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Activist Communiqué: Decolonizing ‘Occupy’ Toronto

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As Toronto welcomed the hope of spring, a new General Assembly (GA) held its first of weekly Monday night meetings in the financial district at Cloud Gardens.

The new GA got right to work with its new 90 per cent consensus model that evening with 70 people in attendance. The new GA brought out more people than I have ever seen at a GA since we occupied St. James Park.

There were lots of old faces from the park who greeted each other - despite not seeing each other when the park was shut down by police on November 24, 2011 - as if they had never left the park.
First order of business - to deal with Occupy Toronto's lack of an anti-oppression policy - was to pass a living document policy: Decolonization of Occupy Toronto.

After a 40 minute question and answer period, this policy was passed with 100 per cent consensus (despite only needing 90 per cent. The policy passed with cheers of delight from the participants and people like myself who had been consulted on the proposal itself.

Here is the text of that proposal; again, as a living document, it is always open to amendment. I would like to thank Occupy Denver and Occupy Wall Street for their hard decolonizing work that set the ground work for Occupy Toronto.

Proposal: For the Monday GA to adopt the following statement and principles on decolonization as a framework for organizing our work through the new GA. Propose that we adopt these principles as a working statement, recognizing we need to seek input from our allies in the city to help build this living document.

Decolonizing ‘Occupy' Toronto

Following the rich tradition of Indigenous people and people of colour who have fought for self-determination, decolonizing ‘Occupy' Toronto means aspiring to win struggles for liberation by placing Indigenous people, people of color, people with disabilities, psychiatric survivors, homeless people, low income or working class people, immigrants, gender non-conforming persons, women, and queers at the center of our collective struggle.

In addition, we commit to creating political structures and community events that welcome Toronto's residents, 47% of whom are people of color. Further, we commit to respecting the lands upon which we organize in our thoughts, planning and messaging to others. We will acknowledge the lands we stand upon before meetings, GA's and/or public events.

As a place of unity, we adopt the following statements as part of a living document upon which we base our struggle against the 1%, corporate greed, colonialism and the exploitation of Mother Earth.

1) We acknowledge that Canada is a colonial and capitalist country, a country of settlers, built upon the land of Indigenous nations;

2) We acknowledge that systemic racism exists in Canada, where Indigenous people and people of colour are disproportionately jailed and impoverished by policies - deliberate or not - that are enforced and enacted by the Canadian State;

3) We demand that the colonial government of Canada honor all treaties signed with all Indigenous nations whose lands are now collectively referred to as "Canada" and that the government respect the right of Indigenous nations to self-determination, with or without Treaty signatures.

4) We recognize that oppression and colonization are systemic, they are a product of histories and contexts that go far beyond individuals and their specific histories;

5) We recognize that oppression and colonization are structural, in that it is not just the hurt feelings of individuals affected but rather the daily grind of lack of housing, of policing, of joblessness, of immense material impacts;

6) We recognize that oppression and colonization are intersectional - that is there isn't a hierarchy of oppression that any one individual feels but complex structural and systemic inequities that affect an individual and peoples differently;

7) We seek decolonization through transformative processes, rather than through the attainment of reforms;

8) We recognize that people are individually traumatized differently, be it through intergenerational trauma or direct experience and require different supports in terms of healing and transformation;

9) We believe that, for us, decolonizing our communities and ourselves requires a collective effort rooted in compassion, wisdom, humility and collective consciousness.

10) We will take direction from impacted communities when organizing around issues that impact those communities directly and respect the sovereign right and knowledge of the individual nations on Turtle Island.

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