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In the wake of the recent Ontario elections Briarpatch Magazine, the Council of Canadians, Solidarity Ottawa and the Fight for $15 and Fairness organized panels with grassroots organizers in Toronto and Ottawa asking “what’s next.” 

I listened to all three panels and have captured quotes around six themes to provide a “teaser” and share some great points. The thoughtful and generous insights from inspiring frontline organizers provide tools and ways of making sure that our resistance is effective.

To listen to the panels in their entirety please click the links below. 

June 21: Solidarity Ottawa panel with Pam FracheDoug Nesbitt and Kevin Skerrett

June 23: Council of Canadians, Groundswell 2018 panel, Lindsay (Beze) and Vanessa GrayJohn Clarke,  Karen Cocq and Martin Lukacs 

June 26: Briarpatch Magazine at Workers Action Centre: Part 1Part 2, and Part 3,  Felicia Samuel, John Clarke, JP Hornick, Tori Cress and Deena Ladd

The next four years will be an important test for Ontarians. We will either see the most regressive policies Ontario has ever seen or we will build a movement which defeats anyone who is attacking the land, environment, and people in this province.   

We must not fight alone

There are some who can continue to live comfortably when all this chaos and violence is happening, but there are people, like my sister and me, who cannot. We have nothing that holds us back from direct action because we are faced with violence every day.

– Beze Gray

The poor must not fight alone. None of us can accept four years of cutbacks after 15 years of Liberal austerity measures but the cruelest cuts have, and will continue to be, targeted at the most vulnerable. We must have the perspective of building a mass movement, rooted in workplaces and communities across this country which can first hamper the Ford agenda, then block and defeat the agenda. We need a mass movement in Ontario which can bring this government down!

– John Clarke

Solidarity means you turn out and you listen

So what can you do? One, read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People because that is what we are fighting for, these rights which we have not had because of 150 years of dominant assimilationist policy. Two, find out whose land you are living on and stop tagging your First Nations and Indigenous friends to ask. Three, the events we organize are countless — about suicide rates, about housing, about murdered and missing Indigenous women, about murdered and missing Indigenous men, about high incarceration rates. Most of these events are very poorly attended.  It is not enough to “be there in spirit,” turn out to events and maintain your support for movements instead of using a “flavour of the month” approach. Four, you need to know that in many of these bands we have rampant poverty, legislated poverty, so we are fighting and standing for issues which matter to all Canadians but do help with asks like funding for events and marches. Five, don’t make heroes out of our people. We are fighting for collective goals so don’t make us poster children and don’t tell us what we want. Let’s really work together.

– Tori Cress*

I believe, despite the fact that our people are dying of exposure to chemicals and inflicted poverty, in a just society and a vision of a just society. We can do things better but we must look at our own implication and responsibilities. We have to know that Indigenous people were living on this land before in solidarity with this land. We are not taking our shotguns and saying “get off this land, we are going to shoot you white person” but we are saying that we just want what is best for the land have been working in solidarity with the nature and the land so that we can hand it down to the generations after. That is just a very basic thing, we don’t want to be killed for being on our own land. We are taking on fights and direct actions to stand up for the environment and against pollution in Simcoe and Chemical Alley, but this is everyone’s fight. All Canadians not just Indigenous communities.

– Vanessa Gray  

We need people to be more assertive about what is right, instead of just talking about it and backing off when it is inconvenient because they cannot live comfortably, and be in solidarity with Indigenous communities…. We need more direct actions.

– Beze Gray*   

Ford has talked about driving the bulldozer himself when he opens northern Ontario up to mining interests, and tramples the rights of Indigenous people. The question is, can it be stopped? Is there a way to build a movement of communities, of workers, which frustrates the Ford agenda? Governments in the past have been stopped, initiatives have been defeated, and we must create the kind of movements that can do that. We have to tilt the balance of forces.

– John Clarke

Protect gains we’ve made

Stop overanalyzing why and demonizing people who voted for Ford and the PC.  We have had many elected a**holes in power. Many working-class people voted for Ford — how do we move them to issues?  How do we educate them about how Bill 148 will help them with scheduling rights, break down the benefits of what is being rolled back rather than re-running the election? We need to develop small local actions to build confidence and consistent actions to build momentum. We need to get our heads around the fact that there is very little organizing capacity so let’s not just focus on large urban protests and panels, we need to use that energy wisely and build local strength in targeted ridings.

– Deena Ladd

 (Note: To educate people about Bill 148, use this petition as a tool).

Ford’s conservatives have a majority so they may seem strong but they are weak outside of the legislature. They were not clear about their agenda and the many people who cast a protest vote for them are not going to support the cuts. So stop staying dismissive things about those who support them and reach out to them to get them to support their lives and livelihoods.

– Karen Cocq

We have to understand that what is going to come down from Ford is not going to be a rerun of the Harris years — it is going to be something far worse!

During the Harris years, unions and groups like Status of Women taught us that political strikes can be built and provide a model for internal organizing and communication. One weakness of the Days of Action is that there was very little non-union organizing, in communities and of non-union workers. Right now, we need unions mobilizing. However, more than ever, to make an impact we need to really work and build outside of unionized workers and workplaces as well. (Compiled from the statement by Doug Nesbitt)

We have been through many years of austerity in Ontario, almost two decades! We must reflect on what worked, what didn’t during Harris. But Ford is not Harris! Harris had an ideological agenda to force through. We were used to social services and he was dismantling the ability of the state to provide social service. Ford comes after austerity is the norm and we are used to it. Unless we stop him, he can be much more dangerous.

– Karen Cocq

Using tools like the Leap Manifesto 

The Leap Manifesto is an unapologetic tool for left organizing. A campaign that showed how a tool like this can be used was the campaign of Joel Harden, in Ottawa. He had been working on organizing around the Leap Manifesto and his starting point was unapologetic support for left concerns. He then combined energetic leftist politics, which tried to combat racism, sexism climate change and inequality, with base building and grassroots organizing. From what I understand, he and his team had 70,000 political conversations on the doors. Combine a bold vision and grassroots organizing is the only hope in Canada.

– Martin Lukacs 

Author’s note:  Here is a link from a Courage panel further explaining the organizing done in Ottawa Centre, Joel Harden’s campaign.

We must move the ONDP

The NDP platform in 2018 was more progressive, though there was room for improvement, and that moved people and people supported it. However, now we have to keep the pressure on. There is a possibility of a lot of complacency in Queen’s Park, because it won’t be hard to look more progressive than Doug Ford and get a good sound bite. However, what are we going to win? The NDP cannot act like a government in waiting and cannot let the progressive new NDPers be sidelined. We have to force them to be the opposition party we need them to be.

– Karen Cocq

We did a lot with very little in Scarborough Rouge Park.  Ours was a low-budget campaign, with a strong message and strong values, reaching out to various communities, South Asian, East Asian, Caribbean — people of colour. I was often at the door for five minutes or more, but we got people thinking and they started thinking about “what had the large parties done for them lately?” That opened them up to the ONDP platform. Now, the ONDP must keep building momentum in ridings where we had second-place finishes and continue to put resources into those ridings and areas like Scarborough.  There is no way a candidate should be running in Brampton or Mississauga or Scarborough and not have bilingual material. We cannot disappear and start again in four years when we were so close.

– Felicia Samuel

To listen to the panels in their entirety please click the links below. 

June 21: Solidarity Ottawa panel 

June 23: Council of Canadians, Groundswell 2018 panel

June 26: Briarpatch Magazine at Workers Action Centre: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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Maya Bhullar

Maya Bhullar has over 15 years of professional experience in such diverse areas as migration, labour, urban planning and community mobilization. She has a particular interest in grassroots engagement,...