Thursday, November 06, 2008

CUPE 3903 Strikes












The Red and Black Star Shines Brightly in the Night as CUPE 3903 Goes On Strike

by Dhruv Jain Basics #11 (November 2008)

At 10.39 pm on November 5th 2008 a cheer erupted in Curtis Hall I at York University as the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903 in consultation with its members decided to go on strike. The membership voted, in a demonstration of union democracy at a ‘Special Consultative General Membership Meeting’, 71.7% to recommend to the Union’s Bargaining Team and Executive that they reject the ‘final offer’ of the Employer. The Executive and the Bargaining Team accepted the recommendation of the membership unanimously.

CUPE 3903 represents approximately 3,350 members who work as Teaching Assistants (TA’s), Contract Faculty, Graduate Assistants (GA’s) and Research Assistants (RA’s). The Union last went on strike in 2000-2001 when York University attempted to make the Union concede the tuition rebates it had won in previous rounds of bargaining. The long strike was finally won by the Union after 76 days, the longest strike in the education sector. Picket lines will go up at both the Keele and Glendon Campuses at 7 am and come down at 7 pm starting 12.01 am November 6th, 2008.

The Union is striking this time over poverty wages for its workers; better job security for contract faculty; increases to funds that reflect the increases in membership in the last several years; and a 2-year contract. York University for its part has been unwilling to move on any of the demands seriously and has offered wage increases over 3 years that fall far below the projected inflation rates in the next 2 years. Furthermore, the University has refused to give better job security despite the fact that the York University Faculty Association (YUFA) and CUPE 3903 have agreed upon an outline for a proposal. The University’s counter-proposals regarding funds available to members were considered insulting by nearly all in the room, including a paltry $1500 dollar increase for childcare. And the cherry on the top of this cake is the University’s refusal to accept a 2-year contract that would allow CUPE 3903 to bargain in 2010 as has been mandated by the Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee, a sub-committee of CUPE Ontario, so that all education sector locals will be able to engage in ‘coordinated bargaining’. The University has similarly brushed other demands such as serious movement on tuition rates, health benefits, and smaller class sizes. The University claims that the demands of the Union are “unreasonable” despite the fact that the same University has been willing to give 15.6% wage increases to their own corporate bigwigs.

The ball is now in York University’s court to actually make a deal that the Union could seriously consider.
As tired and sleepy CUPE 3903 members boarded the 196 Rocket from York University to Downsview Station, past midnight, they sang loudly, clearly, energetically and enthusiastically, “We’ll go all the way!” And they sang it once more on the long subway ride home.


Day 1 of the strike at CUPE 3903's opening rally, 9:00am at the York Boulevard and Keele entrance, Nov 6, 2008. Over 300 people were in attendance at this entrance alone, with a presence of other supporting unions, including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and other CUPE locals.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

FRENTE NORMAN BETHUNE: Building People-to-People Solidarity, Venezuela to Canada


by Erica Peña & Nico Lopez (of Barrio Nuevo) Basics #11 (November 2008)

As a launching initiative for Frente Norman Bethune [FNB], this past October several community organizers and hip hop artists visited Canada from Venezuela for an 18-day tour. The Venezuelan delegation included members of Comite Nacional de los Sin Techos (National Homeless Committee), and rap-groups Familia Negra, and Area 23. They came to our corner of the world to learn a little more of what hip-hop group Familia Negra poetically refers to as Babylon. During very intense and important times they had the opportunity to compare the social, economic and political situation in their homeland with what they experienced in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Haudenesaunee (Six Nations Confederacy). Surprised and curious about the rich cultural diversity in our neck of the woods, the delegates of FNB shared their revolutionary messages not through hip hop music, but also during discussions and meetings with local organizations.

Besides opening dialogue with diverse groups of people to inform them on the positive changes in Venezuela, which our mass media rarely mentions (if at all), visiting FNB delegates met with grassroots collectives and student organizations, inviting them to participate in this Toronto-based exchange project that can bring us closer to their people’s movement. The exchange will initially allow people from Canada, Quebec , and indigenous territories to travel to Venezuela to volunteer in specific tasks during 3 or 4 weeks, during which they will be exposed to a vibrant social and cultural urban (or semi-rural) landscape. Set out to take organizers and activists to a country that has been in the spotlight of international news during the past decade, FNB is not just a solidarity effort to build stronger North-South ties: it is also an amazing learning opportunity for those actively involved in progressive social change, and especially for those who intending to increase their community organizing involvement in the future.

The visit of FNB delegates could not have happened at a more opportune time as Canada was in the midst of electing its next Prime Minister. The electoral context surrounding their stay allowed the Venezuelans, who have strengthened their system of participatory democracy for almost a decade now, to witness “the celebration of representative democracy”. In the case of Canada, they could notice that voter turnout is way lower compared to their own country, where millions flock the voting centers on the day to choose or even recall the head of Government. Additionally, they were able to see that the mechanisms to avoid electoral fraud did not seem as rigid as they are in Venezuela, where elections are enhanced by voting machines and others that verify your fingerprint coincides with the one on your identification, plus there is a paper track for every vote to avoid any discrepancies when the time to count comes. Finally, the Bolivarian visitors inquired about the lack of “international observers”, who seem to flood their country on every election, “to ensure the transparency of the voting process”.

While visiting various communities and organizations, the delegates gained insight into the many local issues we’re facing in Canada. For instance, their visit to St. Jamestown was useful to learn about the current efforts going towards organizing resident involvement in Toronto’s Mayor Tower Renewal project in North America’s most densely populated neighbourhood. Familia Negra performed at an anti-poverty rally at Jane & Finch, galvanizing the atmosphere as its residents “sung out against poverty and inequality.” They also performed in Montreal during a demonstration in solidarity with police-slain youth, Freddy Villanueva. FNB delegates were invited to speak at radio shows from four different stations, sharing with the local audience their insight on the important role community media has played in strengthening their Bolivarian Revolution. By visiting indigenous communities in struggle at Six Nations near Caledonia, ON and meeting with solidarity groups such as Students Against Israeli Apartheid, the FNB delegates increased their awareness of our local struggles and solidarity initiatives and were able to parallel to theirs while opening doors to possible mutual exchanges.

The Frente Norman Bethune campaign is demonstrating that the time has come to take a closer look at successful efforts for change in other parts of the world and learn from their positive experiences. Given the global socio-economic turmoil and its local effects, community groups and organizations in Toronto are building international solidarity links to find collaborative solutions to global problems.

For more Info on the FRENTE NORMAN BETHUNE initiative contact Barrio Nuevo at barrio.nuevo@gmail.com.














FRENTE NORMAN BETHUNE delegation of Venezuelans with Barrio Buevo and BASICS being given a tour at the Kanawakhe Mohawk Territory (just outside of Montreal).

Pelham Park Teams Champs at J4A Tourney Against Police Brutality

by Elijah Whitaker
Basics #11 (November 2008)


‘Pelham Park Young Set’: The Youth Division's championship team of the Justice for Alwy Basketball tournament. From left to right: Rushown, J.R., Gordel, Daniel, and Marvin.

‘5 Point’: The Adult Division's championship team of the Justice for Alwy Basketball tournament. From left to right: Richard Campbell, (non-player), P-Nise, East-Ca$h, & Bravo.


On September 13, 2008 the Justice for Alwy Campaign held its first ever Annual 3-on-3-Basketball Tournament. ‘The 1st Annual Justice for Alwy 3-on-3-Basketball Tournament’ was borne out of community concerns over police brutality – namely after Alwy al-Nadhir, an unarmed Toronto youth, was shot and killed by Toronto Police last Halloween. Out of this tragedy, Alwy’s family, friends, and other local community organizers saw the need to get organized to put an end to the siege on our communities. Together, they created the Justice for Alwy Campaign Against Police Brutality.

The Tournament was held at Carlton Park, located in the south west side of the city near Symington and Dupont. Teams registered from all over the city, including teams from Pelham Park, Jane and Finch, Markham, Scarborough, Regent Park and many more areas throughout the city. With players, spectators, volunteers and organizers, the event drew over 100 people. And despite the pouring rain and a slippery court, the tournament saw high-level competition and intense games, accompanied with music and a BBQ to top it off.

As for the tournament itself, teams from Pelham Park dominated both the adult and youth divisions. In the youth division, Pelham Park Young Set went undefeated throughout the entire tournament. With stellar performances from Gordel, Rushown, Daniel, J.R, and Marvin, they were able to tear through the competition eventually beating neighbourhood counterparts Clinton, Pedro, and Squid of Triple Threat in the finals.

In the adult division, another team representing Pelham Park went undefeated. 5-Point, which consisted of Richard Campbell, East Ka$h, P Nise and Bravo proved to be too much for the adult division, beating another local team Trend-Setters (Chevy X, Marbles, Prince, Kevin Campbell, Kris Neptune ) in the finals.

Congratulations to both teams!

Basketball aside, the political purposes of the event itself - uniting to express our opposition to police brutality - was not lost. Being at the event, it was clear from the discussions many of the youth were having that there are serious tensions between many youth and Toronto police. The frustration was palpable – many expressed discontent over the overall policy of community policing, many exchanged experiences about the daily harassment, false arrests, brutal beatings and verbal confrontations many have with the police.

Community concerns over police brutality and racial profiling are, of course, not new to the city. The Black Action Defence Committee has been organizing around the issue of police brutality for a number of years, and with the recent police killings of Freddy Villanueva, Alwy al-Nadhir, Byron Debassiege and the 2004 murder of Jeoffrey Reodica, the already frayed relationship between youth and the police might be worsening.

In the end, organizers thought the event was a great success and are excited about next year’s tourney.

‘Trendsetters’: The Adult Division's 2nd place team. Marbles, Prince, Chevy X, and Kevin Campbell, and Kris Neptune.


‘Triple Threat’: The Youth Division's 2nd place team. From left to right: Pedro, Clinton, and Squid.

Mohawk Leader Shawn Brant Set Free


by Mike B. Basics #11 (November 2008)


On September 29, Shawn Brant, a spokesperson of the Mohawk Nation, was convicted of a mischief charge for taking part in a series of highway and rail blockades in 2007. The crown had been asking for 12 years jail time but had to back off after details about the OPP’s corrupt handling of the situation became public. This included evidence that the OPP did not follow their own guidelines, set up illegal wiretaps, mobilized snipers and armored personnel carriers, and gathered evidence on protests while posing as journalists. OPP commissioner Julian Fantino would have been subpoenaed had the case continued and Brant gone to trial.

The Mohawks of Tyendinaga have been struggling to achieve justice, despite the consistently poor response on the part of the Canadian Government to unresolved land claims from all over the country. Many of the people in Tyendinaga have not had access to clean drinking water for at least 10 years. In Tyendinaga their struggle has taken the form of economic disruption, which has included road and rail closures and the disruption of businesses profiting from the unresolved lands. The current campaign began in November 2006, when Mohawks announced that they would stop the construction of a subdivision on the Culbertson Tract, which is part of Tyendinaga’s land claims. There was a blockade of a military convoy on the reserve that month. In March 2007, a quarry that had been operating on the Culbertson Tract was shut down permanently. On April 20th the C.N. main rail line running through the territory was closed for 30 hours. Again, during the National Aboriginal Day of Action on June 29th, 2007 the C.N. main line, Highway 2, and the 401 were targeted and closed for 24 hours.

On June 26th, 2008 Brant was released after more than two months in jail. Brant was being held on false charges alleging he had assaulted a white local businessman during road blockades that began on April 20th 2008. Brant challenged two local racists from neighboring Deseronto, ON, after they attacked a small group of mainly Mohawk women and children. The blockade had been erected the day before, targeting a land development on stolen Mohawk land. One man flew into a rage when he was turned back at the roadblock, swinging a bat at protesters, and even hitting a woman with his car. Although residents of Tyendinaga called 911, the police never laid any charges against the violent racists. Brant arrived at the scene and demanded that the attackers leave, and was consequently arrested several days later. At the time, Brant was living under strict conditions imposed as part of his bail from the June 2007 Aboriginal Day of Action, and was not even taking part in the blockade. Brant was arrested and held in pre-trial custody.

Shawn Brant is now facing one year probation and was ordered to stay on the Tyendinaga reserve for three months as a result of the recent convictions. There are at least 16 other members of the Mohawk Nation still facing charges from their participation of actions in defense of their communities.

“Terrorist” or Scapegoat? Youth Set Up, Convicted of Terrorism Charges


by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan Basics #11 (November 2008)

We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Canada just convicted its first “terrorist” in September, and there will likely be more to come. The twenty-year-old man (who was seventeen at the time of his arrest and cannot be named) never endangered anyone’s life, never damaged any property, never made or used explosives, never used a weapon, did not produce any terrorist plans and did not even know about any specific terror plot. However, he did get caught red-handed shoplifting. He was also a Muslim convert.

So how was the youth convicted on charges of terrorism? It was done by altering the whole criminal justice system through new legislation (Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act), which was zealously passed after 9/11 and renewed shortly after the dramatic arrest of the convicted youth and 17 other Muslim boys and men in June of 2006 (the widely sensationalized and discussed ‘Toronto 18’). The Act created an entirely new category of criminal (“the terrorist”) whose crimes are motivated for religious or political reasons, and so requires investigation into the intention of the suspect, who he associates with and what he believes in. Such a directive is inherently prejudicial in application and promotes racist profiling. In addition, the new law also broadly defines what a “terrorist group” is, so less evidence is needed of any offence by the group and proof as flimsy as planning or even discussion of certain actions becomes the basis for conviction. This is particularly troubling because of the role played by two paid government informants in the ‘Toronto 18’ group, including the purchasing and storing of the alleged bomb making material, and possibly entrapping and encouraging the 18 arrested. These two rats were collectively paid over 4 million dollars for their “public service”!

Prosecutors were able to get a successful conviction simply because the judge believed a terrorist conspiracy existed and the youth happened to attend two camps with the alleged “conspirators”. It is sort of like guilt by association, except that the “conspirators” themselves have not been convicted of any crime.

The conviction of the youth is just another example of Canada legislating and legalizing state terror against Arab and Muslim communities, whether it’s security certificates that allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens, facilitated torture of citizens in foreign prisons, hyper surveillance of Muslim and Arab communities, hundreds of illegal detentions of Muslims and Arabs on a daily basis, or Canada’s murderous contributions in war in Afghanistan. This terror conviction, and the mass arrest of the ‘Toronto 18’ over two years ago, have and will continue to serve as justification for these various attacks on Muslim people, at home and abroad.

Ten of the eighteen arrested in 2006 remain in jail awaiting trial, and three of those men continue to be brutally held in solitary confinement since that time! The lawyers of the convicted youth plan to appeal the terror ruling in December. Regardless of the outcome, the current conviction has served to amplify fear in Muslim, Arab and other vulnerable communities – who fear the real terror that will be unleashed by Canadian security agencies invigorated by their first successful terrorist conviction.

Venezuelan MOVIMIENTO Hits T.O.

by Hassan Reyes
Basics #11 (November 2008)

Three of the members of Venezuelan rap group Familia Negra: Aja (Axe), Scott, and DJ Ancho.


On October 18th, Toronto’s VIDA Lounge was graced by some of the best revolutionary hip-hop in any language.

The Movimiento show featured 2 of Venezuela’s premier hip –hop acts: AREA 23 from the infamous 23 de Enero neighbourhood and artists/ community activists Familia Negra blessed the stage for their first visit in Canada and Quebec. The Venezuelans were accompanied by Toronto latin hip-hop pioneers Code Blue who are about to release a new album, ‘Premature’.
The concert was part of the 1st round of FRENTE NORMAN BETHUNE, a movement started by Barrio Nuevo to build people-to-people solidarity with Venezuela, as well as to coordinate on-the-ground community-organizing training for organizers in Canada, Quebec and First Nations territories to train in Venezuela.

Other acts who also lent their talents for the night included Vaughan and Oakwood’s Wasun, spoken word artist’s Sun and Spin as well as DJ D Boyz from Cuba and eLman from Dos Mundos Radio on the turntables.

Movimiento capped off a successful first tour that included similar performances all over Toronto as well as Montreal and Ottawa.

The crowd was treated to some of the best conscious hip-hop culture that this hemisphere has to offer, as well as being shown that the people of this hemisphere are coming together to fight for our common struggle.

Venezuelan rap group Área 23 at the House of Reggae in Montreal, Saturday, October 11.

Mural Painting of Incan Prophecy at Jane-Finch

by Lucho Granados Ceja (of Barrio Nuevo) Basics #11 (November 2008)

On September 21st, 2008 community activists from Barrio Nuevo teamed up with several Latin American artists to paint a mural on a wall at 40 Driftwood Avenue, in the Jane-Finch community. The mural was painted in honour of the Incan prophecy of the 10th Pachacuti. The prophecy speaks of the reunification of the Eagle (the peoples of North America) and the Condor (the peoples of South America) in order to bring peace and balance to the world.

Cecilia Alejo, one the artists, said “Arts-based initiatives such as this one offer an opportunity for self expression, while at the same time providing a reflection of the community and an expression of unity.” The mural, a mixed media piece with graffiti art elements, even attracted the attention of local youth who spontaneously lent a hand. These youth not only took ownership of the mural but their street as well and provided a culturally-relevant community landmark.

Where the reality is that our neighbourhoods face decades of neglect, these sorts of initiatives allow artists to beautify them and at the same time display an element of our history on the street for the community to appreciate. Barrio Nuevo plans on securing more space for this sort of activity in more neighbourhoods in the future.

To get involved is future initiatives like this, people are encouraged to contact us at barrionuevo.canada@gmail.com.

Omar Khadr: Scapegoat for Canada’s War in Afghanistan

by Justin Panos
Basics #11 (November 2008)

October 28 of this year marks Omar Khadr’s sixth year as a detainee of America’s concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The detention centre is declared by the United States to be sovereign US territory (even though it is part of mainland Cuba).

Khadr, a Canadian citizen born in Toronto, was captured in a skirmish between Afghan civilians and US soldiers in an Afghan village in July 2002. It is claimed that Khadr threw a grenade that killed a US soldier. Khadr was found huddled in terror by the armed soldiers and was promptly shot twice in the back. Omar, now 21, is the youngest detainee at the highly securitized and secretive prison establishment. He has been there since he was 15 years old and has neither been charged with a crime nor faced a judge or jury of his peers.

The Canadian government expresses their international solidarity with the US government’s war crimes and disregard for international laws and conventions that both countries worked together to legislate after World War II in response to the Nazi onslaught of Europe.
As Human Rights Watch points out in their 2007 report “The Omar Khadr Case: A Teenager Imprisoned at Guantanamo”, “both U.S. and international law requires governments to provide children (persons under the age of 18) with special safeguards and care, including legal protections appropriate to their age.”

There have been widespread reports of torture and ill treatment towards Khadr as well as many other detainees in the facility. Many have begun to question if the confessions that have been obtained by U.S. officials at Guantanamo can be taken seriously when so many of its detainees are subject to various forms of torture.

One report documents one of Khadr’s days at the jail: “At Guantanamo, Khadr was beaten; drugged; ridiculed; subjected to sleep deprivation; subjected to solitary confinement and sensory deprivation; choked repeatedly to the point of passing out; force-fed and beaten after he participated in a detainee hunger strike; and, in one oft-cited incident, denied the use of a bathroom until he lost control of his bladder and was used as a “human mop” to clean up the puddle of urine, then refused a change of clothes for two days.”

An expose by Rolling Stone magazine points towards the psychological effects that Khadr’s rendition and subsequent torture have left him with: “He cried frequently. [ . . . ] His appetite diminished; he took on the appearance of the permanently malnourished. He entered what clinicians call a state of hyper vigilance: He started thinking he might be attacked at any time - without reason, his heart rate would jump, and he would sweat and hyperventilate. He began hearing sounds - screams, bombs, things he could not identify - when the cellblock was silent.”
Khadr’s case, however, is not unique in that Canada falsely surveilled, detained, and transferred another innocent civilian to the United States without questioning the U.S.’s terrible human rights policies. Maher Arar was tortured for one year in Syria after being transferred there by the United States and Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shown callous disregard for the safety of this man, the rights of Canadian children in international disputes, and an altogether hostile and demonizing attitude towards Muslim peoples in Canada.

On July 15th, Kory Teneycke, the prime minister’s director of communications, told CBC News that “Mr. Khadr faces serious charges. There is a judicial process underway to determine Mr. Khadr’s fate. This should continue.”

This statement was delivered despite the growing evidence of torture, the lack of due process, and denial of fundamental rights that most would be led to believe that children possess.

In 2007, a Federal judge ruled that Canada has violated numerous doctrines of international law by withholding documents about Khadr’s captivity that might prove his innocence. The refusal to release the documents on the grounds of ‘national security’ have been called by some as ‘embarrassing’ as well as ‘illegal’.

Recently, the widow of the dead US soldier won $94 million in a civil suit against the estate of Khadr’s father. It was said that Khadr’s action was an act of terrorism and not an act of war. American law does not allow civil suits against acts of war and the lawsuit was the first of its kind against an act of terrorism. This has raised numerous ethical and judicial questions about the definition of terrorism. How has Khadr been sued for terrorism but not found guilty of such a crime?

Is it not a morally repulsive irony that thousands of Afghanis are being bombed and terrorized by Canadians forces, indiscriminately killed in the thousands, and Omar Khadr is sued for $94 million for being in the wrong place at the wrong time? The injustice of the Omar Khadr case is proving to be a very useful way to try to convince Canadians that some of their citizens are terrorists – born right here in Toronto! – and thus that the occupation of foreign lands and wars against foreign peoples are justified. Justice for Omar Khadr would be a serious blow to Canada’s pro-war propaganda offensive and would thus be a step in the direction of justice for all victims of Canada’s role in the “War on Terror”, be they Afghani citizens, Canadian soldiers coming back in body bags, or working-class Canadians who are paying for these wars from which only the rich are benefiting.
Justice for Omar Khadr now!

Ontario Ombudsman Slams Special Investigations Unit (SIU)

by N. Zahra
Basics #11 (November 2008)

On September, 30th, 2008 the Ombudsman of Ontario, André Marin, released a special report that slammed the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) for its “culture of complacency” and a lack of rigour in ensuring police follow the rules. The SIU, a so-called “civilian agency”, was formed in 1990 by the Ontario provincial government after the long struggle of community-based mass campaigns against the long history of police shootings and murders throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Since the SIU’s inception, there have been several reports calling for its reform because so far it has been ineffective in carrying out its mandate of police accountability. In his detailed report, Marin summarizes these reports and claims that although more resources were thrown into the SIU and its regulatory requirements were more clearly defined, the SIU still fails to carry out its mandate because of the influence of “powerful police interests.’”

Marin, the Director of the SIU from September 1996 to June 1998, has more than a passing familiarity with the difficulties the SIU has in fulfilling its mandate. Marin identifies “aggressive resistance from the police community” as one of the primary factors inhibiting change. He notes that amongst families of victims, lawyers and community members, the SIU lacks any credibility because of its shameless links with the police community. He points to the continuing police links of former police officials within the SIU as well as the fact that the SIU is steeped in police culture to the point that it tolerates the blatant display of police insignia and affiliation.

Another major problem Marin identifies is the SIU’s complacency when dealing with police officials’ failure to comply with SIU investigations. The SIU treats police witnesses different than civilians. Delays in police providing notice of incidents, disclosing their investigation notes and submitting interviews are all endemic. The SIU does not keep a record of incidences of police failure to comply and Marin says that the SIU takes a “conciliatory” approach when dealing with what they treat as isolated incidents of police failures to comply. Interviews with police are rarely held within the regulatory time frame, sometimes taking place months after the incidents. The SIU will not interview police when they are off duty and it makes every attempt to cover up police non-cooperation so that it does not come into the public eye.
Perhaps even more alarming, Marin points out a fact that critics are all too aware of, which is that much of the SIU investigation remains hidden from the public eye. Director’s reports are not accessible to the public.

Despite Marin’s identification of the shortfalls of the previous recommendations made for SIU reform in previous reviews, his very own recommendations are quite vague and do not go any further than calling for legislative reform in regards to the agency. His recommendations include the following: the SIU using any means available to diversify its workforce; that the director’s reports are made completely public; and that the province should amend legislation to make it an offense for police forces not to co-operate with the SIU.

Although Marin’s report is an important document that summarizes the many problems with the SIU, it does not go far enough. In order for police to be held truly accountable for their murders of innocent civilians – such as Otto Vass, Jeffrey Reodica, Alwy Al-Nadhir, and Byron Debassige, in the last five years – mere legislative changes and reforms will not cut it. The people need to hold police accountable for their actions by mobilizing to create a truly civilian-run force that is independent of police interests and pro-cop government interferences. Let’s organize for justice now!

Radio Basics Takes to the Air on CHRY 105.5, Toronto

by Makaya
Basics #11 (November 2008)

Basics Community Newsletter has expanded its work by venturing into the world of radio broadcasting. Basics is pleased to be hosting our very own show on CHRY 105.5FM in the Jane and Finch area, every second Wednesday from 8-9pm. Live-to-air broadcasting is just another way we are getting our vital information to the masses. The show combines live interviews, music, current news issues, reports from recent events, as well as listings for upcoming events and much more.

For our debut show we interviewed Odion Osegyefo from the African Internationalist Students Organization and the African People’s Socialist Party; Chris Bolton, a Toronto District School Board Trustee who has come out against armed cops in Toronto schools; and investigative journalist Kevin Pina, who discussed the current situation in Haiti after Hurricane Ike in the context of ongoing political repression by the foreign occupation forces. Since then we have held many interviews, including a phone interview with Jennifene Debassige, the mother of the young Native man slain by Toronto Police, Byron Debassige. We also interviewed local musicians and community activists, such as the Soca Emperor and Wasun from Black Action Defense Committee.

On our October 15 show, we featured Venezuelan rap group Familia Negra, who were in our studio to discuss the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and to perform some freestyle; and we also interviewed Will Prosper of Montréal-Nord Republik to discuss the popular resistance to police terror in the community. We have also been providing important updates on the current crisis in the global economy, and how capitalism’s richest billionaires are attacking people around the world and in Canada in order to keep themselves rich.

Radio Basics reflects many of the topics featured in our paper and issues unfolding in our communities. Radio Basics is from the people, and to the people, and this show is truly is revolutionizing radio! If you have not yet had the chance to hear the new audio component of the Basics Free Community Newsletter, tune in every other Wednesday from 8-9pm on 105.5 CHRY or online at www.chry.fm, or visit basicsnewsletter.blogspot.com to check out our audio library of past shows. Radio Basics will be airing its next shows on Nov. 12, Nov. 26, Dec. 10, and Dec. 24.

Venezuelan rap group Familia Negra on Oct. 15 show of Radio Basics freestyles and informs Torontonians about the social revolution in Venezuela.

No Love for ‘One Love’ from Mammoliti

Thug Councillor Mammoliti Justifies 20-Cop Beat Down of Businessman Edward Allen of Steeles / 400

by Bryan Doherty
Basics #11 (November 2008)

Someone is standing up against Toronto’s most racist city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and is making headlines for it. North York club owner Edward Allen has been one of many targets of Mammoliti’s ongoing campaign to push people he doesn’t like out of his ward. The councillor is known for accusing particular families and businesses of breaking the law and egging on police to harass them. This time, his efforts at low-intensity forced migration resulted in twenty cops beating up a Black business owner who is now preparing to sue the police and the city for damages.

Edward Allen, Jamaican-born father of eight, runs One Love bar and restaurant at Steeles and Highway 400. Although the establishment recently lost both its restaurant and liquor licenses, Allen kept it open as a hang out for friends. In the early hours of October 29, police came knocking at his door, asking why he “hadn’t got out of town yet”. The cops say Allen kicked up a fuss by locking himself in a room and breaking bottles. But they deny any fault on their part for dragging him out to the parking lot and proceeding to beat him up.

Mammoliti told the Toronto Sun last week that he welcomed the opportunity to present the evidence against Allen’s infractions. Without extending an ounce of sympathy for the man’s injuries, Mammoliti defended what he sees as his successful representation of a diverse constituency.

What was Mammoliti’s response to the accusation of racist targettng? Get this:
“I’ve been just as tough with visible minorities who aren’t black.”

West End Students Vote Cops Out

The Student School (an alternative school located in Western Tech) unanimously votes cops out of its school.

by Louisa Worrell

Basics #11 (November 2008)

On September 10th, 2008 at a school council meeting of the Toronto alternative high school, The Student School, students and teachers voted to have their school’s name taken off of the list of Toronto schools in which a police officer will be stationed during the 2008-09 school year.

The school’s administrator, John Morton, delivered the decision to Western Technical School’s principal (which is also The Student Schools principal), explaining that the vote was unanimous and that a large number of students felt that they did not want a police officer in their hallways for various reasons. The principal informed John Morton 24 hours later that their name had been taken off the list and therefore no police would be present in their hallways or classrooms. It may seem incredible that the unity of these students was enough to remove the police officer from their school, but it’s true.
The vote was initiated by a student who was surprised to read in the Toronto Star that their school would have a police officer. This student raised the issue with people at his school and decided to bring it forth at the school-wide student-run, mandatory student council meeting that is held every two weeks, in which the issue was debated and voted on.

A motion was put forth to have the school’s name taken off the list, it was seconded and then a 40 minute discussion ensued. This was the school’s first council meeting of the year, and was attended by over 85% of the student body and all the teachers. During the discussion many students, even students who don’t normally speak at council meetings, spoke about the reasons why they didn’t want police in their school. This topic was obviously very important to the students.

Stacey George, a student at the school said, “Well, for me, we didn’t have a say in what was going on. I was like, ‘How could they just put our school on the list?’ Nobody came, not even the principal, to tell us what was happening.”

John Morton informed Basics that the feedback came from many different students and touched on many different concerns, including people who had negative experiences with police before, the feeling of being intimidated by police presence and the presence of guns in the school.

When informed that the point of having these officers in the school was to build student-police relationships, George responded by saying her impression of police is that “They are always trying to find something wrong. They aren’t trying to find out why I am the way I am, they are just trying to make me wrong for the way I am.”

Students from around Toronto should take note of this example of high school students mobilizing for action and winning. If a small group of 175 students could drive a cop out of their school, then the tens of thousands of high school students across Toronto can very well do the same if they organize.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Socialism, Imperialsm, and “Natural” Disasters: Cuba and Haiti in 2008

by Enver Harbans (Basics #11 - November 2008)

2008’s Atlantic hurricane season has been one of the most devastating in recorded history especially for Haiti and Cuba. However, how a political system braces itself for such natural occurrences proves decisive in how the people are affected by them.

With wind gusts reaching speeds of 340km/h, Hurricane Gustav battered the island of Cuba in late August 2008. However, Cuba’s fast-acting hurricane plan and evacuation methods spared 2.9 million lives in the eastern side of the country. There was only a handful of deaths in Cuba resulting from the hurricane. Even facing sanctions and embargos, cutting off Cuba from foreign trade with much of the world, Cuba has proven that it can defend the people when it comes to natural disasters.

However, the story of Cuba, a socialist country, is by no means the norm when it comes to hurricane preparedness. The case of Hurricane Katrina is a case we’re all familiar with, where the U.S. government, although fully capable, proved unwilling to aid the thousands who died and the hundreds of thousands of people who were left homeless.

Likewise in Haiti, just a few hundred kilometers away from Cuba, the vast devastation of the hurricanes was not simply a natural occurrence. In 2004 Haiti became an occupied nation when Canada, US and France invaded and kidpapped at gunpoint Haiti’s popular and democratically-elected president, Jean Baptiste Aristide. Since then the conditions of Haitians have become far more miserable, and the people have been violently repressed for expressing dissent to the occupation forces.

When the hurricanes struck in the summer of 2008, there was no state or infrastructure willing or able to help the people. The hurricanes in Haiti have accounted for deaths and missing persons in the thousands; tens of thousands have been made homeless, and hundreds of thousands are desperately in need of food and water.

What was Canada’s response to the crisis, a country that has sent more “foreign aid” to Haiti per capita than any other country in the world? Canada send a contingent of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). Despite receiving more “foreign aid” than any country in the Caribbean, “international assistance” to Haiti has done little to assist the Haitians except those Haitians assisting the foreign occupation.

Contrast the situation in Haiti with what happens when news of a coming hurricane hits Cuba: centralized planning is deployed and thousands of people are immediately mobilized to ensure that the effect on human life is minimized. This is the benefit of a socialist society.

In a wealthy capitalist country like America, however, or in a country under foreign imperialist occupation like Haiti, the people are left to fend for themselves (and are often attacked by the state when they try to do so).

The case of Haiti in 2008, just as much of New Orleans In 2005, shows that capitalism and imperialism is what makes for natural occurrences become disasters of the greatest proportions.


Actor Matt Damon, Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean, and Frank McKenna (former Canadian ambassador to U.S. and now T.D. Bank’s Deputy Chairman) are escorted through Gonaïves, Haiti by the gun-toting U.N. occupation forces (Sep 2008).


Capitalism Collapsing onto the Backs of the People


by Steve da Silva
Basics #11 (November 2008)

“What’s going on with the economy!?”, is a question and a concern that’s on everyone’s mind. “Recession”, “depression”, “economic collapse”, “decline”, “liquidity crisis”, “toxic assets”, “corruption”, “fraud”… Much has been said in the corporate media about what’s going on at the surface of the economy. But little – in fact, almost nothing – has been said about the cause of this historically unprecedented crisis that the global capitalist economy is currently going through. To understand what’s happening, let’s start with the more immediate causes…

The Sub-Prime Mortgage Scheme

Capitalism is an economic system that must constantly undergo expansion. When there is not sufficient demand in the economy to consume all of the products produced by capitalism, there is a crisis of greater or lesser proportions. Capitalism is the first economic system in history where too much productive capacity is a cause for crisis.

In the late 1990s, massive investment in the U.S. was being poured into the “dot.com” sector. Much of this investment proved to be worth a lot less than it was and in 2000 when these markets crashed, capital had to find a new place for profitable investment.

With the bursting of the “dot.com” bubble in the U.S. in the early 2000s, the Federal Reserve cut its interest rates and held them down at record lows, encouraging banks to recklessly borrow and then lend out as much money as they possible could. As banks began to aggressively push new loans onto people, household debt sky-rocketed and millions of families took on “sub-prime” mortgages worth the full price of their homes, which at the time of their purchase were ridiculously inflated in value as the housing market was on fire. People were lent this money at “no-interest” teaser rates to encourage people to take on mortgages that their household income really wouldn’t be able to afford in the coming years.

Thus, as soon as the housing market began to cool-off, the value of peoples’ homes plummeted and families began to go bankrupt at record levels, losing not only their homes but everything they owned. The African People’s Socialist Party in the U.S. has done research on how these loans were particularly targeted at Black and Latino families.

What has been the immediate consequence for capitalism of this record-high level of bankruptcies in the U.S.? Whereas financial institutions appeared to have so much value on paper – based on the debts Americans were supposed to pay off – as soon as people began defaulting en masse – the actual value of these institutions proved to be worth much less.

The “toxicity” of these shaky lending practices were not limited to a few institutions in the U.S. because the debts of Americans were being repackaged as secondary financial assets and sold across the world. So markets around the world have been exposed to the crisis.

The last three months in perspective

The signs of a massive crisis on the horizon began to be revealed in the late summer of 2008 with the collapse of a number of American financial institutions. First there was the failure and subsequent nationalization of $6 trillion in debt from America’s two largest mortgage companies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which signaled the complete collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market. The failure of those institutions sent ripples out into financial market in the U.S. and the world, leading to a series of other failures in the U.S (Lehman Brothers, AIG, Washington Mutual), and around the world.

As mortgage-backed bonds began to implode, other institutions were hit hard and banks stopped lending to one another, leading to worldwide financial meltdown. This is what commentators have been calling “illiquidity”.

The response across most major Western capitalist countries – such as U.S., Britain, France, and Germany – has been to pump trillions of dollars - or “liquidity” - into these failing financial institutions so that they could go on playing their same old game of profit-making.

With lending and consuming on the decline around the world, Canada’s manufacturing sector has taken serious blows, with tens of thousands of jobs disappearing over the last year alone. The response by the manufacturing sector in Canada has been to approach provincial and federal governments with their hands out asking for hand outs to the tune of billions of dollars. Canadians need to be asking themselves whether it makes more sense to hand over billions to private institutions, or whether we should be investing our public funds in public enterprises that produce for the people.

Capitalism, and Beyond...

Explanations of the crisis that try to reduce it to fraud or short-sightedness are not just ridiculous, but are outright lies. The crisis was completely predictable, and the current raiding of public funds that are being carried out against working-class and the middle-class populations around the world must have been planned for some time now. The only fraud we need to be aware of is how the last few months bare witness to the greatest transfer of wealth in history from the poor to the rich. And the crisis is far from over.

Left to it’s own devices, capitalism will find a way to restabilize itself. It’s an open question, however, how long this restabilization will take, and whether the world’s major capitalist-imperialist countries will enter into another round of wars before settling upon a new stabilized world order. As Western imperialist countries continue their wars against the people’s of the world – especially in the Middle East and Central Asia – they are threatening a new round of wars in order to challenge eastern imperialist countries Russia and China.

The only way forward for working Canadians, as it is for the billions of our toiling brothers and sisters, is to begin organizing ourselves for a future beyond capitalism, as the peoples of Nepal, Venezuela, Bolivia and many other countries are trying to do. Today’s crisis is demonstrating to us that this future has to be socialism.

Montréal-Nord Républik: “Born in the Line of Fire”



"Montréal-Nord Républik est né sous le signe du feu"

by Will Prosper (Basics #11 - November 2008)

« Montréal-Nord Républik est né sous le signe du feu », dit Rony Bastien. En effet, c'est durant l'émeute que les deux membres fondateurs se sont rencontrés. « Pour un évènement qui est né sous le feu, c'est une belle image, mais c'est aussi la vérité », déclarent-ils en interview à la Radio du Collectif No One Is Illegal. D'autres s'y sont greffés petit à petit, par contact ou parce qu'ils ont envoyé un courriel. Ce qui les rassemble, c'est qu'ils sont tous résidants de Montréal-Nord et conscients des problèmes sociaux de leur quartier.

“Montreal North Republik was born in the line of fire”, says Rony Bastien. Actually, the two founding members met during the riot. “For an event that was born under fire, it’s a beautiful image and it’s also the truth,” they said in an interview on No One Is Illegal Radio, Montreal. Little by little, others came around either through face-to-face meetings or because they sent an email. What brings them together is that they are all residents of Montreal North and are conscious of the social problems of their neighbourhood.

En effet, M-NR s'est formé pour faire entendre la voix de la rue. «On voit que Montréal-Nord Républik, c'est pas moi, c'est tous vous autres, c'est tout le monde ensemble », déclare Will Prosper, un des porte-paroles du mouvement. Ensemble, ils veulent briser la censure faite par ceux qu'ils appellent la « Sainte alliance » (c'est-à-dire les élus, les groupes communautaires et la police) qui tentent d'imposer des barrières à toute autre initiative qui ne vient pas de ces derniers.

Actually, Montreal North Republik (M-NR) formed in order to give voice to the word on the street. “We see that Montreal North Republik isn’t me, it’s all of you, it’s all of us together,” says Will Prosper, a spokesperson for the movement. Together, they want to break the censure of those they call the “Holy Alliance” (elected officials, community groups and the police) who attempt to block any initiative that does not come from them.

Les actions de M-NR leur ont amené une « grande vague de sympathie » de la part de la population et ont prouvé qu'elle était de leur côté.

M-NR’s actions have brought on “a great wave of sympathy” from the local population and has proven that the locals are on their side.

Après avoir organisé une conférence de presse, une visite au conseil d'arrondissement de Montréal-Nord pour déposer leurs revendications devant le maire et les conseillers et une assemblée populaire avec la population du quartier, Montréal-Nord Républik joint la nouvelle Coalition contre la répression et les abus policiers afin de mettre sur pied la manifestation du 11 octobre 2008.

After organizing a press conference, visiting the mayor’s office of Montreal North to drop off a list of demands and having a popular assembly with the local population, M-NR joined the new Coalition Against Police Brutality and Repression in order to organize the rally and march that took place on October 11, 2008.

Ce qu'ils revendiquent ...

The demands are as follows:

- La démission du Maire. Selon eux, il est la cause des problèmes de Montréal-Nord.

-The resignation of the mayor. According to M-NR, he is the cause of the problems in Montreal North.

- Une enquête publique et indépendante. Le mouvement ne croit pas à la police qui enquête sur la police. D'ailleurs, selon un sondage, les québécois ne font pas confiance à l'enquête. C'est révélateur du manque de transparence et du conflit d'intérêts, selon M-NR.

-An independent public inquiry. The movement does not believe in police investigating police. In fact, according to a survey, Quebecers do not have confidence in the current inquiry. According to Montreal North Republik, this reveals a lack of transparency and a conflict of interest.

- La fin des pratiques abusives de la police. Avec Éclipse, la nouvelle escouade qui tente de lutter contre les gangs de rue, les abus ne font que s'amplifier. D'ailleurs, ce nouveau groupe policier serait déjà détesté de tous les citoyens : jeunes, vieux, enfants, blancs et noirs, même chez les commerçants.

-An end to police brutality. With ‘Eclipse’, the new police squad attempting to fight against street gangs, the brutality is actually escalating. In fact, this new police squad is already hated by all: youth, elders, children, white and black, even small business owners.

- Une œuvre produite par des artistes du quartier à la mémoire de Fredy mise en valeur par l'arrondissement.

-A work of art produced by the artists of the neighbourhood to commemorate Fredy.

- La reconnaissance du principe selon lequel tant qu'il y aura de l'insécurité économique, il y aura de l'insécurité sociale.

-A recognition of the principle that as long as there is economic insecurity, there will be social insecurity.

Mais les membres de Montréal-Nord Républik restent réalistes. Ils savent bien que le remplacement du maire n'est pas la solution au problème. Par contre, ils reconnaissent que s'ils arrivent à faire tomber des morceaux de la clique, ça prouvera que, collectivement, nous pouvons arriver à bien des choses. Ils poursuivent en disant que le Maire mérite de perdre son emploi et que son changement ne sera qu'une étape au processus. Ils savent également que la fin des pratiques abusives de la police est quelque chose de difficilement réalisable, mais les membres de M-NR trouvent tout de même nécessaire de mettre ce principe de l'avant.

But the members of M-NR are realistic. They know that replacing the mayor is not the solution to the problem. On the other hand, they recognize that if they are able to get rid of little pieces of the clique, it proves that collectively we can get things done. They continue by saying that the mayor deserves to lose his job and that replacing him is only a step in the process. They also know that an end to police brutality is a difficult goal but the members of M-NR find it necessary to recognize this as a leading principle.

Pour ce qui est du futur, on ne sait pas ce qu'il leur réserve. Les membres ont beaucoup d'idées mais aussi beaucoup de décisions à prendre. Malgré ça, ils ont prouvé que leur organisation est une force de démocratisation, de partage et de renouvellement culturel.

As for the future, we don’t know what is in store. Members have a lot of ideas but also a lot of decisions to make. Despite this, they have proven that their organization is a democratizing force, a space for sharing and cultural renewal.

Police Out of Toronto Schools, Now!

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Basics #11 (November 2008)

Almost 30 public and Catholic schools around Toronto now have armed cops behind their doors every day.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair put the project forward after the release of a school safety report (Falconer Report) last January. The Falconer report was written by a panel assigned by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) after killing of Jordan Manners in 2007 inside C.W. Jefferys High School. Referencing the Falconer Report, the Police Chief presented the proposal to TDSB staff, and got the project approved by the school board last June. But of the one hundred different recommendations made by the Falconer report for improving school safety, not one called for putting police officers inside schools – armed or otherwise. The Falconer Report did suggest, however, that school administrators put an end to covering up issues of safety, and to begin an open dialogue and consultation with students and the community. Instead the TDSB did no community consultation on putting police in schools, and letters sent home to parents in September presented the initiative as a done deal, had minimum information about the program and didn’t mention that the cop would be fully armed.

TDSB publicity says that the officers are there to “build trusting relationships with students” with the officers coaching basketball, helping with field trips or participating in school assemblies. As one school principal put it: “It’s about putting a face to the imposing police figure, and after a few encounters, kids no longer see the uniform…” (Or the gun, the taser, the nightstick, the pepper spray and daily harassment?).
But at the same time, other reports from the School Board say that police are there to stop crime and violence, like a hall monitor with deadly weapons and the power of the entire criminal justice system behind him (or her). So while the officer is said to be a “member of the school family” working closely with the school staff and the Principal, the cop also reports directly to his/her police division. One school resource officer at a ward meeting said that besides “getting to know” kids in hallways, part of his “detail” included surveying students at the nearby mall during lunch and at the local Community Centre after school – it was a way to get to “know the characters” and “make sure there were no incidents.” In addition, the cops ultimately answer to the Police Services, and school officials have been unclear about how a case of violence or abuse by the officer would be answered.

So what could possibly go wrong with police and educators working so closely together? Remember the Safe Schools Act and the Zero Tolerance Policy, put in place after Mike Harris’s huge social cuts of the 1990s? That Act gave teachers and principals greater power to suspend and expel students, as well as to involve police in school matters. The outcome was the targeting of black, racialized and poor students who went from being pushed out of school to being locked into the criminal justice system. It took years of frantic complaints by parents, thousands of disenfranchised students and an Ontario Human Rights Commission Report (exposing unfair expulsions and the widespread bigotry of teachers and administrators) before the policy was finally changed in late 2007. The act was renamed the Safe and Caring Schools Act, but the underlying and systematic racism remains. Now, a particular youth being harassed by school administrators can become the target of police, or visa versa. For youth who deal with regular police brutality and violence (and who face harassment from teachers and officials at school), cops in schools are enough of a threat to their comfort and safety that it undermines their motivation to stay in school. Basics has heard reports in the communities where it is operating that students are already dropping out in response to the presence of cops in their schools.

What you should know is that the program is being paid for by Toronto Police Services through its department of “community policing”, which is really about occupation, socially containment, and greater surveillance. These are the motivations for the cops in schools initiative, and its existence is only further justifying soaring police budgets against the backdrop of fading social services budgets, including cuts to education.

To the students, teachers and parents who have noticed that the cop in their respective school is almost never seen, we have to understand that this is just the first few months of the first year of this policy. The Toronto Police Services has said that they aim to expand it, and school boards say that trustees and principles now get to choose to put police in their schools, but the project could become mandatory for all high schools by next year. In other words, it is a critical time for the Toronto Police and School Board to sell this policy to sceptical trustees, principles and parents. Yet a disturbing example of where these programs can lead to is New York, where since the Police Department (NYPD) took control of school safety in 1998, “the number of police personnel in schools and the extent of their activity have skyrocketed”. So that now the NYPD School Safety Division has grown to be the tenth largest police force in the entire US, with an intensifying culture of brutality, racism and violence!

It is exactly because this is the first year of the cops in schools policy, that it is the best time to resist it. Community opposition to the project has already meant there will be no armed police in any Jane and Finch high schools this year, and has helped influence trustees to not let them in Regent Park or Beaches Schools. Youth, parents and teachers in all hoods around Toronto must demand a removal of armed police from their schools, and an immediate end to the cops in schools program - before the brutal Toronto Police force becomes a permanent and constant part of an already racist and repressive school system.

No Cops in Schools!

Contact BASICS at basics.canada@gmail.com if you are interested in becoming involved with the campaign to get police out of our schools.



FRENTE NORMAN BETHUNE: Building People-to-People Solidarity Between Canada and Venezuela

by Erica Peña & Nico Lopez

Basics #11 - November 2008




As a launching initiative for Frente Norman Bethune [FNB], this past October several community organizers and hip hop artists visited Canada from Venezuela for an 18-day tour. The Venezuelan delegation included members of Comite Nacional de los Sin Techos (National Homeless Committee), and rap-groups Familia Negra, and Area 23. They came to our corner of the world to learn a little more of what hip-hop group Familia Negra poetically refers to as Babylon. During very intense and important times they had the opportunity to compare the social, economic and political situation in their homeland with what they experienced in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Haudenesaunee (Six Nations Confederacy). Surprised and curious about the rich cultural diversity in our neck of the woods, the delegates of FNB shared their revolutionary messages not through hip hop music, but also during discussions and meetings with local organizations.

Besides opening dialogue with diverse groups of people to inform them on the positive changes in Venezuela, which our mass media rarely mentions (if at all), visiting FNB delegates met with grassroots collectives and student organizations, inviting them to participate in this Toronto-based exchange project that can bring us closer to their people’s movement. The exchange will initially allow people from Canada, Quebec , and indigenous territories to travel to Venezuela to volunteer in specific tasks during 3 or 4 weeks, during which they will be exposed to a vibrant social and cultural urban (or semi-rural) landscape. Set out to take organizers and activists to a country that has been in the spotlight of international news during the past decade, FNB is not just a solidarity effort to build stronger North-South ties: it is also an amazing learning opportunity for those actively involved in progressive social change, and especially for those who intending to increase their community organizing involvement in the future.

The visit of FNB delegates could not have happened at a more opportune time as Canada was in the midst of electing its next Prime Minister. The electoral context surrounding their stay allowed the Venezuelans, who have strengthened their system of participatory democracy for almost a decade now, to witness “the celebration of representative democracy”. In the case of Canada, they could notice that voter turnout is way lower compared to their own country, where millions flock the voting centers on the day to choose or even recall the head of Government. Additionally, they were able to see that the mechanisms to avoid electoral fraud did not seem as rigid as they are in Venezuela, where elections are enhanced by voting machines and others that verify your fingerprint coincides with the one on your identification, plus there is a paper track for every vote to avoid any discrepancies when the time to count comes. Finally, the Bolivarian visitors inquired about the lack of “international observers”, who seem to flood their country on every election, “to ensure the transparency of the voting process”.

While visiting various communities and organizations, the delegates gained insight into the many local issues we’re facing in Canada. For instance, their visit to St. Jamestown was useful to learn about the current efforts going towards organizing resident involvement in Toronto’s Mayor Tower Renewal project in North America’s most densely populated neighbourhood. Familia Negra performed at an anti-poverty rally at Jane & Finch, galvanizing the atmosphere as its residents “sung out against poverty and inequality.” They also performed in Montreal during a demonstration in solidarity with police-slain youth, Freddy Villanueva. FNB delegates were invited to speak at radio shows from four different stations, sharing with the local audience their insight on the important role community media has played in strengthening their Bolivarian Revolution. By visiting indigenous communities in struggle at Six Nations near Caledonia, ON and meeting with solidarity groups such as Students Against Israeli Apartheid, the FNB delegates increased their awareness of our local struggles and solidarity initiatives and were able to parallel to theirs while opening doors to possible mutual exchanges.

The Frente Norman Bethune campaign is demonstrating that the time has come to take a closer look at successful efforts for change in other parts of the world and learn from their positive experiences. Given the global socio-economic turmoil and its local effects, community groups and organizations in Toronto are building international solidarity links to find collaborative solutions to global problems.

For more Info on the FRENTE NORMAN BETHUNE initiative contact Barrio Nuevo at barrio.nuevo@gmail.com.


FRENTE NORMAN BETHUNE delegation of Venezuelans with Barrio Buevo and BASICS being given a tour at the Kanawakhe Mohawk Territory (just outside of Montreal).


Five Parties, One Economic Agenda: 2008 Federal Elections in Canada


by Corrie Sakaluk (Basics #11 - November 2008)

The voter turnout for the recent federal election reached an all-time historic low. While there was some confusion with new voting cards and voters being turned away due to not having proper ID, there is also a sense that election results matter little for the day-to-day lives of many.

With the current crisis of capitalism coming to a head during the last two weeks of the election, it was in no way made clear to Canadians how the parties would respond differently to the crisis.

It was widely acknowledged by mainstream media that while Liberal leader Stéphane Dion pointed the finger at Conservative leader Stephen Harper for not taking active steps to respond to the financial crisis, Harper pointed his finger back at Dion’s Liberal party for having no solutions either - and with good reason to do so. Conservative economic policy today is identical to that under Liberal federal governments of the preceding decade and a half. Economic ideology in the two parties is indistinguishable.

Since Harper has been in power approximately 176,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector alone have been lost. But under Paul Martin’s previous Liberal federal government job loss in the manufacturing sector was still a huge problem. Even before that under Jean Chretien, in nearby areas such as Oshawa, job losses have been happening and destabilizing people’s lives since 1999. Plus, Paul Martin cut transfer payments to the provinces that resulted in less money for employment insurance, health care and education.

During this federal election there was no talk by any party about repudiating the free trade agreements which have led to the impoverishment of working people in this country. In the French-language all-leaders debate during the election, the five leaders were posed a question about what their stand was on the oil industry and if it should be nationalized the benefit all Canadians. It is interesting to note how quickly all of the leaders distanced themselves from the proposal, with Layton, Duceppe, and May, all of whom have criticized the Harper government for being in the pocket of Alberta’s oil industry, flatly rejecting the idea.

So with all of the major political parties remaining completely silent on economic issues that affect all Canadians, it should be no wonder that Canadians are turning out to the polls less and less in each federal election. What’s clear is that more and more Canadians are losing faith in Canada’s political system