Tag Archives: activism

Why I Am Going to Attend Occupy Vancouver

I am white, middle class, educated and, by all accounts, an extremely fortunate woman.

I live in Canada where my parents’ (sometimes life-threatening) health issues are covered by a provincial medical plan.

My water and air are clean, and food is plentiful.

My husband and I are employed.

I am not desperate, but I am angry; I am not sick, but I am sickened.

I know I will never be able to own a house in my home city without winning the lottery, or paying on a mortgage until I am 70.

I know that in our society I am ‘overeducated’ and, as a contract university instructor/researcher, will always be underpaid when compared to other professionals.

I know that we are killing innocent people with our invasions and occupations.

I know that, as a woman in this country I will disproportionately pay in lost income and career advancement for having children.

I know that despite the—often herculean—efforts of committed citizens organizing across the province, the federal and provincial governments are more interested in building pipelines and transmission lines and highways to export every resource we can dig, dam and cut out of this place of ours.

I know that citizen action sometimes wins, but not often enough to save our watersheds, or fish or our climate.

I am often told that I am lucky to be a Canadian, and certainly when I read the testimonials emerging from the OccupyWallstreet movement, I feel that way. But I am not alone. We here have our own stories, and the growing exceptionalist sentiment in this country is dangerous. Dangerous because we are not unique, we colonized this country on native land. We are infected by the same democratic malaise affecting people around the world. A short historic window existed where (admittedly flawed) collective institutions and public policies helped to equalize some power and some income in Canada: creation of environmental programs, Status of Women, equalization and social security, a national system of health care and progressive taxation. These institutions are eroding today, victims of a greedy class—a 1% if you will— winning a broader culture war wherein greed is good, brown is green and might makes right.

I’m tired of feeling powerless. I know that every time I walk downtown I pass men, women and sometimes children sleeping on every other corner of our streets while billions of dollars is poured in to stadiums, into war machines and corrupt business people posing as political leaders.

The Americans occupying Wall Street are not alone today, not because of some need for international solidarity (though there is that) but because their problems are literally our problems. Income inequality in Canada grew faster than it did in the US since the mid 1990s. Inflation adjusted (real) wages in this country are falling, and this while the richest 1% of Canadians take historically unprecedented growing chunks of the national pie: 32% of all income growth between 1997 and 2007, in fact. The abortion debate is being re-opened. The Keystone and Enbridge pipelines are ever closer to construction and with them comes an exponential increase in environmental destruction. I don’t have one reason to be in the streets this October, I have a hundred.

I am going to Occupy Vancouver (despite the issues with the word ‘occupy’) because we multitude, we majority, need to (re)create spaces where genuine democracy can flourish: on the streets, in our places of work, our homes and force change. We need to create places where the concerns of the disappeared women are not minimized and silenced, nor are those of our schoolteachers, wilderness advocates, farmers, health care workers, veterans and other diverse citizens. These are not the voices that echo in elite-controlled buildings in Victoria, in Ottawa, on Bay Street and Howe Street. This movement may be disjointed, it may be difficult, but it is a start of something very sorely needed in this country.

I am part of the 99%. We, together, are the 99%. Occupy Vancouver, and not just on October 15.

SFPIRG: We stand in solidarity with CUPE 3338 and oppose the “reprehensible” recommendation to evict SFPIRG

The following is a quote from SFPIRG’s announcement to students, members, and supporters, posted on its website at www.sfpirg.ca.  It is republished on PoliticsRespun.org in solidarity and to spread the word.

SFPIRG stands in solidarity with and extends our full support to SFSS staff, members of CUPE 3338, who have been locked out of their workplaces by the SFSS Board of Directors. These staff keep vital services (e.g. the Women’s Centre, Out on Campus, clubs’ events, etc.) running for 20,000+ SFU students, including members of the SFSS board themselves. Follow the latest updates on http://twitter.com/#!/cupesfu.

SFPIRG also finds reprehensible the SFSS Student Space Oversight Committee’s recommendation to the SFSS Board of Directors that we be served 3 months’ notice to vacate offices we have occupied for approximately two decades. This was done without consulting us in good faith or considering the needs of students accessing our space and services every day. The Committee also failed to adequately publicize the meeting where this recommendation was deliberated and passed.

SFPIRG is a student-based and student-directed non-profit organization that offers not only community-based research opportunities for students, but also student communal spaces (e.g. lounge, meeting room), a bike tool co-op, training and materials for student organizing, printing/photocopying, outreach/postering support, a wide range of critical academic and grassroots resources, infrastructural support (funding, training, storage) for student groups, and most importantly, a diverse and vibrant student community passionate about social and environmental justice.

Follow our latest updates here: http://twitter.com/#!/SFPIRG, and check out our Programming and Education Coordinator, Setareh Mohammadi, and SFPIRG Board Member Isaac Louie, giving the low-down via CJSF today:


 On their website, SFPIRG describe themselves as: “The Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) is a student funded and directed resource centre at SFU. We support environmental and social change through research, education and action.”

A Better World is Needed: The oh-so ‘Canadian’ style of dissent

It’s Canada Day, which is apparently a day for Canadians all across the country to dress up in red and white and wave flags and yell “Oh Canada” and paint their faces and humbly comment on what a polite and kind country we are, because we’re number one!

For me, Canada Day is an interesting holiday.  I certainly acknowledge that this country — this state, this creation of lines drawn on a map — is a nice place to live.  I’m lucky to have been born here.  There are places in the world where I wouldn’t be able to write things like this.  But even as I acknowledge the relative comfort in which I live, I find myself acknowledging how much of a better world we could live in.  There is exploitation and subjugation and destruction in the world.

To echo and twist the oft-repeated phrase, a better world is not only possible – it is needed.  And Canada Day highlights this for me, as we celebrate the popular myth of Canada: the benevolent state that engages in cultural genocide, the peaceful state embroiled in foreign and domestic wars, the free state that does crushes basic human rights.  Yes, a better world is needed.  And we need to get there.

But thinking about how we do that and putting those thoughts into action is just as confusing as it is liberating.  To me, one thing is simply obvious: the oh-so ‘Canadian’ way of dissent, that which is so polite, so pleasant, so quiet and careful, is rendered nearly meaningless when it comes face-to-face with the Canadian state, emblazoned with maple leafs but carrying shotguns.  A better world is needed, and we need to actually work for it, not just hope that someone powerful might take pity on us.

My original idea for this piece was to question why so many activists in Canada see a desperate need to ‘play by the rules’ that the state sets out for dissent.  This comes after the Toronto G8/G20 protests, where a fury of righteous indignation erupted after people happened to take to the streets, inconveniencing some commuters while police either encouraged property destruction or police agents provocateurs actively engaged in it themselves.  A flurry of self-described progressives rushed to condemn protesters and support the police, because some windows got smashed and some police cars burned.

Later, after the ‘left’ spent large amounts of time condemning itself, stories emerged that the Toronto Police Service was enforcing a law that it knew didn’t exist in order to illegally search, question, identify, and detain activists, marchers, or residents who strayed within five meters of the military-style fence erected in the Toronto downtown.  Stories emerged of horrid conditions in the temporary detention camp built in a movie studio.  Stories of threats of violence and rape emerged.

This is all part of the plan of the neoliberal state: impose policies that enforce capitalist expansion and exploitation, remove social programs, and delegitimize dissent.  Capitalism may be protected, but nothing remains of liberty or democracy.

A better world is possible.  A better world is needed.  But we won’t get there through the oh-so-Canadian style of dissent that so many left activists take to heart.

(more after the break… click ‘read more’ to continue)

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