Protests, like potholes, are a year-round occurance in Montreal. The economy is in the toilet, tuition costs are on the rise, and Prime Minister Trudeau has turned his back on the young people whose coattails he rode into office.

Young people voted for Trudeau hoping that he would help stabilize employment in Canada only to be told to get used to temporary, low paying jobs without benefits. Quebeckers voted for Philippe Couillard hoping to do away with the Parti Québecois’ message of aggressive xenophobic secularism and language issues only to find the provincial government raising the language and signage disputes people are sick of. Municipal austerity measures are coming at the expense of the pensions our blue collar workers worked so hard for.

Votes don’t seem to count anymore and the cynicism pushed by bitter columnists is proving true. With the government ignoring the reason they were voted into office, people are forcing the government to listen by taking to the streets.

Everyone from students to cops to healthcare workers to Native leaders are taking to the streets with pickets, hoping to have their voices heard. Like the potholes, the City of Montreal has a pathetic track record of dealing with protests, reverting to persecution rather than reasonable negotiation. To our elected officials, protesters are not frustrated human beings with legitimate concerns but noisemakers and disruptors.

Laws Used Against Protesters

With the cops using their authority to assault people desperate to be heard, it’s time to look at the laws the government uses and overuses to suppress dissenters.

Let’s start with the Canadian Criminal Code.

Protesters are commonly charged with assault, harassment, mischief, unlawful assembly, and obstructing police officers. Since I addressed mischief in my piece on Devil’s Night, let’s look at the rest.

Assault is defined as applying force directly or indirectly to another person without their consent. The penalty is up to five years in prison unless the person is tried on summary conviction, which carries a lesser penalty. If a weapon is used in the assault, the penalty increases to a maximum of ten years, or if tried on summary conviction, a minimum of eighteen months. Since the definition of assault is so vague, it can range from hitting or kicking, to simply pushing and shoving.

Harassment is the act of engaging in conduct that would make a person feel harassed, which includes following them, repeatedly communicating with them, and watching their workplace. As protests often occur in front of government buildings where elected officials work, and repeated communication is the only way they feel they can be heard, it is far too easy for those ignoring them to call it harassment. Harassment is a serious charge, with a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, and its broad definition bears the risk of overuse.

Unlawful Assembly is when three or more people get together for a common purpose and their group causes the surrounding neighborhood to fear a disturbance of the peace. Unfortunately many protests, even peaceful, are noisy. An unlawful assembly charge, which fortunately only runs the risk of a summary conviction, is applied willy nilly by authorities to punish protesters.

Obstructing a police officer is a charge that became popular against protesters this past summer when people stormed the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings to voice their dissent against the proposed Energy East pipeline. To be convicted of this charge, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person resisted, willfully obstructed, or did not assist a public or peace officer in the execution of his or her duties. The penalty is up to two years in prison unless there is a summary conviction.

Protesters are also punished with municipal bylaws.

The municipal bylaw used to punish protesters is bylaw P-6, formally called the “By-law concerning the prevention of breaches of the peace, public order and safety, and the use of public property”.

The bylaw was added to by former Mayor Gerald Tremblay in 2012 following the massive student protests against tuition hikes. Article 2.1 of the bylaw requires assemblies, parades, or gatherings in public places to disclose their itineraries to authorities prior to the event. Article 3.2 of the bylaw makes it illegal for protesters to cover their faces with a scarf or hood without a reasonable motive.

Both of these articles were ruled unconstitutional by Judge Chantal Masse of the Superior Court on June 22, 2016, following a successful challenge by Julien Villeneuve, a CEGEP professor who attended the protests in a panda costume.

Laws that Protect Protesters

We know about the laws used to punish protesters. Now let’s talk briefly about the laws meant to protect them and all of us.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched in our constitution guarantees freedom of thought, opinion, and expression. It guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. It also guarantees the right against arbitrary detention. In spite of this, protesters are arrested left and right and their protests, no matter how peaceful, are punished as being unlawful.

Then there’s the Quebec Charter, a quasi-constitutional law entrenched in Quebec legislation. Like the Canadian Charter, it guarantees freedom of assembly and association.

Our criminal laws are also in place to protect, yet they are used to suppress protesters not keep them safe. Police officers who act prematurely by shooting rubber bullets and smashing people with batons rarely see any consequences for their actions, confirming the protesters’ belief that they are there to persecute, not protect.

Protests may be a public nuisance but they are a necessary one. As long as the government refuses to listen to the people who elected them, the protests will continue. As long as people feel voiceless, they will take to the streets to make sure they are heard.

For every time the government betrays the ones who voted for them, hundreds pickets will spring up. The act of listening and communication is the key to most conflict resolution. If politicians want the protesting to stop, they have to start listening.

* Featured image by Cem Ertekin

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its early November edition. The chill has definitely returned to Montreal, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to lock ourselves indoors yet! Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!

As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message  or leave a comment below.

Bareoke presented by Glam Gam

No stranger to performing in local strip clubs with the burlesque troupe Glam Gam, Lipster’s organizers realized this type of venue would surely allow them to transform their karaoke show into Stripster!

Now you can find them the first Saturday of every month at the historic Café Cléopâtre, which comes equipped with a large stage, a smoke machine and crazy lighting which allows people to take their performances to the next level.

Glam Gam’s organizers have made an important step in making the space open for everyone, according to their Facebook event page : “We are thrilled to have performers of all different backgrounds, ages, body types, gender identities and sexualities. Some people will take off just a sock, others will get down to their skivvies and a lot of brave souls prance around in their birthday suits! The best part is that everyone respects and encourages each other’s boundaries with little to no policing on our part.”

Come see what all the fuss is about!

Bareoke @ Café Cléopâtre, 1230 St Laurent, Saturday, November 5, 10PM, $5

FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!
FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!

Fishbowl Collective Presents: An Anti-War Art Pop-up

The Fishbowl Collective will be occupying a studio space in Griffintown and filling it with art of all kinds against war/militarism of any kind!

At 8:30, the space will be taken over by anti-war Pierrots in an hour-long version of Theatre Workshop’s Oh What a Lovely War!

From 9:30-11 the space will act as a showcase for local artists to show their work!

Local anti-war organizations will be tabling in the space.

Oh What A Lovely War's Theatrical Poster
Oh What A Lovely War’s Theatrical Poster

Using songs and documents of the period, Oh What a Lovely War! is an epic theatrical chronicle of the horrors of WWI as presented by a seaside pierrot troupe. It was collectively created by Theatre Workshop in 1963 under Joan Littlewood, and over 50 years later remains unique in its innovative satiric way of looking at the difficult subject of war and its futility. Its dismissal of sentimentality and its distinct anti-war-agit-prop flavour highlights the oppression of the working stiff turned common soldier and points to the absurdity involved in war.

141 Rue Ste Ann, Pay What You Can (All Proceeds go to Actions Réfugiés Montréal)

Pride Screening presented by Socialist Fightback!

Socialist Fightback is screening Pride (2014) at McGill University’s Shatner Building in Room 202 this Wednesday. Entrance is FREE, and a spirited discussion is sure to follow. Curious about what “Solidarity” means to the LGBT community? Check this movie out.

Pride offers an excellent example of solidarity along class lines. Between 1981-1984, the British government under Margaret Thatcher had closed around 20 mining pits and coal mining employment continued to fall. The miners’ strike of 1984-85 was a major industrial action to shut down the British coal industry in an attempt to prevent colliery closures.

Also victims of Thatcher’s bigotry and conservative policies, gays and lesbians came together to collect funds and sustain the miner’s strike. Although reluctant at first, the miners accepted the support from the LGSM.

Pride is a great demonstration of how class unity is the best and most effective way of fighting against all types of oppression.

Pride is screening in the Shatner Building Room 202 @ McGill University, November 9, 7pm, FREE

 

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

A little over a week before the 2016 US Presidential Election and the Hillary Clinton campaign finds itself in the midst of another potentially damaging email scandal. Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to several congressional committee chairs informing them that the bureau learned of the existence of new emails pertinent to the now closed investigation into Clinton’s private email server.

It turns out that they were investigating allegations Anthony Weiner (remember him, Carlos Danger) sexted a fifteen year old girl. They were looking at one of his computers and found emails to and/or from his now ex-wife, current Clinton Campaign co-chairwoman and former State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin.

The emails are related to Abedin’s boss in some way, but Comey won’t say how. He also won’t say if they are potentially damaging or merely irrelevant communications that need to be logged for procedural reasons.

This has, of course, led to speculation that it could shift the result of the election in Donald Trump’s favour as much as it has led to anger at Comey and Weiner (some of the anti-Weiner tweets are actually quite funny). It has proven to be quite the distraction.

I’m not talking about distracting from whatever Donald Trump has been saying or new revelations from his past proving again he is exactly the creep we all thought he was. I mean it has, but that’s not the point.

The biggest Clinton scandal in the past few days isn’t Friday’s letter about emails, it’s what happened Thursday in Brooklyn.

Clinton Silent on Standing Rock

Water protectors from Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, and the Standing Rock Sioux Nation entered her campaign headquarters demanding that Clinton break her silence and speak out against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We are coming directly to Hillary at her headquarters because as the future president, she is going to have to work for us,” Gracey Claymore said, “and we want her to uphold the treaties and her promise to protect unci maka (Mother Earth).”

Line of riot cops at Standing Rock (Screenshot: Atsa E'sha Hoferer/Facebook)
Line of riot cops at Standing Rock (Screenshot: Atsa E’sha Hoferer/Facebook)

Despite the size of the demonstration and the way that Claymore treated a Clinton victory as a foregone conclusion, campaign staff refused to even take a letter the protectors had written to the candidate. Around the same time this was happening in New York, militarized police started moving in on the protectors in North Dakota.

Trying to Keep Things Quiet

In case you haven’t been following this story, and it’s understandable given the mainstream media’s focus on political scandal, the largest convergence of Native American tribes has been happening near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota for months. They are there to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline’s planned route through unceded Sioux territory.

Building this section of the $3.8 billion pipeline would mean destroying sacred burial grounds. It also poses a huge risk to the community’s drinking water (and that of other communities downstream as well, it is the Missouri River, after all) in the event of a spill. And spills happen quite a bit in North Dakota, even when they aren’t reported, as the Associated Press found out.

In early September, Energy Transfer Partners, the firm behind DAPL, used private security to attack water protectors with dogs and pepper spray. Local authorities decided to respond by issuing an arrest warrant for…wait for it…the journalist who broke the story by filming the attack.

Tresspass charges against Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman were dropped in favour of “riot” charges before she was ultimately acquitted. Emmy-winning documentarian Deia Schlosberg may not be so fortunate, as she still faces 45 years in prison for filming a protest.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has also been fighting the pipeline through legal channels. At first they won an injunction, but that was overturned by a Federal Appeals Court.

President Obama did order construction stopped on all federally owned land until environmental impact could be fully assessed, but the results are still weeks away. So with the injunction overturned for now, construction resumed and the protectors decided to move directly in the path of the pipeline instead of just nearby.

Massive Police Escalation

Last Monday there were over 100 arrests and then, on Thursday, local and state police in full riot gear and armored vehicles equipped with sound cannons descended on the protest. They were joined by law enforcement from six other states brought in through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), something that is designed to be used for disaster relief.

Man identified as an agent provocateur by Tribal Law Enforcement at Standing Rock
Man identified as an agent provocateur by Tribal Law Enforcement at Standing Rock (via Facebook)

And just what state of emergency prompted North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple to activate EMAC? Potential loss of revenue by a private pipeline company.

Yes, there were reports of gunfire, but Tribal Law Enforcement apprehended and photographed the man with the rifle and identified, through insurance documents, that he exited a vehicle owned by Dakota Access Pipeline.

Agent Provocateurs, the proverbial oldest trick in the book. But these water protectors have read that book, too and know how to spot people who clearly don’t have the best interests of their community at heart.

Police also used pepper spray and rubber bullets on the peaceful protectors and made 141 arrests. There are now reports that those taken into custody were held in dog kennels, strip searched and had numbers written on their arms.

At least it looks like the water protectors do have some backers. Namely some wild buffalo who decided to pay a visit.

The Big Picture

Let’s put this all in perspective:

  • A company wants to build a pipeline on land that belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
  • The tribe, not wanting their sacred burial sites destroyed and not wanting to drink oil-soaked water (and also not wanting others to drink oil-soaked water) oppose the pipeline and invite other tribes and non-native allies to join them.
  • The company hires private security to attack water protectors with pepper spray and dogs.
  • Local authorities charge journalists for reporting on what happened.
  • The Governor declares a state of emergency and sends in militarized police from his state and other states to stop peaceful protectors.
  • Armed agent provocateurs are used
  • Human beings standing up for everyone’s water are held in dog kennels to protect the profits of a private company.

This is happening now. Silence from Clinton is disturbing and sad. Silence from Trump, well, that’s probably a good thing. The last thing we need is some speech about how he would make “the best pipelines” before digressing to talk of China.

It’s quite unfortunate that the Clinton Campaign is more concerned with a handful of emails than their silence on Standing Rock and DAPL. The real sad thing, though, is that they’re probably doing the politically smart thing.

As long as the electorate is privileged and ignorant enough to care more about emails than the treatment of their fellow human beings and the future of the planet they live on, too and the water they drink, too, what’s happening at Standing Rock won’t be the top story.

It is, though, what’s really being hidden by Hillary’s emails. So this post did deliver on its click-bait and switch headline after all.

« We believe you » : that was the cry chanted again and again at the rally against rape culture in Montreal on Wednesday. Over a thousand people gathered in the Émilie-Gamelin Park around 5:30 pm despite the freezing temperature.

Several people spoke on a small stage before the group marched through Quartier des Spectacles and Place des Arts. The night ended at Club Soda with a mixture of speeches, testimonies and performances by popular and emerging artists.

Similar events took place in Québec, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Chicoutimi and Saguenay.

Denunciation and solidarity

The demonstration was equal parts an act of denunciation and solidarity. Denunciation of the acts of sexual aggression recently exposed by the media and of the subsequent victim-blaming that surfaced.  (“Comparing women to cars? Fuck You Éric Duhaime” read one of the signs.)

It was also a broader denunciation of a culture that claims gender equality as a core principle while routinely allowing – even encouraging-  disrespect of women’s rights to consent and to bodily autonomy.

Just as importantly, the event was a show of solidarity for all women and support for all victims. “We believe you” protesters shouted to Alice Paquet, the young woman who recently went public about Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos raping her. “We believe you” they chanted to the students of Université Laval assaulted last week. “We believe you” they assured the shocking number of women in the park who raised their hands at the question “who here, has ever been sexually assaulted?”

More generous estimates report a crowd of 2000 people. While young adults remained the dominant group, people from all ages, ranging from young families to the elderly, were present. The number of men was not too far below the number of women. Several speakers expressed appreciation for their presence and support.

After various speeches, indigenous singers sent off the crowd with a traditional music number. The march lasted about an hour and a half. It ended with protesters forming a wide circle around Indigenous performers at Place des Arts. At the artists’ insistence, people joined hands and danced to the sound of traditional native songs.

A smaller group continued marching under much closer police supervision.  Protesters mockingly imitated the heavy rhythmic steps often used by riot police as an intimidation tactic and chanted jeering slogans about Bylaw P6 being declared unconstitutional, but the protest remained peaceful. The police stayed as an escort and no major intervention was reported.

Safia Nolin, Queen Ka and other artists on stage

Meanwhile, organizers and many protesters converged on Club Soda for a post-protest show. The event was organized by a group of women from different backgrounds.

Among them were reporter Sue Montgomery, known for starting the trending hashtag #beenrapedneverreported on Twitter, and Tanya Saint-Jean, co-founder of the Montreal collective Je Suis Indestructible, as well as militant authors Natasha Kanapé Fontaine and Léa Clermont-Dion. After their speeches, the crowd was treated to a high quality music shoanti-rape-culture-march-montreal-december-26-2016-2w.

First came the Buffalo Hat Singers, a contemporary Powwow band that provided a nice continuity with the protest’s ambiance. Then followed widely popular female artists Safia Nolin and the Sisters Boulay. They each provided a solid performance of their own before uniting for a song.

Sabrina Halde (Groenland) and Laurence Nerbonne were also featured. Slammer Queen Ka notably delivered a brilliant poem about rape culture that she said she wrote the same morning.

A few artists hinted that they’d had minimal preparation and openly admitted to being nervous, but it didn’t hurt the show. What was missing in sophistication was more than compensated for in authenticity.

Stéphanie Boulay’s spoken text about her personal experience with rape culture and Safia Nolin’s spontaneous anecdote about a driving teacher with wandering hands contributed to a general feeling of intimacy with the public.

The night ended with an open mic.  Anyone who wanted to was invited on stage to share experiences, poems and anything they wanted about rape culture.

“The fight will be intersectional or it will not be”

That’s what the humorous duo Les Brutes said when they introduced the open-mic segment of the show. It was a prevalent theme of the event.

Intersectionality is an academic concept according to which the fight against one type of oppression must intersect with fights against other types of oppression. The failure to integrate this concept in past feminist movements has lead them to focus on the rights of cis, abled, white women.

The organizers of Thursday’s event did their best to address the compounded vulnerability of disabled women, trans women and women of colour.  A special effort was made for the event to be as inclusive as possible.

Both the protest and the show were held in wheelchair accessible places and a sign language interpreter was present at all times. One even masterfully translated the entire performances in Club Soda. Organizers also acknowledged Indigenous issues on several occasions, starting by recognizing they were standing on unsurrendered Mohawk grounds.

That effort was greatly appreciated by two young indigenous women who spoke to FTB after the show.

“I had the impression that there was decent representation, with native presence and Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, who is an excellent  spokesperson, especially for indigenous people,” said the first.

Her friend underlined however, the importance of also having events with native women as a soul focus.

According to Statistics Canada, one out of three women has been assaulted at least once since turning 16. 40% of women with physical handicaps will be assaulted at least once in their life. 75% of indigenous girls will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. A 2014 government report estimated that only 5% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.

It happened. Justin Trudeau has gone from the Selfie Prime Minister to the Photobombing PM. At least that’s what it seemed like yesterday.

He was speaking (and I use that term liberally, he really didn’t get to talk much) at a Youth Labour Forum in Ottawa. Most of the assembled crowd, though, seemed less interested in Trudeau’s platitudes then they were in speaking up on his inaction or potentially wrong action on several fronts.

They were upset over what his signing onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership would mean for their job prospects and the effects of “precarious work” which Trudeau said is now a fact of life. They also challenged Trudeau on his broken election promises, saying “we don’t have dialogue with liars.”

At one point, a group of attendees literally turned their backs on the PM because they felt he had turned his back on them. This led to the image you see at the top where it looks very much like Trudeau is an unwanted part of the photo.

Overall, it hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Trudeau. On Monday, about 200 protesters showed up on Parliament Hill upset with the prospect of our Prime Minister approving the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. Close to 100 of them were arrested.

Last week, just after celebrating one year in office, Trudeau made the argument that the fact that he won the last election meant electoral reform was no longer urgently needed. The irony of this stance wasn’t lost on many, including Hill Times cartoonist Michael De Adder:

trudeau-rigged-system-trump-cartoon

Trudeau Had a Long Honeymoon

Up until a few weeks ago, things had been running real smoothly for our PM. Sure, there were attacks, but most of the ones which garnered major media attention came from the right and were over ridiculous things like him posing for shirtless selfies or progressive things like an MP (who has since passed away) trying to make the lyrics to O Canada gender-neutral.

The only time the NDP made a go at him that garnered mass coverage, it failed. It was supposed to be about his strongarm political tactics, but it ended up being about the physical movements of his actual arm, or elbow, when in Parliament.

That’s not to say there weren’t valid progressive reasons to criticize Trudeau over the past year. This self-proclaimed feminist let the previous Harper Government’s arms sale to Saudi Arabia go through and even relaxed our policy to make it possible.

Meanwhile, the Trudeau Government’s attempts to “modernize” the National Energy Board have amounted to nothing more than committees studying problems with no concrete action. The NEB, of course being the organization that Harper had chosen to evaluate pipeline proposals after abolishing the Environmental Assessment Agency.

So, progressive criticisms of Trudeau, until recently, have been focused on Harper policies that the Liberal Government has been ineffective in getting rid of. Not nearly enough to ruin Trudeau’s mainstream progressive cred at home, given the fact that his government has made some significant improvements on what the previous administration was doing.

It also hasn’t been anywhere close to something that could spoil his rep abroad. I constantly see Facebook friends living in the US and other countries as well as foreign progressive media jealously praising our Prime Minister and wishing he could be their head of state.

I always want to burst the bubble, but then think better of it, because at least his rhetoric is better than what 90% of politicians they have to deal with spout. Fortunately, Jesse Chase wasn’t as cautious when he wrote about Canada and our superstar PM in The Guardian.

While I don’t think Trudeau’s honeymoon with the world will end anytime soon, especially given the nastiness in the US Presidential Election, his sunny ways love-in with progressive Canadians may be about to come to an end. The downfall started when when he clearly stated that a $15/hr minimum wage was not a currrent goal of his administration.

Think about that for a second. This is now part of the official Democratic Party platform in the US. Sure, Bernie Sanders forced the issue and pushed Hillary Clinton in that direction, and there’s no proof that she will actually fight for it if elected. But if a corporate centrist running to be leader of a centre-right country can be cajoled into running on a $15/hr minimum wage, then what business does the self-billed progressive global heartthrob leader of a centre-left country have in rejecting it?

It was a long honeymoon for Trudeau, but is it now really over, or at least ending? Does the Emperor now really have no clothes, and not in a fun shirtless selfie kinda way? Maybe.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Now, I’d like to shift gears and speak directly to our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Take a look around you, sir. The people turning their back (literally) on you and the people being arrested for getting a little too close to your place of business aren’t Conservatives. They aren’t even jaded lefties like me who vote NDP, sometimes while holding our noses because the leader is not progressive enough.

These are your people. People who voted for you in hopes that you would change things. They wanted to get rid of Harper and his rhetoric, which you have done, but, most importantly, they wanted to throw his policies away, too, and you, sir, have failed to do that.

Does your feminism include arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it’s 2016? Are Kinder-Morgan and Harper’s NEB part of your sunny ways? Have you given up on improving the condition of workers in this country? Can you really use your government’s popularity as an excuse to backpedal on electoral reform when that popularity seems to be waning, or rather plummeting, among former ardent supporters?

I’ll admit I was skeptical of you from the start and I’m sad to report that you have justified my skepticism. I’m a lost cause for you, but it’s not too late, though, for you to win back your former voters and live up to the false impression many have of you. It’s not that hard, either.

Just make your policies match your rhetoric and you can continue the honeymoon until the next election. Otherwise, the honeymoon’s over and things are gonna be kinda awkward before they’re downright unpleasant.

Question:
Is the recent guerrilla art installation Emperor Has No Balls (nude Trump statues in various parks) just an example of body shaming or does it get a pass because the subject, Trump, is obsessed with sexist body norms for women?

Answer:
As an American citizen I am embarrassed and abhorred that someone like this has gotten so far in our obviously flawed political system. He is the actual Republican nominee for President of the United States.

He is a racist, sexist, bigoted meanie face. All of his beliefs and moral stances are foolish and full of shit, he is not a politician, he is an ego maniac celebrity, a money grubbing monster, and downright evil doer. BUT, he is a human being.

While I do think he is an idiot and I want to see his campaign crash and burn, I do not believe in body shaming or making fun of any of his physical attributes. You are only as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside, so obviously he doesn’t have much to work with. Judge him on his idioic ideas and not his lack of genitalia.

I don’t want to be shamed for my imperfect body so I will never do the same to another human. The piece features fat shaming and transphobia.

There is no pass when it comes to body shaming. I am a firm believer in two wrongs don’t make a right. If I judge him for being a jerk I can’t go right back and be a jerk in response, we must Love Trumps Hate to move on.

This publicity stunt got his name in the news again, the dumb people are still seeing his name. In good or bad context doesn’t matter, it’s in their impressionable minds. The stunt made headlines.

Although, on one hand I do believe that people should have a sense of humor. Public art is made to stand out, make people think. Trump’s naked body has nothing to do with his political agenda. I do agree that he would be a terrible president, and would probably erect similar statues of himself anyways.

I have dressed up like Trump in the past, mocking him and being satirical. I was a parody, a personification of his idiocracy and “perfect hair.”

Trump wins every time someone says or types his name, I am feeding the machine by even writing this article. He is an “even bad press is good press” believer.

He pulls this stuff out of his ass just to rile people up. He excites the hate mongers and ignites the protesters into a fury. Justice has not been served by erecting the larger than life nudes, he honestly probably really loves them, and will have the whole collection in one of his mansions.

Activist art crew Indecline was in charge of this public art frenzy, naked Trump statues appearing in many major cities: Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Cleveland, and Los Angeles- to protest the Republican presidential nominee. At 11 am in each city (8 on West coast) two people dressed like construction workers carried out this 6’5″, 80 pound sculpture under a blue tarp and then literally glued it to the ground and disappeared into the crowd.

Each statue was beautifully hand painted by an artist known as Ginger, a Las Vegas based horror artist (that admits he was once a Trump supporter, then wisened up as the campaign got more out of control). Ginger is known for his monsters, and Trump is a monster.

Once the tarp was removed mayhem insued. So many selfless were taken, one was “jerked off” by a homeless man, another was dragged into a nearby art gallery, but most were taken down by the police. The new goal is to make them for high end galleries and restaurants, willing participants.

Tiny penis and no testicles were the main attraction. Although art is subjective and takes liberties, it is not confirmed whether he actually has testicles in real life or not. He definitely suffers from foot in mouth disease and is a raging sociopath, but that is beside the point.

The Emperor Has No Balls is part of Indecline’s 15 years of art as activism, usually sticking to murals and graffiti. They are responsible for the Rape Trump graffiti on a fence at the US Mexico border. They knew that larger action needed to be taken as the Trump campagn was a real thing, he is the nominee, wow, this is happening!

Everytime I turn on a TV or look at the news I get sick, I worry that this impending doom is the final apocalypse. What will he do as our commander in chief? Not saying I love Hilary Clinton or anything, but COME ON! He is the worst, it’s a joke that has gone too far, and at OUR EXPENSE!

They started to think about how dictators were memorialized in giant statues throughout history. Illama Gore’s infamous drawing of naked Trump got so much attention (even the artist being assaulted due to her work) that it was a clear inspiration for this project.

Trump’s campaign did not comment on the statues. Of course not…

* Featured image: Naked Trump statue in Union Square, NYC

Got a question for Cat? Ask it: Cat@ForgetTheBox.net

The trans march kicked off Montreal’s Pride week yesterday in Place de La Paix. For its third edition, the event chose to focus on the rights of trans migrants. Organizers called attention to the additional obstacles faced by transgender migrants, especially when changing their gender and name on official documents.

“It’s completely sad that trans migrants have to wait up to seven years in order to be able to change their documents while trans Canadians can easily do that, thanks to Law 35 and the Law 103,” explained Dalia Briki, spokesperson for the event.

Law 35 was passed in 2013 to allow transgender people to change their legal gender without having to undergo surgery and removed the obligation to publish their transition in the newspaper (which was actually a thing). Law 103 recently extended that right to minors.

However, this much applauded update of Quebec’s Civil Code has little effect on trans migrants since immigration procedures do not allow them to change the gender they were assigned at birth.

“We feel trans migrants have been left aside. The government did not help them, the government only helped trans Canadians,” deplores Briki, who identifies as a trans immigrant and woman of colour.

Demands trans march1in the press release include:

  • Removal of Canadian citizenship from admissibility conditions for a change of name and sex in Quebec’s Civil Code
  • That documents of immigration authorities at the provincial and federal levels recognize the actual current gender of migrants
  • That deportation of trans people cease
  • More funding for organizations specifically aiding trans migrants

Around 150 people of all ages and genders gathered in Place de La Paix around 2 PM. A couple of transgender people of colour spoke to the crowd and a short march started, followed by a pick-nick.

A special effort was made to ensure that people of all origins, economic backgrounds and abilities were included. French and English translations, as well as a sign-language interpretation were available. Organizers provided snacks and bus fares.

Speeches particularly focused on the lack of accommodations in immigration services and procedures, the disproportionate rate of violence against trans women of colour and the deportation of trans immigrants despite obvious risks to their safety.

Studies conducted in Canada and the US found alarming rates of violence against trans people, and especially trans women of colour. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 55% of victims of hate homicide documented in the US in 2014 were transgender women. Almost all of those were women of colour.

“You don’t talk because you’re scared, you’re afraid to be in trouble. Migrants don’t say anything. Well, I’m talking now,” declared one speaker as the crowd cheered.

Pride and Representation: The Ongoing Saga

Euphorie dans le genre organized the event on the eve of the official start of Montreal’s Pride week.  Pride activities across the world have often been accused of failing to properly include both the transgender community and cultural minorities. The feud between Black Lives Matter and Toronto Pride last month brought a sudden spotlight on this issue.

Dalia Bikri is “quite worried” about the lack of representation of both communities in the Montreal chapter as well. The trans march, she says, wants to fill that void.

“I feel that trans people of colour are not involved in the organization of the big events of Pride as much as they should be. On the other side, at least in our trans march, trans people and migrants are on the front line.”

The distinctly militant aspect of the march also sets it apart from the usual Pride events, believes Bikri:

“Pride tends to be more celebratory. Our march is more militant. Our needs have not been fulfilled; our demands have not been fulfilled, that’s why we are marching.”

According to co-organizer of the march Gabrielle Leblanc, “there is not quite enough” representation of the trans community in the overall organization of Pride yet, but it’s “getting better every year.”

Montreal Pride runs from August 8th to 14th.

Content Warning for descriptions of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse

On July 17th, a friend from my hometown, Lima, Peru, added me to a private Facebook group called Ni una menos: movilización nacional ya (Not one less: national mobilization now). Launched by a small group of young Peruvian women, the group described itself as a platform for strategic mobilization against violence, harassment, and discrimination against women in the South American country.

I am a Peruvian female human being, so this group directly struck a nerve. Like many of the women in the group, verbal street harassment scares me, unwanted physical contact angers me, and gender-based violence makes me feel powerless. In the past, I have normalized some sexist behaviors and comments by men and women in my life. Is this habit? Ignorance? Shame? Perhaps a combination of the three.

Posts calling for a protest in the streets of Lima soon evolved into the organization of a massive nationwide protest that will take place on August 13th . The turning point happened when hundreds of the over 56 000 women who are now on this platform started sharing their testimonies.

Strangers, acquaintances, and some close friends of mine all began sharing their stories in this open forum.

“…[the doctor] covered my mouth and while he touched me and put his fingers inside of me, he told me to be a good girl if I wanted to stay alive…”
– N, at six years old

Painful stories of abuse bled over the group.

“…I was repeatedly raped by more than one person during my childhood. My brother “rented me” to strangers for sex…”
– J

For many, it was the first time speaking about these issues at all.

“…He [her cousin] lifted me and placed me on his penis. He was erect…I stepped down and ran out. I said nothing I felt guilty because I had gone to speak to him, I felt that I had brought this on me…”
– F

At the same time, an indescribable sense of companionship and newfound strength grew. Initiatives such as spontaneous committees for psychological and legal clinics by practitioners within the group began taking shape. What started as a group for strategizing has grown into a space for questioning, sharing, healing, and denouncing.

Let’s put this movement into context.

As in many of its Latin American neighbors, institutional response against gender-based violence in Peru is mediocre at best. At worst, it dehumanizes the victim, and justifies the assault by questioning what she possibly could have done to provoke the incident. Machismo is rampant across all socioeconomic strata.

nia una menos artwork peru

Additionally, judicial bullshit processes, mass media, and the Catholic Church are often accomplices in the violation of women’s rights and liberties. One needs to look no further than Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima.

He recently stated that “there are young girls getting abortions, but it is not because the girls are abused, but often because women put themselves on display, provoking [attacks].” This individual gets a monthly salary that is twice the national minimum wage, courtesy of all the taxpayers of this “secular” republic.

His latest declarations have outraged thousands and prompted a petition to remove him from his charge. Members of the cabinet of newly elected president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, such as Ana Maria Romero, Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations, have also voiced their rejection.

Young girls and grown women keep quiet because abuse is not something you talk about in public. Contrary to what many think, abuse mostly happens at home and the majority of victims know their aggressor. Assaults by strangers hiding in a dark alley are only a small fraction of the overall numbers. This is true in Peru, in Quebec, and in most places around the world.

Reporting an aggressor can take a huge psychological toll on the victim and in many cases put her in further danger. The financial burden of filing a case also falls on the on the victim, unless the case leads to a conviction. The latter is highly unlikely as accusations are regularly minimized, and rarely lead to consequences for the aggressor.

“They have to see you dead to make justice happen.”

These are the words of Lady Guillen, a young Peruvian woman. After years of pursuing a trial against her former partner who savagely beat her in 2012, he walked away with four years of probation instead of the seven years of prison that, by law, correspond to his offense.

Lady Guillen’s excruciating fight is one of a few cases of violence against women that have received attention from the Peruvian media. Another case is the one of Arlette Contreras, a woman whose aggressor walked away with a year of probation for “minor injury,” despite there being videotaped evidence of him beating her and dragging her on the floor.

The impunity and judicial indifference in the Lady Guillen and Arlette Contreras’ cases were catalysts for the #NiUnaMenosPerú movement.

nia una menos fb group image peru

They survived, but too many do not. So far this year, according to the Peruvian Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, 54 Peruvian women have been murdered by their partners. These tragic ends are the logical consequence of the micro and macro aggressions that are the underlying norm.

Furthermore, sexual violence is rampant. In a country that ranked first in a Latin American study for prevalence of sexual assault in 2013, DEMUS (The Center of Study for the Defense of Women) estimates that 75% of rape victims in Peru are under 18.

As the #NiUnaMenosPerú’s D-day, August 13th, comes closer, more women and men are joining in. T-shirts, billboards and signs are being created with sentences such as “You touch one of us, you touch all of us,” “They’ve taken so much from us, that they even took our fear,” and my personal favorite: “Cipriani, take your rosaries out of my ovaries.”

This movement is a vital first step in bringing women’s rights to the forefront of the public agenda. Storytelling played a crucial part in sparking this dialogue, allowing for women’s voices to be heard and protected. Personal testimonies have translated cases of gender-based violence from statistics into raw, human experiences that are too brutal to overlook.

The energy that has built over the past weeks needs to translate into policy that is held accountable by civil society and by the State. There is promise in the newly approved 2016-2021 National Plan Against Gender-Based Violence which, for the first time, recognizes LGBT women as a vulnerable group.

The skeptic in me cringes when I read the words “official, government, plan, and action” all in the same sentence. However, the skeptic in me would have never have predicted the exponential growth of #NiUnaMenosPerú. I have been truly moved by the empathic responses of astounded men and most of all by the incredible courage of women who have spoken up.

It is now in the Peruvian public’s hands for the momentum to continue after August 13th. I am done feeling powerless, and so are thousands of other women in Peru and around the world.

On the 13th, I will scream for the girls who haven’t had the chance to speak up yet. After that, I will keep questioning and confronting misogynistic norms and behaviors around me, even if it makes me and you uncomfortable.

#NiUnaMenosPerú #NiUnaMenos #13A

Note: The testimonies in this article were shared with consent from their authors

Edit: An initial version of this article referred to Juan Luis Cipriani as the head of the Peruvian Catholic Church. As Archbishop he heads only one fifth of Lima’s Catholic Church, sharing the leadership with four bishops. The title of Archbishop does not necessarily entail a higher degree in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, which has often caused misportrayals in the media.

Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.54.37 PM

I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

Around 300 people gathered in Montreal on Wednesday to protest police treatment of black people, both here and in the US. Over a thousand people have announced their intention to participate in a similar event this Saturday. The Black Lives Matter movement might be finally picking up momentum in Montreal.

Protesters met in Nelson Mandela Park on Wednesday, responding to the call of the Black Coalition of Quebec. The event was organised in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded last week in the United-States.

It was partly in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by the police in the space of a couple of days. Several people payed tribute to them and to the five police officers killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.

It was also meant to call attention to the way Montreal’s black community is treated by the police. Several speakers stood up on a pick-nick table to address the crowd; some were planned, some were spontaneous. A peaceful march followed and no incidents were reported.

If you missed all of this, you will have another occasion to show your support, this Saturday in Cabot Square. A new Montreal NGO, Twese, is inviting people to gather there at 2pm “to honour the lives lost and express our rejection of police brutality and any kind of racial prejudice.”

Cabot Square is a historically and socially meaningful place for indigenous people in Montreal. Co-founder of Twese Anne-Sophie Tzeuton says that the organisers are aware of the importance of Cabot Square to First Nations and that they want to honour it.

Police brutality and discrimination are also “a huge problem” for First Nations, she noted, “of course we intend to talk about it and we hope many will attend.”

Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society
Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society

The main objective of Saturday’s event, aside from rallying people to the cause, is “to offer concrete solutions that we can all apply to our daily lives.” Several speakers will take the microphone to that effect. Spoken word performances and other artistic tributes to lives lost in police shootings are also planned.

Tzeuton is happy with the unexpected popularity of the event on Facebook, but she fears that all this attention won’t last. “It often happens, after a tragedy: there is a lot of media attention at once, but it passes and then we forget.”

She hopes the current momentum can be used to discuss lasting solutions before the hype dies down.

Twese (“everybody” in Kinyarwanda) describes itself as a platform encouraging the diasporas to exchange ideas and further a collective reflection about various topics. It was created this summer by four young black women who have played active roles in black student associations in McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal.

Discussing Canadian Racism

Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety Martin Coiteux reacted amiably to Wednesday’s protest: “We have to be very careful to protect the rights of all minorities in Quebec so I support people who are demonstrating for having equality of rights and we are completely in solidarity with what happened.”

However, according to him, “the situation here is, fortunately, very different to the United States.” He insisted on the importance of preserving “our model here of peaceful coexistence.”

How Different is it Really?

In 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that native people were alarmingly overrepresented in federal jails. In 2016, aboriginal youth made up 41% of people entering the justice system, despite representing less than 7% of the overall population.

Quebec’s commission of human rights officially recognizes that police forces practice racial profiling since 2010. An internal investigation published that year by the SPVM revealed that in 2006-2007, in Montréal-Nord and Saint-Michel,41% of young black men had had their identity checked, compared to 6% of young white men. The study also found that black people were more often carded for “vague” motives.

Just a couple of months ago, a black man named Jean-Pierre Bony was killed by the police in Montréal-Nord during a drug raid. Bony was shot in the head with a plastic projectile in front of the bar where the raid was conducted. He died in the hospital four days later.

“The only difference between Jean-Pierre Bony and what we’ve been seeing in the U.S is that there was no camera,” remarked Will Prosper, an ex-cop turned black rights activist, in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.

Many Canadians, like Coiteux, feel that the kind of systemic racism observed in the United-States doesn’t happen in Canada. According to Tzeuton, those claims are most often made by people who are racially or socioeconomically privileged.

“It is very easy for people who are not living those problems to claim they don’t exist.”

* Featured image of the April 6th Montreal North protest following the police killing of Jean-Pierre Bony by Gerry Lauzon (creative commons)

While Syrian refugees have been greeted with widely applauded warmth by the Canadian government, other immigrants, jailed without trial, are resorting to a hunger strike to get themselves heard.

Fifty immigration detainees have started a hunger strike in Ontario to protest the conditions and the too-often undetermined length of their detention. Like thousands of others across Canada, the fifty men have been placed in custody without charges or trial, because their situation does not conform to the country’s immigration laws.

They have been refusing food since Monday and intend to keep doing so until they get a meeting with the Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Immigration detainees had originally gone on a hunger strike April 21st and stopped after representatives from the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) met with them to discuss their concerns. But the group End Immigration Detention (EID) says that the Agency has not followed through with their promises and now the detainees want to speak with elected officials.

“We would like immigration detention to end and something more fair or realistic be worked out,” said Toby Clark, detained since 2014 in an EID press release.

Migrants are the only category of persons that can be held in custody indefinitely and without charges in Canada. Every year, the CBSA issues between 4000 and 7000 arrest warrants against immigrant men, women and children who haven’t been able to prove their identity or haven’t been granted asylum.

The lucky ones are sent to one of the three overflowing CBSA immigration detention centres in Vancouver, Toronto and Laval. The others are held in provincial prisons, among criminal offenders. This is the case of the fifty protesters detained in Central East Correctional Centre and Toronto East Detention Centre, where they are often subjected to lockdowns and solitary confinement.

Immigrant detention lasts 23 days on average, but some people wait for years to either be granted asylum or deported. “If your country refuses to issue travel documents, some people are held months, some people are held years and there is nothing that they can do about their country not issuing travel documents,” explained Clark.

Despite the fact that immigration detention is supposedly an administrative procedure with no intent of punishment, the detainees are effectively treated like criminals in jails and CBSA centres alike.

One woman recounted her ordeal in the Laval facility to Radio-Canada last February: “when they escort you to court or to the hospital, they always cuff you, as if we were murderers.” She recalled the shame she felt, after waiting for hours in an emergency room, cuffed like a prisoner. “I asked God to take me, so I could just stop living. What use could all of this be? It was too humiliating,” she confided. She was released after one and a half months.

Immigrant detainees are released if they can provide the proper documents, but it is very hard to do so while in custody. Jenny Jeanes from Action Réfugiés Montréal visits detainees in Laval twice a week. According to her, they don’t have access to internet and are only permitted local phone calls at certain times.

The Larger Problem

Over 80 000 immigrants were arrested by the CBSA between 2006 and 2014, according to End Immigration Detention. Many of them were children, often unaccompanied. The UN has chastised Canada for making detention a systematic response, when it should be an exceptional one. The Red Cross, the High Commissioner for Refugees and multiple groups of legal experts, social workers and doctors have called on Canada to change its ways.

One would think that the election of PM Justin Trudeau, praised around the world for his compassion and acceptance of refugees, would have put an end to this practice, but they would be disappointed. The number of immigrants detained yearly is still above 4000 according to more conservative guesses.

And people are indeed guessing, since the CBSA has not known exactly how many people are in its custody since 2013. Apparently, it’s the fault of an outdated computer system.

90% of immigrants are detained for reasons unrelated to security. Half of the immigrants detained are asylum-seekers.

Who is Overseeing the CBSA?

Two years ago, Lucia Vega Jimenez died while in CBSA’s custody. The 42-year old Mexican was risking deportation when she hung herself in a cell in Vancouver’s airport. When the affair was finally made public one month later, it raised some serious questions about the federal agency.

Who is overseeing this process? What resources are available to detainees? Why didn’t Jiminez get medical assistance when she needed it? And how come Canada routinely infringes on the basic human rights of non-citizens?

These questions, just like the chorus of calls for a public inquiry, remain unanswered. Since 2000, 13 people have died in CBSA custody.

A Burundian refugee hung himself in Toronto East Detention Centre just last March, while he was awaiting deportation for killing his wife. Last year, a diabetic Somali refugee died in Central East Correctional Facility. Both those cases, like many others, are shrouded in suspicious secrecy.

Federal bodies with coercive powers usually have an independent commission overseeing them. The RCMP, the Canadian Intelligence Service and the Centre of Telecommunication Security all do.

There is no independent entity overseeing the CBSA, or receiving complaints about them.

Last February, a senator with liberal allegiance introduced a bill to change this. Senator Wilfred Moore wants an independent inspector to be appointed as watchdog of the CBSA. “I don’t want Mrs Jimenez’s death to be in vain, he told Radio-Canada while explaining his motives.

The government refused to acknowledge that the CBSA’s methods were in any way problematic but claimed that they were open to consider ways to ensure some accountability mechanisms.

migrantstrike

Fifty men are currently resorting to a hunger strike, facing indefinite detention in maximum security prison, despite having committed no crime. Canada would never treat its citizen that way; it should not treat anyone that way.

End Immigration detention has launched a campaign to reach out to Minister Ralph Goodale and ask him to meet the detainees.

You can participate by calling him at 613-947-1153, or tweeting at him using the hashtag #migrantstrike.

Just like Justin Trudeau told us, when greeting Syrian refugees in December: “show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations.”

With Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s proposed ban on new pit bulls set for a vote in September, opponents of Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) just caught a glimpse at how it may be defeated: through public outcry and protest. At least that seems to have done the trick in Quebec City for the moment.

Mayor Régis Labeaume had planned to get rid of all pit bulls in Quebec City by 2017, period. This was a much harsher move than Montreal’s plan to bar new pit bulls from the island and license and muzzle those that are already here.

Today, dozens (according to the CBC) of Quebec City dog owners and supporters protested outside of City Hall. Just a few hours later, Labeaume said that he had only been trying to start debate on the issue.

“We won’t eliminate pit bulls,” the mayor told the press, “we wanted to hit hard so things would move.”

Now, he seems content to wait for the results of a provincial workgroup on the idea of a province-wide pit bull ban. So pit bull owners in Quebec City and their beloved companions aren’t out of the proverbial woods yet, but the imminent, harsh law is off the table for now.

So is Montreal’s proposed ban also a fakeout designed to gauge public opinion? If so, then he Global Anti-BSL Peaceful Protest on July 16th is a good thing for opponents of Coderre’s ban to attend. In Montreal, it starts in Parc Pélican and makes its way to Parc Lafontaine.

Seeing as the Quebec City ban and the one in Montreal were both created in response to public fear, vocal public opposition may be the way to eliminate them and influence the Couillard Government not to pass one in the first place.

* You can also still vote in FTB’s poll on the Montreal Pit Bull Ban Poll.

* Featured image: Radio-Canada

In 2012, at the height of the Quebec Student Protests (Maple Spring), Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay’s administration amended Municipal Bylaw P-6 to include a ban on covering your face at public demonstrations and a requirement that protest organizers provide an itinerary. This effectively allowed Montreal Police (SPVM) to enforce Jean Charest’s controversial (and now defunct) Provincial Bill 78 without actually enforcing it.

This lead, of course, to more protest. Protest for the right to protest freely without first having to ask permission which had been taken away by these amendments. Kettling became a frequent SPVM tactic to end marches, sometimes just moments after they began.

Photo by Cem Ertekin
Photo by Cem Ertekin

Anarchopanda (the protest character of Julien Villeneuve) decided to challenge the bylaw amendments in a court of law as well. He argued that they were an unconstitutional violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which impeded freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Today, four years later, the Quebec Superior Court agreed with him.

In its ruling, the court declared that Article 3.2, which barred anyone participating in an assembly or procession in a public space from covering their face without a “reasonable excuse,” was excessive, unreasonable and arbitrary. They also ruled that Article 2.1, which bars anyone from assembling in and/or marching through public space without first providing authorities with a route, could only be applied in cases where the march hampered automobile traffic and was inoperative when it came to spontaneous demonstrations.

In a press release posted to his Facebook page, Anarchopanda, who was represented in this case by Sibel Ataogul and Marie-Claude St-Amant of the Association des juristes progressistes, called for the immediate withdrawal of charges on all pending P-6 cases. A large number of P-6 cases had been previously thrown out due to the way the SPVM had enforced the bylaw.

Anarchopanda concluded his press release by saying he hopes “the SPVM will reform its practices to ensure respect for the constitutional rights of protestors.”

* Featured image from Anarchopanda via Facebook

The Montreal Grand Prix is always noisy. First, there are the rather loud Formula 1 engines revving on Ile Notre-Dame at the event itself on Sunday. Then there are the street parties all weekend on a blocked off Crescent and more recently lower Saint-Laurent as well. And, of course, there are the protests.

As in previous years, people will be out in force against the hyper-capitalism intrinsic to the event. One of the things many protesters argue the F1 promotes, including those who put together this Critical Mass event, is sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Montreal-based sex workers’ rights organization Stella is, of course, also against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, but feels that during the Grand Prix, sex work is unfortunately conflated with trafficking in quite a bit of the protest messaging. They have launched a social media poster campaign to counter this perception.

In a press release, they argue that:

“(The Grand Prix) brings with it exaggerated and unfounded claims of an increase in human trafficking, and youth and sexual exploitation. In more recent years it has also resulted in increased police repression and surveillance of people working in the sex industry and our clients. Amidst this flurry of attention, sex workers in Montreal are placed at greater risk of violence as they undertake working practices to avoid police detection, that put our security at risk.”

– Stella press release

This evokes a similar style to that used by Femen’s Grand Prix protests: topless women with messages written on their bodies. What’s different with Stella’s campaign is that the women’s faces and nipples are covered and the messages are against the criminalization of sex work, a.k.a. prohibition.

(* Ed’s note: We mentioned Femen just so it was clear that this campaign wasn’t at all the same as that group’s stunt at last year’s Grand Prix, but Stella made quite a good and correct point: “Is it our campaign that is reminiscent of Femen’s or is it Femen who appropriates our culture and fails to recognize the work of all the sex workers who have been pioneers of toplessness and of using breasts to subvert patriarchy?”)

Will this campaign help change the messaging of anti-Grand Prix protests? Given some of the comments already on event pages that argue against lumping sex work in with exploitation and trafficking, it’s possible that it could tip the balance by giving those comments a unified voice.

Will this campaign get lost in the shuffle? Given the huge amount of attention paid to the Grand Prix as well as the multitude of divergent protests, that is possible as well.

One thing is for sure: the Grand Prix will be at least a little louder this year.

You can read more about the Stella campaign on their site and Facebook page

We can report that the lawsuit student protester Katie Nelson brought against the Montreal Police (SPVM), certain officers and the City of Montreal has been settled. That’s pretty much all we can report as Nelson isn’t allowed to discuss the terms of the settlement.

During the 2012 Quebec Student Protests (aka Maple Spring), Nelson amassed over $6000 in tickets including for things as banal as spitting on the street and swearing. Realizing that she was being specifically targeted by police and singled out for fines (some officers even referred to her by name), she decided to take the cops and the city to court for political profiling. We had a chance to speak with her in 2013 shortly after she launched the suit.

Since then, she had continued to participate in protests and speak out against various forms of oppression and violence, both caused by police and the state and not. All the while, she made many court appearances fighting her many citations and preparing for her profiling case.

In December 2015, she was attacked from behind and briefly hospitalized during a nighttime protest after she identified some officers from her case undercover dressed as protesters. She claims it was one of the undercover agent provocateurs who knocked her to the ground, a claim that was not confirmed by police but verified by photos and videos and others at the scene. The December incident was not part of the 2013 motion.

While Nelson’s lawsuit didn’t end with a mass public shaming of the Police Department and heads rolling (figuratively, of course) at the SPVM as a new precedent set as many may have hoped, it also didn’t end with Nelson losing and another unfortunate precedent set. The suit was settled, and that’s all we can tell you.

* Featured image by Thien Vo

Donald Trump held a rally in Buffalo last night. More important than the Don remembering 7/11 was the fact that a group of protesters (both inside and out) got their message across. Only two arrests were made and no violence was harbored.

Buffalo was not happy about the arrival of Donald Trump. We did not shut down the hate monger’s rally, rather we celebrated what counts with a dance party: Love and Freedom. We told the world that Hate is not acceptable in our city or anywhere.

All of the beautiful energy of this event was captured by Buffalo photographer and activist Pierce McCleary

(CLICK ON THE FIRST IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY)

Donald Trump Protest