That is the question. Or maybe -- how we ought to re-occupy. Though to this point it has been more a question of when, rather than if or how. Once Occupy Vancouver's camp was evicted, First Nations elders reminded us that winter was the time for recuperation, storytelling, planning, and readying for the spring. And indeed, the call for a spring re-occupation has been in circulation almost since the evictions became general, with perhaps the loudest and clearest call coming in the form of the Spanish Indignados and the DRY (Democracia Real Ya) movement's #12m12 call to make the 12th of May 2012 a day of global action: "Let's turn the streets into the biggest loudspeaker on earth."
Several weeks ago we, as concerned Christians, met at a local church with some of the striking workers from the Salvation Army Booth Centre on George Street in Ottawa's Byward Market. The staff members spoke first and at length about the people they serve, some with serious mental health problems and those trying to conquer alcoholism or addictions, many of whom are homeless. It was clear to us that these workers, whether as a front-line counsellors or as support staff in the kitchen, must have both skill and dedication to do what they do. These workers have both.
As the Canadian government and its provincial equivalents take part in the global push for austerity, its after-effects have significantly strained the fiscal and political dimensions of municipal governance. More than a year after right-wing populism swept through the City of Toronto, the agenda of the Rob Ford administration has shown itself to be as administratively vacuous as economically delusional. Notwithstanding reality, however, public sector workers still continue to suffer from widespread resentment and political antipathy. This is why Ford and council, with the support of Toronto and Canada's ruling classes, continues to be so forceful with respect to layoffs, service cuts, asset sell-offs and so on.
Think back to December 10, 2002 -- nine years ago this weekend, International Human Rights Day.
Perhaps on that day you were aware of the human rights significance, and perhaps not. But more importantly, what were you doing with your life back then? Were you in a different job? A different city? Perhaps in the interim you earned a post-secondary degree or diploma, or possibly more than one. How many job interviews did you attend in those nine years? How much money have you earned? Did you have children? Did you visit relatives in another province? Perhaps take a honeymoon? Travel abroad?
Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
And now it is winter. Wall Street rejoices, hoping that the change of seasons will mean a change in our spirit, our commitment to stop them.
They couldn't be more wrong. Have they not heard of Washington and the troops at Valley Forge? The Great Flint Sit-Down Strike in the winter of 1936-37? The Michigan Wolverines crushing Ohio State in the 1950 Blizzard Bowl? When it comes to winter, it is the time historically when the people persevere and the forces of evil make their retreat!
A defining moment in Canadian history will take place in Ottawa this month.
On Sept. 26, hundreds of individuals from across the country will participate in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. The objective is to send a clear message to the Harper regime, calling on the government to withdraw its unquestioning support of the tar sands industry and to provide leadership by forging the transition to a clean, just and renewable energy that respects Indigenous rights and gives priority to the health of our communities and the environment. It could well turn out to be the largest demonstration of environmental civil disobedience in the history of this country's climate movement.
Any time commentators speak of a new 'age,' powerful assumptions quickly become entrenched in our thinking. An 'age of austerity' now encompasses many western economies as governments launch fierce campaigns against workers to lower public sector wages. At the same time, capital has taken a 'wait and see' attitude resulting in an unprecedented hoarding of surplus and thereby limiting investment and real job creation. As unions are put on the defensive by austerity measures, calls for broader working-class organizations from diverse groups on the left have become commonplace. Difficult questions remain around how to build such formations and what role organized labour can play, if any, in their development.
It is rare in these times that we can celebrate a victory such as Alvaro Orozco's return home to his Toronto community on June 1, after several weeks in immigration detention.
A vibrant community member, queer activist, and artist, Alvaro is no stranger to struggle. Fleeing his native Nicaragua at age 12 after receiving homophobic death threats, he eventually arrived in Canada in 2005. Any illusions he may have had that Canada was a place of safety were quickly dispelled by the denial of his refugee application. The grounds for the denial were unabashedly homophobic: Alvaro just did not look "gay" enough to justify his assertion that he feared for his life in Nicaragua.
The Harper government's June Budget is almost entirely a reprinted version of the budget they tabled two-and-a-half months ago in March. Outside of $2.2 billion for Quebec's sales tax harmonization and the elimination of federal support for political parties, there's nothing new in the budget -- and that's the problem.
While the budget includes a few positive measures, many of which were proposed by the NDP -- such as increases to GIS payments for seniors, reintroducing incentives for energy retrofits -- they are overshadowed by what's bad and what's not there.
How ironic is it that Stephen Harper has assigned Tony Clement to identify opportunities for federal budget cutbacks? Yes, that would be the same Tony Clement whose riding received $50 million in G20 "legacy infrastructure funds," part of a spending spree that MP Pat Martin called "flagrant...hog-troughing of the highest order."
Are you ready for the upcoming press conferences where Tony lectures Canadians on the need for belt-tightening and "cutting the fat," while his axe chops through the muscle and bone of our public programs and services?