Fighting Racism in the Age of Trump – April 21st

The election of Donald Trump in the US has emboldened the racist right in the US and around the world. In Canada, conservative leadership candidates have stoked the fires of bigotry and the result has been an increase in racist attacks here. But they can be stopped. The outpourings of solidarity against racist attacks have shown that public opinion stands strongly against hate.

Join us for this public forum to discuss strategies to build a broad movement to defeat the bigots.

Speakers

Weyman Bennett
Co-convenor – Stand Up to Racism UK
Nigel Barriffe
President, Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Chantal Sundaram
International Socialists

 

Friday, April 21st, 7:00 pm
Multi-Faith Centre 569 Spadina Ave, Toronto

Facebook Event

This forum is part of the Marxism 2017 conference.

Editor’s Note: Stay for Saturday and hear my talk on “Cripping the state: disability, health and capitalism”.

International Women’s Day March Toronto – March 11th

Flyer for IWD 2017

2017 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY TORONTO

STOP THE HATE – UNITE THE FIGHT – BUILD THE RESISTANCE – UNITY IS POWER

Saturday, March 11, 2017
NEW starting location – UofT Medical Sciences Building, Auditorium (1 King’s College Circle)

Rally: 11:00am (1 King’s College Circle)
March: 1:00pm
Fair: 2:00pm (Ryerson Student Learning Centre – Yonge/Gould)

The event is wheelchair accessible and there is ASL interpretation at the rally.

Details on the UofT Medical Sciences Building’s accessibility in pdf.

For tables at the Fair, contact womenandtrans@rsuonline.ca

Rally and March organized by Women Working with Immigrant Women and IWD Organizing Committee.

Funding provided by United Steelworkers, Unifor, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Federation of Students Ontario and Society of Energy Professionals – IFPTE Local 160.

International Women’s Day (March 8th) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.

IWD has been celebrated for more than 100 years. In Toronto, IWD has traditionally been a rally and march, and is organized by the IWD Organizing Committee, Women Working with Immigrant Women and social justice, labour, health and women’s rights activists.

Have your say on the future of the Canadians with Disabilities Act

The Federal Government will be hosting a public forum to get input from the public on what the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include.

where and when this takes place:

When: Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Time: 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Where: Chelsea Hotel Toronto – Churchill Ballroom, 33 Gerrard Street West, Toronto, ON

If you would like to attend this event, you will need to contact the Office for Disability Issues in advance so they can send you a short form with your contact information and accessibility needs.

Pro-Tip: Go with a group and plan the questions you want answered.

Would you like some suggestions of what you might say to the Federal Government at these consultations?

Here are a few starting points from the AODA Alliance.

Here are a few points that I’ve made regarding an Accessible Canada for All.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing. People can’t be expected to find decent work without decent housing that meets their access needs.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare and all stages of education.
  • Including Indigenous Peoples and refugees in the discussion, and allowing them the same or greater accessibility as the rest of Canada.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

This is an opportunity for disabled Canadians to have equitable status as citizens and residents of this country. We need effective enforceable legislation that works for all of us.

Disabled Canadians are more than consumers and potential employees. The Federal legislation must have a broader scope to create equitable rights for disabled people with effective enforcement.

Other ways to Participate:

  • Write to your MP
  • Submit your thoughts to be gathered by SCI Ontario.
  • Participate in the online questionnaire until February 28th, 2017. The questionnaire is also available in an accessible PDF version.
  • Submit your feedback in the language of your choice (English, French, American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise) and preferred format such as online, handwritten, video or audio submissions. You can provide your input to the Office for Disability Issues via:

Phone: 1-844-836-8126

TTY: 819-934-6649

Fax: 819-953-4797

Email: accessible-canada@hrsdc.gc.ca

Mail:
Consultation – Accessibility Legislation
c/o Office for Disability Issues
Employment and Social Development Canada
105 Hotel-de-ville St., 1st floor, Bag 62
Gatineau QC K1A 0J9

All of the feedback we receive will be incorporated into reports that will be made available on the consultation website and in alternate formats, on request.

You can also consult the Discussion Guide for more information.

 

Take Back the Night Toronto 2016 – Sept 16th

All People, All Access: Living with Disabilities and D/deafness for a Barrier and Violence Free World

55 Gould St. Ryerson Student Centre

Friday, September 16, 2016

Community Fair 4pm
Community Dinner 5pm
Rally 6pm
March 8pm

This event is TRANS INCLUSIVE.
ASL interpretation provided – ASL Poster
Tokens provided
Attendant care provided
Childcare provided

For more information visit takebackthenighttoronto.com

From their website:

Take Back the Night is a community based event to protest the fear that women and trans people have of walking the streets at night safely. Take Back the Night is also a grassroots event that honours the experiences of survivors of sexual violence; sexual assault, childhood sexual violence, domestic violence and survivors of state violence such as police brutality, racism, sexist oppression and other forms of institutionalized violence.

At the event, we demand our rights to safety, and lives free of the fear and perpetration of violence, Aboriginal rights, equal status for all women, safe affordable housing, rights for sex trade workers, de-criminalized prostitution, safe shelters, health care, child care, education, employment, raising social assistance rates by 40%, immigration status for all and raising the minimum wage now. We as survivors demand lives free of sexual violence, murder, living in poverty, police injustice and any violence that is directed towards women and children. 

Take Back the Night has been held in Toronto for 35 years. It has been co-hosted by several organizations such as the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, Council Fire, Anne Johnston Health Station, Parkdale Community Health Centre, the Redwood, George Brown College (Assaulted Women and Children Advocate Program), Women Abuse Prevention, Regent Park Community Health Centre, No One Is Illegal, Streethealth, Black Lives Matter, Native Women’s Resource Centre Toronto, Native Youth Sexual Health, Nellie’s, and many, many more.

Take Back the Night is an evening event and protest. It includes a community fair, rally with community-based performers and speakers and a march. It also includes a community dinner, childcare and media presence.

 

The 6th Annual Toronto Disability Pride March Saturday, September 24, 2016

Starting at Queens Park (111 Wellesley Street West) and marching to the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson (99 Gerrard Street East) from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Please note: accessible washrooms are not available at Queen’s Park. Please see information on accessible washrooms on the route page.

Why we’re Marching:

  • To bring recognition of the struggles and value of people with disabilities as we fight against ableism and other forms of oppression.
  • To be visible and show that we have a voice in our community and a right to be heard by taking to the streets.
  • To celebrate and take pride in ourselves as a community of people with disabilities.

Be Loud, Be Proud, Come March with Us!

Find us on Facebook and Twitter @DisabilityPM

We need volunteers and marshals for the march! If you have experience that is great, if not we still want you! If you aren’t sure what a marshal does, here’s a brief description. Please fill out the volunteer form if you are interested.

Some  things you should know if you plan to attend.

The Toronto Disability Pride March aims to promote a cross-disability atmosphere, that also recognizes other forms of oppression such as race, class, gender, sexuality, sanism, etc.  We believe the disability movement is strongest in a harmony of voices, not one homogeneous voice. We ask all those who plan to attend the march to respect this approach and the other people within the space of the march.

Have Questions? email us at torontodisabilitypride@gmail.com.

Mountains to Climb

An image of a mountain in Calgary

 

Above this post is a picture of a mountain. This is where I was lucky enough to spend my Canada day, with my family. I remember a weight lifting off my shoulders as I gazed at the sight, feeling comparatively small against this massive reminder of how the world is shaped. Sometimes changing the life around it abruptly, sometimes subtly and slow.

Social movements can feel like that too. Sometimes change happens fast, you can get caught up in the momentum and sometimes confused, forgetting that things must slow down again. When things do slow down, you wonder if anything you’ve done, or continue to do, is making any kind of difference.

I’m feeling a bit like that myself right now. The Toronto Disability Pride March is now entering its sixth year, mark your calendars for September 24th. I look back at that first year, and it would be easy to convince myself that nothing has changed, with so many of us still struggling against oppression, with low social assistance rates, inadequate accessible housing, lack of accessibility, and now it seems we even need to prove our very lives have value.

Then I think about the small group of organizers who’ve kept this march going for the last six years, even when the weight of it seemed almost too much to bear. The people who’ve been inspired by it, the voices that have been heard, and I know why we do this. Like the mountain, slowly emerging towards the sky, we’ve claimed this space, and our world must change with us.

I think this year may be time to give that ground a shake.

Disabled People have better stories to tell

My proposed line-up of disability-themed movies:

  • A group of crip sisters sharing stories of their struggles through the years, and how their crip sisterhood helped them through it.
  • Maybe those crip sisters are on a spaceship, as part of a rebellion.
  • Two young disabled people from divided houses fall in love. In an act of rebellion against family pressure, they don’t kill themselves, but instead start a family of their own.
  • A disability activist searches for meaning in their own life while fighting for safeguards in assisted suicide laws.
  • A group of disabled/Mad friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. They wake up the next morning to discover one of their friends is missing, and encounter various shenanigans while looking for them.

Ok so maybe I should stick with writing blogs, but I still think these films would be better than what’s on the table.  See this review of Me Before You if you’re not sure what I’m referring to here.

We know why ableist films and messages continue to spread, as do sexism, racism, and homophobia.

We have a responsibility to call out these stories, so that their toxic messages do not spread.

I’ve been seeing posts and messages that “it’s just one story” or “they don’t mean you”, but I think those posts miss the point.

I grew up in an area without many other disabled people. I had no disabled role models until I left home. Despite the privileges of being a white, middle class kid, I grew up with a lot of discrimination, but I didn’t know that’s what it was. I thought it was me, that I was broken. I was surrounded by sometimes well-meaning able-bodied people who saw my disabledness as something to mourn, or to mould into something more acceptable. They didn’t have better stories either.

Ableist stories were all I had until my twenties. Yes, I’m still here, but they’re woven into my formation, that’s just how it is.

Growing up in that environment still impacts me, some days I still feel broken. Some days ableist attitudes from others convince me for a time that I don’t belong, that I am less of a person.

I am fortunate now, that I have a strong community of disabled folks around me, but not everyone does.

Ableist stories and messages might not impact all of us equally, but they do cause harm.

We need to tell our own stories. We need less suicide and more solidarity.

Preferably with rebel forces on space cruisers.

The Privilege of Niceness

Confession: The label of “nice” has benefited me as a woman and a disabled person. A smiling face has literally opened doors for me. I’ve pretended to be fine to get things I’ve needed or just to avoid confrontation.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, perhaps we should reward “niceness” is society, but what happens to people who get labelled “not nice” or “difficult”?

Where do these labels come from? What are their consequences? Do we lose something by silencing people who don’t follow the status quo?

I’m not talking about someone who oppresses others. There are many forms of “not niceness” with power. I’m talking about marginalized oppressed people who carry these labels around before they even speak.  Who’ve been judged against Robert’s Rules of Order, or any system used to separate Others from professionals and decides who has a greater right to speak.

There are consequences on an individual level, with many examples. In advocacy groups made up of people labeled “professionals” and “community members”, those community members are more likely to be heard if they back up the professionals and keep their emotions in check, and speak when it’s their turn. A disabled person looking for services is more likely to get what they want when they’re articulate, and faces greater marginalization when they are not.

At a systemic level, it’s showing up in policy, through people who think social change can be brought about with legislation. Those fighting for accessibility legislation say it is the answer to our problems. Others want to introduce anti-poverty legislation, claiming income is an equalizer of fairness and respect. Sometimes activists are encouraged to play along, and keep quiet any talk about ableism or other forms of oppression…lest it disrupt sunny ways.

Don’t get me wrong, these groups are doing great work, but there’s a big piece missing. Accessibility and income cannot make up for those situations that leave us disadvantaged and devalues our humanity. Ableism and sanism are ugly truths, but we do ourselves a disservice by painting over those truths. It’s like trying to solve the wage gap between men and women without acknowledging sexism, or calling for an end to carding without acknowledging racism.

If we want change, it’s time to stop working within the same old rules and hierarchies.

It’s time to end the silencing of the uncomfortable.

 

 

Voting not for our pocketbooks, but for our future


There’s been a lot of talk in this election about what we don’t want, but what about the kind of country we want for our future. I promised a post about this election, but it’s been challenging to wade through the bitterness, anger, and shameful outbursts of hate to find something worth writing about.

For the past decade this country has suffered the consequences of a paternalistic, patronizing leader who has been telling his citizens that they are mere taxpayers, and that he knows best. He’s wrong.

That said, there is a ray of hope.

There are pockets of people taking up space and raising their voices this election, Barrier Free Canada’s call for a Canadians with Disabilities Act is just one example.  There are also Canadians like Mohamed Fahmy, who spent years wrongly imprisoned in Eygpt due to government inaction, to return and remind us that we deserve better from those we elect, and we have the power to make change.

Such things are important, not just for the call to action itself, but for bringing back the demand for more than the status quo.

When Canada was first branded into being, many were denied the right to vote. Women, Aboriginal people (who paid a price in treaty rights), people of colour, disabled people all fought for that right. They fought for the right to vote, not so they could line their pocket books with less taxes, but so they too could be represented in a society they envisioned more equitable and just.

Regardless of who wins today, let’s take a lesson from those movements who dared to take up space, who called for a better world. Let’s not just vote, let’s honour them, today and all the days after that.

Disabled People making more waves than Election Candidates?

For those of you who might not know, we’re having a federal election here in Canada. I’m not a huge fan of electoral politics. I think there’s much more that we can do to influence social policy than cast our votes, and let’s be honest, the choice between three white one-percenters in 2015 says a lot about the level of change that needs to happen in this country.

Aside from that, it is a great time to push for change, while the public eye is on politics, and surprisingly disabled people are making space in election time.

There are some really exciting things happening in the disability movement in this election, and you need to know about them.

First is the Toronto Disability Pride March, happening tomorrow Saturday October 3rd. Full disclosure I am the founder and a co-organizer of this march, but even if I weren’t I would still be shouting from the rooftops, because this is going to be an amazing event and you all should be there. It starts at 1:00 pm at Queen’s Park at 111 Wellesly Street West, and wraps up at 99 Gerrard Street East with a post march celebration at 4:00 pm

We have some great speakers lined up including David Lepofsky of Barrier-Free Canada and the AODA AllianceDiem LaFortune, myself, and Kevin Jackson. This is not just a time to raise disability issues, but also a time for disabled people who are not often involved to have their voices heard, and take to the streets as part of the community of disabled people. You can find the march on Facebook, and on Twitter @DisabilityPM hashtag #tdpm2015.

In Toronto, there was a election debate on disability issues earlier this week, you can still see the video.

There have also been some exciting developments with Barrier-Free Canada’s efforts to encourage all federal parties to commit to enacting a Canadians with Disabilities Act.

They’ve introduced a letter writing tool that makes it easier than ever to join the campaign. All you need to do is fill out a short form, and a prewritten letter will automatically be addressed to all the candidates in your riding.

You’ll have the option of changing the letter or sending it as is. And you’ll have the ability to easily share through email and social media.

The beauty of this tool is that there’s no need for you to look up candidates or to try to find their email addresses. We take care of all of that. You simply fill out the form, and you’re ready to go!

There are still a few hiccups with this tool, but I encourage you to check it out.

Please take two minutes to let candidates in your area know that you support the call for a Canadians with Disabilities Act. Then invite your friends and family to join the campaign. So far the NDP and Greens have promised to enact it, but we need more than a press release, we need action. Visit www.barrierfreecanada.org/campaign/. They are asking people to promote the campaign on social media with the hashtag #canadiansdisabilitiesact.

Elections are a great time to raise our voices as a diverse disability community. I will be raising more issues to not in the coming days, but until then I hope to see you at the march tomorrow!