Monday, November 30, 2009

NEWLY RELEASED SRO REPORT GETS FAILING GRADE


A Public Statement by NO COPS (Neighbourhood Organizing Coalition Against Police in Schools)

Toronto Police Services’ own report on the School Resource Officer program shows that the program has had no positive impact toward any of its claimed goals.

Toronto – November 25, 2009: The Neighbourhood Organized Coalition Opposed to Police in Schools (NOCOPS) questions whether the Toronto Police Services (TPS) misinterpreted or misrepresented the data from the 2008/2009 School Resource Officer (SRO)Program Evaluation Report. NOCOPS is a coalition of concerned parents, students, teachers and community members who have been monitoring the SRO program since its implementation in September, 2007

“If this report had been written by a student, it would definitely not pass as it draws conclusions contrary to its own data” said NOCOPS member and teacher James Campbell.

The Evaluation Report was released to the public on November 18, 2009 with claims that the data suggests the SRO program has been “beneficial to crime prevention, crime reporting and relationship building in schools and surrounding neighbourhoods.”

Yet an unbiased review of the data reveals that the report has had zero impact on student perception of safety and zero impact on student willingness to report crimes.

To quote from the report itself, “overall student perception of safety in their school and in the neighbourhood surrounding the school did not improve”. In fact, there was no increase in feelings that the SRO made the school safer even for students who had talked to the SRO informally or about a problem they were having. Perhaps of greatest concern is that the report confirms that many students feel less safe with SROs in the schools, as those students “who thought [the program] was a bad idea were more likely to say they did not feel safe (18%)”.

The data also shows that overall the presence of an SRO did not change students’ willingness to report being a victim or a witness to a crime.

The report also provides no credible data that the SRO program made any impact on reducing crime in or around school grounds. For this part of the report the TPS compared total number of offences and victimization from the 2007-2008 school year and the 2008-2009 school year – both on school grounds and within 200 meters of school grounds over all times of the day and concluded that “offences and victimization generally decreased in 2008/2009 compared to the previous school year”.

However, there were serious reliability problems with different aspects of how this crime data was analyzed. The study did not use any control (that is, collecting and comparing similar crime data from schools that did not have an SRO) or factor in overall reduction in crime statistics in the 2008/2009 school year compared to the 2007/2008 school year.

In addition, some of the data for this portion of the study was too small to have any statistical relevance. For example, data for incidence of victimization on school grounds during school hours compared only 2 incidents in 2007/2008 to zero incidents in 2008/2009 in a single school, generating an impressive (but statistically meaningless) 100% decrease in victimization.

Further, when comparing crime in SRO schools at the beginning of the program and at the end of the program, the report says that “When the geographical area for reported victimizations was expanded to 200 meters around the school, however, there were fewer victims over all hours and outside of school hours, but there were more victims during school hours.”[Emphasis added] The data suggests that the presence of SROs inside these schools has only served to displace victimization incidents off of school property.

NOCOPS community member Alok Premjee emphasized that “The survey methodology for the evaluation is seriously suspect and would not come close to meeting the basic requirements of any government funded program analysis, let alone be considered adequate justification for a program that costs over 5 million dollars per year to run. Among other things, there was no opportunity for students to respond if they had been negatively impacted by the SRO. The troubling arrest of a student at Northern Secondary is only one highly publicized event among numerous incidences we have documented where students have felt violated or targeted by the SRO at their school”.

The TPS misrepresentation of the results from this study is no surprise since the TPS not only initiated the program, but also developed the surveys, analyzed the data and wrote the report. There has been no independent evaluation with absolutely zero independent input anywhere. Even the most highly touted piece of data (suggesting an 11% increase in the proportion of students who felt the relationship between police and students was good or excellent) is inconsequential since the proportion of students who felt the relationship was poor or fair showed no significant change. Essentially, students who already felt comfortable with the police and liked the program and students who did not feel comfortable with the police and felt the SRO program was a bad idea felt exactly the same way a year later.

As stated by NOCOPS member and parent Niraj Joshi “it is particularly troubling that the TPS is using the study to recommend additional investment of precious funds and institutional resources in this failed program. We should not be wasting taxpayer money on the universally unproven and yet costly experiment of the SRO program. Instead, the TDSB and the province must allocate these provincial funds toward immediately implementing the recommendations put forward from two independent community consultations (the Falconer Report on School Safety and the Curling-McMurtry Report on the Roots of Youth Violence) for both engaging youth and making our schools safer”.

For More Information Contact:

Alok Premjee Luis Granados Ceja

647-887-7857 416-417-0931

alok.p@hotmail.com granados.ceja@gmail.com

9 Theses: The Right to Rebellion - Statement by Rebellion-Denmark

Editor's Note: The following is a statement of Rebellion-Denmark that demonstrates how the right of all people's to struggle against illegitimate government and foreign occupation, even up to the point of armed struggle, is a right enshrined into international law and is an essential component for the maintenance of any democratic system. But the so-called "democratic" countries of the world would like to deny this essential right to the people's they oppress around the world.

This week, their spokesperson, Patrick Mac Manus, is being taken to trial on terrorist charges because of Rebellion's support to liberation movements in Palestine and Colombia. Radio Basics interviewed Mac Manus on November 29, 2009.

Patrick Mac Manus

Rebellion (Denmark)

1. City courts, district courts or the Supreme Court cannot decide the right to rebellion.

This is also a principle viewpoint in the trial against Rebellion (Denmark) on December 3 and 7, January 8 and 15, 2010 in Copenhagen. Judgement will fall on February 8. Rebellion (Denmark) is accused of the transferral of financial support to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

2. History has been driven by peoples’ resistance and change throughout the centuries on all our continents. All change has been created through conflict, from the times of slavery to our own days.

3. The American Declaration of Independence was written by insurgents against British colonial power in 1776, a declaration of “unalienable rights”—among these the rights “to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. And the right to resistance against every regime that violates these rights: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted after World War 11, accentuates: ”Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

These are declarations created through a hard-won history, which Rebellion (Denmark) determinedly will defend.

4. This is a history that continues. The anti-colonialism armed struggles of the 1960s and 70s created the desire to recognise liberation movements’ rights to fight for independence.

The supplemental protocol of the Geneva Convention, in 1977, legalizes “armed conflicts” when people are “fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination”.

5. The Geneva Convention’s humanitarian International Law regulates conduct when armed struggle occurs — not ‘terrorist legislation’.

In Palestine, resistance against Israeli occupation is conditioned by the 1977 Geneva Convention supplement. Organized resistance groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), can lawfully conduct armed struggle against an occupying force.

In Colombia, an internal armed conflict continues between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government. This is also subject to the Geneva Convention, especially due to FARC’s maintenance of significant geographical control in Colombia.

International Law also contains a prohibition against terrorism but defines this more narrowly than ‘terrorist legislation’. The humanitarian International Law considers not each and every civilian death a terrorist action. Civilian losses are considered as an often unavoidable result in connection with attacks upon legal military objectives.

6. This reality is disputed by ‘terrorist legislation’, a law passed by the Danish parliament in June 2002 amidst the “panic” arising from the attack upon New York’s twin towers.

Democratic rights are increasingly viewed as hindrances to combat ‘terrorism’. Legitimate resistance forms are stamped as terrorist. In the name of the “global war against terror”, oppressive states seek to attire themselves with new international legitimacy. In many countries, state terrorism is the most pressing and fatal threat against the population’s life and welfare.

’Terrorist legislation’ makes it punishable to support domestic or foreign organisations, either materially or by other means, if they are stamped as “terrorist”. Classification of organisations as ‘terrorist’ is characterised by arbitrariness, especially through the secret and uncritical cooperation between intelligence and counter-intelligence services.

Rebellion (Denmark) challenges the political paradigm, upon which the so-called ‘global war against terror’ is founded. It ostracises social and political movements from international political dialogue, a dialogue that is a premise for a political solution to those conflicts, which movements are a part of.

7. A repeal of terror legislation will result in returning to history’s reality. Peoples’ rebellion is an historic fact and in certain circumstances a necessity, a necessity that occurs when all other action forms are suppressed and inaccessible. Public support to such movements is denied in current legislation perspective and affected by prosecution.

8. The essentiality of resistance is not limited to the “distant world”. It applies to Europe, to the European Union. Climate change is increasingly decisive to history and conflict. The wave of refugees and forced immigration is rising day by day.

The creation of a “European fortress” rises as a reaction against change. A neo-fascistic dimension marches forth in many countries. In fascism’s time reaction was too divided and too late.

9. Civil disobedience is an increasing necessity. Through it the world will also create new attempts to define human life and its future, including ‘nature’s rights’: an acknowledgement of humans’ necessary dependence and responsibility here on earth.

Translated from the Danish by Ron Ridenour.
Publisher: Antifacistisk Forum - Kulturpolitisk Tidsskrift. Oktober Kvartal 2009, nr. 5.

Rebellion (Denmark) : www.opror.net

Friday, November 27, 2009

Denmark Solidarity Organization 'Rebellion' Facing Terrorist Charges

Editor's Note: The following statement is from Rebellion-Denmark. Rebellion's spokesperson Patrick Mac Manus is facing charges under EU terrorist legislation because of the organization's material support to liberation movements in Colombia and Palestine. Patrick Mac Manus was interviewed on Radio Basics on November 29, 2009 to talk about his case and why all people's have the right to struggle for liberation.

Rebellion (Denmark): The Court Case is Approaching!

The court case against Rebellion (Denmark) for support to resistance movements is now approaching. The demand is imprisonment. The court case takes place at Copenhagen City 6. Court, December 3 and December 7, 2009 and January 8, January 15, 2010. The judgement will be announced on February 8, 2010.

The aim of Rebellion (Denmark), formed in 2004, is to challenge ‘terrorist legislation’, both in Denmark and internationally.

Terrorist legislation seeks to undermine progressive organisations, resistance movements, trade unions and solidarity movements throughout the world.

We appeal for support from all movements to:

- Defend the right of peoples to resist illegitimate government and foreign occupation!

- Defend the right of peoples to take up arms against oppression where all other means have been exhausted!

Rebellion (Denmark) is accused of the transferral of substantial funds to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) as a challenge to terrorist legislation.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has for decades been a leader of the struggle of the Palestinian people, engaged in legitimate conflict with occupation forces. We support the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in its struggle for a secular and democratic state for all. It can in no way be defined as a ‘terrorist organisation’.

FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) has for decades worked and fought for the democratic rights and the equality of the people. The present regime has with US support and in alliance with ‘death squads’, controlled by landowners and drug cartels, continues to persecute the leaders and members of trade unions, political activists, students and peasant organisations of Colombia. Several Latin American nations have negotiated peace by legalising insurgency groups, allowing them to participate in an open political process. The criminalization of FARC is preventing a political solution in Columbia.

In Denmark, there is an increasing challenge to ‘terrorist legislation’, a growing defiance that Rebellion (Denmark) has striven to create and is itself a part of.

Close to us, the organisation Fighters + Lovers has challenged ‘terrorist’ legislation by selling T-shirts in support of FARC and PFLP. On September 18, 2008 the High Court overturned the non-guilty verdict of the Copenhagen City Court, sentencing five members to between 60 days and six months imprisonment. In March 2009 the Supreme Court revised imprisonment to conditional sentences, also expressing some doubt on the legislation itself.

Palestine and Colombia are the focus we have chosen. From Turkey to Kurdistan, from the Basque Country to the Philippines, there are many others who also could have been chosen. An important criterion for our choice is that liberation forces advance secular, democratic, and humanist goals together with their people.

Through present terrorist legislation, states have attempted to curb the freedom of expression and the political rights of their citizens. The right to extend moral and material support to resistance and liberation movements throughout the world is threatened. The civil and labour rights of citizens to wage legitimate struggles for welfare and democratic reform are also increasingly being curbed.

Rebellion (Denmark) appeals to all movements for democracy and international solidarity to join us in challenging national and supranational terrorist legislation and the so-called ‘global war on terror’.

Demonstrations at Danish Embassies demanding the acquittal of Rebellion (Denmark) in the coming court case would be welcome, as would letters of protest directed to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ministry of Justice:

Slotsholmsgade 10
1216 Copenhagen K
Telefon: +45 / 72 26 84 00
Telefax +45 / 33 93 35 10

Email: jm@jm.dk

Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Asiatisk Plads 2
DK-1448 Copenhagen K

Telefon: +45/ 33 92 00 00
Telefax: +45/ 32 54 05 33

E-mail: um@um.dk

Please send all information on activities – we need your support!

Rebellion (Denmark): opror@linuxmail.org

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The War In Afghanistan

A War of Conquest Against the Afghan People

BASICS #16 (Nov/Dec 2009)
by Steve da Silva


While the debate was playing out this past October in the American media about the planned “surge” of as many as 45,000 more American troops into Afghanistan, reports were surfacing that certain NATO members – namely, Canada, Italy, and Germany – were paying off Taleban elements in exchange for peace in the areas that they patrol.

For his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that he would reach out to the Taleban if they would agree to respect the Afghan constitution, which is double-speak for respect the occupation.

As the occupiers prepare for a massive escalation of the war, the attempts at reconciliation with certain Taleban elements once again demolishes the propagated myth that fighting the Taleban is the main object of the NATO occupation. The strategy of reaching out to so-called “moderates” is intended to isolate those elements dead-set fighting the occupation – a demand supported by a growing proportion of the Afghan population.

As the Commander of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Joe Paul recently said, “It’s not true that all of those people shooting at us are insurgents.” That might have something to do with the fact that not everyone NATO is shooting at are “insurgents.”

Over 1600 Afghan civilians were killed between January and August 2009 alone. On September 5, a joint American-German aerial bombing in the Kunduz province left 60-70 children and other civilians dead. In the middle of the night, many children and other civilians had rallied around two tankers stuck in the sand of a shallow river. They were filling their jerrycans with fuel when the two five-hundred pound bombs turned the trucks into twin fireballs, engulfing the civilians in an inferno.


Everyday, the occupation of Afghanistan reveals itself more and more to be a war of conquest. The widely-publicized electoral fraud in Afghanistan’s presidential elections is just one of its signs. On November 2, Karzai was declared the winner of the “election” after his only challenger Abdullah Abdullah – previous Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Karzai government - stepped down from participating in the run-off. Genuine democracy under occupation is impossible and the colonial Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has made that point very clear by putting back into power the man so widely hated by Afghans.


It was the Karzai government that put into effect for a period of time a law that legalized the rape of women within marriage. This law demonstrated to the world that the principle threat to women today stems from the foreign occupiers and the thoroughly reactionary class alliance they have cobbled together to run the colonial government in Afghanistan. The league of organized criminals, landlords, warlords, and theocrats who administer Afghanistan are not in contradiction with today’s occupation, but rely on it to stay in power in exchange for defending the occupation.

The goal of the U.S.-NATO occupation of Afghanistan is to capture geo-strategic control of the region by encircling its challengers to the east, Russia and China, and safeguarding the region for the future Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline that will transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Pakistan and India. To the extent that the Taleban is a military concern of NATO is only the extent to which Taleban leaders fail to get in line with the occupation. The Taleban, or parts thereof, may soon come to accept the occupation, but the people of Afghanistan will not.

As the occupation intensifies its effort to crush any resistance in the coming months, with the planned “surge”, Afghan civilians will bear the greatest brunt of the violence.
If it seems like the lines between what is Taleban and what is insurgent is blurred, it is because the occupiers would have us believe that resistance to occupation is equal to extremism and religious fundamentalism, as if the aversion to foreign domination was not a fundamental human instinct. Just as the Ethiopians in the 1930s, the French in the 1940s, the Koreans in the 1950s, and the Vietnamese in the 1960s did not need Islam to teach them about the evils of foreign occupation, neither do the Afghans.

Canada has 2800 soldiers in Afghanistan and the Canadian Forces have played a leading role in combat operations, which accounts for Canada having the highest fatality rate of all the occupying forces. Over 25,000 Canadians have participated in at least one tour of occupation in Afghanistan since 2001. If the horrors of this war were not enough to repulse Canadians, then perhaps the economic argument needs to be underscored once again: The working-class, and even middle-class Canadians, have nothing to gain and much to lose from the war in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, Canada’s monopoly-capitalist ruling class has everything to gain: Access to cheap resources, desperate labour pools, military and construction contracts, geo-political world domination… These are the same monopolies that workers are fighting right here on Canadian soil. The fight for the freedom of Afghanistan is not independent of the fight for workers power in Canada.  

Esplanade Youth: “End Police Brutality Now!”

BASICS #16 (Nov/Dec 2009)
by Solomon Muyoboke, Jessica Luke-Smith, Daniel Mayers and Farshad Azadian


On October 8th, 2009, Esplanade youth made a resounding statement to the indignity of police violence, harassment and racism in our community. Some 40 youth made their way to the Youth Forum organized by the Esplanade Community Organization to discuss their issues, experiences and concerns. The event was launched just weeks after the tragic murder of Esplanade youth Kamal Hercules, which left our community reeling with the pain of having lost another young brother.

This pattern of violence in our community illuminated a need for change and inspired the forum. The Esplanade Community Organization developed the forum with the aim of creating discussion among youth around the sources of violence in the community and the direction that an Esplanade youth organization might take in addressing violence – in all its forms.

Shocking to some, an overwhelming number of youth recounted their experiences of police brutality and harassment, many of whom were between the ages of 12-14. This reality affected all the participants at the forum and sparked discussions of how the community could move forward in order to address youth-on-youth violence.

A central component of the event was a brief legal presentation, to provide youth with the necessary knowledge required to defend themselves against unlawful police procedures and searches. However, as most people who have experienced police harassment and brutality can tell you, knowing your rights is not enough to prevent police abuses, but it is a useful first step in challenging such police power.

For this reason, coupled with a series of neighbourhood issues, a group of working class residents in the Esplanade community have come together to formulate a six point program which outlines the needs, desires and concerns of working class people in our community. These fighting demands, based upon formal and informal surveying of the community, include: a commitment to challenging police brutality; attaining access to affordable and well-maintained housing; preventing evictions that are due to economic reasons and to move forward to ensure the accessibility of childcare and recreation services. The Esplanade Community Organization feels very strongly about its program and is committed to fighting for these six points to create the necessary changes to improve the conditions in our community.

Over the last 20 years, communities such as our own have been reeling from the blows of big business and the politicians that represent them. The social safety net, access to good jobs and the possibility of decent housing at an affordable rate are things of the past. The situation is continuing to get worse, with the Provincial Liberal and Federal Conservative Governments expressing their intentions to download the huge deficit (largely due to bailouts and tax cuts to big business) onto the backs of working class people.

The reality is that as we fall deeper into this capitalist economic crisis, the kinds of individual solutions (getting a 2nd or 3rd job, sacrificing family or health) will no longer be adequate solutions to rising debt, poverty and bills. We need to realize that we are faced with a systemic problem that individual efforts cannot solve. Hence, to get ourselves out of the mess, there is an urgent need for us to start organizing ourselves, as working class people, on a collective basis.

The Esplanade Community Organization and its Youth Wing are committed to being that organization through which the Esplanade’s poor and working class residents can get involved and orient our movement, from buildings to workplaces across this community. All Power to the People!

Get involved in your community and email the esplanadegroup[at]gmail.com about your issues, whether they concern housing, repairs, rents, evictions or police violence.

Coroner’s Inquest for Police-Murdered Alwy Al-Nadhir to Begin December 2009

BASICS #16 (Nov/Dec 2009)
by Salma Al-Nadhir and Alok Premjee


The Justice for Alwy campaign (J4A) was launched in early 2008, just months after Alwy Al-Nadhir was shot and killed by Toronto police on October 31, 2007. This past Halloween marked the second year since his death. Over the past two years, J4A has been raising awareness about the issue of police brutality and helping other victims start their own campaigns against police brutality. The story of Alwy and other cases of police brutality have been echoed over and over again by the campaign and the families of all the victims. One of the main aims of J4A is for our victimized and targeted communities to obtain justice and hold police accountable for their tyrannical actions. Under the current state of affairs, police get away with murder with impunity.

The coroner’s inquest for Alwy Al-Nadhir’s death is scheduled to begin in December 2009. Even though his death will be investigated again by independent investigators, any wrong doing that is found by the police will still not lead to them being held to account for their actions. The ruling and the final decision as to whether the police should be charged was made in June 2008 by the Special Investigations Unit, a “civilian” agency that is staffed by former police officers. The police were exonerated of any wrong-doing.

Police officers are rarely, in fact almost never, held accountable for their excessive force and brutalization. The corporate media, judicial system and investigation process are always labeling the victims of police brutality as criminals, when the real criminals – those who are supposed to be protecting us – continuously get away with murder. There are countless cases of police brutality in our city – just scan through the last two years of BASICS to compare all the cases. But the province does not have the internal mechanisms to address police brutality. Since 2003, the SIU has cleared police of wrongdoing in 31 of 31 fatal shooting cases.

When we look to other cases where an inquest into police murders of young individuals was conducted, such as the case of Jeffery Reodica (who was shot in the back by Toronto police), the coroner’s inquest was biased and supportive of the police officers, despite the substantial evidence that implicated the police in his murder. However, no officer was tried and charged for Reodica’s death. Or more recently, there is the case of Freddy Villanueva, who was an unarmed 18-year-old shot to death by Montreal police while playing a game of dice – an incident that sparked community uproar in Montreal North. Villanueva’s inquest is currently being held and mainstream media reports around the inquest are, not surprisingly, justifying the police’s actions while also criminalizing Freddy and those with him that day.

As the inquest into the death of Alwy Al-Nadhir takes place, it is expected that the officer responsible for murdering Alwy will still never be held accountable and will not be charged for killing an unarmed 18 year old that did not have a criminal record. Furthermore, it is likely that the coroner’s inquest will justify the murder of Alwy and the corporate media will happily report and distort the story in favour of the police. Yet the struggle continues until the victims get their justice and such crimes are put to an end.

Northern Students Stage Walk-Out

Hundreds participate in walk-out after student arrested at No
BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)
by Noaman Ali

Two hundred students gathered on either side of Roehampton St. south of Northern Secondary School at 11:30am on Thursday, October 22 to protest the arrest of a 16-year-old male on October 2 and also to protest the very presence of the police officer in their school. The “School Resource Officer” (SRO) Initiative, started by the Toronto Police Service and the executive of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in 2008-09 and expanded in 2009-10, has led to the presence of uniformed and armed police officers in fifty high schools across Toronto. The demonstrators demanded the immediate removal of the SRO from Northern and a “fully-open, publicized public community consultation regarding the SRO Initiative at Northern.”

The SRO Initiative was implemented in response to issues of safety in schools, but it effectively ignores the recommendations made in actual inquiries into the problem. In January 2008, a report on safety in schools commissioned by the TDSB and led by human rights lawyer Julian Falconer made several recommendations, most specifically increasing the number of youth workers and programmes available for marginalized youth. Since the implementation of the SRO Initiative, Falconer has explicitly stated that police in schools is not the answer. Indeed, it does little to address the marginalization of youth that results from overall social and systemic neglect.

But instead of making the funding for proper programmes available, politicians have instead increased funding for the police even as crime rates drop. This has led to the adoption of the SRO Initiative, which doesn’t cost the TDSB a thing. Alok Premjee, an organizer with NOCOPS, the Neighbourhood Organized Coalition Opposed to Police in Schools, argued that putting police in schools is an “intensification of the police state.” Premjee remarked that it was a way for the government to increase its surveillance of the population at large and to keep them in check, rather than improving people’s lives.

Protesting students at Northern agree with Premjee, one of them holding up a sign stating, “This school is not a police state.” “This is very much a grassroots movement; students are outraged and our questions are not being answered,” said Max Naylor, a grade eleven student and one of the organizers of the protest. Safety concerns at the school have been dealt with by installing cameras and requiring all members of the school community to wear lanyards with identification cards, as well as by hiring hall monitors, thus calling into question the need for police officers. “The main issue is that students feel uncomfortable with an armed officer in the school. It makes us feel like the school belongs not to students but to the police,” he said.

“Tonight’s Your Lucky Night”

31 Division raids Jane/Finch home, terrorizes family, finds nothing

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)

by Wasun

On Sunday November 1st, 2009, 31 Division conducted a raid at 40 Turfgrass Way, Apartment 113 in a TCHC complex in the Jane and Finch area. That night, 18 year-old Brandon Miller, his 14 year-old sister, Shaquel Miller along with their mother, Dorolee Miller, were brutally assaulted and left feeling terrorized by this unjust search for guns in their home, in which nothing was found and no charges were laid.

Shortly after 1 a.m. in the morning, police broke down the door of the Millers while the family slept. Officers first handcuffed the mother, and she adamantly tried to stop them from beating her son in his room, but one of the cops shoved her into her dresser. Dorolee informed police of her various health conditions which they chose to ignore dragging her down the stairs in handcuffs and pointing a gun in her face. Soon thereafter they brought her 14 year-old daughter down in handcuffs.

While Dorolee and Shaquel were under the gun guarded by police in the living room, 18-year-old Brandon was being beaten upstairs in his room. One officer held Brandon down his boot on his neck. Brandon begged him to remove his boot from his head but the officer replied, “Stop whining”. The raid turned up no guns and no charges were laid. But their house was in shambles, and an innocent family was terrorized by this occupying force in the Jane/Finch community. In the words of Dorolee who was traumatized by this incident: “This shouldn’t happen to nobody at all. They come in my house and didn’t find anything. They didn’t even say sorry, just ‘Tonight’s your lucky night’.”

Morolee Miller and her son, 18-year-old Brandon Miller, were both the victims of a brutal raid on their home by Toronto Police of 31 Divsion which yielded nothing but terror and a ransacked home.

U of T Continues Attack on Accessible Education and Marginalized Programmes

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)
by Noaman Ali

Huda is a 22-year-old young mother with a disability who intends to study Sexual Diversity Studies, Creative Writing, Visual Arts and French at the University of Toronto. “It’s a lot, but I’m focused because of the support that TYP provides me.” In an educational system and society that repeatedly fails working people, the Transitional Year Programme (TYP) is one initiative that reaches out, usually to people who haven’t finished high school, and gives them support in an intensive one-year programme to transition to a more conventional university education.
Brandon, 23, grew up in Toronto Community Housing in Scarborough and was first arrested when he was 14. Caught up in “guns, drugs, and crime,” he made an attempt to turn his life around at 17. Now in TYP, he wants to be a teacher.

On Monday, October 19, administrators at U of T attempted to pass a proposal at a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Science Council that would have weakened the program, according to students, alumni and faculty who have formed the TYP Preservation Alliance. Over fifty of them –almost all people of colour from working-class communities – showed up at the meeting to protest the move. The proposal sought to merge TYP, administratively, with Woodsworth College, but the Alliance argued that the merger was a cost-cutting measure that would result in staff cuts. In addition, Ahmed Ahmed, a recent TYP graduate, noted, “Three faculty members will have retired by the end of December, and they are not being replaced.”

Joe Desloges, Principal of Woodsworth College, effectively confirmed the fears of the TYP Preservation Alliance about funding cuts. The University “can’t guarantee staff positions. TYP faces identical challenges regardless of where it’s located,” he said. Ultimately, the Faculty of Arts and Science Council voted to delay the vote on the proposal after seeing the mobilization of the TYP Preservation Alliance and its solid arguments. “Programmes like TYP must be inflation- and recession-proof,” said professor and council-member Harry Fox. U of T Provost Cheryl Misak said in an e-mail sent the next day that because of the Alliance’s organized opposition, the move was “off the table.” In this sense, the TYP Preservation Alliance won a victory, but a partial one.

The Alliance will still have to fight further funding cutbacks. Meanwhile, other programmes at the university, particularly in area studies and equity studies, are also facing cuts. On October 29, over forty students and faculty gathered at New College at a town hall meeting held by the Equity Studies Students’ Union in order to organize against the cutting of a faculty member in Disability Studies. There is only one other faculty member at U of T who focuses on disability, even though people with disabilities make up over 15% of the Canadian population and are far more likely to live in poverty.

These cuts come after U of T’s administration recently introduced a “flat fees” system for the Faculty of Arts and Science. This means that students who might have taken three courses because they could not afford the full fee now have no option but to take five courses, and they cannot work part-time to fund their studies. This move came after U of T’s administration had fourteen students and activists arrested in 2008 for protesting increased tuition fees—the trumped-up charges were all eventually stayed or withdrawn.

There has been a broad pattern to restructure universities to more intensely cater to the needs of private corporations and wars instead of to the needs of public welfare and working people. Students are going to have to continue to organize in order to roll back cuts to programs that are already marginalized, to eliminate all fees for postsecondary education and to make university relevant and accessible to working people in Canada.

Death from Above

The “Peace” President Obama’s Indiscriminate Bombing of Pakistan

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)
by J.D. Benjamin

Almost a year after the election of U.S. President Barack Obama, the rhetoric of “hope” and “change” has been dashed against the brutal realities of an escalating campaign of targeted assassinations using remote controlled “predator” drones. During the first ten months of his presidency, Obama authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to launch remote drone attacks on Pakistani territory more than 41 times: as many drone attacks as President Bush carried out during his last three years in office.

In a recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, criticized the use of drone attacks, saying that “these drones, these predators, are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions, are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons.”

The United States has ignored Alston’s concerns, claiming that the UN Human Rights Committee or General Assembly have no role regarding killings carried out in an armed conflict. Alston has retorted that the American position is “simply untenable”.

Estimates of the death toll resulting from drone attacks are over 700 people in northwest Pakistan alone. This includes not only suspected armed fighters, but also anyone who happens to be nearby, including women and children. In one June 2008 strike, the CIA killed more than 80 people and maimed dozens more in a funeral procession for people who had died in an earlier attack. Such attacks have stirred bitter hatred amongst the local population and pushed many to join the armed resistance against the NATO occupation.

Nepali Maoists Launch Insurrectionary Wave for People's Supremacy and New Democracy

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)
by Derek Rosin

This November 1st, Nepal’s Maoist revolutionaries initiated a new mass movement aimed at bringing down the current government in Nepal. This potentially history-making movement is unfolding as we go to press.

The Maoists of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) began their rise to power and influence in 1996 by initiating a decade-long armed rebellion they called the “People’s War”. Starting off small, the Maoist movement was able to strengthen and grow by relying on and leading mostly-poor Nepali peasants to fight and overthrow the forces of government in the countryside, then represented by an absolute monarchy. In their place, they began constructing a new society by taking steps to end gender and caste oppression, introducing forms of popular democratic government, and providing for people’s basics needs like health care and education.

In November 2006, the UCPN(M) decided to end one phase of the revolution by signing a peace treaty with the country’s mainstream political parties – who for their own particular reasons could no longer tolerate the monarchist system.

As part of this agreement, an election was held for a Constituent Assembly to decide on the new structure of Nepalese government and society. In the April 2008 vote, Maoists emerged as the biggest and most influential party. This shocked nearly everyone except the Maoists themselves, who knew the huge support they had been building throughout Nepal. In May 2008, the monarchy was abolished. Shortly after that, Prachanda, leader of the UCPN(M), was elected Prime Minister.

The Maoists’ tactics of jumping from the armed to the unarmed movement, then from working in the government to building massive street movements may seem confusing at first, but it is consistent with their overall strategic approach. Since the inception of their movement, Maoist tactical considerations have been girded to two key stated beliefs: First, that the success of the social revolution they want to carry out will ultimately rest on the use of armed force; and second, that their revolution must, if it to be truly liberating, be carried out by the Nepalese people themselves.

As senior Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai has said, “To break with the old mode of production and leap into a new one, you have to break all the relations within the state backed by the army.”

In May of this year Prachanda, before he stepped down as Prime Minister, tried to fire the head of the Nepalese Army, General Katawal, for refusing to consider the integration of the state’s armed forces with the Maoist-led People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Katawal refused to step down, and was supported by Nepal’s two biggest mainstream political parties.

Subsequently, Prachanda immediately resigned as Prime Minister, explaining to the Nepalese people that the Army was illegally refusing a government directive and that the mainstream parties were colluding to prop up this anti-democratic move. Now the Maoists could show clearly to people the limitations and obstacles of trying to make change purely through electoral and government channels. They proved that a fresh round of struggle was needed to advance the new democratic movement.

Fast forward a few months to today, and the Maoists are leading huge numbers of Nepalese in the streets of the capital Kathmandu to demand that “civilian supremacy” (democratic people’s control) over the Army be implemented.

Leading members of the Unified Communist Party Maoist march with the people during the torch rally of November 1, the first of a series of mass actions planned for the next two weeks. The Maoists are rallying the people to bring down the current government of Nepal.

The situation is tense, and for good reason. Having balked at civilian supremacy in May, the mainstream parties look unwilling to budge, and have hinted at mobilizing army units to repress the new uprising. The Maoists, who have never disarmed their armed-wing, the People’s Liberation Army, are now mobilizing people in the urban and rural areas, readying themselves for a final insurrection that they have long-maintained would be an inevitable component of their revolution.

Should this movement succeed, it would be just the beginning of a long road of transformation. The Nepalese revolutionaries have acknowledged that they are a small, undeveloped, and isolated country, and it will be very difficult to sustain their revolution surrounded by powerful enemies.

On the other hand, the very existence of the Nepalese movement is proving that it is possible to make revolution in the 21st century. Further advances in Nepal could have an electrifying effect on people and movements opposed to the current world set-up – those who want to break out of the established order but are unable to articulate how. In other words, after a long absence, the idea of “communism” may once again find its way into the thoughts of the oppressed.

To learn more about the situation in Nepal, visit the website of Lal Salaam! Canada Nepal Solidarity Group.

Haiti’s Minimum Wage Struggle

Choice Between Super-Profitability and Two Meals a Day

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)

by Niraj Joshi

The United Nations Security Council has just voted to extend the UN “peacekeeping” mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for another year. MINUSTAH will now enter its sixth year of illegal occupation, in violation of both the Haitian constitution and international law. The military force was imposed on Haiti in June 2004 and used to violently contain and repress the popular resistance to the western-backed 2004 coup d’etat against President Aristide. Since the 2006 election of President Preval, it has been used to violently contain and repress popular resistance to the neoliberal and imperialist program imposed on the Haitian government, and which has only worsened poverty and increased misery on the Caribbean island.

Such has been the case in the last months when several thousand workers and students have tirelessly protested President Preval’s failure to raise the minimum wage in Haiti. The protestors were brutally repressed by MINUSTAH and the Haitian police, with at least two demonstrators killed and several others beaten and arrested.

Haiti has the lowest minimum wage in the hemisphere. In May of this year both chambers of the Haitian parliament voted to increase the minimum wage from the daily 70 gourdes to 200 gourdes ($5.32 Cnd). The current 70 gourdes is not even enough to cover transportation and two meals a day. Even the proposed 200 gourdes is not an actual increase but rather an adjustment, since inflation has soared drastically beyond the purchasing power of the minimum wage. However, it is a small step toward alleviating the rampant poverty endured by Haitian workers. The last minimum wage raise happened in 2003 under President Aristide, but was immediately revoked by the western-installed dictatorship after Aristide was kidnapped by the joint forces of U.S., Canada, and France.

But under foreign occupation, President Preval has yielded to the demands of international institutions, foreign governments and the business sector. He has blocked the wage raise arguing it would hurt the country’s maquialdora sector (the tax-exempt plants that assemble products mostly for export and that is slated for expansion – but that produces some of the most exploitive and precarious employment in the country). Foreign factory owners, such as Canada’s Gildan Activewear, have threatened to shut down because they cannot afford to pay the higher wages (Gildan cleared 150 million in profits this year and projects a free cash flow of $600 million over the next 3 years).

A compromise of a woefully deficient raise to 125 gourdes is likely to be passed. However, the foreign investor’s export zones (where most of the lowest paid jobs exist) will be exempt! Haiti under American, Canadian and UN occupation remains on its neoliberal course despite the moderately contrary efforts of some of its legislators. And if outraged Haitian workers chose to resist with strikes or protests, the MINUSTAH “peacekeeping” forces will be on site to take up their military position and lead the unruly back to their slave-like posts.
Demonstrators rally outside the Haitian Parliament to demand a minimum wage increase to 200 gourdes ($5 dollars / day) - which would still remain the lowest wage in the western hemisphere.

India Launches War Against Tribals

Counter-insurgency offensive is really a resource and land grab
BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)

by Dhruv Jain

On June 17, 2009, the Indian state launched a major counter-insurgency offensive, Operation Lalgarh, to “restore law and order” to the West Midnapore district of West Bengal. In the months leading up to the military offensive, the adivasi, or tribal, populations of Lalgarh and surrounding villages in the district had been subject to consistent police harassment, including the torture and detainment of tribals on the slightest suspicion of rebel activity.

To protect the autonomy and self-governance of the area, villagers formed the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). As the people’s movement had support from the Maoist party, the state quickly labeled the organic, self-directed community uprising a Maoist rebellion. Although the Maoist party only played an advisory role and was only one of the progressive forces supporting the movement, the Indian state was able to employ its commonly-used scare tactic of labeling villagers opposed to state intervention as “Maoists”. Paramilitary forces suppressed the movement in twelve days through the recapture of the villages, but did not defeat it.

In the months following the June offensive, the people’s movement – under the leadership of the PCAPA – has continued to grow and resist, while the police harassment has escalated. On September 27, 2009, Chhatradhar Mahato, a key leader of the PCAPA, was arrested for sedition and raising funds for the Maoists.

In early October 2009, the Central Government of India announced that they would start preparations for a major anti-Maoist offensive. What they did not announce is that this major offensive would serve as a huge resources and land grab. The government had entered into hundreds of secret memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with companies that include mining corporations and information technology parks. The communities had not been consulted about the business deals and actively resisted the “development projects” the national government was championing for the area. Areas like Lalgarh, largely inhabited with tribal populations, are mineral-rich and the people recognize that the companies that exploit these resources will not contribute to their livelihoods. These so-called ‘development’ projects would effectively dispossess tribal populations from their ancestral lands and allow for greater exploitation of the population, including a highly exploitative labor market. Thus, under the veneer of an anti-Maoist offensive, the Indian state hopes to achieve the final suppression of tribal populations from the area.

However, the people of Lalgarh are not alone. A national and international campaign has begun to stop the offensive. A petition signed by luminaries including Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy and several hundred human rights activists and academics was presented to the Indian government calling for the immediate halt to the offensive and to have the MOUs made public to the tribals so that they can decide for themselves how to improve their lives.

Women from the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) carry axes and bows as they form a road block in protest of widespread police atrocities in Lalgarh. April 2009.

The Hudson’s Bay Company

From colonial empire to union-busting and the 2010 Olympics

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)
by Michael Red

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was first established in 1670 and effectively became the first colonial government in Canada. The original name of the corporation – The Company of Adventurers of England Trading – foretold what would become a legacy of land expropriation and genocide. For example, when a smallpox epidemic hit the settlement of Victoria in 1862, HBC forced indigenous peoples out of town at gunpoint, knowing very well that the disease would spread to surrounding villages. As a result, 1 in 3 of all indigenous peoples in what is now called British Colombia died that year. The corporation had its own security forces as well as military protection from England. During the North-West “Riel” Rebellion of M├ętis and Cree warriors in 1885, HBC security forces were the prime agents in suppressing the uprising.

It is fitting that today, HBC is the main sponsor of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. This relationship reveals how the past and present of this country flow into one another with the continued expansion of corporate-sponsored colonialism and the land-theft and marginalization of indigenous peoples. During the 19th century, HBC oversaw executions of Native leaders along the coast of B.C. and invaded communities to facilitate the corporation’s land grab. Due to the over-representation of indigenous peoples among the oppressed in the BC today, they will bear the brunt of homelessness and police abuse directly resulting from the Olympics.

So how does this legacy impact us in our own communities? For starters, HBC owns Zellers. For anyone who has ever worked at a Zellers store, you have likely experienced bad working conditions, low pay, and no job security. In fact, many women workers at Zellers have actually been fired as a direct result of being pregnant! If you’ve ever attempted to organize a union at your Zellers, you will know that HBC is a sophisticated unionbusting machine. Inside organizers have often experienced threats, intimidation and coercion from a corporate anti-union team flown in from Alberta at the first hint of union activity.

Recently, HBC was purchased by an American investment firm. The new owners have also engaged in union busting at the few facilities that are organized. In the latest round of negotiations at the Zellers warehouse in Scarborough, CAW members were forced to hit the picket line after the company demanded massive concessions. After three months on strike, the workers voted 83% in favour of a new contract with wage increases and protections against further concessions. The success of the strike was largely due to massive support from the labour movement and solidarity pickets at HBC facilities across the country.

While this strike was occurring, UFCW successfully unionized an HBC warehouse in Etobicoke. This facility is adjacent to another HBC warehouse that has been unionized with UFCW for more than 20 years. Sure enough, the corporation ran a well-oiled smear campaign against the union leading up to the certification vote. HBC hired one of the richest anti-union law firms in the land – Hicks Morley – a bunch of sophisticated thugs who are paid big bags of cash every time the company attempts to defeat an organizing campaign. However, the workers prevailed and won their vote.

However, HBC has currently tied up the certification process for the new union with legal wrangling at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. By flooding the voters’ list with people who have not worked at the warehouse for many years, HBC hopes to defeat the union by tilting the ballots in favour of the company. While it remains clear to a majority of workers that they want their union, it will be government appointees at the Labour Board who will make the final decision in December of this year.

There are three decisive actions BASICS readers can take to challenge the corporate-sponsored colonialism of HBC. If you work at a Zellers or HBC location, you can build an inside organizing committee with your co-workers and start fighting for better wages and fair treatment. If you shop at Zellers, you can talk to workers and encourage them to stand up for their rights. Finally, you can join numerous community and Native groups that are resisting the oppression, racism and colonial legacy of the Olympics.

Guilty Pleas and the “Toronto 18”


Questioning Canada’s Terror Convictions

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)

Last month, twenty-four-year-old Zakaria Amara pled guilty to terrorism charges arising from the 2006 allegations that a radical “homegrown” Islamic terrorist cell was plotting large-scale terrorist attacks in Ontario, including bombing the Toronto Stock Exchange and storming Parliament.

Much of the investigation, charges and legal proceedings in the case have been facilitated through the overreaching powers granted under Canada’s Anti-Terror legislation, while the case itself is seen as a major test of these anti-terror laws. Coincidentally the brutal 2006 commando-style raids (involving over 400 heavily armed police and security forces) that ended with the arrest of 13 men and 5 teenagers (dubbed the “Toronto 18”) took place on the eve of a parliamentary vote on whether or not to extend the then soon to expire anti-terrorism laws.

This legislation was also crucial to the nonsensical conviction last year of one of the youth in the case - Nishanthan Yogakrishnan (who was 17 at the time of his arrest). While the presiding judge acknowledged that Yogakrishnan may not have known of any terrorist plot, he was nonetheless convicted of participating in activities (shoplifting) that facilitated that plot!
As of the writing of this article, 7 of the original 18 men and teenagers have had their charges dropped while six men are still awaiting trial (two of whom are being inhumanely held in solitary confinement). Within the last year and following Yogakrishnan’s conviction, 4 other men (all in their 20s) have plead guilty to knowingly participating in a terrorist group and/or intending to cause an explosion for the benefit of a terrorist group.

The response to the five convictions from security officials, media commentators and the wider public has been to rebuke those who expressed doubts about the existence of the terror cell or a viable terror plot. They say that the guilty pleas speak for themselves, and prove that Canada’s Anti-terrorism legislation is “protecting the safety and security of Canadians”. They also ridiculed those community members who rejected the fear-mongering created from the arrests or who advocated for the protection of the civil liberties of the accused. Canada’s Spy chief, Richard Fadden chastised, “Many … have come to see the fight against terrorism by the government as an overreaction or as an assault on liberty…Terrorism is the ultimate attack on liberties”.

Yet the guilty pleas are not in themselves evidence of guilt. Every conviction to date hinges on allegations that have never been tested in court– most significantly the concreteness of a terrorist plot or the existence of an actual terrorist cell. The prosecution will test their evidence only when the remaining six accused have had their trials (and by some accounts most of these men are only charged with participating in camping expeditions characterized as “terror training camps” by the prosecution, yet characterized as a “religious recreational retreats” by the prosecution’s own witness!)

The prosecution must also explain the extent of the role played by at least two highly-paid police moles (collectively compensated 4.5 million dollars) brought in only after months of security surveillance had reached an impasse. Were these provocateurs? It has already been revealed in pre-trial testimony that these infiltrators provided the accused money, expertise, training, bomb material and possibly the plot idea itself.

Other reasons for pleading guilty could be based on fear of getting full justice after the outrageous ruling against Nishanthan Yogakrishnan, combined with complaints of inadequate funding for their defense through the defective legal aid program and the fear of losing credit for the three years of pre-trial detention already endured. Incidentally, a bill is close to being passed that will prevent judges from granting twice the time already served to be subtracted from final conviction sentences.

The reality is that the public has limited information about “Canada’s largest terrorism trial” because many of the details have been withheld due to a publication ban. Even the defense counsel has been denied some critical information related to evidence (kept “secret” on the grounds of national security).

The reality is also that both CSIS and the RCMP have a history criminal behavior and routinely and maliciously abuse their power in service of the Canadian state. One obvious political payoff from successful convictions in the “Toronto 11” will be justification for expanding state power (in the maintenance of oppressive legislation) that can then be used to further repress and criminalize dissent within state borders.

Most recently two Muslim men (Adil Charkaoui and Abousifian Abdelrazik) accused of terrorism, harassed and abused by Canada’s investigative agencies and imprisoned or banished by the Canadian state have been cleared of all charges. It only took six traumatic years to get to that point – along with nonstop solidarity and public civil rights campaigns from a group of dedicated people who happened to be skeptical.

Crisis of Public Sector Workers

McMaster TAs go on strike as UofT Sessionals Set to Walk Out

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)

by Farshad Azadian and Noaman Ali

Hundreds of teaching and research assistants at McMaster University in Hamilton set up picket lines at three different entrances on Monday, November 2, after the university administration tabled an offer that actually was a step backward from an offer they had tabled earlier. The administration thereafter walked away from the table and thus forced the union out on strike.

Meanwhile at the University of Toronto, sessional lecturers are getting ready to go on strike next Monday, November 9 as the university administration also drags its feet in negotiations. The tactics used by these administrations echo the ones that forced over 3400 academic workers out on strike at York University in a three month strike that began almost one year ago in November 2008 and ended in January 2009. That strike was ended after Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government legislated the strikers back to work. Although many people were angry at the union for being out on strike so long, it becomes clear from the current labour unrest that the problem is a systemic one and not limited to certain unions.

Since so many communities in Ontario rely on the public university system, the provincial government and employers try to set people in communities against the workers. The same pattern was seen in during the inside and outside Toronto city workers strike of summer 2009. That strike was also caused by the City of Toronto administration looking to gut workers’ wages and benefits. These attacks on workers come just as McGuinty’s government has expressed its intention to attack public sector workers in particular, along with the entire working class through service cuts, as a means of “solving” the government deficit that is supposedly a result of the economic crisis.

But the crisis wasn’t caused by workers, it is a built-in feature of the capitalist economic system, that for the last many decades has made a small minority immensely wealthy. Despite this, workers are expected to pay for it, as with the $270 billion bailout to big banks and industries funded by taxpayer money. The huge deficit at the federal and provincial levels – a deficit caused by the bailout – has instead been downloaded on our communities and our workplaces, through expected concessions at the bargaining table and through cuts to services such as housing, childcare and recreation centers that will probably result in increasing user fees.

University workers need to be prepared to play hardball against the anti-worker policies of the university administrations, who force workers out on strike by making offers with little substance that they know will be refused. Working class people should take an example from the important stand that university workers are making and be prepared to support them on the picket lines.

Province-Wide Day of Action for a Poverty Free Ontario

BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)
by Corrie Sakaluk

Since the 1990’s, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has organized province-wide days of action in Ontario as part of our ongoing struggle for affordable post-secondary education. This year other groups have joined forces with the CFS through the Coalition for a Poverty-Free Ontario to host another mass mobilization on November 5.

According to Shelley Melanson, Ontario Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, the motivation for bringing groups in different sectors for this day of action is because “the government has already announced that there will be cuts to funding in the 2010 budget” and, in the past, different social justice groups have been pitted against one other and divided.
Melanson believes that now more than ever Ontario citizens “need to make it clear to the government that we are united on these issues”.

While increased unity on issues that affect all working people in Ontario is a positive step forward, there continue to be disagreements on Toronto campuses between student union organizers who (by the nature of their positions) are more heavily involved in national and provincial decision-making bodies of the CFS, and other radical political organizers. These tensions also filter out into the many communities connected to current students.

One major question is whether lobbying the government and pulling media stunts such as the November 5th Day of Action with the aim of swaying public opinion and influencing elections is an effective use of time and resources. In terms of affordable education, there have been few gains on a provincial level since the tuition freeze of 2005 was lifted by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal party...only to be re-elected in similar numbers shortly afterwards.

Achieving unity around a united goal has also been difficult. Another major point of contention on campuses in Toronto and across Ontario remains: should our primary call be “reduce tuition fees” or “eliminate tuition fees, free education for all”.

Over the past two years, CFS-member students unions have developed a new CFS campaign slogan “Drop Fees”, which is meant to bridge the divide between these two different positions with a catch-all phrase that can include both perspectives. This diverges substantially from the very specific “Reduce Tuition Fees” CFS campaign of the early 2000’s.

Melanson explained to BASICS that “the Federation believes that the best access to education comes from free education and at all times that should always be our goal. At the same time, we recognize that... in Ontario we have the highest tuition fees in the country so it puts us in a good negotiating position with the government...to call for return to the tuition levels of the 2005 freeze and then begin incremental reductions. The Drop Fees campaign has been designed to encapsulate what our end goal is as well as what we are working for in the immediate future”.

According to Melanson, after the Day of Action CFS representatives will be devoting their energy towards lobbying days with government representatives throughout the month of December in the hopes that the 2010 provincial budget will show new investment in post-secondary education.

Given the unsurprising non-responsiveness of the provincial government to lobbying in Ontario since the tuition freeze was lifted in 2005, it is difficult to have faith that these meetings will result in very much in terms of concrete gains for working people. But it’s clear that tactics focused on reforming the system will not be abandoned by elected student union and CFS representatives anytime soon.

This being the case, it is up to other students to do our own political work alongside these lobbying-based efforts.

No government, regardless of who is office, is truly going to have the interests of working people at heart. Lobbying cannot be our only or even primary way forward.
Coming together in anti-poverty coalitions to support a Day of Action is definitely positive and constructive.

We must also continue to organize ourselves separately, create collectively-directed revolutionary political education programs, and develop other student-based mass organizations with different organizing strategies to help protect our education and our livelihoods.

The Struggle of Sessional Lecturers for Job Security at U of T


An Interview with Dr. Krista Hunt, member of CUPE 3902 Unit 3 and a BASICS supporter


BASICS #16 (Nov / Dec 2009)

by Luis Granados Ceja

Sessional Lecturers at UofT have been in bargaining for several months, and could be on strke as of November 9th. Many UofT Students, including supporters of BASICS Free Community Newsletter have been actively building a solidarity network on campus called Students In
Support of CUPE 3902.

BASICS: What are the demands of CUPE 3902-Unit 3?

Krista Hunt: The bargaining team is looking for a wage increase of 3%, which is the same amount of a wage increase that the Teacher Assistants got in our union. It covers basic cost of living increase. In addition to that, the other major thing is job security because currently we have no job security: we have to reapply for courses every 4 months or 8 months. People don’t know if they can afford to pay their rent or their mortgage; they can’t really plan ahead at all. The third is having some time allocated and funding allocated for sessional lecturers to do research because a key component of teaching is staying current in your field and publishing your research.

BASICS: A lot of students don’t seem to know that their professors are not full professors. Can you explain a little bit more what exactly a “sessional lecturer” is?

KH: A sessional lecturer is somebody who has graduated with a PhD and has not been hired in a full time position. The university relies on 30% of its courses to be taught by sessional faculty. There’s this myth that contract faculty are second-rate academics but in fact the system is set up that way. We have internalized that myth of meritocracy.

BASICS: How would you respond to the accusations that a strike could become prolonged and adversely affect students?

KH: The union has been willing to bargain, we actually started bargaining early in the summer to make sure that there was time for negotiations. So from my perspective the university is the one that is putting students in the position of having their classes interrupted. I don’t know if people know this, but the university actually makes money when we’re on strike because they don’t have to pay us. It’s in the best interests of both the workers and the students to have professors who are committed to the university and that the employer recognizes that with job security and a living wage.

BASICS: Do you feel that the university’s push for underpaid casual labour is indicative of a wider trend in Canada?

KH: Definitely, we see that the university is, interestingly enough, producing its own flexible labour pool. You graduate. You have no work... Your loans come due. What do you do? You take the contracts and people end up there terminally in these positions because there aren’t any other options.

BASICS: How can students demonstrate their support?

KH: I would say make sure we’re not divided. I think that if you’re interested in quality education, I would say strategically, that students need to come out in support of us – and make that support vocally known.

Canada’s Cell Phone Monopoly

...and why you can’t get an affordable cell phone plan in Canada

BASICS #16 (Nov/Dec 2009)

by Derek Rosin
On Thursday October 29, regulators in Canada barred Globalive, an Egyptian-owned cell phone company, from operating in Canada.

Globalive was promising to charge lower fees for cell phone services, but the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) barred them, arguing that the degree of foreign ownership makes it illegal for them to do business here.

The whole Globalive story is worth taking a look at because it gives us an example of exactly how capitalism operates in this country, not to mention why our cell phone bills are so high. Today, Canada’s economy is controlled by what amounts to monopolies – massive conglomerates or associations of businesses that are massive enough to carve up markets amongst themselves and therefore drive up the price of their commodities to maximize profits.

In the telecommunications and wireless business world, Canada’s “Big Three” monopolies are Rogers, Bell (BCE), and Telus. Together, and with the brands they control (Solo, Koodo and Fido are also owned by these Big Three) they dominate Canada’s $12.7 billion cell phone market. And it’s not like Rogers, BCE and Telus are small, weak firms needing government protection. They are massive enterprises, with tens of thousands of employees and are collectively worth around 50 billion dollars!

As monopoly capitalists, they are guided by dynamics of competition and collusion. First, there is competition between one another over market share and customers. We all know this – it’s hard to turn on the TV or go to a movie without being clobbered by their various ads.
But second, and just as important, is their collusion with one another to protect their larger interests. None of the Big Three would want or allow competition to get so fierce that it would erode their healthy profits. This is why there aren’t many substantial differences in the plans offered by the various companies. And be sure that not one of the Big Three would allow a new competitor like Globalive to come on the scene and drive down the price of cell phone plans.

How this fight played out shows us a second aspect of today’s monopoly capitalism: the role of the state and government. The state, and its numerous bureaucratic bodies like the CRTC, play an important role in the current system by regulating capitalism, primarily to serve the interests of the big monopoly capitalists.

The Big Three all came out in force to the CRTC’s hearings to demand that Globalive be barred from Canada. Working together, they argued against Globalive’s representatives, claiming that the upstart’s structure did not constitute Canadian ownership. And they won. This victory means that the Big Three will continue to make mad cash off Canadian cell phone users, who currently pay the highest fees out of any developed country.

Now Globalive will have to turn to government to try and settle this inter-ruling-class conflict. They are appealing the CRTC’s ruling directly to Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

Genocide Washes Up on Canadian Shores

76 Survivors of Sri Lanka’s anti-Tamil ethnic cleansing are now shackled and jailed in Canada

BASICS #16 (Nov/Dec 2009)

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan

Since January 2009, the Sri Lankan state has launched a full-out holocaust on its minority Tamil population. This began with a 5 month indiscriminate shelling and bombing campaign of the north coast (home to a majority of the Tamils) and included the deliberate targeting of safe zones, hospitals and schools. The bloody outcome was the death of over 20,000 Tamil civilians and the decimation of the Tamil Tiger national liberation movement. Civilians that survived the government onslaught were forced into detention, and some 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) remain imprisoned in state-run concentration camps. Along with severely limiting accessibility to water, food and other essential supplies, news leaving the camps report of systematic rape, torture, murder, beatings, forced abortions and even child trafficking by the Sri Lankan Army – with death rates in the camps estimated at 1,400 per week.

So on October 16, when Canadian Authorities intercepted 76 exhausted and desperate Tamil men on a rusty freighter off the B.C. coast, there should have been little doubt as to why they fled to Canada. Rather than treating the refugees (who are suspected of having paid smugglers for their escape from the concentration camps in Sri Lanka to B.C.) as victims of genocide and survivors of one of the most violent and chauvinistic regimes in the world, Canadian Border Services tossed all the 76 men back into detention. All the migrants continue to languish in prison, and while some have had preliminary dates of review set with the Immigration and Refugee Board, others without identification have been told they will remain in custody without any hearing for at least another month.

Community support groups, including No One Is Illegal Vancouver and the Canadian Tamil Congress have demanded a release of the refugees and a respect of their right to due process and protection from inhuman treatment. However, the Canadian government has responded by casting the asylum-seekers as criminals in the media, and saying that they must be screened for “connections to terrorism” (Tamil Tigers). Yet who will the Canadian government ultimately collaborate with to investigate the refugees? Sri Lanka, a state that has murdered some 370,000 Tamil civilians (and continues to murder) in operations since its independence. And even if some of the men have participated in the Tamil Liberation movement, is it a crime to resist a genocidal regime?

Canada is a signatory to the international convention for the protection of refugees, and therefore must meet its moral and legal obligation to protect the 76 Tamil men who, if deported, will be thrown back into concentration camps, face torture and perhaps be executed.