Capturing this turbulent year: 16 stories of 2016

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Photo: Steph Wechsler

It was a turbulent year for Canada and the rest of the world.

Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential elections on a platform that critics say was based on xenophobia and “making America great again.” The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union. The conflict in Syria intensified further, with innocent civilians being the target of horrific violence in Aleppo and other parts of the country. A coup attempt in Turkey, as well as multiple attacks in cities across the world added to these difficult times. 

Things in Canada didn’t look any brighter. This year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and world leaders signed onto the Paris climate agreement. Trudeau also promised to fight climate change and respect Indigenous treaties and rights. But critics say his promises lost all weight with his controversial approval of the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines. 

The police killing of Abdirahman Abdi, a 37-year-old Somali-Canadian man, outside his Ottawa home, sparked discussions of racism and violence in Canada. Abdi’s death followed a series of murders in the U.S. due to police violence targeting unarmed black people. The racist violence resulted in outcries and protests both in Canada and the U.S. 

To further encapsulate this difficult year, here are 16 stories from 2016. 

1.    Human rights violations towards refugees and immigrants persisted into 2016. Sophia Reuss looks into the life-threatening Canadian immigration policies like indefinite detention and poor access to healthcare for newcomers. Learn more in her piece: Canada's immigration policies are killing people.

2.    While Canada was applauded globally for their promise to welcome 25,000 Syrians, critics say that refugees from other parts of the world are forgotten. Roshini Nair writes about the issue in his article: Forgotten African refugees: Canadian nation-building through exclusion.

3.    The government’s relationship with Canadian labour continued to break down in 2016. Teuila Fuatai lists some of the reasons behind the deterioration in her piece: Trudeau's fading relationship with Canadian labour

4.    Our writers covered some of the biggest labour stories this year, giving us a better look at this fading relationship. Teuila Fuatai wrote a five-part series on the fight for higher minimum wages. Her series begins with: Wages vs. workers: How Canada's minimum rates compare

5.    Teuila Fuatai also looked into the experiences of disabled workers in Canada in her piece: Exploitative practices of disabled workers persist across Canada.

6.    H.G. Watson covered one of the biggest labour stories in the country with her article: Four issues driving the CUPW and Canada Post negotiations

7.    The Women’s Boat to Gaza made headlines around the world after Israeli Occupation Forces surrounded the Zaytouna-Oliva in international waters and forced it to halt just miles from Gaza. interviewed activist Wendy Goldsmith, who was on one of the two boats. Her boat didn't make it out of Sicily, but they remained in contact with the Zaytouna-Oliva up until it was boarded and kidnapped. 

8.    In a piece titled, Three Colombian women tell us why preserving seeds is an act of resistance, Fernanda Sánchez Jaramillo tells the story of revolutionary women who are preserving seeds from multiple threats. Jaramillo spoke with women from three different provinces in Colombia about how being a seed guardian is an act of resistance, promotes food security and maintains cultural identity.

9.    With all the challenges the world faced in 2016, watching from afar, Canadians felt smug to call Canada their home, basking in myths that erase histories of oppression and lived experience(s) of discrimination in Canada. Sophia Reuss reminds us of the dangers of these myths in her piece: Six pervasive myths about Canada we must stop believing.

10.   The police killing of Abdirahman Abdi sparked outrage in Canada. On the one-month anniversary of Abdi’s death, Black Lives Matter chapters rallied in seven cities across Canada. Steph Wechsler captured the momentous protests and their message in her article: 'The system isn't broken -- it was built this way!' Black Lives Matter Toronto rally on SIU's doorstep.

11.   In May, Canada's only sex reassignment surgery clinic was targeted in an arson attack. Mainstream and social media were remarkably slow to respond to the incident, raising concerns of persistent transphobia in Canadian media. Laura Brightwell writes about the incident in her piece: Attack on Canada's only surgery clinic for trans people elicits 'zero reaction'. 

12.   Tyler Morgenstern provides a powerful reflection on the Pulse Nightclub attack in Orlando in his piece: Too much is enough: On queerness, violence and new worlds.

13.   Jian Ghomeshi, a former CBC broadcaster, was charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking against three complainants. He was acquitted of all charges in a controversial ruling on March 24, 2016. Christina Turner wrote about the outrage and disappointment people felt across the country in her piece: 'We want to be believed': Survivors and allies speak out after Ghomeshi verdict.

14.   Climate took centre stage in 2016, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signing onto the Paris climate agreement. Trudeau also promised to honour Indigenous treaties, including respecting and free, informed and prior consent. David Gray-Donald writes about what these promises mean for pipelines in his article: Trudeau's promises to Indigenous people and the climate mean game over for pipelines

15.   To make sure these promises are kept activists took matters into their own hands. Alyse Kotyk discusses the work of climate activists globally in her piece: Climate justice activists make 2016 the year of action.

16.   Solidarity actions with Standing Rock grew in Canada in 2016 to protest against the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Sophia Reuss writes about a Toronto rally in her article: Indigenous resistance grows as Standing Rock solidarity actions continue.

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