(en) Update from Ontario

pj (pj@tao.ca)
Fri, 21 Nov 1997 00:06:15 +0000 (GMT)

A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

Thursday, November 20, 1997.

pj lilley, reporting for A-Infos and DAMN-Toronto @ www.tao.ca

[NB: Spent 7 hours in maximum security lockdown this week, so the experience may color my report somewhat.]

In this report... - Student Activist Conference - Demand an Ipperwash Inquiry NOW - the broader Ontario struggle against Bill 160 - BUSH-OFF at University of Toronto - Postal Strike

Saturday, Nov 15: Canadian Federation of Students Ontario Activist Conference

This was held at the University of Toronto, and attended by about 50 activists from across the province, including visitors from as far away as North Bay, Sudbury, and Windsor, Ontario.

The conference broke around lunch so that delegates could participate in the Justice for Dudley George rally at Queen's Park. This was called by the Ontario Federation of Labour to demand a public inquiry into the Ontario Provincial Police shooting of Dudley George at Ipperwash in September of 1995. This was to be in support of all the First Nations peoples who have continually protested and demanded a public inquiry. This government was compliant with the Ipperwash murder, and the subsequent racist cover-up. An inquiry is necessary to have out the truth of the history of this land and these displaced people. I was also extremely disappointed by the appearance of NDP leader Howard Hampton as one of the speakers, since the NDP government in British Colombia has been the source of a very similar crackdown at Gustafsen Lake. We tried chanting down Hampton with "Free Wolverine", the organic farmer who was arrested as a Ts'peten Defender.

details: http://kafka.uvic.ca/~vipirg/SISIS/Ipperwash/jul09occ.html http://indy4.fdl.cc.mn.us/~isk/canada/gust/gus04.html#eighteen

That afternoon, back at the CFS conference, I attended the anti-oppression workshop, and the panel discussion regarding fighting the corporate agenda on campus. I thought the anti-oppression workshop put too much emphasis on individualist identity politics, and did not adequately address social organizing to attack systemic discrimination. However, it was a good workshop for inward reflection, and the facilitator used an excellent exercise to kick off the workshop, which I'd be happy to explain later if you ask me. The panel on fighting the corporate agenda also rocked hard, since it included Sarah Schmidt, editor of the UofT Varsity Newspaper; David McNally, a member of the New Socialist Group and a prof who was on strike at York University last semester; and Helen Hudson, activist and member of the UofGuelph Central Students Association.

THE FIGHT FOR EDUCATION CONTINUES ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The fight against Bill 160 has moved into a new phase. Striking teachers are back in the classrooms, but are now taking up direct actions and tactical targets against government/corporate agenda.

Over the weekend, four teachers occupied the Ministry of Education offices here in Toronto, one teacher holding out for five days, without access to the outside washrooms, or extra food.

On Monday, November 17th, thousands of teachers and students and supporters surrounded Queen's Park and wrapped an apple green rope all around the building. (Green ribbons have been the symbol to save public education used by the teacher's unions around trees beside schools, on lapels, and cars/bikes, etc.)

On Tuesday, vocal student & teacher protesters filled the re-opened Legislature gallery and were dragged out.

Meanwhile, in Guelph on Tuesday evening, Minister of [Destroying] Education, Dave Johnson, was at a $100/plate Tory fundraiser. Teachers were bussed in from surrounding communities and there was over 1,000 demonstrators, easily enough to safely stop the proceedings. But, here is an excerpt from the UProot statement circulated that day: The fight against the Harris government is one which we must not lose! Tens of thousands of teachers, students and trade unionists have mobilized against the Harris government with the call: "We won't back down!" Instead of sticking to these principles and picketing the Holiday Inn to shut Johnson out, the union leaders and marshals running this action today have taken direction from the Guelph police on how to control this action, and are working with the police to ensure that Dave Johnson and his dinner guests will get in tonight after all. This collaboration between protest organizers and police is completely unnecessary, and means this action is run according to the whims of the very people we are protesting against -- the Tories, big business supporters, and their law enforcement hirelings. Make any sense? We don't think so.

We must resist the attempts to divide us, because we are much stronger united. We must engage each other in meaningful dialogue about how to stop the Tories and their corporate agenda. We have strength in our numbers and together through direct action TODAY we will be able to defend public education -- at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels -- peacefully and effectively. UNITED WE STAND. DIVIDED WE FALL. (for more info on UProot, see http://www.tao.ca/~students/uproot.html)

Yet, despite this statement, marshals assisted police in keeping the throng of protesters behind barricades, and in issuing the Tory sedans and limos through the picket lines. In resistance, we tried establishing a critical mass at the nearby traffic light, and in blocking the hotel driveway, chanting "No one in, no one out, that's what picket lines are all about." Activists were isolated and arrested quickly, as there were scores of police -- Hamilton police had come in to reinforce the Guelph cops.

When I and dozens of others tried to peacefully link arms and stop the on-coming Tory cars, we were violently dragged away. Police on each arm used a pain compliance hold (combination of pressure on the wrist and an arm twist) to place me under arrest and force me to the paddy wagon. (I still have the bruise today :( Eventually there were 12 arrests, mostly university students, but also a young high school student, a local secondary school vice-principal, and a well-respected woman from the co-op housing centre who does a lot of anti-poverty work around Guelph. First we were taken downtown, where our songs and chants filled the station with defiant women's voices. That was good, but the officers were agitated at all the arrests and at being forced to work late. (Such a faux sob story, considering Harris settled with the police association early on in office. Also, it should be noted that after the last protest at a Tory fundraiser about a year ago, they applied for funding to build a counter-terrorist squad unit-- a ridiculous funding grab considering the open nature of student organizing.)

At this point we seven women were transferred to the Wellington Detention Centre at the edge of Guelph, where we were handcuffed in a chain and made to walk barefoot through the snow and ice from the paddywagon to the prison. There, we were processed by members of OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) whom we had assisted on THEIR picket line over a year ago during their strike against the Harris government. Now, however, as jail guards, their training to follow orders ran too deep, and they 'threw the book at us' as they were told to do. Even though we were being detained on "breach of peace" charges, which means no criminal charges, and not even a fine, we could be held under physical and psychological manipulation for up to 24 hours. We were subjected to a full strip search, and given prison garb to wear. We saw ourselves on the local television news that night through prison bars.

We were finally released around 2 am, and immediately headed back to the downtown station to find the men who had been detained. All were released by that time. The media coverage was quite positive, but the fundraiser had not been successfully stopped.

The dogging of Harris and Johnson continued the next day. On Wednesday at noon, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) and Scotiabank (one of Canada's largest banks) hosted a forum about the future of Ontario Universities. This was held again on private property, with controlled access, at the Metro Convention Centre, in downtown Toronto. The room was filled with CEOs sitting on boards of corporations and universities. Several students got inside with media passes.

This is from a doctoral student in Sociology who was arrested for his meaningful statements against the proceedings:

The focus of [Harris'] speech was that universities need to shape their programs to ensure that university students can get jobs in the 'new economy'. He said that ties with industry and the private sector need to be strengthened and that those programs that don't send students into private sector jobs should be eliminated. As an example of waste in the system, he noted that in Ontario there are 10 PhD programs in Sociology and 6 in Geography and students in these programs are not gaining the skills necessary to make 'meaningful contributions' to society. <mthomas@yorku.ca>

Nine students were arrested and dragged off by police for disrupting the illegitimate summit. They are facing trespassing charges, which includes fines. If you would like to contribute to their defense, contact UProot <occ@tao.ca>

GEORGE BUSH -- University of Toronto Doesn't Honour You! ~~~~~~~~~~~

Later that afternoon, yet another appearance by Harris attacked by vocal protestors, but this time, he was overshadowed by an even more grim figure: George Bush. There to receive an honourary degree from UofT Prez Pritchard (also at the COU/Scotiabank meeting), Bush called the angry crowd of hundreds of students rallied outside "nothing at all, it reminds me of happy hour at the Baghdad Ramada Inn". However, more than a dozen faculty walked out of the convocation in protest and disgust as he received his degree. Bush has been convicted of war crimes by an International Tribunal, and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians throughout Latin America, the Middle East, and around the world through Structural Adjustment Programs and other aggressions of U$ imperialism. The entire proceeding at the University of Toronto has been the source of high controversy, as Barrick Gold gave $6.4 million to the UofT toward contruction of the new "Munk Building", named after CEO Peter Munk. George Bush, and another attendee, former Tory Prime Minister Brian Mulroney both sit on the Board of Directors at Barrick Gold.

Protesters threw snowballs, demonstrated countless different reasons why they dishonoured Bush, and created some impressive guerrilla theatre. At least one student was arrested, and later on in the evening, anarchists and students surrounded the limousines carrying the execs, slashing tires, but only registering property damage. Police attacked the crowd, and several students were hurt. Mounted police drove the crowd up over cars and threatened worse, but eventually the crowd dispersed.

CUPW STRIKE ~~~~~~~~~~~

And finally, some 45,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers went on strike across the country yesterday!!

Here is an excerpt of an update from Greg McMaster CUPW local president in Edmonton, Alberta, and member of the New Socialist Group...

CUPW is saying NO to rollbacks, YES to full-time jobs for coming generations (as was achieved in the UPS strike by US Teamsters), YES to delivery routes based on an 8-hour day, and YES to protection of wages and benefits from inflation.

At the same time, we are trying to stave off an attack on our right to bargain collectively and strike, paving the way for future privatization based on profits squeezed out of the workers.

Greg McMaster November 17, 1997 ----------------- Excerpt from CUPW National Strike Bulletin - Day One - Nov. 19

Pension and Social Assistance Cheques will be Delivered

Letter carriers and some wicket clerks will be at work tomorrow to deliver the pension and social assistance cheques. CUPW offered to deliver the cheques because our fight is with the employer and the Liberal government. Low-income people and seniors are not our enemies. We will not allow them to suffer economically because CPC and the government have forced a postal strike.

The Longer the Line, the Shorter the Strike!

This struggle is a just one. It's about secure jobs, decent wages, safe working conditions and service to the public. It's about social, economic and job security. It's about keeping Canada Post a public service. And it's about a secure future for all postal workers.

In solidarity, Deborah Bourque 3rd National Vice-President CUPW -----------------------------

Ok, that's the wrap-up from me right now. I will be heading out to NO TO APEC's Democracy Village at UBC in Vancouver tomorrow. More on the fight against Workfare in Ontario when I return.

solidarity, -=pj=-


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