For many true dippers, through and through New Democrats, the last Canadian Federal Election was an excruciating ordeal. What looked like a historic run towards the first Social-Democratic government in Canada history turned into a nightmarish scenario for thousands of NDP volunteers, hundreds of NDP teams, candidates and their staff from coast to coast to coast.

It is a secret to no one that I participated in one of the NDP campaigns on the Island of Montreal, in the borough of Lachine and Lasalle and in the city of Dorval. During the three years of working in the riding of Lachine, I saw first hand what elected representatives with heart and courage can accomplish for social justice by fighting against poverty, racism and xenophobia.

MPs offices and staff can truly be at the service of the people, front-line services like fighting deportations, fighting for the betterment of poor working people’s pensions, fighting for mothers to receive their rightful universal child care benefit and most importantly creating a space of listening, a true channel between the voices that are silenced in our political system and Parliament. A true, though minor, revolutionary occurrence.

It was three years of seeing firsthand the gruesome side of the political spectacle. The daily sexism that young women and women in general faced both inside and outside of the House of Commons. The political plays and the political playbooks. The clientelism and tokenism and racism that is tenfold within our political system. The centrifuge forces that boil politics all down to the same one disconnected narrative, the photo-ops that are nothing more than smokescreens for the worst of political maneuvers.

As NDPers we get involved in a broken political process to bring about transformative change, to deconstruct the toxic power dynamics that keep voices outside of the political process. As an NDPer I got involved not for power as the sole objective. Instead, like many other dippers, it was for my heartfelt objective to fight alongside disenfranchised communities and sections of Canadian and Quebec society against all types of exclusions and all phobias.

It was to craft alongside members of marginalized, radicalized and ostracized groups a space in which their voices are heard. A space in which their stories are the narrative, the focal point and not a skit or a footnote.

I got involved in the NDP to share, to learn, to have the voices that are offend muted influence our decision making process and our policy and platform. I got involved with the NDP to uphold human rights, equity and social justice everywhere, both within Canada’s borders and outside.

In the last election, it seems we forgot that change beings within the realm of our own party. It must flow through the structure of the party itself. We failed terribly in last election and during the four years leading-up to e-day in creating the structure and environment that empowered and enabled change.

When we so badly needed change to be the fuel that would propel us to a historic victory, we were running on empty. Let it be clear from here on, the NDP won’t get into 24 Sussex Drive through the back door.

What hurt the most in the last election is that we underestimated ourselves. We underestimated the potency of the values and principals that are at the foundation of our political movement. Canadians weren’t asking for caution, they were asking for courage.

Courage to stand up for the rights of the Palestinian people. Courage to tackle fiscal inequity and financial deregulation. Courage to tackle poverty and to fight “deficit zero,” the golden rule of austerity, through progressive budgeting. Courage to have a vision for Universal Free Education, to work with the provinces–respecting provincial prerogatives, differences and jurisdiction– to create a framework for universal access to post-secondary education for all Canadians.

Canadians expected us to stand up to big oil, gas and mining companies and to offer a clear plan to bring the Canadian economy into the 21st century through the overhaul of toxic pipeline projects.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities were expecting the NDP, during the campaign, to put the spotlight on the suffocating poverty, disrespect and disregard they’ve been the victims of for centuries. To have a bold plan to deconstruct the dynamics of systemic racism that are embedded within the structure of our democracy.

It was our duty to put forward a global plan to create new structures and institutions, to change the structure of political system and our electoral model, to ensure that the concerns and aspirations of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are not merely heard but the benchmark for all policy debate within this country.

Like many Quebeckers, I added my name to the initiative calling for a structural and ideological renewal of the NDP which appears in the pages of Le Devoir and the Toronto Star today. This implies a board debate within Canadian society that engages with activists and militants of all stripes, environmentalists, students, anti-poverty, anti-racist, LGBTQIA, First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

Here in Quebec we must reach out to the anti-austerity movement and campaigns that are happening right across this province. We must make the NDP the movement of movements again, a synthesis and space of debate and true participatory democracy for all Canadian progressives.

We have an obligation to our past and to the future to reinvigorate our internal democratic proceedings, to start a big conversation about what’s the future of the Canadian political left and what is the role of the NDP within the bigger picture, alongside grassroots mobilization, community and local initiatives and organized labor.

If the NDP is to have any relevance in the future, our party must create the space within itself where true democracy flourishes, that empowers the spaces of democracy that are already existent within the Canadian left, the spaces of democracy that have flourished in resistance to the policies of austerity, racism and the destruction of the environment.

For the NDP to be the vehicle of true democracy, of a more just, free and equitable Canada, this debate must start now.

Every year, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill University and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) hold a series of events and workshops called Culture Shock. This year’s Culture Shock will be held between November 5 and 9, and, as always, will aim to explore myths surrounding immigrants, refugees, indigenous people and communities of colour. The purpose is to create discussion around these topics, let members of these communities share their experiences with one another, but also to educate non-members about the issues faced by communities of colour in Canada and beyond.

What makes Culture Shock especially exciting is the fact that it is open to anyone and everyone, and not just students; which is precisely why we at Forget the Box have decided to give you an overview of the many workshops and events of Culture Shock! Here’s the twist, though. We have compiled the list based on topics that will be discussed, and not the schedule. This way you will be able to focus on one specific subject. Most event descriptions are based on those found on QPIRG McGill’s website.

The workshops are not the only events done under Culture Shock, there will also be a book launch of Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolutiona keynote event by Dark Matter, a trans south asian art and activist collaboration; a fundraiser party held by Solidarity Across Borders; an anti-colonial dinner; and a Convergence for Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

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If you want access to the schedule, you may find it here.

You can also click on the names of the events to reach the associated Facebook events, for further details on location and times.

Migration 

Migrant Workers in Canada: Why Everyone Should Care

“Canada currently accepts more migrants under temporary permits than those who can immigrate permanently. Barriers to permanent residency for refugees, skilled workers and family members are increasing, while citizenship for migrants is becoming harder to get and easier to lose.” – Why everyone should care about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Harsha Walia

This workshop by the Immigrant Workers’ Centre (IWC), the Temporary Agency Worker’s Association (TAWA) and the Temporary Foreign Worker’s Assoication (ATTET) offers an overview of the history of temporary foreign work and migration in Canada. Think of it as a crash course and introduction to the topic. The workshop and the discussion around it should prove to be invaluable for those who wish to acquire a broader understanding of troubles facing migrant workers.

Immigrants With Disabilities In Canada: Discrimination, Segregation, Suicidal Deportation

“Though it is illegal to discriminate against a person for their disability (stated in Article 15 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), this protection is contradicted by Canada’s Immigration Act where Article 19 (1)a,  refuses to grant  residence to immigrants with disability who are confirmed by at least two medical officers to be a threat to public health and public safety or are deemed an excessive burden to health/social services.”

To be held by the Committee-to-be for Immigrants with Disabilities of Solidarity Across Borders, this workshop will also focus on the topic of migration, but from a more focused perspective (compared to the one above), by focusing explicitly on the concept of being “an excessive burden” in Canada.

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Decolonization and Indigenous Rights

Oh Canada, our home on Native Land: Discussing Decolonization

It is no secret that Canada is built on Indigenous territories. For that reason, it is important to learn more about Indigenous histories, and position ourselves on the land that we work and live on, and call home.

This workshop, to be co-facilitated by Canadian Roots Exchange – Youth Reconciliation Initative and KANATA McGill Indigenous Studies Community, will strive to build cultural solidarity through an interactive dialogue about our relationships to the land and its histories.

Creating a Culture of Resistance, Decolonization as a Weapon, Rebuilding Nationhood, Land and Freedom, Indigenous Liberation

This workshop and film screening will be facilitated by Kanahus Manuel (Secwpemc). Kanahus is a mother and warrior from the Secwpemc Nation in the Shuswap region of “British Columbia.” She has been active in fighting against development projects and corporations such as the Sun Peaks Ski Resort and Imperial Metals. Recently, she has been involved in organizing to raise awareness about the Mount Polley gold-copper mine tailings spill, possibly the worst mining pollution disaster in Canadian history. For her efforts, she has been named as a defendant by Imperial Metals in a court injunction to stop blockades of the mining company’s operations.

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Colonialism and its Accomplices: A Critical History of the Colonization of Turtle Island

Colonialism is an inherently violent system which marginalizes and oppresses Indigenous people on Turtle Island, and people of colour. This workshop will explore the historical processes from which colonialism arises and how this is deeply tied to capitalism. Historically, Capitalism has been the motive for colonial policies. Colonialism has disempowered and dispossessed Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island through genocide, dislocation, and assimilation. Colonialism has been used to justify the exploitation of people, namely racialized and Indigenous bodies, as well as Indigenous lands and resources.

Molly Swain and Lindsay Nixon of the Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit Harm Reduction Coalition will critically explore processes such as racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity and how these concepts are derived from and enacted within colonialism. Settlers need to understand their positionality on Turtle Island and work towards a decolonized way of thinking so not to participate in harmful behaviors towards Indigenous peoples, and people of colour.

Race

Race @ McGill: Film Screening and Discussion

Race @ McGill is a film produced between 2012 and 2014 by student of colour, Sha, about the experiences and observations of students, faculty, and staff of colour at McGill.  It seeks to highlight and connect the shared struggles and resilience of racialized and indigenous community members at McGill.

While the film itself may be focused on McGill, the discussion afterwards should prove to be invaluable to those who wish to share their experiences, or to hear about these experiences to reflect upon themselves.

Giving Birth to Yourself: Revolutionary Storytelling for People of Colour, by Kai Cheng

According to Kai Cheng Thom aka Lady Sin Trayda, the facilitator of this workshop, racialized, Indigenous, and mixed-race folk very often come into the world with a story of what they are not: white, whole, beautiful, enough. This story is the soul of colonization: it drains them of the will to struggle, of the confidence to name themselves and their ancestors, the vision to see each other and act in solidarity.

The potential of stories as both revolutionary and therapeutic will be explored, as will the possibilities and limitations of writing/storytelling in indigenous versus colonial languages. Participants will experiment with the use of story tools, including meditation, visualization, play, story-listening, and group creation. Poets, writers, rappers, spoken word artists, slam poets, storytellers of all kinds and at all stages welcome.

Also, note that this is a closed workshop; meaning only Indigenous persons, mixed-race folk, and people of colour may attend.

Oppression & Design

White Space: A look into the relationship between graphic design and systems of oppression

Sajdeep Soomal, who is a self-taught graphic designer and a history student at McGill, will be facilitating this workshop which aims to trace out how graphic design contributes to the perpetuation and formation of systems of oppression. The topics to be discussed include Typefaces and Racial Formation, Minimalism and Economic Privilege.

Think of the wispy strokes and the diamond shaped dots used in Aladdin in order to create an aura of mysticism, which then becomes central to Western conceptions of brownness and contributes to the racial formation of brown people in the West. Or, in terms of Minimalism, the extensive use of whitespace, or empty space is a result of a level of economic privilege, where people do not feel the pressure to use that empty space. Come to the workshop to discuss these topics and more.

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So, it’s official, Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is now Pope Francis. You probably already know this just as you probably already know he likes to ride the bus, is virulently opposed to same-sex marriage and may have been involved in a few kidnappings back in the day.

Analysis of just what this selection of pontiff means, sordid details from his past and even a few humourous memes (decent, but nowhere near as good as all the Palpatine ones that came with the previous pontificate) spread as quickly yesterday as the news of his election itself. Before the white smoke had cleared the sky around the Vatican chimney, we were starting to get a picture of who this new pope was and what kind of pope he may be.

So, is this a change in the right direction or are the world’s catholics and the rest who pay attention to the Holy See in for more of what they got from Benedict XVI? Well, let’s have a look…

The Good

bergoglio subwayAlways good to start positive. Let’s see, he likes to ride the bus and live in a simple apartment. Yes, up until now, he’s forgone free limo rides and mansions offered to him in favour of slumming it with the rest of us. Good, but I have a feeling that will change. I doubt Vatican security will let him shun the pope-mobile, and it’s pretty much established that he won’t be living in an apartment from now on.

He’s also known to fight for the poor. He’s from the Jesuit order, known for speaking up for social justice and, as many have pointed out, choosing a name to evoke St-Francis Assisi emphasizes his connection with the poor. He’s also from Latin America, which shows the Church is willing to move away from its Europeans only image at the very top.

Now to compare. Benedict had a keen interest in the environment and did criticize economic policies that hurt the poor. So that’s two good points to one in favour of the previous pontiff, but then if you factor in that Ratzinger was German, definitely a part of the Europe club, they come out even.

The Bad

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While the last pope clearly wasn’t a champion of gay rights or women in the clergy, his regressive attitude came out mainly in the form of doctrinal announcements. The new guy, on the other hand, made some pretty nasty comments that are hard to top on the cringe-worthy scale.

While actively fighting against Argentina’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (which passed, by the way), Cardinal Bergoglio said:

“Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; (marriage equality) is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

He also went on to call gay parents adopting children a “form of discrimination against children.” I couldn’t find any statement by him on child sex abuse by the clergy, let alone him labelling it as a form of discrimination against children.

I also couldn’t find a statement by him about women or contraception. Even though his predecessor said many things on these subjects, the sheer virulence of Bergoglio’s comments on homosexuality ties him, in my book, with Ratzinger on the anti-progressive scale.

The Ugly

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Pope Francis (left) and Argentinian dictator Jorge Rafael Videla

And I mean ugly. Turns out that during Argentina’s “dirty wars ” (a period in the late 70s and early 80s where the country was controlled by US-backed dictators) this champion of the poor may have tried to stop two Jesuit priests under his direction who believed in liberation theology from helping the poor in Buenos Ares. When they refused, he stopped protecting them, effectively handing them over to the death squads who kidnapped and tortured them, according to one of the priests who told the Associated Press.

In all fairness, he was also instrumental in their release a few months later. This was supposedly possible because he was close with the military dictatorship.

Until yesterday, a report in the Guardian had Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky claiming that Bergoglio helped hid some of the regime’s political prisoners from human rights observers on his island home with Bergoglio countering that he was hiding them from the regime, despite his Jesuit order publicly endorsing the dictatorship. Verbitsky has since stated that the new pope was not personally concealing the prisoners, though the church was. The original passage is still quoted in Business Insider.

Years later, the Argentinian church apologized for its lack of action during those brutal years while Bergoglio insisted he didn’t know anything about the regime taking babies  from people they killed. A letter from a colonel asking for help says otherwise.

So back to the comparison. Ratzinger was a Hitler Youth, but I’d argue that Bergoglio’s sketchy past was worse, much worse. This is for one key reason : Ratzinger was basically a kid when he was part of the HJ whereas Bergoglio was an adult and a member of the church with power and prominence when he allegedly turned a blind eye to and outright helped a brutal regime.

It’s now clear that the new pope is, at best, the same as the old pope, but if these allegations of what he did during the dirty wars are true, I’d say he’s worse.