of global capital drove a massive build-up of government debt. Engaged in a world-wide intervention without precedent, states borrowed in debt markets by selling government bonds. Now, in light of the scale of the accumulated debt, some lenders have grown gun shy. They doubt the capacity of many governments to repay. As a consequence, lending rates have soared. Italy and Spain can only borrow (for ten year bonds) at rates in excess of 5%. For Ireland, the rate is

CONTINUED ON PAGE 12

http://underclassrising.net This photo and the one pictured above were taken on February 25 2010


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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

Bathroom Politics { Juli Rivera

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“ Why not queer up the bathrooms, and create more spaces for bathrooms that are safe?”

Luckily we met here, in this quiet location. The hallway in this school is sooo busy and so loud, but here we get a chance to talk. Perfect!”

oo to the sex and gender borders!

It is social anxiety that I face as a trans-gender person when I choose a bathroom. It is an institutionalized structure that excludes me, myself, and I from doing ‘my business.’

Their face starts to change. But I can’t really figure out whether that is because of the conversation or the smell that accompanies it.

I am always “wrong” – that is what they tell me with their eyes when I enter a bathroom. Sometimes people explain to me where I “should” go. They raise their voice a crack as they see me, a Trans Person of Colour, and they start to talk slowly, and they start to bristle with their entitled behaviour. “Hey Mister!” or “Hey Madame, you have to leave the washroom immediately” the ‘WA-SH-ROOM.’

“I am conducting a survey on bathrooms, and it would be interesting if you could be part of it, as I can see that you are very engaged in this topic.” The person tries to avoid the conversation and wants to leave, but the position in this situation is clear. I am Queer and I am here. And oh, I am still at the door, thanks to that person.

As I watch their over-zealous acting, I am impressed by their performative gestures policing me while feeling so insecure about who they think I am. This makes me stare at them, fascinated by perhaps the best performance I’ll get to see today. I’ll try to remember the gestures used to kick me out of the bathroom – they could be useful for another performance.

It is social anxiety and harassment that I face, as a trans-gender person, when I choose a bathroom. This situation has been another ‘pee-moment’ in my life. I get angry that nothing changes in schools, bars or wherever. I am happy to speak up, and I question myself this time as I am doing my research, asking myself:

They point out the sign at the door and proceed to educate me on what the sign means (at a very slow pace, so that I am able to understand), and then they tell me to leave. The more I stare at them, not moving, the more they get angry at me. Why does this Black Person not follow my orders, they may be thinking. I make this my battlefield. “Hi, thanks for talking with me,” I start. “Here is the situation…”

Why not queer up the bathrooms, and create more spaces for bathrooms that are SAFE? And what would that look like? Why not create single-stalled bathrooms, where just one person can go pee, and ensure that they are accessible for all? And please, where exactly is the awareness? I and all the other wonderful people need to feel safe in those spaces. Research with me!

As I explain, they are sadly surprised that I use the same language, although I do not speak slowly. But seriously, I need to be quick, since I still need to finish my business, and I almost forget about it because the toilet is still blocked. So I continue: “By the way, can you tell me who created those signs on the door? I am into design. But those things – those awful, uncreative symbols – were people asleep when they designed them? And why just two signs? There are so many ways to expand our thinking!” Now I try to put on my serious business face and continue: “I’m researching.

Everything is political, and this situation right here shows me even more that I have to talk out loud. It tells me that I am used to the violent harassment I experience, but that doesn’t mean that I have to accept it. Poo to the sex and gender borders! Pee it out and be what you want to be and pee where you want to pee. (Start to create spaces for people who are made invisible.)

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 11 pushing toward 9%, for Portugal it already exceeds 11%, and for Greece it stands at a nightmarish 23%. And when it comes to shortterm borrowing, Greece is already shut out of money markets, which are demanding an interest rate of 80% on its two-year bonds. In sum, Greece is broke and a default is almost certainly just a matter of time. Extortionate borrowing rates on this scale mean that the debt crises just get worse. Barring a miracle – or our preferred option, default – each of these countries will be more indebted next year, and the year after that, notwithstanding slash-and-burn austerity programs. Meanwhile, those programs, with their massive cuts to government spending and huge public sector layoffs, invariably deepen the economic crisis. Already, the official unemployment rate in Ireland is catapulting to just above 14% (27% for youth); while in Spain, it tops 21% (45% for youth). Greece, meanwhile, is in a fullfledged depression, its economy contracting by 5.5% this year with no sign of recovery for years to come. Austerity and Resistance And yet, as debt mounts, the cuts keep coming. Greece’s latest austerity package includes a two

billion euro cut to healthcare spending and elimination of 30,000 more public sector jobs. On the heels of earlier measures,

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the degree of public anger has been surprisingly low – at least thus far. Part of the responsibility for that lies with a media culture that

when it comes to the debt crises that are rocking parts of Europe at the moment. In the face of the banal mainstream discourse

Yet these cuts, known in the jargon as austerity measures, represent political crimes of equal if not greater magnitude to that burglary at the Watergate – though you would never know it by consulting the mainstream press, which long ago lost any inclination to follow the money.

Ireland has slashed 20% from the salaries of nurses and other public employees, while also reducing child and social welfare benefits. Everywhere, the most vulnerable are being sacrificed so that banks may prosper. Even the odd central banker is being compelled to acknowledge that truth. Speaking to British Members of Parliament in May, Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, observed, “The price of this financial crisis is being paid by people who absolutely did not cause it.” Furthermore, he continued, “Now is the period when the cost is being paid, I’m surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has.” Of course, there has been massive resistance: general strikes, youth occupations of city squares in Greece and Spain, popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond, a student-led upheaval in Chile. But in much of the world,

blames the victims and refuses to follow the money. That is one reason we need radical political economy now more than ever. One of the secrets of capitalism, after all, is the way in which it obscures and conceals processes of economic exploitation. Wealth moves and accumulates along hidden circuits that tend to elude us. Serious economic analysis thus requires real detective work, investigative acts that uncover capitalism’s dirty secrets – sweatshops, child labour, migrants toiling in fields and on construction sites, and the fantastic wealth all of this makes possible for a few. We need the same critical sensibilities

of undisciplined borrowers, we need to demonstrate that, as one senior economic advisor at UBS

bank puts it, we are dealing with “a once-in-a-generation crisis of capitalism.” This crisis is ratcheting up the system’s crimes against the innocent. And there is a powerful way to expose that: follow the money. Always follow the money. David McNally teaches political science at York University, Toronto and blogs at www. davidmcnally.org. His recent book on the world economy is Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance.

LADY GWENDELYN INANE

Greek austerity demonstration, June 2011.


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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

13

United in Occupation Amy Saunders

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oncepts of democracy have, over time, become skewed into a close representation of dictatorships. As a people, we have adopted an ‘imaginary democratic belief,’ suspending our understandings of political truths in the voting booth, signing onto whatever political power reigns as the majority while the ‘minority’ idles by, waiting and hoping to be heard. Within this falsehood of democratic governing systems, we have been promised equality, access, and freedoms. We have seen those realities dissipate, as the truths of our lives become increasingly unfair, impoverished, and marginalized. The truth of access in this imagined democratic system has shrunk significantly, with truth now lying in limited access to healthcare, rights, education, and livable wage standards. We have sat and watched the decline of our country, our world, our people.

The occupation movement began in New York City, as civilians stood together against the increasing wage gap between the 99% and the 1% – raising awareness about the top 1% of people in America which own and occupy more than 50% of the country’s wealth and income. This unbalanced system is a result of the system of capitalism, which

people. As such, the movement is all at once a movement based on the collectivew h o l e ’ s ability to work together, as well as the individual

As a people, we have adopted an ‘imaginary democratic belief,’ suspending our understandings of political truths in the voting booth.

No more. On Oct. 15, 2011, the people took to the streets. Over 3,000 people, in fact, chanting, “YOU SAY CUT BACK? WE SAY FIGHT BACK!” and “THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!” We are in the fervour of a revolution. Protests, stand-offs, and resistances have stormed the world. On Oct.

dominates the world’s economy. This system not only perpetuates but relies on the impoverishment of the majority of the people – in other words, the 99%. In addition to the impoverishment seen on Western soil, the system of capitalism not only perpetuates by relies on the ‘Third World,’ by creating an arena for the ‘Third World’ to exist. Laws and trade regulations that are created by the Western World’s wealthiest 1% instill unfair trade agreements which lead to the impoverishment of specific areas of the world. The Occupy Toronto movement exemplifies a truth about the democratic process that has long been forgotten: respect and understanding. All are heard, as there is a space that has been created for all individuals to give word to their concerns, ideas, inquiries, and the like.

and their ability to mobilize and self-activate. In witnessing the movement from its formation, I begin to wonder to whom the occupation is made available. T h o u g h the Occupy movement is following A young man holds his sign at the first day of the Occupy Toronto march on October 12th. an inherently f e m i n i s t individual falls through, becoming movement creates an arena for the political method in its organization marginalized once again in a necessity for the understandings and execution, the movement space that physically and mentally of self and the conscious world, seems to be pre-dominantly white organizes around the eradication as there is little to no more room and pre-dominantly masculine. From facilitators, to organizers, to the go-to people at the occupation zone at St. James Park, the movement seems to

A true democratic process is long, difficult, and sometimes heart-wrenching, but above all, it is right. of a marginalized personhood. Issues of mental health, gender difference, sexual assault, and safety are keys things that are seemingly overlooked and rather, passed off to the state – the state which the movement is working against, rather than trying to reform with.

Though I am a follower, lover, and fighter of the movement, I grow worried. What is occurring is a transitional period from centralgovernance to self-governance. The people who occupy St. James Park are individuals who At Occupy Wall Street, protestors burn their credit cards - within a few weeks, National Bank Transfer Day was organized. are, in many ways, acting outside of the law and outside of the constraints 15, we witnessed the gathering of As revolutionary movements and be inherited by the privileged. of a centralized government. As over 46,000 people in Madrid, more activisms tend to have a face, this is an individual movement, it than 5,000 people in Frankfurt, a representation embodied by As it is organized and run by the relies on states of consciousness well over a couple thousand people one person (see: Che Guevara, people, there are certain pockets that will allow individuals to rise Zapata, Nelson of discrepancies that creep out – to their own abilities, talents, and in Paris, all while the occupation Emiliano in New York City grew larger and Mandela), the Occupy movement momentary cracks of forgetfulness prerogatives and to understand the aims to have a collective face of the that the once marginalized true meaning of self-control. The larger, taking over Times Square.

for selfishness and greed. This transition period, whether for people in Toronto or Auckland, is a dark and difficult period since as a human population we are used to and have succumb to larger forms of controls and governance, always asking ‘what do I do?’ all in the name of democracy. Sadly, in my time as a volunteer at the occupation zone, that is a question I have been asked daily. Amongst the discrepancies, issues, and concerns, there is one outstanding sentiment that must be remembered: a true democratic process is long, difficult, and sometimes heart-wrenching, but above all, it is right. An Occupy York U group has been initiated in solidarity with the movement. Find further information at: f a c e b o o k . c o m / groups/304698889543122/ http://occupyto.org/ h t t p s : / / w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / OccupyToronto h t t p : / / t w i t t e r. c o m / # ! / OccupyToronto h t t p : / / t w i t t e r. c o m / # ! / OccupyCanada


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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

An Open Letter from

Black Women to the SlutWalk Black Women’s Blueprint

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e the undersigned women of African descent and anti-violence advocates, activists, scholars, organizational, and spiritual leaders wish to address the SlutWalk. First, we commend the organizers on their bold and vast mobilization to end the shaming and blaming of sexual assault victims for violence committed against them by other members of society. We are proud to be living in this moment in time where girls and boys have the opportunity to witness the acts of extraordinary women resisting oppression and challenging the myths that feed rape culture everywhere. The police officer’s comments in Toronto that ignited the organizing of the first SlutWalk and served to trivialize, omit, and dismiss women’s continuous experiences of sexual exploitation, assault, and oppression are an attack upon our collective spirits. Whether the dismissal of rape and other violations of a woman’s body be driven by her mode of dress, line of work, level of intoxication, her class, and – in cases of Black and brown bodies – her race, we are in full agreement that no one deserves to be raped. The Issue At Hand We are deeply concerned. As Black women and girls we find no space in SlutWalk, no space for participation and to unequivocally denounce rape and sexual assault as we have experienced it. We are perplexed by the use of the term ‘slut’ and by any implication that this word, much like the word ‘Ho’ or the ‘N’ word should be re-appropriated. The way in which we are perceived and what happens to us before, during, and after sexual assault crosses the boundaries of our mode of dress. Much of this is tied to our particular history. In the United States, where slavery constructed Black female sexualities, Jim Crow kidnappings, rape and lynchings, gender misrepresentations, and more recently, where Black female immigrant struggles combine, ‘slut’ has different associations for Black women. We do not recognize ourselves nor do we see our lived experiences reflected within SlutWalk and especially not in its brand and its label. As Black women, we do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves ‘slut’ without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the Black woman is. We don’t have the privilege to play on destructive representations burned in our collective minds, on our bodies and souls for generations. Although we understand the valid impetus behind the use of the word ‘slut’ as language to frame and brand an anti-rape movement, we are gravely

concerned. For us the trivialization of rape and the absence of justice are viciously intertwined with narratives of sexual surveillance, legal access and availability to our personhood. It is tied to institutionalized ideology about our bodies as sexualized objects of property, as spectacles of sexuality and deviant sexual desire. It is tied

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Black women’s identities as ‘sluts’ by normalizing the term on t-shirts, buttons, flyers, and pamphlets. The personal is political. For us, the problem of trivialized rape and the absence of justice are intertwined with race, gender, sexuality, poverty, immigration, and community. As Black women

“As women of color standing at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, class and more, we will continue to be relentless in the struggle to dismantle the unacceptable systems of oppression that designedly besiege our everyday lives.”

to notions about our clothed or unclothed bodies as unable to be raped whether on the auction block, in the fields or on living room television screens. The perception and wholesale acceptance of speculations about what the Black woman wants, what she needs, and what she deserves has truly, long crossed the boundaries of her mode of dress. We know the SlutWalk is a call to action and we have heard you. Yet we struggle with the decision to answer this call by joining with or supporting something that even in name exemplifies the ways in which mainstream women’s movements have repeatedly excluded Black women even in spaces where our participation is most critical. We are still struggling with the how, why, and when and ask at what impasse should the SlutWalk have included substantial representation of Black women in the building and branding of this US based movement to challenge rape culture? Black women in the US have worked tirelessly since the nineteenth century coloured women’s clubs to rid society of the sexist/racist vernacular of slut, jezebel, hottentot, mammy, mule, sapphire; to build our sense of selves and redefine what women who look like us represent. Although we vehemently support a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants anytime, anywhere, within the context of a ‘SlutWalk’ we don’t have the privilege to walk through the streets of New York City, Detroit, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, LA, etc., either half-naked or fully clothed selfidentifying as ‘sluts’ and think that this will make women safer in our communities an hour later, a month later, or a year later. Moreover, we are careful not to set a precedent for our young girls by giving them the message that we can self-identify as ‘sluts’ when we’re still working to annihilate the word ‘ho,’ which deriving from the word ‘hooker’ or ‘whore,’ as in ‘Jezebel whore’ was meant to dehumanize. Lastly, we do not want to encourage our young men, our Black fathers, sons, and brothers to reinforce

in America, we are careful not to forget this or we may compromise more than we are able to recover. Even if only in name, we cannot afford to label ourselves, to claim identity, to chant dehumanizing rhetoric against ourselves in any movement. We can learn from successful movements like the Civil Rights movement, from Women’s Suffrage, the Black Nationalist and Black Feminist movements that we can make change without resorting to the taking-back of words that were never ours to begin with, but in fact heaved upon us in a process of dehumanization and devaluation. What We Ask Sisters from Toronto, rape and sexual assault is a radical weapon of oppression and we are in full agreement that it requires radical people and radical strategies to counter it. In that spirit, and because there is so much work to be done and great potential to do it together, we ask that the SlutWalk be even more radical and break from what has historically been the erasure of Black women and their particular needs, their struggles, as well as their potential and contributions to

feminist movements and all other movements. Women in the United States are racially and ethnically diverse. Every tactic to gain civil and human rights must not only consult and consider women of color, but it must equally center all our experiences and our communities in the construction, launching, delivery, and sustainment of that movement. We ask that SlutWalk take critical steps to become cognizant of the histories of people of colour and engage women of colour in ways that respect culture, language, and context. We ask that SlutWalk consider engaging in a re-branding and relabelling process and believe that given the current popularity of the Walk, its thousands of followers will not abandon the movement simply because it has changed its label. We ask that the organizers participating in the SlutWalk take further action to end the trivialization of rape at every level of society. Take action to end the use of the word ‘rape’ as if it were a metaphor, and also take action to end the use of language invented to perpetuate racist/sexist structures and intended to dehumanize and devalue. In the spirit of building a revolutionary movement to end sexual assault, end rape myths, and end rape culture, we ask that SlutWalk move forward in true authenticity and solidarity to organize beyond the marches and demonstrations as SlutWalk. Develop a more critical, a more strategic and sustainable plan for bringing women together to demand countries, communities,

families, and individuals uphold each others’ human right to bodily integrity and collectively speak a resounding NO to violence against women. We would welcome a meeting with the organizers of SlutWalk to discuss the intrinsic potential in its global reach and the sheer number of followers it has energized. We’d welcome the opportunity to engage in critical conversation with the organizers of SlutWalk about strategies for remaining accountable to the thousands of women and men, marchers it left behind in Brazil, in New Delhi, South Korea, and elsewhere – marchers who continue to need safety and resources, marchers who went back home to their communities and their lives. We would welcome a conversation about the work ahead and how this can be done together with groups across various boundaries, to end sexual assault beyond the marches. As women of color standing at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, class and more, we will continue to be relentless in the struggle to dismantle the unacceptable systems of oppression that designedly besiege our everyday lives. We will continue to fight for the development of policies and initiatives that prioritize the primary prevention of sexual assault, respect women and individual rights, agency and freedoms, and holds offenders accountable. We will consistently demand justice whether under governmental law, at community levels, or via community strategies for those who have been assaulted; and organize to end sexual assaults of persons from all walks of life, all genders, all sexualities, all races, all ethnicity, all histories.

David Shankbone (flickr) Saturday Oct. 1, 2011 at SlutWalk in New York.


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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

Arts & Culture

My Night in Wonderland:

How Art Saved Nuit Blanche Gina Webb

Simon Granovsky-Larsen Wonderland

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couldn’t stay away from Nuit Blanche. I love art but I wasn’t expecting much; there is something disturbingly disingenuous when a big bank tells us that we are going to see our city transformed by contemporary art like we’ve never seen it before. I wasn’t overly excited to go, yet I knew I wouldn’t stay in. I also always jump at the

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But that all becomes insignificant, even oddly compelling, given the potential we’re faced with on this eve. No, my reluctance comes from the fact that I don’t want a bank to tell me what art and culture are. I felt like a bureaucratic arm had removed all of the passion, all of

But through my saturated experience, I found at least a moment of clarity. Well, a confused clarity. I do fondly remember at least one thing from the evening: one of the night’s unofficial performance pieces. I am still not sure what it was exactly, but I know it was special. I don’t know whether it was that the cold had made me delusional, or that it was 3:00 am and everything is romantic at 3:00 am. All I know is that for an hour I was Alice. Curious, that it was in a church courtyard, tucked away in one of the far corners of OCAD. Curious, that we were greeted by a clown asking what we want – what we really want – while typing our wildest wishes on an old typewriter. They would form part of an unpunctuated, unstoppable, unending, yet unseen document

“When artistic expression is pushed to its limits, when, at the pinnacle of its repression, it is faced with its own mortality we can see how truly resilient and resistant it is.”

chance for a good old-fashioned all-nighter with friends. I knew that the streets would be crowded. I knew that some art projects would be impossible to see, and others possible after an hour’s wait. I knew that it would be cold and I knew that its sprawl was vast.

the spontaneity, and all of the life from what is supposed to incite passion, spontaneity, and life. Instead of taking to the streets and having an all-art, all-night party, we have a mechanical simulation of one. ScotiaBank seemed to have ripped whatever authenticity could be lingering in an age where art

Art Review: ORIFICE Amy Saunders ORIFICE, as described by the artist, “is a video installation that uses back-projections on screens made of fabric to create a box in the middle of the gallery that viewers may enter to be enveloped within the video. The videos are comprised of different tight shots of artist Brendan Tang throwing clay on a potter’s wheel. The clay has been dyed to mimic flesh and blood and will play between recognition and

abstraction; as something both viscerally familiar but traumatically foreign from the internal body.” Viewing ORIFICE is all at once a traumatic and orgiastic experience – something I’m sure the creator of the work, Josh Vettivelu, would like to hear. Vettivelu has created a space that seeks to provoke anxiety, through the recognition of an immobility of the subjecthood of

of multiplicities and possibilities. Curious, still, that the inhabitants of the space were half bunny, half human and never speaking, dressed in their finest clothes. They shook our hands (for way too long), they gave us popcorn (which was copious and grand), and they poured for us whiskey that we

the viewer. While viewing the disorienting piece, we become aware that we are not the only beings who are observing, for ORIFICE stares back at us, provoking us to lose our

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thought was tea. Then they danced. Around, they danced. The only other speaking inhabitant – another clown – was trying to barter his ‘preserves,’ which were anything and everything he could find, drowned in vinegar. A battery. A playing card. A TTC pass (validity not assured!). He also had a huge bolt, which he promised would hold relationships together.

were faced with, the night could and would still accidentally succeed. Through all of the rubble and destructive forces, there was birth; and it was magnificent. When artistic expression is pushed to its limits, when, at the pinnacle of its repression, it is faced with its own mortality we can see how truly resilient and resistant it is.

It was mysterious. It was strange. It was humorous. It was magical. It was unexpected.

I don’t know how I would have felt about the night had I not found this Wonderland but I promise that even if the potential for such wonder exists, I will be there.

I knew that despite, or perhaps because of, all the mechanical, overbearing corporatization we

Gina Webb is a PhD candidate in Social and Political Thought at York University.

Courtesy of G44

is more often than not created for its reproducibility instead of its uniqueness.

Another memorable moment of the white night is this postcard project at Gallery 44. As part of 401 Richmond Built for Art group exhibition, the Centre for Contemporary Photography G44 invited the visitors of the night to dress up in provided winter clothes and pose in front the cliché Canadian winter scene. Like Wonderland, Postcard 44 highlights both the playful humour and relational aesthetics of contemporary art forms.

He has created a moment in which we recognize ourselves as voyeurs of the pornographic, voyeurs of an experience that is profoundly human.

enact a visceral trauma.” I left the room most likely paler than when I entered. I felt ORIFICE scratched at, prodded, and

“[Vettivelu] has created a moment in which we recognize ourselves as voyeurs of the pornographic, voyeurs of an experience that is profoundly human. ”

selfhood. Watching what at some moments resembles blood, and other moments molding, malleable skin − a material resembling our bedspreads − it is impossible not to be drawn into Vettivelu’s artistry.

Acknowledging the intended perverse nature of the piece, Vettivelu states, “By creating a video that is inherently perverse and obscene, through the abstract use of sculpting fleshy, bloody clay, I hope to

seduced, something deep within me. I found this difficult to swallow, as I could not give language to what I had experienced, what I

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Arts & Culture

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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

Misrepresented and Distorted: An ‘Identity Crisis’ Clarification Sheri Granite

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f you went looking for an art exhibition at Accolade East by an oppressed Palestinian artist who grew up in a world where death rituals were common, you were misinformed, and may have been surprised to find an art exhibition at Accolade West by an artist who happens to be Israeli, an international student who was never oppressed, and knows nothing of common death rituals.

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places I have lived in were tolerant, they were only barely so? This is incorrect and does the quote an injustice. In the interview with the Excalibur Arts Editor I expressed my fondness of Toronto’s tolerance. This does not imply, however, that other countries I have lived in have been less tolerant. As a global traveler I expressed my appreciation for

on raising awareness regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I do not happen to be Palestinian and would not claim an identity that isn’t mine to claim. This is a significant error. In my art I reference a fascination with the life and death cycle, specifically focusing on death as it is perceived negatively in many societies. My seeing the beauty in death nourishing the earth was

“Although I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and focus in one of my 18 art pieces on raising awareness regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I do not happen to be Palestinian...” Sheri Granite, Tied, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

My art, identity, and artistic focus have been significantly misrepresented, distorted, and altered in the Nov. 2, 2011 issue of Excalibur describing my art exhibition Echo.

the cultural exposure I received; however, the Editor chose to focus on the pain of leaving home. This is a false interpretation of my mentioning travel can also mean leaving a lot behind.

I clearly state and am quoted saying, “I’ve always been supported by my surroundings, I’ve never felt oppressed. But being different is never easy.” Why then does the article state that while many of the

In addition, for some reason I was incorrectly represented as Palestinian numerous times. Although I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and focus in one of my 18 art pieces

inspired by the death of a close family member. The article goes on to falsely state that I have experienced growing up in a world where death rituals were common. I am not sure what this means; this makes it sound like I have been a part of a cult, which does not happen to be the case. I also advocate for animal rights through my art. The Excalibur article briefly implies that this

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ORIFICE

tivelu was aiming to do: “I would like the viewer to be faced with the knowledge that all that which CONTINUED FROM PAGE 15 we desire is a substitution of that which we cannot attain – the cause had just seen. Vettivelu approached of all our desire.” Though it took me, asking what I thought. When I some time to wrap my mind around

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The title chosen for the article quotes, “I don’t care what the neighbours think;” this is taken out of context. It is not relevant and does not coincide with the article or reference anything.

Drawing from his artistic statement, I now recognize what Vet-

what it was Vettivelu wished to reach, say, or do with his work, I reflect upon my experience feeling confident, that no matter what it was, he did it.

Sheri Granite is a Toronto-based artist. She is currently interested in surreal photography, as well as abstract and activist art. Granite is an international student from Israel, currently in her third year of the Honours BFA Visual Arts program at York University. She

species. In my art I attempt to peel away rigid stereotypical identity labels. I specifically requested that the interviewer focus more on the art rather than the artist, a request which evidently was ignored. Providing an incorrect or misleading representation of people is not okay, especially when this is done in print and cannot be altered.

has lived on different continents since the age of three, thus travelling globally throughout her life. Travelling has impacted her life experiences thus far with eclectic exposure to different lives, places, ideas, and situations. For more information on Sheri Granite and her upcoming projects, see sherigraniteart.grandportfolio. com

Josh Vettivelu is a Toronto-based artist and student at York University. He is currently in his fifth year of studies towards his BFA in Visual Arts. Vettivelu’s work has been exhibited at Whipper Snapper Gallery, Gales Gallery, XPACE, and

“I would like the viewer to be faced with the knowledge that all that which we desire is a substitution of that which we cannot attain – the cause of all our desire.”

told him of my speechlessness, he grinned.

I am very disappointed to have been significantly misrepresented due to irresponsible journalism.

“I specifically requested that the interviewer focus more on the art rather than the artist, a request which evidently was ignored.”

form of activism is important to me because, like all animals, humans die. The brief interpretation does not reflect on anything I expressed.

Sheri Granite, Mime, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

The article comes to a conclusion identifying an overall, cohesive theme of celebrating our differences that arises from the art. In fact the opposite is true. I won’t hold any such interpretations regarding differences against the viewer; however, much of my art raises existential questions and surreal perspectives based on ideas that de-construct identity and focus on how we are all just human,

Twist Gallery. His performance art was featured at Nuit Blanche 2011, Toronto. Vettivelu participated in Kent Monkman’s The Artist Game at the Toronto International Art

Courtesy of the artist Fair and was also one of six young Canadian senior art students selected to go to St. Petersburg, Russia to study and exhibit at the State

Hermitage Museum. To learn more about Josh Vettivelu and his upcoming projects, see www.joshuavettivelu.com


Arts & Culture

FALL ISSUE 2 2011

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Film Review: Outside the Law / Hors La Loi Victoria Moufawad-Paul

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f Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) and Gilles Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) were to have a baby, and that baby was a film, that film would be Rachid Bouchareb’s Outside the Law / Hors La Loi (2010). When Outside the Law premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, French troops in full riot gear surrounded the Palais where the film screened. Claiming that the film purports historical inaccuracies, parts of France’s establishment disagree with the film and tried, unsuccessfully, to stop it from playing. But in actuality, the controversy really is bound up in the issue of perspective. Similarly, The Battle of Algiers was conceived of as a threat by France’s establishment when it was first released. It received a Golden Lion award for Best Film and the Fipresci prize at the 1966 Venice Film Festival. Despite such positive attention, The Battle of Algiers suffered what Joan Mellen called a “distribution and publicity blackout in the United States” and was banned in France for one year. “When it was finally scheduled,” recounted Irene Bignardi, “the OAS [a French far-right nationalist militant organization] in France threatened to place bombs in the movie theaters where the film was on the program--and it was known to be serious. For four years nobody felt up to trying to release it”. During the Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival screening of Outside the Law, Rachid Bouchareb was asked about the controversy. He explained that films cannot be censored the way they used to be in the past. Bouchareb has established himself with critically acclaimed films dealing with a variety of themes; his work cannot be sidelined and ignored. Outside the Law is about three Algerian brothers who are first shown as children in 1925, watching their father as his home is being stolen by the authorities through a colonial decree, because they did not have French-style legal deeds to their land. In a symbolic moment, which could be set in many different colonized places, we see their father pick up the dirt and tell them to remember that this land is rightfully theirs. The film then shows the Setif massacre in 1945 as another spark that propels the brothers toward France. While in France, the brothers join the FLN wing that fights for Algerian independence on France’s soil.

They are depicted as complex (anti) heroes who, in 1965, win their battle for national liberation. The film is like an inter-generational and updated Battle of Algiers that

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a life, provide for their families, and sort out their masculinity in a place that rejects them. For example, there is a scene in which a wedding celebration is interrupted by the French police. This is the ultimate

“Although their actions are often outside of the law, part of this can be attributed to the fact that the law was created to exclude them.”

focuses on a family rather than on the movement at large. As in any family, there are going to be disagreements about ideology, so the audience is presented with intellectualizing, militancy,

symbolic intrusion into a culture, and is a common device in anticolonial cinema. Think of several Palestinian films, Michael Khelifi’s Wedding in Galilee (1987) or Hany Abu-Assad’s Rana’s Wedding

or The Untouchables (1987) is a fortunate coincidence of shared time period and thus costume: fedoras, overcoats, three piece suits, and scenes of double-fistedhandgun-shooting their way out of the police stations. The film also shares in the metaphor of the gangster: men who are underdogs and part of the underclass in their new society. They do questionable things, but mostly because society is set up in a questionable way. These men live by a code that is bound up in family and honour. Although their actions are often outside of the law, part of this can be attributed to the fact that the law was created to exclude them. They become antiheroes that audiences sympathize with and cheer for.

cardboard boxes for blankets in the snowy winter. Yet, we understand that without discipline, the party will never achieve its goals. Individual suffering could occasionally be alleviated, but the systemic barriers that keep the community impoverished can only be overcome when they are organized and follow a unified strategy. The use of archival footage to situate the narrative in real history, and to relate that history to the international anti-imperialist movement of the time, is an important technique. Several films last year also used archival imagery – Olivier Assayas’s Carlos (2010) comes to mind – but it used the archive for an entirely different political project. The Battle of Algiers and The Godfather won several awards in their time. When Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor, he refused to attend the event and instead sent First Nations actress Sacheen Littlefeather to accept his award and give this anti-colonial speech in 1973 on his behalf: “For 200 years we have said to the Indian people who are fighting for their land, their life, their families and their right to be free: ‘Lay down your arms, my friends, and then we will remain together. Only if you lay down your arms, my friends, can we then talk of peace and come to an agreement which will be good for you.’

www.premiere.fr Jamel Debbouze, Sami Bouajila and Roschdy Zem as the three brothers from Outside the Law film poster

nationalism and organized crime. Seeing the brothers’ divergent choices around tactics for survival and the friction it causes in their family reminded me of Ken

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(2002); it signals the loss of autonomy over social milestones and in many ways symbolizes a threat to the traditional patriarchal order. In the film, it galvanized

Although we often cheer for them, revolutionary violence is not necessarily sanitized in Outside the Law. For example, a member of the FLN is murdered for stealing

“The use of archival footage to situate the narrative in real history, and to relate that history to the international anti-imperialist movement of the time, is an important technique.”

Loach’s Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006). The bulk of the film takes place in France, and thus we watch the brothers as immigrants. Like in The Godfather, they are trying to make

many men in the ghetto to join the FLN. Oddly, it does not have the same effect on the women in the film. Sharing the visual style of gangsters from The Godfather

money to buy a refrigerator. Bouchareb presents this as an ugly moment: we feel sympathy for the man who lives in poverty. Like all of the characters in the film, they live in what looks like a precursor to a ghetto, a shanty town with

When they laid down their arms, we murdered them. We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements that we called treaties which we never kept. We turned them into beggars on a continent that gave life for as long as life can remember. And by any interpretation of history, however twisted, we did not do right. We were not lawful nor were we just in what we did.” Brando’s speech, which Littlefeather was not allowed to complete at the awards ceremony, resonates with the Algerian cause, as it is represented in both The Battle of Algiers and Outside the Law. Reprinted from allkillers. blogspot.com. All Killer is a Toronto-based blog mainly consisting of reviews of interesting things: film, contemporary art, music, books, television. You will notice an emphasis on Arab and queer themes.


Arts & Culture

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FALL ISSUE 2 2011

MOVING CAMERAS THROUGH FENCES ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX Hadiyya Mwapachu project which stirs audiences to contemplate the events critically, forcing them to recognize the systematic violence which is exercised within our public spaces. REact:G20, Co-presented by Parkdale Film + Video Showcase: A collection of artistic responses to Jun. 2010 G20 events

Victory Salute – Trevor Tureski Rebels with a Cause, the inaugural film festival organized by the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at York, took place in the week of Oct. 24-28, 2011 at various locations around the York campus. The festival successfully screened films that are artistically, politically, and socially critical, combined with artist’s talks, panel discussions, and Q&As. The films represented the voices of York students, alumni, and faculty, as well as independent filmmakers from the larger Toronto community. The following article reviews highlights from the festival.

Artist Talk: Bear Witness on his works as video artist and experimental filmmaker

Woodcarver – Bear Witness This short, by artist and DJ Bear Witness, is a video that chronicles the murder of an Indigenous man called John T. Williams by a police officer on Aug. 20, 2010 in Seattle. It is named after the knife Williams used for woodcarving.

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Bear Witness discussed how he DJs video-like tracks to create a political form of audio visual performance in which he affixes images onto found footage. In Woodcarver, the image of the man running both displays the horror of the murder and the inability of Williams to flee. Bear Witness spoke of how he grappled with the decision to include the piece within the imagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival as he feared that the

“[Woodcarver] found a way to examine violent events without further traumatizing Indigenous audiences.”

The piece uses footage filmed from the officer’s dashboard interlaced with a shot of a man running from the film Thunderheart. The video documents the events that took place, though the most striking aspect of the film is the atmosphere of normalcy that is constructed as the day continues after the murder takes place. During his talk on Oct. 24 that kicked off Rebels with a Cause,

content and imagery would further traumatize Indigenous audiences. He discussed how an audience member at the imagineNative screening observed that the piece found a way to examine violent events without further traumatizing Indigenous audiences. Through projecting a sense of dissonance in the juxtaposition of image and sound, Bear Witness and the collective A Tribe Called Red participate in a decolonial

Trevor Tureski, Victory Salute screenshot

This film features a shot of former President George W. Bush making a profane gesture toward the camera during a test shot that took place before he addressed the nation. This image is repeated along with the audio from his speech. Through emphasizing Bush’s crude body language juxtaposed with his practiced words, the film draws

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and the book Matilda in which a character eats a large piece of cake in order to defy authority. The director spoke of how the project is used to “invoke sensations” within an audience, providing an opening to discuss the social critique embedded within the act. She spoke of the discussions on online media in response to the project. The film expresses the way in which performance can be employed to stimulate a sense of participation, which has been excluded within dominant discourse.

Afghanimation

Mitchell

Allyson

This film uses stop-motion animation to depict the creation of rugs that are woven by women in Afghanistan. The film explores

interplay between the threading and tapestry mirrors the tales that are spun by different interests. As viewers, we are asked to recognize how we become embedded within nationalist projects. Dis(orient)ation, curated by Victoria Moufawad-Paul: Comprising several approaches to radical aesthetics that deal with the problems of visual representation of Palestine

Chronicle of a Disappearance – Elia Suleiman

The film chronicles filmmaker Elia Suleiman’s journey to the West Bank and Israel. Structured as a diary with different vignettes, there is a repetition of images and events and a lack of linear time.

“[Victory Salute] draws allusions to the vulgarity inherent within [Bush’s] false justifications of the veracity behind military invasion... It locates his speech within an arena of performance, where the actors are given impunity once they leave the stage. ”

allusions to the vulgarity inherent within his false justifications of the veracity behind military invasion. This is expressed by exposing a gesture that would otherwise be redacted. It is apparent that this act of mockery negates a belief in the authenticity of Bush’s words. It locates his speech within an arena of performance, where the actors are given impunity once they leave the stage.

Left to Eat Cake – Ananya Ohri The film chronicles a woman eating a decadent cake in the middle of the protest. The scene conjures a sense of greed, apathy, and entitlement with the contrast between the woman eating the cake and the crowd gathered to watch. There is an allusion to the iconic remark by Marie Antoinette

Ananya Ohri, Left to Eat Cake screenshot

how war is perceived through a different lens. The inability to frame the intention of the women who make the rugs illustrates how their ability to function is a subversive act, one which cannot be easily understood and molded to fit into Western narratives. The film serves as antidote to the use of Afghani crafts and design which are distributed by the occupying forces in an attempt to present them as examples of women’s independence after the war. These false depictions use cultural productivity as a way to justify conquest; the film encourages us to contemplate the intention behind those who buy these pieces along with the women who make them. In a description of the film, the director depicts the complacency of the public who are not aware of Canada’s role in Afghanistan. The

The mediation on the stagnation of time and restlessness evokes the quelling of possibility within an occupation. The film depicts the regulation of movement within the public and private sphere. It provokes viewers to examine how people live in a sense of statelessness. Curator Victoria Moufawad-Paul encouraged the audience to regard the film as contributing to an anti-colonial project rather than being regarded as a film promoting liberation. The film displays how an emphasis on ambivalence can be used as an artistic strategy against narrow representations. It is clear that the complexity within the structure and content prevents the film from being malleable to conventionality.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

Allyson Mitchell, Afghanimation screenshot


Arts & Culture

FALL ISSUE 2 2011

19

Amee Lê

Amee Lêof Mountains That Take Wing, C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan via Skype Queer&Trans Activism Filmmakers Discussion Panel (left); York Professor Andrea Davis interviews co-directors CONTINUED FROM PAGE 18 Queer and Trans Activism, Copresented by the Centre for Women and Trans People at York University: A collection of films by queer and trans artists and activists

Red Lips [Cages for Black Girls] – Kyisha Williams This film explores the criminalization of trans communities and people of color by the prison industrial complex. Through the documentation of experiences, the film highlights the policing within these communities by the state. The film produces

the nation as a site of monitored spaces in which those who are viewed as abhorrent are targeted and punished. By foregrounding her personal narrative, the director examines the need to reveal the

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Camp – Alexis Mitchell Camp redresses the Jewish narrative of Purim through a queer retelling, which transgresses history by emphasizing the

within texts, political and personal histories, the documentary offers radical strategies on transforming instruments of imprisonment, in its diverse forms.

parts of the story that have been hidden. The filmmaker spoke of addressing the silences within Jewish communities surrounding Purim and the occupation in Palestine. The film examines how camps serve as sites that discipline, order, and control. Through an exploration of historical censure

H.L.T. Quan

A review of this film has been published in DisOrientation (YU Free Press, Vol 4, Iss 1).

“[CAMP] offers radical strategies on transforming instruments of imprisonment, in its diverse forms.”

layers of self-regulation that are enforced through dominant culture. The piece discloses the disparities within incarceration rates and the marginalization of these perspectives. The film intervenes into this exclusion by showing spaces where different identities celebrate their acts of resistance.

Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama – A Conversation on Life, Struggles & Liberation – C.A. Griffith &

The Personal and Political Story of Activism

For recorded discussions and list of films, visit www.opirgyork.ca/ node/161

EVENTS NOVEMBER Facilitation Workshop 201 WHERE: UofT St. George Campus (Room location is given upon registration.) WHERE: Sat. Nov. 19, 11:00am-5:00pm CONTACT: http://www.toolsforchange.net/2011/08/14/ facilitation-201/ COST: $20 organizations and wage-earners; $10 unwaged DETAILS: This workshop will address the challenges of facilitating debates about tactics, strategy, and other priorities. Participants are encouraged to arrive with specific challenges they have or are navigating in their activist work. Health Action Assembly and Annual Conference WHERE: Sheraton Centre, 123 Queen St. W. WHEN: Sat. Nov. 19, 10:00am-4:30pm CONTACT: http://www.web.net/~ohc/ COST: $0-35 sliding scale DETAILS: This is a period in which the future of health care delivery in Ontario will be defined. After the provincial election, a continuing corporate tax cuts threaten a new attack on public services. We will hear reports from local health coalitions from across Ontario, and set the strategy to be a leading voice in the fight ahead. Changin’ Times – Eric Fawcett Panel WHERE: Bahen Centre, 40 St George St. WHEN: Sat. Nov. 19, 10:00am-4:30pm CONTACT: http://www.scienceforpeace.ca/changin-timeseric-fawcett-panel DETAILS: Public talks by Bob Lovelace, Danny Harvey and Bruce Gagnon, organized and sponsored by Science for Peace and the University of Toronto Graduate Student Union Social Justice Committee. An Arctic Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone as an Element of Eliminating Nuclear Weapons WHERE: University College, Rm 179, 15 King’s College WHEN: Thurs. Nov. 24, 4:00pm-6:00pm CONTACT: scienceforpeace.ca DETAILS: Science for Peace lecture by physicist Adele Buckley.

Star Talks: Samantha Nutt WHERE: Reference Library, 789 Yonge St. WHEN: Thurs. Nov. 24, 7:00pm-9:00pm CONTACT: torontopubliclibrary.ca DETAILS: The War Child Canada founder talks about greed, guns, armies and aid with journalist Catherine Porter. Media Strategy Workshop 101 WHERE: UofT St. George Campus (Room location is given upon registration.) WHEN: Sat. Nov. 26, 11:00am-5:00pm CONTACT: http://www.toolsforchange.net/2011/08/14/ media-strategy-101/ COST: $20 organizations and wage-earners; $10 unwaged DETAILS: Campaigns interact, influence, and are influenced by the media. This workshop will provide participants with tools to develop a media strategy, write compelling press releases, give great interviews, and develop frames and messages that are in line with their goals. Queer as (Black) Folk WHERE: George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, 245 Church St. WHEN: Sat. Nov. 26, 6:00pm-9:00pm CONTACT: 416-264-3999 COST: $30, advanced tickets $20 DETAILS: Black Daddies Club panel discussions on homosexuality and homophobia in the Black community, with Junior Burchall and others. My Friend Brindley WHERE: William Doo Auditorium, 45 Willcocks Ave. WHEN: Mon. Nov. 28, 6:30pm-9:30pm CONTACT: 416-978-8201 DETAILS: Trans Inclusion Group screening and Q&A with filmmaker Alec Butler. Panel Discussion: Political Advocacy on the Internet WHERE: Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Park When: Tues. Nov. 29, 7:00pm-9:00pm CONTACT: rom.on.ca COST: $12 DETAILS: Join in the conversation about the role that new media and the internet play in political advocacy. Learn more about the strategies, implications, and effects of this growing platform.

DECEMBER Feminist Book Discussion Group WHERE: North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge St. WHEN: Wed. Dec. 7, 1:30pm-3:30pm CONTACT: eob62@yahoo.com DETAILS: The group will discuss Azar Nafisi’s memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories. Indigenous Women Leaders Paving the Way for SelfGovernment Lecture Series WHERE: Arts & Letters Club, 14 Elm St. WHEN: Thurs. Dec. 8, 12:00pm CONTACT: Centre for Indigenous Governance (416) 9795000, ext. 2047 or cig@ryerson.ca COST: Free (registration is required) DETAILS: Dr. Viola Robinson - Dr. Robinson is a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia who was a former commissioner on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, has received the Order of Canada, National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and is the Special Advisor for the Mi’kmaq Self-Government Negotiations. She will speak about the challenges of selfgovernment and her own path to leadership. Impact of Climate Change on the Water Cycle and Health WHERE: University College, Rm. 179, King’s College WHEN: Thurs. Dec. 8, 4:00pm-6:00pm CONTACT: scienceforpeace.ca DETAILS: Science for Peace lecture by Global Warming and Climate Change editor Velma Grover. World Food Security WHERE: University College, Rm. 179, King’s College WHEN: Thurs. Dec. 15, 4:00pm-6:00pm CONTACT: scienceforpeace.ca DETAILS: Science for Peace lecture by sociology/geography professor Harriet Friedmann.

Compiled by Stefan Lazov SEND YOUR EVENTS TO: info@yufreepress.org


Prison Justice, Volume 4, Issue 2  

Prison Justice, Volume 4, Issue 2

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