“Enough is enough” was the message of the silent demonstration on June 8th. More than 30 demonstrators met in front of the SPVM headquarters in Downtown Montreal to express their frustration with police violence and brutality. Among the participants were people who had been brutalized by the police – one still had his arm in a cast.
Initially, the group met on the sidewalk in front of the Montreal Maison Symphonique. Twenty or so minutes after 6 p.m. officers from across the street came by and announced that they would respect the “protestors’ right to demonstrate,” but they would not “tolerate any criminal activity or the obstruction of traffic.”
Afterwards, the demonstrators voted to move across the street and sit directly in front of SPVM’s doors; where a dozen or so officers were blocking entrance. Silently and peacefully, the protestors sat down right in front of the officers – for almost four hours.
Check out our report below to hear more about and from the protest. In addition, you can see photos from the event, as well.
We need change. What happened to serve and protect? Freddie never had a chance. Apocalypse plague of humanity drawing closer with every injustice to every name I can’t remember, because there are too many. You have the right to remain alive! Too many people are murdered by the people supposedly serving and protecting them.
This revolution will not be televised!
It will be caught with the camera of a dying cell phone by the thumb of child who knows no slavery, but is a slave to connection without being connected to the fact that folks are dying – for what? I sit on a floral covered futon in a room where the only discomfort is that the ceiling fan is making my feet cold and I am too lazy to pull the chord. I am typing on a iPhone that was new at Christmas, but is quickly becoming obsolete. I spent the morning smoking bongs and catching up on what’s happening outside my line of sight. I feel defeated.
Nepal. Baltimore. Places where fates were decided without remorse or recourse. An earthquake quickly drowned out by coverage of a race riot. A man dragged into a police van and then beaten until his spine was severed. Watching videos and reading both genius and fucking ignorant comments, reading the news through my Facebook feed, the Twitters of anyone who is anyone that Fox News can grab on to. Wonderbread reporters saying stupid things to people who are desperately trying to save their children and bring light to the hardships in a desperate America.
It’s not as hard to talk about race through the safety of tapping of your finger on a little glass screen that has so much power. There is no answer I can provide to why humans judge other humans based on the color of their flesh or contents of their presentation. I know that I have been judged and made similar shameful judgements, but I also know that regardless of growing up in the poorest neighbourhood of one of the poorest cities in the country, I still made it to where I am now. I have not personally been the victim of Police brutality or the true ugly face of racism, but I unfortunately know how very real and present it is in our world.
I was once standing outside of the old Pink, a Buffalo dive bar in the hippest neighbourhood, and there was a man pan handling – not being too pushy, just normal. After several moments: a car pulled up and two police officers dragged him away from the bars patio area and threw him to the ground in front of a crowd of a summer Saturday night drinkers. When he was picked up from the cement one officer pretended to kick him and they all shared a sick smile. I stood there and did nothing. I held my Jack and Coke in one hand and cell phone in the other and said absolutely nothing. I was 21. Out of fear my lips were sealed. I didn’t want to get involved. I regret that everyday. Standing up for even one person is the most important thing one can do.
I am angry, but fighting violence with more violence is counterproductive. Peaceful protests, nonviolence, and using art as activism are the only true answers. There are people rioting for sports teams, the KKK and Nazis still exist. Hate mongers and cold blooded killers, gay bashers and wife beaters roam the streets. War is present in all societies. And the most popular children’s toys are always guns. Why are humans, as a whole, so aggressive? Video games and rap music? Heavy metal perhaps. Violent horror movies maybe. Children being raised by the internet? Unfaithful media? Who the fuck knows! Maybe it’s none of the above or a combination of all.
Sadly there are disconnected fronts, people fighting for the right thing in the wrong way. Looking for attention, not resolution. Do not stir the pot in someone else’s battle. Solidarity is important. Stand with and support, but do not fight for them – it’s not always your battle. Be educated. There is a group of rabble rousers in front of every city hall inciting a riot. These people are my friends. I agree with their heart and dedication, but when they jump in bull horns first, that leaves no time for tact.
There was a possibility of my cousin becoming a cop – it made me think. He is a good one with the right intentions. I would hope that the shitty crime filled world wouldn’t eat him up. We need more honorable humans in law enforcement.
I care about everyone, every person deserves love and respect and food and smiles. There is a lot that needs to be done and there is nothing you can do about it by simply being quiet! Incite a riot within yourself, bring peace by being peaceful, helpful, loving, and making your own discussions and decisions based on life and not what the media portrays.
The way a story is covered, paying attention to one insignificant part of the story, grabbing onto the juiciest bit of bullshit and shifting the entire tide – it makes me sick. Violence sells. The News is not Reality Television, just as reality Television ain’t real. None of it can be trusted, get your news by being present in the world you live in, be there when it’s happening and, when actually reading or watching other people’s representations of the world events, make sure to find every perspective and never ever trust the biggest headlines. Again: the revolution will not be televised.
Race: it’s not something you can win by being the tortoise in a world of selfish and ignorant hares. Everyone is different and diversity is a spectacular gift that we all share. We all must accept each other’s differences and appreciate the beauty of being unique. Be the change you want to see in the world. Do not tolerate ignorance or hate. Be a good example for new generations. Do the best you can to fight the good fight in the name of peace, acceptance, freedom and above all else love.
The featured image is a painting by Cat, inspired by the events at Ferguson.
“Indeed, both Jews and Arabs are the Children of Abraham; Jews descended from his second son Isaac (peace be on him) and Arabs from the first son Ishmael (peace be on him). To Moses, God Almighty revealed the Torah, as He revealed to Jesus (peace be on him) the Gospel.” – Shahul Hameed, onislam.net
Some very tragic events took place over the past few weeks. Several people were killed in a Kosher supermarket in the suburbs of Paris. A shooting took place around a synagogue in Copenhagen. Following these, a video titled “10 Hours of Walking in Paris as a Jew” appeared, which, considering the neo-conservative ties of the journalist who shot the video, was a nothing more than a PR stunt for those who absolutely want to promote the Aliyah of European Jews.
And the tragic news kept on coming. A Jordanian pilot slain by ISIS, increased ISIS presence in Libya, the murder of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the ever-present situation in Gaza… The only glimmer of hope came from Oslo this weekend, where Muslims and Jews joined hands in a very mediatized show of solidarity. In the face of all this madness and insanity, some have responded with even more madness and insanity.
The witch hunt that started in France against those were identified as “enemies of secularism,” and the birth of “radical” secularism – which in fact isn’t secularism at all, but just xenophobia in disguise – are just a couple of examples of the “madness” that is in the air. The madness culminated in its apex yesterday in a report by the president of le Conseil répresentatif des institutions juifs de France (CRIF). In the report, the supposed voice of the majority of French Jews stated that Marine LePen – the leader of the fascist Front National, the most anti-Jewish of all French political parties – was herself irreproachable, that the only problems were caused by “some members of the FN,” and that, in fact, most violence perpetrated against the French Jewish community were the acts of “Young Muslims.”
Recently, the so-called peak in ‘extremist religious’ violence has allowed “anti-terrorism” legislations to be passed throughout the world, at the cost of civil liberties and of democratic rights. On the other hand, this violence has also empowered fascistic sections of Canadian and Quebecois society, allowing bigoted and xenophobic discourses to go unopposed, and garner mainstream coverage.
The same has happened within the Jewish community, as well. The violence perpetrated against people of Jewish descent, or of Jewish faith, has empowered a scary xenophobic discourse, which doesn’t draw a line between Islamism and Islam; between a fundamentalist minority that receives much more attention than the fundamentalist segments of other religions, and the overwhelming peaceful majority of Muslims. On the 70th anniversary of the Shoah, of the liberation of Auschwitz, we must stand firm against such kind of discourse – it’s a moral duty.
This, in no way, excuses anti-Jewish discourse or actions – they are despicable and must be fought. But those who perpetuate the most prevalent anti-Jewish discourse today, claim to to be thedefender of our faith, and consider themselves the sole voice of the Jewish people. The political consequences of this is slowly showing itself, even here in Montreal, not more than a few blocks away from where I am writing this piece. The Jewish Defense League (JDL), considered to be a terrorist organization by Israel, the EU and the United States, and whose slogan, ironically, is “never again” has set up shop in Montreal this past week. To those in the JDL who stress the motto “never again” and the need to “defend the Jewish community from the Islamist threat” I have but one thing to say: The antisemitism of the 1930s and 1940s is the Islamophobia of today, and if we really want “never again” to be more than a slogan, we must fight discrimination against any and every minority. We must fight discrimination in every shape and form.
The JDL’s discourse and the true notion of “never again” are antithetical. “Never again” is a universal call for tolerance, acceptance, solidarity, peace, and, most importantly, resilience against the horrors of xenophobia. Thus, if we truly want to follow the creed of “never again,” we must make sure we fight the presence of the JDL. We must fight all those who resort to a discourse that uses violence as a justification to perpetuate even more violence, that tries to justify one form of racism with yet another. It’s a discourse of hatred that disseminates itself in the disguise of religion, or of some higher moral ground, or in the drapes of secularism. It’s a discourse that is prevalent within the neoconservative movement across the globe right now. It’s a discourse that is at the backbone of the hatred that fuels ISIS, and other such Islamist organizations. It’s the ideological foundation of fascism and of fascist movements. It’s this discourse that links them all together.
We are all sisters and brothers. Either we fight together, or we will perish together as fools!
Foreword: Following the publication of my most recent article, there were accusations that I was being an apologist for the so-called “racist rag” that is Charlie Hebdo, and absolving them of their ‘racism.’ It’s funny to see reactions from both sides. If you try to take a nuanced position, you’re either writing an apology for terrorism, or an apology for racism. Saying that I don’t believe Charlie Hebdo is a “racist rag” per sé, doesn’t mean I agree with everything that they have ever published – unlike what some believe. As I said in my previous article, I think their depictions of the prophet of Islam were senselessly hurtful, adding to an already toxic environment. It also doesn’t mean I absolve them of their responsibility, when it comes to publishing such cartoons in an era of mounting Islamophobia. On the other, this also doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to the racist environment prevalent in French society. In fact, quite to the contrary… The attack against Charlie Hebdo was merely the latest manifestation of France’s underlying problem with bigotry, xenophobia, and racism. A manifestation of how France like most Western societies – and Canada is no different – creates the so-called ‘other,’ the ‘non-French.”
The January 7 Massacre was the manifestation of that, but CH was the wrong target!
This article is about the systemic racist violence that is perpetrated on a regular basis against French citizens of Muslim heritage or faith, and how the mainstream discourse in the aftermath of January 7 continues to perpetuate the estrangement of the ‘other.’ Here is another article, which in my view should be read by all. This article is the perfect answer to those that say that CH is a “racist rag.”
The name of the game in France now is “National Unity.” Politicians from all walks of life have called the French people to unite, in a joint effort to defend the principles and the values of the French Republic: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. This being said, one has to ask: Unity against what? Unity in the name of what?
In the wake of the attacks against CH, the mainstream media, the French Left, right, and extreme-right put the emphasis on the fact that the Cherif brothers were Muslim. The French mainstream, just as most of the media in the world, portrayed the assailants as violent Muslims, thereby paving the way for the French political elite to jump, right away, onto the bandwagon of France’s ‘Muslim problem.’ France’s problem of ‘Islamic fundamentalism,’ which subliminally suggests that the French nation has to defend itself against the ‘Muslims’ among them, perpetuates the same racist and xenophobic discourse that suggests that if you’re a Muslim, you can’t truly be ‘French’. The same racist and xenophobic discourse, which alienates French youth from the banlieues on a daily basis, and produced the revolt of 2005 is at the origin of all of this affair now.
By overemphasizing the fact that the four assailants were Muslim, the mainstream French media and the French political caste are attempting to absolve France and the French society of all of the racist and xenophobic crimes it has committed against Arab, Muslim, North African populations in the past and even today.
There isn’t a ‘Muslim problem,’ there’s a French problem; a crisis of French integration, which underlines the hypocrisy and voidness of the French national slogan: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. There’s a French problem which is manifest in the way the mainstream media depicts the assailants. The Cherif brothers are French citizens; they grew-up in France, lived all of their lives in France, were discriminated against in France, and were alienated by the French society in France. Their ‘radicalism’ was not a product of Islam, but of the shortcomings of French society, of the systemic and institutionalized racist, and symbolic violence omnipresent in French society that treats French muslims citizens or French arabs citizens, as ‘non-French,’ and as second degree citizens.
But this is nothing new. In 1950s and 1960s, during the French occupation of Algeria, white French colonizers were considered as fully-fledged French citizens, with the right to vote, the right to hold public office etc… The majority of Arab, Berber and Kabyle Algerians were also de facto French citizens, yet didn’t have any of the rights held by the colonizers. Still, they had to pledge their allegiances to the motto of the tricolour: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
The French problem stems from the fact that the French society has never recognized the crimes it has committed during the Algerian War – the millions of “French citizens” of Arab, Berber or Kabyle descent, who were brutally murdered, tortured and mutilated by French forces. Up until recently in French schools, the war of Algeria didn’t even exist. It was called ‘the Events of Algeria.’ France also never recognized the massacres committed in France during that time against French citizens of Muslim descent. Consider the infamous affair of Le Pont de Neuilly, where more than forty Muslim French citizens were kettled by French law enforcement and pushed into the frigid waters of Seine River and drowned to death. The doubled edged economical oppression of French Muslims in France during the War of Algeria is depicted amazingly in the movie Ici on noie les Algeriens. And thus French society has in many ways perpetuated this état de guerre against its Muslim population – everyone is equal in France, but some more than others.
The rhetoric of national unity is used as a weapon against “Freedom of Expression,” which it ironically is supposed to defend. French comedian Dieudonné, along with more than fifty others have already been charged for making the ‘apology of terrorism,’ or, in other words, for daring to make comments critical of CH. Although I don’t necessarily agree with Dieudonné, in the same way that I don’t agree with everything CH said or depicted, I have to say: If you defend “Freedom of Speech,” you must defend Dieudonné’s right to speak.
National unity is the French take on the Bushian concept of, “You’re either with us or against us.” And while all of France is focusing on national unity, mosques are being torched throughout France. Marine LePen and Sarkozy are on every airwave, making Islamophobic and anti-Muslim comments under the cover of national unity. Thus ‘National Unity’ is just a magical wand of rhetoric, which allows racists to become the sole defenders of free speech, and on the other hand enables any deviant speech to be banned and silenced.
It’s interesting to study the usage of the concept of national unity in French history. First, during the War of Algeria, the French government called for national unity as a tool to unite the French nation in its colonial oppression of Algeria. Second, it was used in the 1930s, a time during which anti-Judaism – not anti-Semitism, since not all Semites are Jewish – was rampant. The extreme-right staged several coup attempts, all of which culminated in a march on the National Assembly that almost overthrew the French government. In 1930, like today, the political caste called for national unity – a union of the right and the Left forces to fight the threat of fascism. The Left refused to make alliances with the centrists and the right-wing, complacent, in many ways accommodated the rise of fascism. Instead, the Left decided to form a Popular Front, made up of Social Democrats, Socialists and Communists and won a majority, bringing along with them the first Jewish head of government in French history: Léon Blum. The Front Populaire is a period that is occupies a significant place in the imaginary of the French Left. Today, instead of a Union Nationale, France needs a Front Populaire to fend off the xenophobic, and racist Islamophobic onslaught that is under way.
Unless French civil society can look its demons in the mirror, and stop projecting its problems onto its minorities; unless France comes to terms with its colonialist past, the massacres it perpetrated in its colonies; unless France stops its neo-colonialist interventionist foreign policy; unless France can strike a balance that truly respects its Muslim and Arab citizens as French citizens first and foremost, equal in every way to their non-Arab counterparts; unless all of this happens, tragedies such as CH Massacre will happen on a regular basis. Until then “Liberté, EgalitéetFraternité” will remain a hollow slogan.
Student politics may not seem like the most interesting of ‘current affairs’ to follow. That’s understandable. After all, if you are not a student, a lot of the things that students care about don’t really matter to you. That can be contested, however.
I have two strands of student politics in mind. One of them actually takes place within campuses, with elected student representatives doing their business. There is, however, a broader sphere of student politics, which actually involves lobbying governments, provincial and even federal.
Let us focus on the federal level for today, because what is happening right now is some Westeros-level political intrigue. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is the largest student association in Canada. Basically, student unions from universities are able to become members of CFS; just like how individual labour unions can unite under a larger confederacy. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, 81 student unions are members of CFS; but here’s the kicker, not all of them want to be members anymore.
What usually happens, if you feel like you want to stop being a member of a federation? If you are a large union yourself, you hold a referendum, asking your constituency, “Hey, do we want to keep on being members of this thing?” Your constituency says either yay or nay, and then you go on your merry way.
See, that’s not how CFS rolls. In CFS, first you need to hold a petition, collecting hand-written signatures of 20 per cent of your members. Then, you need to send this document full of hand-written signatures to CFS, where CFS will count the number of signatures, and determine whether or not the signatures are ‘legible.’ That is, if they receive the petition and that it doesn’t get ‘lost.’
Anywhere during this, CFS may just declare your petition to be invalid on any of the reasons I’ve stated above. In the case of McGill University’s Post-graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) – the case I’m most familiar with – the invalidation of the petition was brought to the Quebec Superior Court; where the judge presiding compared the situation to a ‘bad marriage.’
But that’s not all! Even if you manage to get the petition in, and force CFS to recognise its validity, holding a membership referendum itself is extremely restricted. Everything and anything that the people campaigning to leave CFS say must actually be approved by a CFS appointed overseer before it’s released to the public. The rules of the game are set by CFS. If there is any violation, CFS will declare the referendum invalid. And then, you cannot petition for a referendum for another five years!
I’ll get to the financial aspect of this entire spiel momentarily.
On their website, CFS says that there are four student unions in Quebec that are its members. What it doesn’t say is that all four of them are struggling really hard, or have been lucky enough to leave CFS. Concordia’s student unions also are struggling with CFS, and they’re in much more of a pickle than PGSS.
The University of Toronto’s Graduate Student Union (UTGSU) also tried to leave CFS, and last November they held their own referendum. Allegedly, 66 per cent of the eligible voters voted no to CFS, but they failed to meet the quorum of 1606 people, by seven people. Because seven people failed to vote, UTGSU cannot hold a referendum for another five years.
There are a bunch of other examples, but I’m not gonna bore you with details. You can find details here, and here if you want to be bored, or if you are genuinely curious about this, for which I thank you.
What does that mean? I promised I’d talk about finances, so here’s finances. CFS charges its member unions $13 per student per year. UTGSU has roughly 16 000 members. That makes $208 000 per year. UTGSU cannot hold another referendum for five years. The cost of failing to leave CFS, therefore, is $1 040 000.
But wait, there’s more! I mentioned before that some student unions take this to the court. You can imagine, easily, that legal fees for running years long legal battles against a federation the size of a medium city (CFS has a total of roughly 1.5 million students under its umbrella). Conversely, CFS also needs to pay legal fees. Where does that money come from? That’s right! The very students they are suing!
But why do student unions want to leave CFS? What the hell is wrong with it? To be perfectly fair, CFS does have some interesting campaigns. For instance, they have a campaign called “Let People Vote,” which essentially involves CFS lobbying against the federal Bill C-23. Bill C-23 is law now, so clearly their lobbying did not work – perhaps, along with other reasons, but still.
I’m just going to give you a few seconds to let the irony of having a campaign called “Let People Vote” while making it extremely difficult for people to hold referendums sink in.
Going back to Quebec in specific, CFS has not been active in la Belle Province since 2010. That year was crazy in terms of CFS politics, because some internal leadership disputes caused the provincial wing of CFS – aptly called CFS-Quebec – to leave CFS. Or rather CFS disowned CFS-Q. Or perhaps CFS-Q transformed into something called Rassemblement des associations etudiantes? It was more or less all of this.
CFS did create a new Quebec wing, however the actual members from Quebec (namely Dawson Students’ Union, Concordia Students’ Union, Concordia Graduate Students’ Association, and PGSS) were not part of this new wing. So there was no Quebec representation in the National General Meeting of CFS.
Also, CFS has a national general meeting, where they make decisions about the regulations regarding leaving CFS. With no Quebec representation, it’s obvious why problems may arise.
I’ll cut to the chase. If this was about the small labour unions or local political parties trying to leave their federal umbrella organizations, but actively denied their right to free association (that is, freedom to become or stop being a member of any organization/club/whatever of your desire), it would make top news – political party more so than the labour union, but I digress.
There are unimaginable political games happening within the realm of student politics, and it is mostly going under the radar. If these stories ever appear in mainstream media, they are treated as trivial. In fact, CFS still retains its title as the ‘legitimate’ voice of student concerns on a federal level, yet with all these legal battles against it, its lack of accountability, and overall shadiness shows to me that it should be otherwise.
Not too many people know this, but I used to be a cartoonist. The work never amounted to anything and I moved on to photography. I started when I was 12, inspired by Asterix and Tintin like everybody else. But later in my teens I started to read more of the big names: French and Belgian artists like Moebus, Goetlib in publications like Fluide Glaciale, rubrique à brac and the likes. Then came Hara Kiri, a spin-off of Charlie Hebdo with Reiser, Cabu and Wollinski. The most vulgar and vile humor I had ever seen. Nothing was taboo for these guys and it was mind blowing. They put to paper what people did not dare to speak of and then some! Now you have to realize that back in the late 70’s controversy was not available one simple click away. You got ahold of that stuff from an older cousin or something. All these guys were an inspiration and at some level heroes to me for being that bold.
Today I felt strange going through my day, didn’t know if I was mad or sad. I went to take some shots at the vigil downtown. I showed up to see a thousand people braving the cold and the atmosphere was jovial in general. I hurried to get some shots and when my camera froze I decided to call it an evening. Before I left, I went to the small improvised memorial to leave my pencil amongst the other pencils and the candles. Then the whole thing came crashing down on me. The bastards took away my heroes. People who had the balls to stand for what they believed in where stolen from us in the most horrible way and it just overwhelmed me with sadness. It was 9/11 for me all over again.
I got back home and post-edited my images and balled my eyes out again while editing the memorial shot. Will this bring me down? Hell no! If anything it gives me even more courage to stick to my convictions and hopefully it will inspire others to do the same. Charlie Hebdo is not dead, if anything it has spawned even more creative and daring spirits. If you ever get intimidated for making any kind of art, remember these words from Charb, “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees”.
So it looks like some people who have been downloading movies and TV shows illegally are going to get letters. That’s right, not even emails. Actual snail mail. Threatening snail mail at that.
Not sure if this will have any effect, given that our mail service is soon not going to be a door-to-door thing and also considering that these warnings are nothing more than that. There are no fines or jail time possible, they’re just toothless warnings.
But Canadians are, for the most part, a well-intentioned people. I’m sure we’d happily pay to support the shows we want if there was a way. That is, if there was a way that didn’t involve having to first pay for a cable service and then the content we’re looking for.
Such a thing exists south of the border, or rather it will exist soon. HBO is finally making it possible to purchase the GO platform, accessible through computers, smartphones, tablets and as an app on Smart TVs, without first having a cable subscription, but only in the US.
That’s right, all that fine HBO program… Yes, Game of Thrones, new season, because that and maybe True Detective is all we’re really after, right? The service should cost $12 a month and while that’s a pretty penny to pay for one show, it also may include quite a bit of the back catalogue, kind of like Netflix. That means Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, old episodes of Game of Thrones, pretty good deal, if you ask me.
I would gladly pay $12 a month for HBO legally, instead of “going to a friend’s house” (cause I’d never do anything illegal… and then admit it online). A lot of time, energy, talent and money went into these shows and I’d happily support them. Unfortunately, due to my geographic situation, I can’t. Instead, I’m free to support Canadian cable conglomerates that had no hand in creating the programming I want. I have neither the will or the funds to do that.
It’s time that Canadian media companies shifted focus away from fighting hard to reinforce a system that allows them to become rich by buying then re-selling content they didn’t make, through an outdated method, and instead creating some great content of their own and distributing it through apps and streaming services that the whole world has access to.
There has never been a better opportunity for Canadian-produced media to shine globally. Sure, Canadian companies don’t have the marketing or production budgets that Hollywood does, but that can change and will change if they stop focusing on distribution, and opt for a simple model, using something like a website and an app, and instead of buying US shows, pour that money into content production and promo instead.
Hollywood has a reason to fear the internet, Toronto doesn’t. We should let the full American version of Netflix come in without people having to be clever, same for HBO GO. Who cares what Canadian company owns what? We won’t be buying shows anymore, we’ll be making them.
The internet should have no national boundaries. Not only does that democratize things for smaller content producers, it also makes it possible for national media companies that aren’t American to get a leg up.
Unfortunately, for now, it looks like our media conglomerates are clinging to the old ways so much they’ve resorted to sending letters.
But honestly, guys, if you blow this chance, THE NORTH WILL NEVER FORGET!
What is austerity? Very simply put, it is when governments decide to ‘tighten the belt’ in order to resolve ‘debt crises.’ A government starts running a deficit, and thus has to review its budget. While that sounds like a very basic accounting job, it is inherently extremely political. Why? Because you have to decide on which expenditures to cut, or which sources of income to raise.
Two large scaleanti-austerity protests have taken place in the past couple of months. All around Montreal, you can still see ambulances, firetrucks, and police cars covered with “On n’a rien volé” stickers. Clearly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Parti Libéral du Quebec’s (PLQ) cuts are real, but they are in no way new, or unexpected.
Of course, the PLQ’s decision to raise tuition fees was not out of the blue. Quebec was (and curiously, still is) facing a rising debt crisis. What happens when you find out that your balance is in the negative? You try to break even. This sounds all logical and rational. Yet, breaking even can turn out to be problematic, if you have your priorities set wrong.
In 2012, PLQ assumed incorrectly that students could be made to bear the burden of the provincial government’s debt crisis. The Maple Spring was the students’ response to this misjudgment, and it was without a doubt very polarizing. While there were hundreds of thousands of students taking to the street almost every week, there were others who wanted none of this.
The problem with the pacifist mind frame is that not everyone can afford to be apathetic. To some, an increase of a thousand dollars over the course of five years might not be too much; but for others it effectively means that higher education is barred to them.
At any rate, after the Maple Spring, the PLQ was replaced by the Parti Québecois (PQ), which declared that the tuition hikes would not take place. However, the PQ decided to cut university budgets by $123 million. So instead of directly barring education to some students, the provincial government succeeded in reducing the quality of education for everyone.
Similar to Bill 10 which would overhaul Quebec’s health bureaucracy, and Bill 3 that will overhaul municipal pensions, the cuts to university budgets are part of the same austerity regime based on all the wrong priorities. The provincial government finds itself in a debt of about $3.9 billion and figures that the solution is cutting social services.
The Maple Spring showed that students were more than willing to fight a government that encroached on its basic rights. And more recently, the past two months have shown that mobilization against austerity is not just a possibility, but a reality. It is a little disappointing that people start caring about the consequences of austerity only after they themselves are affected, but that does not matter anymore.
“While they reach for the last pennies in our pockets, federal and provincial governments increase military spending, invest in prisons, police, and security measures, and roll out the red carpet for the extraction industries. People with friends in high places, the rich, large companies, multinationals, banks and lobbying firms are running the show. A small minority is strangling the community. If the interests of the majority do not orient the actions and priorities of the government, it is illusory to continue to speak of this as a democracy. In a just and equitable society, wealth should not be accumulated at the expense of our environment and should be fairly redistributed among all.”
There is nothing innocent about austerity. It is not simply an apolitical economic decision to break even; mainly because there can be no such thing as an apolitical economic decision. Governments have priorities, and this government has shown us that their priorities are not social justice, social equality, or even simply social services.
It is clear that the governments of this province, both PLQ and PQ, have got their priorities wrong. It then falls on us to collectively fight against austerity and stand in solidarity with one another.
Of course, none of the political choices available might be pleasing. In fact, you might be completely against the system to begin with. But the realistic choice is fighting one battle at a time; while keeping the dream of social justice and social equality alive. It is realistic, because at least we know we can fight the good fight.
This is not just the students’ fight anymore; although I daresay students have led the charge, and are still leading the charge. But it is time to realize that austerity affects us all. As such, it is our collective responsibility to stand in solidarity, and say no to austerity.
On the March 5, 2013 Paulo Portas, the vice prime-minister of Portugal, and leader of the Partido Popular (the right-wing neo-liberal member of the austerity governing coalition) visited India for a business trip. The objective of this short visit on behalf of the vice admiral of a sinking Portuguese vessel was to insure a safe route for the influx of foreign capital — in this case Indian capital — to reinvigorate the ailing Portuguese economy. There, in New Delhi, and in front of flashing cameras and journalists Paulo Portas gave out the first ‘Golden Visa,’ which has become quite infamous in Portugal over the past weeks.
Now this ‘Golden Visa’ might seem like the Golden Ticket in the fable of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and that idea isn’t that far off. The system of Golden Visas was implemented, in the words of its promoters, to facilitate foreign investment in Portugal, and to boost the economy with innovative projects. Thus any foreign citizen with enough money and a project to invest in some section of the Portuguese economy a considerable amount of money was given access to the Via dei Fori Imperiali, a sort of express lane without tolls which would allow the rich and the affluent, in other words, the job creators of this world to come and spread their magical dust, and spread economical healthiness throughout the land of Lusitans. It was the magical solution to resolve of Portugal’s economic woes, insourcing entrepreneurship and the audacity of the foreign masters of capital.
The only problem with the entire scheme is that things didn’t quite work out according to plan. Thus on November 13, a political earthquake shook Lisbon. Four public offices became the targets of special anti-corruption unit raids: Portuguese border services agency, the entity which was in charge of directly issuing the Visas; the Ministry of Justice and the Institute of Registries and Notaries, the equivalent of our Ministry of National Revenue; and the Ministry of Internal Administration, the equivalent of our Ministry of Public Works and Governmental Affairs.
The heads of all these institutions have been questioned by Portuguese police, and have been accused of, corruption, trafficking of influence and money laundering, among other things. Two companies Golden Visas Europe and JMF-Projects and Business Inc. offered services for foreign private investors looking to dry their money in the sun on some picturesque Portuguese beach.
A travel agency for capital, Marx would have been delighted!
Both of these companies had direct ties to the legal public authorities, who were quintessential in the issuing of the infamous Golden Visas. For example Miguel Macedo the Minister of Internal Administration had a direct stake in Golden Visas Europe; he had been the founding partner of the enterprise — even though he was already minister at the time — with a young lady by the name of Luísa Oliveira Figueiredo, who happened to the daughter of António Figueiredo, the head of the Institute of Registries and Notaries.
It was all a coincidence obviously!
In the year 2013 alone, 110,000 Portuguese of all ages, and from all walks of life migrated and initiated ajourney whichwe call saudade, the longing for the return to the mother land. Austerity measures continue to hit Portugal hard, but at least some at the top of the Portuguese political ladder have understood the mechanisms that will allow them to profit from the suffering and the misery of the common Portuguese Joe or in this case João.
Some authors in the past spoke of monopoly capitalism when referring to the uber concentration of capital within the orbit of a few corporations, multinational enterprises, of wealth. For Paul Sweezy, capitalism under Pax Americana in the mid-1960s was far from being the rule of the ‘free-market’ that Adam Smith had theorized. Rather it was an oligarchy, a saturated orgy of the rich and powerful that always reproduced their power through new business ventures and “created” new markets when necessary.
The scandal of the ‘Golden Visas’ underlines the hypocrisy of the extreme right-wing rhetoric, which is in vogue throughout Europe, and is represented in Portugal by the Partido Nacional Renovador (PNR). Hundreds and thousands of poor and toiling African immigrants amass at ‘Fortress Europe’s’ borders; the “wretched of the earth” as Frantz Fanon said. Upon their arrival in Europe they join the ranks of the lowest of the lowest classes, yet form the invisible and voiceless backbone of an economy in shambles.
We demonise them, tarnish their image. They are the incarnation of all the wrath that the laborious people of Portugal feel. In the meantime multi-millionaire gangsters have made a paradise, coached in the misery of both the Portuguese and the migrant working classes. The focus that the extreme right puts on immigrant populations is a diversion tactic, used as a veil to hide the real illegal immigrants that capitalize on the economic crisis: The ‘Golden’ immigrants, the avatars of the ‘free’ circulation of capital. Unfortunately for them, this inherent contradiction has been unveiled and the emperor is revealed to be naked.
The Golden Visas and the story of Portugal since 2011 is the perfect example of the rise of a new form of capitalism, which can be called ‘casino capitalism.’ It is a mix between libertarian paradise and state-capitalism à la Xiaoping. Its most brutal manifestation is this system of Golden Visas; a rigged lottery which only favours the ‘free’, and the automatization of capital servant of the markets and financial cartels pushed through by a neo-liberal state — the state after all isn’t that bad when it serves the interests of capital!
Within this new economic world everything becomes possible. While millions of young and talented Portuguese leave toiling to put an end to their precarity, the country is being stripped to pieces and sold to the highest bidder. Soon every aspect of Portuguese life will be liberated from the constraints of the state — no regulation whatsoever. In this brave new world modeled through the lense of Atlas Shrugged, everyone will be under the yoke of those that have enough influence and power to make and break the market, those that write the laws of an unfree market.
Last Tuesday on November 11, 2014, more than thirty people gathered in front of the Mexican Consulate in Montreal to hold a solidarity vigil for the 43 students who went missing on September 26 in Ayotzinapa.
The students were protesting against what they considered discriminatory hiring and funding practices from the government. This was followed by a shootout with the police, after which the students were rounded up into police cars. No one has seen them ever since.
According to John Ackerman, however, government officials have confirmed the version which had previously been leaked by whistleblowers that the 43 students were burned alive for over 12 hours in an enormous bonfire without anyone intervening. Although some reports do say that the remains found did not belong to the 43 students. You can read more about details that put the events into a broader context here.
There were around 30 people at the vigil, and at least five to six police cars. At one point, the demonstrators symbolically took attendance, by calling out the names of the 43 missing students, and then responding in unison, “Present!”
“El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido,” the demonstrators also chanted. A people united shall never be defeated.
Recently, a headline caught my eye. It said, “Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander tables Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.” I had to read the it twice because frankly I thought it was satire. Silly me. I should have gotten used to the Harper regime’s xenophobic extravagance by now.
Journalists, commentators, and pundits with some sense of decency have brushed aside the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, treating it simply as another one of those wacko Conservative acts. This act is just like a fading smoke signal to the Conservative voter base.
“If we had 100% of the power this is what we do, vote for us, and we’ll abolish the Supreme Court so we can pass such iniquitous laws,” Harper seems to be saying.
One of the things that Toronto’s mayoral race proved is that racism can still garnish some political ground in Canada, if it is intertwined in an insidious manner with right-wing populism. Maybe what didn’t work in Quebec’s provincial elections might work for the Neo-Tea Party in Ontario, if Doug Ford becomes the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. It most certainly was an essential factor of his mayoralty bid.
What both elections have in common, to a certain extent, is that there exists in Canada an electoral base that might be swayed by some blatant demagogic xenophobia – in the vein of the France’s Front National. The Conservative government, through their anti-immigration rhetoric and their metaphor of barbaric cultures has turned to a page right out of the extreme right-wing playbook.
Up until now, the way the Conservatives have been handling the immigration issue has essentially been economic. Their discourse has been one of unbridled exploitation. “Immigrants are only good, if they generate profit for the Canadian economy. On the other hand if they don’t, they are useless and we must get rid of them,” goes their discourse.
There are other examples to this discourse and its politics: the Bogus Refugee claims, refugee health care, the temporary migrant workers program etc. In this sense, the Conservative party has many similarities with the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader Nigel Farage, who has used the anti-immigrant rhetoric to undermine the traditional hegemony of the British Conservative Party on the British right wing. Doesn’t that ring any bells? Reform Party, anyone?
But it seems like the Conservative Party ,with their two last bills, has gone further than UKIP and its politics of “soft extreme-right,” which plays on immigration, but not on identity matters. The hard extreme-right, a constellation of all of humanity’s demons, has this visceral need to define identity. To them identity is based on the exclusion of those that are not like us, those that are not part of the “nation.’’ Such is the political agenda of the Le Front National in France or the extreme-right Dutch Party for Freedom.
The Conservative government is clandestinely, through their debate about “Barbaric Cultural Practices,” calling for a debate about the true nature of Canadian identity. Etymologically speaking, barbarian means the other, the person that isn’t us, and by extension not part of Canada. And beyond this, the blanket statement “Barbaric Cultures” also refers to some sort of hierarchy of cultures. It perpetuates the idea that some cultures on that ladder are inferior or superior to others.
It seems that the cultural practices that stem from Western or European groups are quite alright, but “other” cultures have to be put under the loop for their barbaric cultural practices. Thus, with this rhetorical ingenuity, the Conservative regime has redefined Canadian identity.
Too long have we comforted ourselves with the idea that Canada, and Canadians aren’t racist, and because of this we have this false idea that we haven’t let racism creep into the highest spheres of power. The Conservative move to introduce legislation that bans “barbaric cultural practices” is no different than the extreme right-wing proposals on the European continent. Unfortunately in our case, the Conservative party has managed to achieve power, and its threat is very real.
Yesterday, the Conservative government put their ‘money’ where their words were, and officially joined the new coalition of the willing. As I write Canadian fighter jets have joined the mission in Syria and Iraq. The Conservative government is leading Canada into a war that they deem is a moral imperative, a war against the horrific evil of ISIS and their genocidal tendencies, and a war to uphold the values of humanity.
Given the razor thin lines drawn by this Conservative rhetoric, either you are for war, that is, in favor of a military intervention against ISIS, or you’re giving a free pass for human rights to be trampled, or perhaps even worse, you are a de facto ”ally” of the ideology which drives ISIS.
In Bushian terms either you’re part of the ”Free World” or you’re part of the axis of evil.
I couldn’t contain my profound amazement, uncomforting disbelief and utter bewilderment (and yes, I went through all of those states of emotion in merely five minutes; it was one heck of an emotional rollercoaster ride), as I heard our beloved Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, making the government’s pitch for a military intervention, address the House of Commons the other day.
The centerpiece of his argument was, believe it or not, women’s rights. Yes; women’s rights. During his fiery intervention, John Baird said that ‘his’ Canada didn’t sit on the sidelines while people were being massacred, blatant disregard for human rights was being done, and innocent women and children were being purposefully targeted.
In his words, it was Canada’s ultimate moral duty to intervene, in order to prevent such things from happening. At the end of the speech, you got this feeling that this was a moment John Baird had long dreamed about. Surely, he had dreamt as a child that one day he would be the champion of the oppressed, of the marginalized, and the champion of those ”lost causes” and that he heartfeltly would rise to the occasion and save Canada’s honour, and in doing so also that of the world.
That would be great story, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, this is not a dream, this is a nightmare. The Conservative government so far has been a nightmare instilling terror into the hearts of thousands of Canadian citizens. When it comes to upholding human rights, women’s rights, and minority rights, the Conservative government has done Canada, or at least the idea people once had of Canada, a huge dishonor.
No matter how imbued with beautiful lyricism the rhetoric is, mere rhetoric cannot change facts. The Conservative government may paint itself as the Fidei Defensor of women and women’s rights all it wants, but that won’t change the fact that more than 1200 Indigenous women are missing or have been murdered, and that the Conservative government has done nothing to prevent this systemic problem, because, in their words, it isn’t a systemic problem whatsoever. If we were to apply Conservative logic here, than the Conservative government would be siding with criminals, rapists and murderers.
As the Conservative government stood-up, shouted, cheered and celebrated their mission in Iraq by high-fiving each other, what were they really cheering for? Were they cheering for the innocent lives would be saved, or were they applauding this historic decision, and the fact that, now, in some deranged egomaniac way, their names would be forever in books of Canadian history? Maybe they were applauding the idea that, after an awful summer and few months, this war would be their saving grace?
One thing is certain: this Conservative government will go down in infamy. If any of the joyous Conservatives thought that the vote on the war was ”their historical moment”, don’t fret about it guys, you already have that covered! For hundreds of impoverished and marginalized communities, and the cuts this Conservative government have made to essential social services, will continue to strike terror in the hearts of many, even after this Conservative regime is long gone. For Indigenous communities, the blatant discrimination of this Conservative government has exacted upon them, will be a wound that Canadian society will have much difficulty in healing. For women, the assault Harper’s administration has launched indirectly against their fundamental rights, is a terrorizing reminder that the misogynist ghosts of Canada’s past are still alive and well.
So this is my little advice to this Conservative government. If you’re really hell-bent on stopping ”terror”, in upholding human-rights, then you have two options. Either vote yourselves out of office or declare a war on yourselves. How can a government that has created such an environment of terror, claim to fight terror effectively on the other side of the world? The war on terror starts by looking at the person in the mirror. It starts right here on home soil.
As I’m writing these words this morning, the situation is becoming direr for the Kurdish resistance in Kobane. So far, the resistance has bravely faced the 22 days long assault lead by ISIS. Meanwhile, here in the West, there are a lot of conflicting views regarding the supposed defeat or victory of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). One thing is for sure, though. The struggle of the PKK and the YPG will go down in history and may have the opportunity to mobilize the whole of Kurdish people in a renewed struggle for “national’’ liberation.
Protests erupted yesterday in the Northern Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Region, Turkey, in Rojava (the Syrian portion of Kurdistan), and Iran in support of the Kurdish resistance in Kobane, but also in support of what has come to be known as the Rojava Revolution: the struggle to establish a network of autonomous communes, which function within a framework of radical direct democracy.
Unfortunately the spontaneous uprising of thousands, if not tens of thousands of Kurds throughout Kurdistan and beyond was met with tear gas and violence by the Turkish authorities. The clashes between Turkish law enforcers and protesters claimed several lives as of the latest news.
Meanwhile, the United Nations called for direct action in support of the Kurdish combatants to prevent a massacre. Several Western government officials have also voiced their concerns about what they think will definitely be a major military setback, if ISIS were to overrun the Kurdish forces in Kobane. So what’s preventing the Western powers from attacking ISIS? Wasn’t that exactly the main reason for our intervention?
Many of the proponents of an intervention against ISIS have championed the idea, that without the support of the Turkish government, the long-term defeat of ISIS seems implausible, and that in order to defeat ISIS any international coalition needs Turkish support. This being said, however, think, for instance, of the picturesque moment, when Turkish tanks turned their backs on Kobane. If the non-involvement of the Turkish forces is an indication of anything, it is that the Turkish government has no interest in stopping ISIS’s assault against Kobane.
Little is known of the Turkish “non-involvement” in the past three years during the war in Syria, but one thing is certain. The policy of “non-involvement” was merely a façade. There is strong evidence that the Erdogan administration, in a strategic gamble to topple both the Assad regime and prevent the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous enclave in Syria, allowed the smuggling of weapons and of jihadists through Turkey to ISIS. There are also allegations that Turkey was complicit in helping ISIS find commercial outlets to sell its oil. Isn’t that amazing? Somehow, all major contributors of this so-called coalition of the willing, United States, Britain, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have contributed in some shape or form directly in establishing ISIS’s hegemony in the region.
Given that the Turkish government has for decades fought the PKK (the Kurdish Workers’ Party, the Marxist wing of the Kurdish resistance) and oppressed the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination, in Turkey and throughout the region, it’s not surprising that as of today Turkey has no interest in saving Kobane.
It is my firm belief that that not only do global left-wing movements have a lot to learn from the Rojava Revolution, but the fate of these movements is undeniably linked to the struggle of the Kurdish forces in Kobane.
The revolutionary thesis of Rojava is the overcoming the paradigm of the nation-state. The theory of democratic confederalism, which was theorized by the previous and now jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, in the first volume of his prison notebooks entitled the Roots of Civilization. Drawing extensively from the theories of libertarian municipalism, social ecology, and communalism, notably elaborated by Murray Bookchin, the PKK have succeeded in creating a radical new blueprint not only for left-wing movements in the region but also throughout the world.
The PKK, through the KCK (Group of Communities in Kurdistan), has created a unique synthesis of eco-socialism with an important emphasis on the aspects of the notion of ungrowth; decentralized libertarian socialism, with the setting-up of a unique structure of decentralized and communal direct democracy; and of feminist and alter-globalization theories through the deconstruction of the theory of the nation-state, the participation and citizenship of all of the diverse array of ethnic groups enshrined in their constitution.
It is my heartfelt wish that it won’t, but Kobane may fall, like the workers’ councils of Barcelona fell to the hands of Franco’s fascist thugs during the Spanish Civil War, but its memory and the project will live on. For the sake of humanity, it is our duty to support and to remember the awesome struggle and ideal of the Rojava Revolution. It is my wish, that through the lessons learnt from Kobane and the Rojava Revolution, we will see the dawn of a reinvigorated Kurdish struggle, and also the dawn of a new chapter in left-wing movements.
Amidst the chaos unleashed by the opening of the Pandora’s Box that is neo-liberal capitalism, Kobane is the Thermopylae of the Kurdish people and of everyone who dares to dream a better future for all of humanity.
We’re in the thick of it, there’s nothing else to say. All the international credibility gained out of Canada’s decision not to intervene in the Second Gulf War under Jean Chrétien’s leadership was lost in the blink of an eye, when Harper announced Friday that Canada would be sending its troops into combat (airstrikes specifically, no ground troops at this time). The thing is, Canada’s “official” intervention is only two days old, but it is already gearing up to be a disaster of gigantic proportions, and ultimately an utter failure that will only delay, but not prevent, the coming of another ISIS.
Canada might have given its green light for a full scale intervention only two days ago, but the coalition of the willing — which ironically includes Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the patrons of the radical interpretation of Islam promoted by ISIS — has been on the ground for around a month now. What are the conclusions that can be drawn? After one month, what is the future for this war? What new day is dawning on the horizon?
Well, to say the least, it’s a very dark one. The black clouds that arose from the ruins of the Kurdish bastion of resilience, Kobane, gave us, spectators, a little glimpse into the future of this mission.
As thousands of Kurdish fighters held back the reoccurring, never-ending assaults of ISIS against the town, Turkish tanks stood still — not much of a surprise —and Western jets flew on by. The battle of Kobane is a central one for the survival of the Kurdish struggle within northern Syria. Unfortunately the lightly armed Kurds are fighting against the much stronger ISIS forces, ironically, using American artillery and weapons to besiege the town.
The hypocrisy of the Western forces and of their Turkish allies is obvious. They most certainly see this so-called humanitarian intervention, first and foremost, as a means towards an end: the eradication of the PKK and any viable Kurdish autonomous authority in the region.
In one of my articles concerning the conflict I wrote extensively about the “revival” of the Kurdish struggle for self-determination and their project of asymmetric federalism. There, I referred to their struggle and to this project as an alternative form of governance for the peoples of the region and a strong vaccination against the rise of organizations such as ISIS. Three weeks down the path of war, and it seems like Kobane will fall within a matter of days, or even hours, even though this humanitarian intervention was supposed to prevent such a tragedy from happening.
One month into this humanitarian intervention, and the American State Department has already announced that it was anything but humanitarian anymore. The White House announced today that civilian protection policy does not apply to the airstrikes in Syria. Apparently, protecting civilians in areas under rebel control from the wrath and vengeance of Syrian government forces is not part of the plan either. Within the past month much of the ground that was lost during the past three years by Assad has been regained. The bloodthirsty and mad dictator, whom the interventional community vigorously condemned for the usage of chemical weapons against his own people, is on cloud nine.
Can you believe it? The Americans are actually winning Assad’s war for him. Instead of mobilizing and building strong alliances with the secular and progressive sections of the Free Syrian Army, we actually bombed them last week. So much for wining “hearts and minds!” We’re actually losing them, as the ISIS ranks are filled with thousands, if not tens of thousands of young disenchanted Westerners, who turned to radicalism after years of discrimination and racism, and after years of seeing on the TV their Muslim sisters and brothers suffer excruciating pain in Iraq, Palestine or at the hands of any other Western backed dictatorial regimes.
Radicalism’s fuel is war, and unfortunately, through this war, we have swelled the reserves of hatred, of anger, of despair and of pain, everything ISIS was born out of, to last for a generation or two. If you believed the magical fairytale that whatever is happening was a humanitarian intervention, that we, the West, the ardent defenders of human rights, were on a courageous crusade against evil, that just like communism and fascism, this totalitarian evil of radical Islamism had to be quelled, you were wrong. Don’t be fooled. We are reviving ISIS. We created the conditions for it. We are reenacting them as we speak and what will come out of this third intervention in the Middle East might be more horrendous than anything our imaginations can grasp.
“A few days ago in Hong Kong, students went down the streets and they’re protesting against the Chinese government’s recent decision to undermine Hong Kong’s democracy by stating that the candidates that [the Hong Kongese] would vote on in 2017 must be approved by Beijing, prior to election,” said Michael Law to me at the solidarity event that took place at McGill University last Wednesday on October 1.
Law was one of the people who arranged the said solidarity event, which was the first one to be held in Montreal. All around the globe, other Hongkongers who are living abroad are organizing similar events to show their solidarity with what is happening back home.
“We’re staging rallies to show that we are in solidarity with the students and protesters in Hong Kong. We’re allies of democracy and human rights,” Law added.
Alex Liu, the North American representative of the Black Island Nation Youth Front — one of the leading student protest groups and advocates for democracy, human rights and political transparency — was also present in the crowd.
“The fact that the government is above the law is unacceptable; this is best demonstrated by the excessive violence the Beijing-appointed government has used against its own people. Peaceful protestors have been subjected to tear gas, water guns and the government now even threatens to use military forces against the protesters,” Liu said. (Alex Liu’s full speech can be found here.)
The fear of having to face the Chinese military is real. Hui Peng, who is from mainland China, expressed that what is happening in Hong Kong is similar to what happened in China 25 years ago, at Tiananmen Square. Yet he still expresses hope.
“There are some things that are familiar, and some that are different. This time, the people there, they are more disciplined. They know that they are not going to fight and they peacefully argue for their rights. I think there is hope. And what we can do is to urge the government to talk with the people, with the students, to work out a solution to what’s now happening in Hong Kong,” he said.
The Chinese government has declared the peaceful protests illegal, and Chinese media has claimed that these events have been organized by foreign powers to upset the political stability of the country. Yesterday, however, things escalated. Anti-Occupy mobs started attacking the demonstrators, while the police stood by and watched.
Yet what we say here does not matter too much. What we need to hear is the voices of those who are fighting for democracy, those who are fighting for their rights. Below you will be able to read the raw words of students who are currently in Hong Kong.
“I’ve always identified myself as a Hongkonger, and whenever asked the question why we consider Hong Kong different from China, I proudly explained how we enjoy a high degree of autonomy, have different governments, different legal systems and most of all, we enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to use the Internet and freedom of demonstration and assembly. None of those claims, unfortunately, seems to hold true anymore. Hong Kong is my home. It is, however, ceasing to be the home I’ve loved, known and recognized.
Many question the effectiveness of OccupyCentral and laugh off people who expect to change China’s mind as ‘naïve’. But I cannot be more impressed by how posts after posts regarding the protests have flooded my newsfeed and Whatsapp since yesterday, and that even the most politically apathetic of us are provoked to speak up in face of appalling, heartbreaking injustice.
The certainty of death doesn’t prevent us from living. The unlikelihood of victory shouldn’t prevent us from fighting.”
“The biggest challenge of participating in the Umbrella Revolution is never the tear gases or the police, but your parents who don’t support it. When you think you are doing the right thing for the future of Hong Kong, they don’t appreciate and even do or say anything to make you stay home. I hope all Hongkongese should understand what is happening in Hong Kong and why Umbrella Revolution is necessary.”
“Hong Kong had changed a lot since 1997, the return of sovereignty to China. The mainlanders (China residents) keep flooding in, affecting our daily life. I think this time, Hongkongers had enough. Everything we had — justice, freedom of speech — became nothing but just a word. This time, the government has pushed too far by using excessive force against unarmed students/protesters.
I feel really sad and disappointed seeing Hong Kong’s government become like this: ignoring citizens’ voice.”
“I am a supporter of universal suffrage and for real democracy in Hong Kong. Students came out last week beginning with the boycott of classes to make a point to the government that we care very much about what is happening, and also it is a very good opportunity for us students to learn about what really is happening in Hong Kong. This is due to the fact that actually HK students and citizens weren’t really politically aware before.
As the Occupy Central movement started Sunday night, a lot of people criticized that the organizers took advantage of students’ innocence, but actually we cannot disagree more. We have our independent minds to analyze what is happening at the moment, we know that illegally occupying roads is risky as we might be caught, yet we continued because we know that if something wasn’t done now, we would regret it in the future when it’s too late to change.
As for violence used by the police, I just had a change of opinions. Before yesterday, although I’ve also witnessed how heartless policemen could be by exercising violence, but I would say that they also have their orders, that even when some of them were inhumane by purposely removing their goggles and spraying pepper spray right into people’s eyes; even when I didn’t agree with what they did, I sort of understood what was going through their minds. But after two incidents, I couldn’t help but feel hopeless about the atmosphere in Hong Kong.
The first incident was on Sunday, right before the series of tear gas was used. As I was leaving (I’d heard it would be dangerous), I saw a group of policemen, all geared up with weapons, protection and half of them had long guns loaded with rubber bullets.
At that moment, I could imagine what could have brought the police to have decided in using such violent measures. What were they planning to do? Did they really think they could chase away the 40,000 people a kilometer ahead of them?
And then this girl came up to the group of policemen. She was a student. She walked right up the them and asked several times why they planned to use violent measures. She begged them not to go on ahead ’cause there were many students, as a lot of participants were students. She cried and begged and tried to stop the policemen with words. However, after a couple of minutes, they simply ignored her and after the command was given by the head police, they ran forward.
At that moment, the only thing that came to my mind was what happened in June, when that one single man stood in front of a whole train of tanks. That girl was so brave, yet it must be so terrifying to be in her shoes, she was so powerful yet so weak. The moment the police ran forward into the the direction where the crowd was running down from where they were, it seems very much like a battle field to me. I didn’t understand how the police could continue hitting people or using tear gas when we have nothing to use really to defend ourselves. And we weren’t violent, we didn’t even have weapons, as we had all along stressed that we are peacefully occupying the roads and wouldn’t do it by force.
The second incident was what happened yesterday (it’s Saturday morning here now). In short, the opposing group came to make trouble, hitting people and sexually harassing girls of our side. The police condemned us, not them. We did nothing wrong. We were the victims yet the police had ‘ joined forces’ with the other side, which was pro-China, and didn’t act like a policeman should. There are many examples from yesterday of police catching the persons making trouble and then secretly letting them go at the corner of the street. How is this justice? Who can we depend on now?
Though all this is heartbreaking, I try to pull myself together, because these are the times when they want to break us, but we would stand strong in demanding what we want. If we don’t start now, if we give up now, I really don’t see when we could have the opportunity to demand for universal suffrage again.”
The annual March and Vigil for Missing and Murdered Native Women will take place at Place Émilie Gamelin, this Saturday, on October 4, between 6PM and 9PM.
Saturday’s event will be the ninth in a series of vigils, the first of which was organized by Bridget Tolley, an Indigenous woman whose mother was killed by Quebec police in 2001. Initially, the vigils were held in collaboration with Sisters in Spirit, an Indigenous research and policy initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). However, the initiative lost its federal funding in 2010, yet the vigils go on.
As to why this event is extremely important, here is what the organizers have to say about it on the event’s Facebook page:
“The purpose of this event is to honour the memories of missing and murdered women and girls, raise awareness about the systemic nature of the violence and the ways in which media, governments, the legal system, police forces, and the education system all facilitate this violence. We demand that the government support the actions of affected families and communities by fulfilling resounding demands for a public inquiry into these unchecked levels of violence. The RCMP reported earlier this year that more than 1000 aboriginal women were homicide victims between 1980 and 2012, and a further 164 were missing. Meanwhile, indigenous activists put the number of cases closer to 3000.”
The Conservative government has been turning a blind eye to all requests for holding an inquiry regarding the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Canada. As of February of this year, NWAC has garnered more than 20 000 signatures, yet still Canada remains passive. If even having a simple inquiry is taking this long, just imagine how long would it take for the government to take any solid action to prevent more Indigenous women from becoming missing or murdered.
The least you can do is stand in solidarity with the friends and families of those whom we are remembering. Let them know that they do not have to stand alone.