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. ∗