Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crispin 'Ka Bel' Beltran (1933-2008): Glorious Hero of the Filipino People

Filipinos around the world are mourning the death Crispin 'Ka Bel'”
Beltran. A veteran organizer and people's leader, Beltran died on
May 20 of head injuries sustained after falling from the roof of his
home in Bulacan. He was 75.

A long time trade union leader, Beltran was chairman of the Kilusang
Mayo Uno (“May First Movement”) until he was elected to the
Philippine Congress as a representative of Anakpawis Party-list. He
was a prominent leader in the opposition movement against the corrupt and
brutal rule of current president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Beltran was a political prisoner during the Martial Law era of
fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He was again detained by the
Arroyo regime under false criminal charges of rebellion and held
prisoner for more than a year in a hospital prison.

"“I am innocent of the rebellion charge against me",” he said upon
his release. “"It’s neither a sin nor against the law to speak against
graft and corruption and the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians."

Unions, progressive parties, and peoples organizations are paying
tribute to Crispin Beltran and his more than 50-year commitment as an

"While Ka Bel didn't get his wish that he die in the streets fighting
against tyranny and exploitation, he did not die in vain," said Elmer
Labog of Kilusang Mayo Uno. "His whole life offered in the service of
the Filipino people and other struggling people in the world makes
him a hero no less."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) hailed his
contributions to journalistic freedom. "Mr. Beltran was a tireless
leader, advocate and ally of workers, including those in mass media.
He was a fighter for press freedom and the right to free expression"
the NUJP said in a statement.

Bayan Muna, a progressive party-list, called his death “an irreparable
loss not only to the working-class movement but to every Filipino
yearning for genuine social change. He was a tower of a man, a pillar
of strength for the progressive people's movement.”

Up until the end, Beltran remained a man of the people. In a
Congress dominated by millionaires, Beltran died still the poorest
member of the House of Representatives, with a net worth of only
50,000 pesos (CAN $1,149).
Basics Editorial
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

TCHC website shows this artist’s rendition of Phase 1 of “Revitalization” in Regent Park at Dundas and Parliament.

The future of Toronto’s social housing – how much there will be, where it will be located – will depend on the struggle of the people in Toronto’s social housing communities to demand and fight for better housing.

Residents of Lawrence Heights should brace themselves for the propaganda campaign that TCHC is set to unleash on them throughout the summer of 2008. Starting in May 2008, TCHC will choose its “Consultant Teams” which will begin deploying “community engagement” schemes in the community to get people on board with revitalization. Essentially, people can expect more of the same empty consultations with their “voices” falling on deaf ears.

On February 16, 2008 Basics Community Newsletter and a number of volunteer lawyers organized a legal clinic for residents at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre to fill-out Tenant Rights (T2) and Maintenance (T6) forms to the Ontario Landlord Tenant Board. Many families filled out these forms, with many more calling on Basics to help them with the forms in the weeks and months ahead.

However, TCHC and the Landlord Tenant Board have found sneaky ways to disqualify people’s applications.

In one case, a resident who filled out a claim to the Board was contacted by a TCHC representative asking the claimant to adjourn for another day. As nice as the tenant was, she agreed. Trustfully assuming that TCHC’s legal counsel would take care of the adjournment, the tenant in question did not show up for her trial. The tenant was sent a letter by the Landlord Tenant Board indicating that her case had been thrown out because she failed to show up. TCHC had successfully fooled the tenant from going to her own hearing.

Another claimant – who was also contacted by TCHC requesting adjournment – decided to ignore TCHC and proceed to the Landlord Tenant Board. Even though TCHC said that they could not attend, their legal counsel was in attendance. The results? The TCHC counsel told the adjudicator at the Board that they were not able to proceed with the case and that they had to reconvene another day. The Board went ahead and scheduled another hearing that was convenient for TCHC and not for the tenant. The tenant not only lost a day’s work, but she was sent home with a rescheduled hearing that she couldn’t even attend. In her words: “The system has failed me and this shows that the system doesn’t work for the working poor.”
There is a saying that goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’m the fool”. TCHC tenants must learn from the experiences of their neighbours and not be fooled by the duplicitous slumlord.

These cases demonstrate that the law works to the advantage of the powerful. So people need to build their own community power to take control of their communities. So long as communities wield hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in rent money, people need to recognize that they already have community has power; but that power can only be used if organized.

One option left for residents is to flood the Board with cases. It will be very difficult for them to throw out tens or even hundreds of cases, and if they do they’ll only prove to us even more how useless their laws are for the community. The other option, whether or not people use the Landlord or Tenant Board, is to organize themselves into united community organizations to take further actions

The time to organize ourselves is here! Fight back through the Landlord Tenant Board! And if that doesn’t work, let’s unite as a community to fight for better housing! Only the people united have the power to make “revitalization” benefit the people. Contact Basics for more information! ∗

Philippine Legislators Tour Canada for Human Rights

by J.D. Benjamin
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

Three Philippine Congresspeople – Satur Ocampo, Crispin Beltran, and Luz Illagan – conducted a cross-Canada tour in April, meeting with local communities, academics, journalists, and politicians to help raise awareness of the rampant human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Since current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took power in 2001, over 900 activists have been killed and 180 forcibly disappeared. Ocampo and Beltran were victims of abuses through repeated criminal prosecutions based on fabricated evidence and false testimony provided by government agents. These and other abuses have been condemned by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston, man countries and numerous international human rights organizations.

The tour featured public events and press conferences in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, and a meeting with Manitoba premier Gary Doer.The legislators called on the Canadian government to review the foreign aid going to the Philippines to find out if any funds had been used by the Arroyo regime in its campaign of violence.

Bern Jagunos of the Stop The Killing Network echoed the call, saying, “It’s appalling to think that Canadian taxes may have contributed to the intimidation, detention, torture and executions of innocent people.”

Philippine activists have noted a decrease in the number of killings in the past year and credit increased international attention. Ocampo told Canadian parliamentarians, “The resolute efforts of human rights and people’s organizations, religious groups, and progressive political parties to document cases and bring them up to the United Nations, international bodies, governments and Parliaments paid off in 2007 [and] largely contributed to the noticeable decline in the killings and abductions.”

With $1.5 billion in bilateral trade, $1 billion worth of mining projects, 32 different development programs, and a military and police assistance program that has members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police receiving training in Canada, our government is heavily involved in the Philippines. We must demand that the Canadian government withdraw its assistance to the Arroyo regime and respect human rights of Filipinos!

Sadly, on the morning of May 20, after suffering head injuries due to a tragic accident at his home, Crispin Beltran died in hospital later that day. ‘Ka Bel’, as he was known, will be dearly missed by all Filipinos as their memory of him gives strength to their struggle. ∗

Crispin Beltran in Toronto, August 2008. Rest in Peace, 'Ka Bel'.

Police Raids: How Cops and Landlords Work Together to Destroy Toronto Hoods

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

Since 2004, poor people in this city have had to deal with 6 major police attacks on their communities in Malvern, Galloway, Jamestown, Ardwick, Driftwood and most recently, the downtown East End. These raids involved hundreds of heavily armed cops and RCMP, undercover agents and paid snitches. They have arrested and jailed hundreds of youth, broken households and did absolutely nothing to address the conditions that force and lead people into crime in the first place. They seem directed more at terrorizing the people, and allowing the government, developers and landlords to further rob, destroy and vilify poor, black and racialized communities.

The most recent exposure of these raids was the 2005 police raid on Ardwick Boulevard, a small block off Finch and near Islington. Called “Project Flicker”, the sweep included over 300 cops who stormed the area as residents were still sleeping, arresting around 50 youth. The police claimed that all 50 were members of the Ardwick Blood Crew. Three years later, we find out that well over half of those arrested have been released, 20 were found completely innocent and the rest have had many of their charges dropped. In other words, this was definitely not the huge ‘threat’ the police and media had talked about back in 2005. A lawyer for one of the accused believes the mass arrests were aimed more at showing Toronto was ‘safe’ and open for business during a year when many people were shot in the city.

However the fact that so many innocent people are arrested assaulted and jailed by the cops during these attacks on our neighborhoods is no surprise to anyone who’s experienced a raid. When Driftwood (in Jane and Finch) was raided last summer, Police busted up houses and destroyed furniture, threatened kids and mothers with machine guns, and brutalized and handcuffed a number of people (including a grandmother) for simply being in the wrong house! Many of the people arrested didn’t commit any crime themselves, but were charged with ‘belonging to a criminal organization’, or with simply being in or renting a house where drugs and weapons were supposedly kept.

Besides exposing the violent and brutal tactics used by police, raids are also an example of how landlords and cops work together to oppress our communities. For example, after the 2005 raids on Jamestown (in Rexdale), which arrested around 100 people, TCHC (Toronto Community Housing) evicted the families of many of the youth arrested - before the youth were even put on trial! Many tenants have already been kicked out, while others have (and continue) to fight the notices. Despite the main and obvious point that a whole family has nothing to do with what one member does, the outcomes from other police raids show us that many of the people arrested were innocent to begin with.

The latest major raid TO cops have conducted happened this past February/March 2008. During a six week period, which included a major undercover operation and multiple raids, Police of 51 Division arrested almost 300 people in the Church and Seaton area (just east of Regent Park). According to police, the raid was focused on “drug dealers, prostitutes and aggressive panhandling (begging)”!

In other words, we are supposed to congratulate the cops for throwing in jail the poorest people in one of the poorest areas of Toronto. This comes of course as the city is tearing down Regent Park, and cutting off services to the poor (including shutting down 3 rooming houses and shelters in the targeted area), forcing people further into a situation where they have to beg, sell drugs, or sell themselves to survive or get an income. This raid is clearly just one part of the city’s/TCHC’s plan to take all community housing and poor people out of the Downtown East end (including Regent Park) in order to make way for land developers and condos. The raid was even code-named “Project Revival”, the similar term used to disguise the breaking down (“revitalization”) of Regent and the surrounding area.

So as we head into summer and people in hoods throughout the city are noticing a beefing up of police presence, along with the continued tearing up of our communities, we must be ready to defend our homes against future attacks - whether by the police or their partner landlords. ∗

No Justice for Alwy at the Arab Community Centre of Toronto

Basics Editorial
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

Quite often cultural and religious identities like “Black”, “Arab”, “Christian”, or “Muslim” are used by organizations to rally an identity group in such a way that hides serious class differences and political differences within those organizations. Often, though not always, the leaders of such organizations are individuals who maintain cozy relationships with government or big business. The Justice for Alwy (J4A) campaign recently learned this lesson the hard way when it was blocked from speaking at a conference organized by the Arab Community Centre of Toronto (ACCT).

Upon learning of the J4A Campaign against police brutality, an individual from the ACCT requested that the J4A Campaign have speakers at one of its upcoming conferences. The May 3rd conference was entitled “Arab and Muslim Identities on Trial: Youth Step Up and Speak Out”. Only days before the conference, members of the J4A campaign were contacted and told that they would no longer be allowed to speak at the conference because of “liability issues”. It seems like Arab and Muslim youth are allowed to step up and speak out only on those issues that really don’t matter in the community.

Upon further investigation, members of the campaign learned that the ACCT is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and also receives money from the City of Toronto. Furthermore, the RCMP were among the panellists at the conference.

Following in the footsteps of Toronto Parks and Rec. Manager Lucky Booth of the Regent Park Community Centre South, once again a Toronto Community Centre has closed its doors on the struggle of youth and mothers in the community trying to expose and resist police brutality.
In an Open Letter to the ACCT, the J4A campaign wrote, “We are more and more coming to understand that entities funded by the government cannot be relied upon to be apolitical organizations, and thus can not fully serve the people and the communities under whose name they work..”

The Arab Community Centre of Toronto cannot claim to represent the interests of Arabs if when one of their community members is senselessly murdered by the state the result is that organization takes the side of the state.

The people should not expect government-funded “community”centres to work for them unless the community itself has control over those centres. ∗

NY Cops Acquitted of Shooting Sean Bell 50 times

by Alok Premjee
Basics #9 (May 2008)

Three New York police officers who shot and killed Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets in

November 2006 have been acquitted of all charges by the New York State Supreme Court. Before announcing his verdict on April 25, 2008, the judge stated that he found the police had a more credible story than that of the victims.

No weapon was ever located at the scene, yet that was supposedly the motive that triggered the police to blast away.

This should come as no shock to people in Toronto, where more than six months after the murder by police of 18-year-old Alwy Al-Nadhir there is still no response from the S.I.U. investigation. The family and friends of Alwy are bracing themselves for an equally unjust verdict, given the outrageous acquittal of Toronto police officers in the May 2004 killing of Filipino youth Jeffrey Reodica.

The recent murder of the indigenous man Byron Debassige in February 2008 for stealing two lemons in the Yonge and Davisville area demonstrates that Toronto police are not all that different from New York police. ∗

Canadian Soldiers Found Guilty of Beating to Death Paul Croutch

by Alok Premjee
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

If the amount of homeless people in Canada isn’t enough of an indicator of the injustice in this country, then look to the murder of the homeless man Paul Croutch in 2005 for more proof. On August 31, 2005, three Canadian soldiers beat to death 59-year-old homeless man, Paul Croutch.

Jeffrey Hall, 24, Mountaz Ibrahim, 25, and Brian Deganis, 23, were all charged with second-degree murder in the death of Croutch. Two of them were convicted with manslaughter charges after plea-bargaining and will serve sentences of five and ten years each. The third soldier, Ibrahim, will serve a mere 10 months for his role as an accessory.

A witness who was assaulted as she intervened in the fatal attack told the courtroom that one of the soldiers “shoved his dog tags in my face. He said this gave them the right to kill all derelicts, crackheads, whores and bums. And that I needed to tell all my friends – this was their park.”

If these are how Canadian soldiers feel and treat the marginalized and poor people in Canada, then we can only imagine the hatred they must have towards the peoples they have occupied in recent years in Afghanistan and Haiti. The bigger question is whether these are the attitudes that Canadian soldiers are taught as they are trained to become professional killers. ∗

Rest in Peace, Mr. Croutch

Native Political Prisoners & the Struggle for their Land

by Sara Falconer
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

A recent standoff between First Nations people and the cops has ended in six new arrests, bringing the total number of First Nations people facing charges from land struggles into the double digits. Are they Ontario’s political prisoners?

The storm around First Nations land claims has been brewing over the past several years around several controversial uranium mining and development projects. On April 25, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) drew guns in a confrontation on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Deseronto. Solidarity blockades and actions took place at Six Nations, Akwesasne, Kahnawake, Guelph, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver over the following four days. After the OPP withdrew from Tyendinaga on April 29, the other blockades were dismantled.

Mohawk warriors have occupied a quarry on the disputed Culbertson Tract for over a year. The latest conflict began when spokesperson Shawn Brant was arrested on an outstanding weapons charge, less than two weeks after he was acquitted of uttering threats at soldiers at a 2006 demonstration.

During his arrest, which took place in the midst of an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Brant offered some pointed criticisms. “This is it, justice for First Nations communities: Lock us up.”

The Supreme Court noted in 1999 that although aboriginals make up only 3 per cent of Canada’s population, they make up 12 per cent of the prison population. Skyler Williams, a Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, says that more and more it seems to be a case of “Canada settling land claims by arrests.”

Williams was arrested in September along with eight others at a protest against construction of a subdivision in Caledonia and charged with mischief, as well as a previous assault charge.

Robert Lovelace, aboriginal student counsellor at Fleming College in Peterborough, is serving a six-month sentence for contempt of court for protesting Frontenac Ventures’ uranium exploration near Sharbot Lake on traditional Ardoch Algonquin land. Paula Sherman, a Trent University professor and single mother of three children, was arrested along with Lovelace but paid a $15,000 fine to avoid jail time.

In the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (known as KI) in Northern Ontario, six council members are serving six-month jail sentences for refusing to obey a court order to allow Platinex to resume mineral exploration near Big Trout Lake. The community has rallied for the release of the KI6, as they have become known, including Chief Donny Morris and Cecilia Begg, a community leader and grandmother.

“Solidarity is a big thing for all native people,” Williams says. “It’s something that’s happened throughout our history... Struggle will always bring those nations together.” ∗

Cops Siege East Mall, Leave Youth w/ Permanent Brain Damage

Basics Editorial
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

Late in the night of April 22nd, 2008, a team of heavily armed and masked officers from the Emergency Task Force (ETF) and the Guns and Gangs Task Force broke into a Somali family’s home late at night in the East Mall area of Etobicoke.

The cops were supposedly looking for a firearm on an anonymous tip, but no guns or any other contraband were found. No charges were laid, other than a fail to comply with a curfew.

The cops ransacked the house, terrorizing the mother and viciously beating both her sons, leaving the 23-year-old son so severely beaten that he was hospitalized and has sustained permanent brain damage. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is now investigating. However, when ex-cops investigate cops, we know what happens: nothing. The only option is for the community to organize in response to police brutality. We must organize ourselves to break the siege on our communities! ∗

Enemy of the People: Julian Fantino

Basics Editorial
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

This issue’s enemy of the people is a familiar name to working people in Toronto.
Julian Fantino, notorious former Chief of Toronto Police who let the Police terrorize communities for 5 years from 2000-2005, has been spreading the fear across Ontario since Dalton McGuinty appointed him as Chief of the Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.)

More recently, Fantino has been attacking indigenous communities that are rightfully protecting their lands against a federal and provincial governments that have been allowing developers, mining companies and other big-business thieves to illegally exploit unceded Native territories . Fantino’s O.P.P. have arrested a number of indigenous leaders, including Bob Lovelace and Shawn Brant in an attempt to try to stomp out resistance from First Nations communities.

Fantino should know from his time in Toronto that his attempts to stomp on the rights of oppressed people will only serve to show people what the nature of the police really is – to protect the wealth of the ruling class (even when the ruling class steal that wealth). Julian, you will always be an enemy of the people. ∗

Bill C-51: Feds and Big Pharma to Kill Natural Health Products

by Steve da Silva
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

A recent survey shows that 70% of Canadians regularly take some form of natural health products (NHPs). In recent years, more Canadians have been turning to natural remedies for conditions and diseases that they could not resolve through drugs, and this had cut into the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. It is precisely for this reason the natural health industry is facing a serious attack by pharmaceutical companies and their puppets in Parliament.

On April 8, 2008, the Canadian Minister of Health Tony Clement introduced Bill C-51, which proposes significant changes to the Food and Drugs Act which will all but ban most natural health products (NHPs). NHPs, such as olive leaf extract or Echinacea, will be put under such strict licensing requirements that most will not pass and thus will be made illegal. The Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA) of Canada has said that “it is expected that 75% of current NHPs will become illegal under this new system”. Most natural health and natural food stores will be driven out of business. Go into any natural food store in your area, like Noah’s, and just ask them.

If Bill C-51 becomes the law, possessing banned NHPs may result in fines up to $5,000,000 or jail up to two years.

While the law is being passed justified to protect Canadians from health risks, new regulations are also being implemented that will fast-track new pharmaceutical drugs onto the market.
How many times have you heard of a person experiencing detrimental if not fatal reactions resulting from overdosing or combining drugs? How often do drugs resolve one symptom of an illness only to give rise to a host of others? We have all heard these stories, if not had them happen to ourselves.

Now, how many times have you heard someone overdosing on ginseng, or having a fatal reaction from combining their garlic extract with their acidophilus? The NHPPA points out that “there has never been a death in Canada caused by a natural health product.”

Bill C-51 defies all reason when it comes to the health of Canadians. But the health of Canadians is not what the government and big business is after. They are after profits, plain and simple; and pushing drugs down the throats of people who don’t need them is a great way to make profits. ∗

“Toronto 18”: Home-Grown Terrorism by the Canadian Government

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

One of the largest counter-terrorism raids in North America took place in Ontario starting in June of 2006. The excessively brutal operation employed over 400 heavily armed police and security forces dressed in commando-style uniforms, and ended with the arrests of 13 men and 5 teenagers. The youngest was 15 and the oldest 43, while most were under 25. All were Muslim.

The Canadian spy agency CSIS and the RCMP leaked reports to the press, and wild accusations were reported that a homegrown radical Islamic terrorist cell had been conducting “jihadist-training camps” in Ontario, and was plotting to storm government buildings, take hostages, behead leaders and detonate bombs. Security forces assured us that the powers granted under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act (warrantless arrests, unconstitutional monitoring, preventive detention) had been critical to avoiding a major terror attack, while Canada’s Minister of Public Safety warned that there were “more jihadists out there”. While not a single accusation was proven, editorials nationwide called for a 5-year extension of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act, coincidentally set to expire within weeks of the raids.

Last September, just as a preliminary hearing was underway where the credibility of the case would have been determined; the prosecution suddenly (and oddly) stopped the proceedings. Instead, a publication ban was imposed and the case was ordered directly to trial. This means the public will not learn the truth about the accused or the actions of their accusers until the trials are completed, possibly in the year 2014 or later.

However, what is public knowledge is troubling enough to demand a complete public investigation. All of the accused have had their basic legal and human rights violated, including their Charter right to be informed of their offences, their right of reasonable bail and their right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment. Most of the accused have been kept in solitary confinement for longer than what is humanely allowed, and most have reported systematic abuse and assault by their jailors.

The initiating factor for the surveillance of the eighteen had been the monitoring of Internet chat sites. It should be noted here that many of the accused were vocal critics of Canadian foreign policy, as are most Canadians. Two years of thorough CSIS and RCMP surveillance did not turn up anything to warrant arrests. However, the planting of two paid informants among the Muslim men by Canadian security agencies suddenly provided the “evidence” needed. One of the informants was paid $370,000 for a year’s work, and the second was paid $4,000,000.

The only physical evidence in the case, the 3 metric tons of fertilizer purportedly to be used for bomb making, was ordered by the CSIS informant and paid for by the RCMP. In fact, it was during the cross-examination of one of these informants that the preliminary hearing was suddenly and suspiciously shut down by the government lawyers.

At the time of the writing of this article, three of the youth and four adults no longer face charges, including 43-year old Qayyum Abdul Jamal who was first identified as the “Islamic firebrand” leading the young plotters. As the government case unravels, and the “Terror 18” shrinks to the terrorized 11, two other recent cases should be remembered. Project Thread in 2003 and Operation Shock in 2001 where mass arrests of Muslims and Arabs were politically motivated round-ups, targeting innocent people based solely on ‘racial profiling’.

At the end of the day, the political gain from the arrest of the “Terror 18” for Canada’s governing elite was the opportunity for the encouragement of domestic racism and Islamophobia, which was needed to extend Canada’s oppressive Anti-Terrorism Law. The fall-out for ordinary people is the continuing destruction of civil liberties, allowing for the crackdown on legitimate dissent and the creation of a climate of fear and terror.

The response for Canadians must be to demand open and fair proceedings for all the accused, a removal of those still in solitary confinement, a complete public investigation into the case and a repealing of the brutal Anti-Terror legislation that allowed the government to carry out this act of terror. ∗

Father of one of the accused headed to court next to machine gun totting cops

60 years of Israeli Apartheid, 60 years of Palestinian struggle

by Louisa Worrell
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

On May 17th, dozens of Palestinian flags flapped over the gathering at Queen’s Park, where about a 1000 people gathered at 1pm to listen to speakers from the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and other allied organizations. People were gathering to commemorate the 60th anniversary of “Al Nakba”, which is Arabic for “the catastrophe”. In 1948, during Israel’s “war of independence” over 750, 000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from their homes, terrorized by Zionist militias to make way for what we now know as Israel.

This year marks what Israel calls its 60th anniversary. In Toronto, there have been many campaigns carried out by Zionist organizations and their allies to brand Israel as the only democratic country in the Middle East, while covering up all the violence that goes on in witin its borders.

May 17th was a counter to that branding, stating that Israel is an Apartheid state based on the differential set of laws that Palestinians and Israelis live under. This protest was supported by Jewish organizations, the Palestinian community, high school students, Arab and Muslim organizations, First Nations community representatives, and many other allied community organizations.

It was an example of the solidarity that can be achieved when people come together for a cause. For more information, people interested to learn more about Israeli apartheid and Palestinian resistance to it can visit www.caiaweb.org.

To commemorate Al Nakba, Palestinians painted the sky of Jerusalem black by flying 21,915 black balloons, one for each day of Israel’s existence.

People’s Movement in Nepal Wins Elections

by N. Zahra
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

On April 10, 2008 elections were held in Nepal for the first time in 9 years. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) won an absolute majority in the constituent assembly. From 1996-2006 the CPN-M led a people’s war that liberated over 80 percent of the countryside from the terror of the Royal Nepalese Army, the monarchy and brutal feudal landlords. The CPN-M won rural people’s trust over the past decade by successfully fighting against Nepal’s racist caste-system, women’s oppression, feudal oppression and the stealing of Nepal’s vast natural resources by foreign states and corporations. Under the slogan of ‘land for the tiller,’ support for the people’s war led by the Maoists extended across the country.

The people’s support led CPN-M to move their struggle to the capital, Kathmandu. In 2006, CPN-M agreed to put down their guns and enter into the political arena. Over the past two years since the end of the people’s war, CPN-M has maintained the support of rural people and has gained the support of those in the cities. This was demonstrated in the elections when CPN-M won 220 seats in the constituent assembly, beating out the next two largest parties combined. The constituent assembly was formed in order to rewrite the Nepali constitution and abolish the monarchy.

This resounding victory was unexpected by the traditional parties in Nepal, especially the US-backed Nepali Congress Party (NC). The NC, with major backing from the United States and India, is trying to argue that the old Nepali Congress Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala should remain in power, despite the clear victory of Maoist party. CPN-M leader, Prachanda says that he has the right to lead the country and that CPN-M will form the new government despite protests from the current ruling party and its imperialist supporters.

According to Nepal’s interim constitution, the first meeting of the constituent assembly has to be held before May 26, 2008. It remains to be seen whether the efforts of the NC, India and the United States, to undermine the election results will halt the people’s victory.

This interference, not uncommon, shows once again that it is people’s organizing and mass movements that bring change, not party politics. Even if the NC and its imperialist supporters sabotage the CPN-M victory, the struggle of the Nepali people for self-determination and a just social order will continue. ∗

Today’s “Food Crisis”: A Crisis in Capitalism

by Corrie Sakaluk
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

There is not a food shortage in the world today. There is more than enough food being produced to healthily feed everyone living on the planet Earth. And yet almost one sixth of the world’s population is starving.

International institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations have worked together with a few huge agricultural businesses to ensure that the global food industry is designed to make a lot of money for a few people who own ever-expanding agricultural businesses instead of to do what we all need it to do – provide enough affordable food for our families and communities.

On April 2nd, 2008 the President of the World Bank told a meeting in Washington that there are currently 33 countries where hikes in food prices could cause social unrest. On April 3rd in Haiti demonstrators took matters into their own hands, looting trucks carrying rice and attempting to burn a United Nations compound. Similar demonstrations took place in Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Egypt, Cote D’Ivoire, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Zambia. Popular slogans of these world-wide actions included “We are hungry!” and “Life is too expensive! You are killing us!”

High food costs – and therefore hunger and starvation – are inevitable under capitalism.
Most present-day Third World countries were brutally colonized and then deliberately left in a state of underdevelopment after decolonization. Forced to take loans to provide for the basic needs of people, these countries then had to comply with political and economic loan-conditions designed to make them dependent on agricultural exports from the United States, the European Union (especially France and Germany), the British Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa), and Argentina and Brazil. These four regions have flooded the Third World with government-subsidized food products over the past three decades, making any sale of locally produced food impossible for the domestic population. Poor people anywhere are obviously not going to buy food that is locally produced when it is more expensive than the imported products.

Another thing that has happened over the last three decades is that Third World countries were often successfully coerced, due to their desperate circumstances, into producing only one type of crop. This crop is always used for export purposes, and can often be a luxury item for people living in the First World.

For example, in Colombia where 13% of the population is malnourished, 62% of all cut flowers sold in the United States are produced and exported. Much of the land now used for growing flowers used to be able to provide food.

Traditional farming, organized by and for communities and families, has been pushed aside by industrial farming organized by and for agribusinesses.

This new structure of agricultural production for capitalist profit has resulted in millions of people starving in countries that export food. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s tragically true.
It has also resulted in massive environmental damage, such as poisonous air and water, which create horrible health problems for human beings and other living creatures.

The issue of rising food prices and the resulting food crisis is a political and social problem. It is a problem that people all over the world are taking in to their own hands, and we should do the same.

Canada is not immune from rising food prices, and many of us have families living in areas directly affected by the first wave of food crisis hunger.

The only way that global hunger and starvation can be stopped is for urban and rural working people to join together and actively organize an alternative society where the wealth and resources can be evenly distributed to meet people’s needs, as oppoosed to this miserable capitalist system we currently live in. ∗

Food riots in Somalia and Haiti. Both countries are under foreign occupation.

NBA SuperSonics Going To Oklahoma Because More Public Funds to Subsidize Private Profits

Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

It was 1967 when the Seattle SuperSonics made their NBA debut in the rainy west coast U.S. city. Over the years NBA greats like Lenny Wilkins, Jack Sikma, Xavier McDaniels and of course the famous 1990’s duo of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp would become synonymous with the Sonics franchise. Forty-one years and a championship later they have become a part of the pop culture of Seattle, a recreational outlet for generations of Seattle working people who have supported the team emotionally and of course, economically.

While many of the people of Seattle have embraced the Sonics over the years, it’s a loyalty that wasn’t to be returned by NBA Commissioner David Stern and the Sonic’s private ownership groups. With the Sonics now due to be moved out of Seattle either this coming season or within the next two years at the latest (pending court disputes), a whole generation of fans is discovering that what they thought was an entertaining escape from the grind of daily life is yet another opportunity for the rich to get richer, or punish the world trying.

The basic problem is the corporate model of most professional sports franchises that predominates in North America. It’s a model whereby private owners expect to have their private profits subsidized through public tax money. If the city councillors or other local politicians (rightfully) refuse such a ridiculous but all too common arrangement, the owners threaten to move the team elsewhere, and every now and then that threat is carried out as a collective punishment on a city that stands its ground protecting public funds.

This is the situation Seattle fans have found themselves in. The recent chapter started in 2001 when the Sonics were purchased by Howard Schultz, the billionaire magnate of the Starbucks empire and infamous supporter of Israel’s racist militarism. Despite tax payers forking over $100 million for a new arena in 1995, Schultz held the city of Seattle hostage to a demand for a new $220 million renovation that he felt the public should again pay. When this was refused, NBA commissioner David Stern began making noises about moving the team (despite it being one of the NBA’s most successful franchises) out of Seattle.

It was a threat he shamefully intended to make good on. In 2006 the NBA approved the sale of the Sonics to an Oklahoma City based business group headed by Clay Bennett, a personal friend of David Stern’s. Despite empty public statements about making a good faith effort to keep the team in Seattle, the ransom was now raised to a new $500 million arena (again to be paid for publicly, but to be privately owned and to price out many of the working class fans). With this absurd demand also refused (the fact is the whole franchise itself had only been purchased for $350 million), Stern and Bennett then pushed through NBA approval to move the franchise to Oklahoma in order to send a message to sports fans throughout North America: if you refuse to publicly-subsidize the private profits of these team owners, your team could be next. Of course, the one reply they aren’t expecting in return, is perhaps the one ordinary working sports fans should most consider: it’s time to stop getting screwed and demand affordable cultural entertainment through not-for-profit publicly-owned teams, like the Green Bay Packers and Saskatchewan Roughriders. ∗

Youth Stand Up Against Police Brutality With Music and Protest

by Sara Cain & Salma Al-Nadhir
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

On March 15, 2008 the Justice for Alwy Campaign had two amazing events in Toronto. First there was a rally in front of Police Headquarters at College and Bay to demand justice for Alwy al-Nadhir, who was shot dead by police on October 31, 2007. Approximately 200 people rallied, with a number of speakers from Black Action Defence Committee (BADC), No One is Illegal (NOII), Central Neighbourhood House (CNH), Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), and Basics Community Newsletter. The rally was very successful. Family, friends, and supporters spoke about police brutality and memories of Alwy. People were angry, upset and disappointed especially that the police officers who were patrolling the rally were laughing. Their disrespectful laughter did not intimidate the people, it just made them stronger.

The rally was followed by a march from Toronto Police Headquarters to City Hall where the people demanded that the police be held accountable for the murder of Alwy al-Nadhir. They also vowed to continue their struggle to end police brutality.

Later that evening a benefit concert was held in memory of Alwy Al-Nadhir at the Holy Trinity Church. Approximately 200 people attended the concert to show their support. Various talented artists spoke up about different struggles. Performers included Lal, Waleed Kush, Boonaa Mohammed, Wasun, Bighead and many others. A special song dedicated to Alwy - written and performed by The Voyce –outlined the story of Alwy’s murder and how it fits into a larger pattern of police brutality in our communities.

Since these successful events the members of the campaign have continued to fight hard to bring down police brutality – even while some government-funded organizations have closed their doors on our face. First, the Regent Park South Community Centre refused to let us host our March 1 Memorial for Alwy. Upon further investigation we found out that the councillor for the ward where Regent Park South Community Centre is located is Pam McConnell, the vice-chair of the police services board. We exposed the hypocrisy of a community centre working for the police instead of for the community by writing an open letter to the manager of the community centre, Lucky Booth and by talking to Now Magazine who has been following the story of Alwy closely.

Then again, on Saturday May 3, members of the campaign were blocked at the last minute from speaking at a conference organized by the Arab Community Centre of Toronto called, ”Arab and Muslim Identities on Trial: Youth Step Up and Speak Out.” The Canadian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration-funded Arab Community Centre closed its doors to us because the topic of police brutality was a “liability”, even though Alwy Al-Nadhir was an Arab, Muslim youth. This proves to us that neither the government, nor most organizations funded by it, will help us in our struggle. Instead we need to organize ourselves.

Later that day on May 3 at the No One is Illegal May Day / Immigrants’ Rights march, we were given the chance to expose the hypocrisy of the Arab Community Centre and deliver our message of organizing against police brutality in front of hundreds of people.

The Justice for Alwy Campaign continues to do outreach in different communities to educate people about police brutality through our stories of lost loved ones and our struggles. Our goal is to mobilize the communities and bring everyone together because “the people united will never be defeated”. ∗

MCs Iman and Sara after a long night.

May Day 2008: 117 Years on, The Struggle Continues

by Ellis Mayfield
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

This May 1st, 2008, marked the 117th anniversary of International Workers Day, or May Day. The governments of Canada and the United States recognize Labor Day in September in an effort to disassociate labor activism, protest, and struggle from its origins in police brutality and worker repression. Although the September holiday is a welcome one, the significance of May Day is a much more symbolic one as it is an international day of solidarity as declared by the working people, and not the state.

May Day celebrations commemorate the Haymarket Massacres of 1886, when Chicago police officers open fired on workers during a general strike. At this point in history, most workers would work between 10 hours and 16 hours a day and death and injury were a common occurrence. The general strike’s aim was to try and get the 8-hour work-day.

Through organization and solidarity with their fellow workers in 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history.

In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day struggle, 40,000 went out on strike. on May 1. More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, and yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers. The police and the Pinkertons (a 19th century private spy agency, forerunner to the FBI) open fired on the Haymarket killing many and arresting dozens more. A bomb thrown into the crowd by a Pinkerton agent triggered the police firing. Eight protestors were then tried and convicted for the bombing by a biased jury comprised of upper class business-men who sought to prolong the unsafe and long work days to ensure their profits. The jury returned guilty verdicts for all eight defendants – death sentences for seven of the men, and a sentence of 15 years for the other. Four of the workers were eventually executed and one eventually committed suicide in prison.

Despite these hardships and the loss of the martyrs, workers would soon be successful in their goal of attaining the 8 hour work-day. This shows us that May Day is undoubtedly the real Labor Day. The welfare of workers is rooted in struggle and organization not gifts handed down from the bosses and their governments.

This year in the United States, May Day was used by our fellow workers as a rallying point to assert the rights of migrant workers, the most exploited workers today. Protests were held against deportations, anti-immigrant legislation, brutality against migrant workers, the militarization of the border, and racist detention programs.

Here in Toronto, No One Is Illegal held a rally on May 3rd at Christie Pits, with a march that took hundreds of workers and activists across Bloor to Dufferin Grove Park. The rally was drawing attention to the racist and exploitative Bill C-51 immigration changes being rammed through by the Federal Conservatives. ∗

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Justice for Alwy Open Letter to the Arab Community Centre of Toronto

May 15, 2008
Arab Community Centre of Toronto
555 Burnhamthorpe Road, Suite 209
Etobicoke, Ontario M9C 2Y3
(Head Office)
Tel:(416)231-7746 Fax:(416)231-4770
Email: info@arabnewcomers.org

To Whom It May Concern:

As members of the Justice for Alwy (J4A) Campaign, we wish to express our dismay and condemnation at the decision of the Executive Director of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, Laila Bondugjie, to block our organization from speaking at their May 3rd conference, ‘Arab and Muslim Identities on Trial: Youth Step Up and Speak Out.’

Following the murder by Toronto Police of 18-year-old Alwy al-Nadhir on October 31st, 2007, his family, friends and allies came together to demand justice and to educate others about police brutality. Since then they have been spreading their message and speaking out against police brutality with the help and support of many community organizations and allies.

After hearing us speak out at one of our events, we were approached by a staff member at the Arab Community Centre in charge of organizing the conference. This individual thought Alwy’s story and our message against police brutality was a perfect fit for a conference on Arab and Muslim youth. Afterall, Alwy was a young Arab and Muslim man who was murdered by the Toronto Police.

J4A Campaign members readily agreed to participate and were busy preparing until we were contacted a couple of days before the conference. We were told that the Executive Director of the Arab Community Centre did not want us to speak because of ‘liability issues.’ She further expressed the opinion that our message was too ‘political’ and that we might offend the ‘Arab’ community, the RCMP and others who were in attendance at the conference.

We asked ourselves the question, how can a conference on Arab and Muslim Youth not be political in the current in the current atmosphere of Islamophobia in our society? Which ‘Arab’ community is she referring to, given that Alwy and his family are Arab Canadians? Finally, we must ask, was the conference organized for the RCMP or for Arab and Muslim youth?

Upon further investigation, we found out that the Arab Community Centre of Toronto is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and has received funding from the City of Toronto’s Access and Equity Advisory Committee.

Once again, as with Regent Park Communtiy Centre South, a government funded entity has closed its doors in our faces. We are more and more coming to understand that entities funded by the government cannot be relied upon to be apolitical organizations, and thus can not fully serve the people and the communities under whose name they work.

We find the behavior of the Executive Director, Laila Bondugjie, unacceptable and shameful. We demand a full explanation as to why we were barred from speaking at the conference. We can be contacted at info@justiceforalwy.ca.

Justice for Alwy Now!!!

Members of the Justice for Alwy Campaign

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cherry-Picking Immigrants on the Cheap

How Bill C-50 Means Lower Wages for all Canadian Workers
by Steve da Silva (Basics Issue #9 - May 2008)

On March 14 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives sneakily introduced a number of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act within the larger framework of Bill C-50, the Budget Implementation Bill. By including the immigration changes within the Budget Bill, the Conservatives made the immigration issue one of “confidence”, meaning that the opposition parties would have to topple the government and go to elections if they wanted anything changed in the bill. And with the Liberals propping up the Conservatives once again – like they did over the question of continuing the occupation of Afghanistan) – it looks like Bill C-50 will soon become the law of the land.

So what exactly is Bill C-50? What changes will it enact? Who will it benefit and who will suffer?

The Conservatives talk about modernising the immigration system in order to process the hundreds of thousands of backlogged applications. But what Bill C-50 is really about is giving the immigration Minister new powers to shape immigration to the benefit of big business and against all workers in Canada.

Whereas under the previous Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), anyone who met the already-strict criteria to enter Canada as a worker, student, visitor, or permanent resident would be granted that status, the immigration Minister will now have authority to reject any application with no right to appeal for applicants.

The Minister will have new power to set “quotas” on the “category” of persons entering Canada. This language has community organizations such as No One is Illegal asking whether these quotas and categories are just a white-washed version of earlier “quotas” in Canada’s racist history, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923; the Order in Council of 1911 prohibiting the landing of “any immigrant belonging to the Negro race”; or that of 1923 excluding “any immigrant of any Asiatic race”; or the “None is too many” rule applied to Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War.

Furthermore, the Minister will no longer be obliged to review Humanitarian and Compassionate applications from abroad, the most common route through which immigrants reunite with their Canadian family members.

The immigration Minister will also have new powers to decide the order in which applications are processed. This means that immigration applications will be prioritized on the needs of Canada’s big businesses, rather than the order in which they are filed.

What the government and its big corporate backers are aiming for with Bill-C50 is cheap labour, plain and simple. Canadian businesses want the ability to bring in the most exploitable labour possible from around the world, while also bringing in high-skilled trades persons and professionals. Bringing in highly-skilled labour allows the Canadian government to spend less money subsidizing the education of its own citizens, which means more money is left over to subsidize big business.

“Why spend 25 years educating and training a doctor or engineer when Canada can steal them from developing countries”, goes the logic of the corporate thieves and their puppets in Parliament. This policy keeps “developing” countries firmly under the domination of the big capitalist countries and thus not “developing” at all. For example, there are more Haitian doctors in Montreal than in all of Haiti. Some call this “brain-drain”; others call it being a parasite on the rest of the world.

Furthermore, by maintaining a large labour pool that is extremely exploited and poorly paid (and too scared to do anything about it because of the racism migrant workers face), the net result for other Canadian workers is that their wages experience a downward pressure.

What many Canadian workers don’t realize is that many migrants come to Canada because of the terribly desperate situations in their own countries, which are almost always a direct result of the foreign policies of countries like Canada. In recent years Canada has occupied and brutally overthrown governments in Afghanistan and Haiti, while aiding and supporting oppressive puppet governments in the Middle East, the Philippines, Latin America, central Africa, and Somalia. In these places, millions have been displaced or killed by oppressive governments backed-up by Canada. Is it no wonder then that people want to leave their own lands for Canada?

So it’s clear that the new changes to the Immigration Act are going to negatively affect all working-class Canadians. What all Canadian workers need to be doing is fighting together for the regularization and status of all migrant workers, Moreover, migrant workers should have a right to live in peace in their own countries as well. So the fight of to put an end to Canada’s aggressive, imperialist foreign-policy is at the same time the fight for better working conditions and wages for Canadian workers at home.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Saturday, May 3, 2008
Christie Pits Park (at Christie subway station)
12 Noon - Hosted by No One Is Illegal - Endorsed by 93 Supporting Organizations

*This is a child-friendly demonstration.Food and drinks will be available.There will be vehicles on-hand for those with reduced mobility.*

Millions across North America have taken to the streets in the lasttwo years demanding Status for All! In Toronto, workers, students,trade unionists, activists and community members have led passionatedemonstrations calling for justice and dignity for immigrants and refugees.

The last year has seen unprecedented targeting of refugees inSanctuary. Asylum seekers have been arrested from schools, workplacesand even hospital beds. Families have been torn apart. Over 12,000friends, family, and community members have been deported.

On March 14th 2008, the Conservative government introduced a series ofamendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA),buried in Bill c-50, a 136-page "budget implementation bill". Ifpassed, the Minister will have the discretion to refuse applicationseven where the applicants meet the elitist and racist criteria forpermanent residence, to refuse to even examine humanitarianapplications filed from abroad, and to arbitrarily set quotas on the"category" of person that can enter Canada – including quotas based oncountry of origin.

In the face of this intimidation and fear, our communities haverefused to be silenced. Together, we have forced immigrationenforcement out of Toronto District schools. Inspired frontlinecommunity workers have taken up the struggle for Access Without Fear.We have fought against, and stopped the deportations of allies andfriends.

But the fight is not over. There are over 500,000 undocumented peopleliving and working across Canada, over 200,000 in Toronto alone. They are forced to live in daily fear of jailing and deportation, withoutaccess to essential services. Bill C-50 would create even morecategories of "temporary foreign workers" without full status andwithout rights. These workers will be exploited as cheap labour, asmere commodities, used and then removed. We will not stand for this.

On May 3rd, as part of the National Days of Action for Status for All,we will take to the streets. We demand an end to detentions anddeportations. We demand access without fear to essential services. We demand an end to security certificates and secret trials. We demand afull and inclusive regularization program. We demand justice, dignityand respect!


The March will be followed by a community fair featuring music, performers, food, childrens activities and visual art displays