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”.

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.

“Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”…unless we can profit from it.

The Parapan Am Games, August 2015. I was at the Torch Relay a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers, a well-known member of the disability community, and founder of a disability organization said, “Here in Canada, we won’t see your disability”.

My jaw dropped. I wanted to believe that he hadn’t just said that like it was a good thing, but he did. In fact he went on about it for another few minutes with great enthusiasm.

I doubt anyone has gone from shameless fan girl to outraged disability activist as fast as I did in that moment, but it was an uncomfortable transformation that went something like this:

“Wait, what?”… “Are you kidding me?”… “Ok, any minute now he’s going to turn around and tell all the politicians behind him that they need to step up”… “Somebody must’ve put him up to this.”… “Nope, no, please just stop”.

He meant this as a positive statement I’m sure, I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a country where ableism doesn’t exist. I think the PR department forgot to tell the white guy with the microphone that Canada isn’t that country. If that country exists right now it probably has unicorns, wizards flying on brooms…and much better Games.

I want to believe this speaker meant well; he’s a Canadian icon. Maybe he’s just speaking from his lived experience.

Maybe he doesn’t realize that there’s disabled people still fighting for accessible transportation, like RAPLIQ in Montreal. Maybe he doesn’t realize people are fighting to keep their existing accessible transportation, like Save Handydart in Vancouver.

It’s not like Canada’s a country that still euthanizes disabled people, but it does do research to screen genes for disabilities, and let’s not forget the ableism in assisted suicide.

It’s a country were disabled people can move freely…unless you’ve have been forced to live in an institution (another example), or have a suicide attempt on record that prevented you from crossing the border.

It is a country where disabled people have free will, unless compliance with medication is forced on you, someone decides you’re too disabled to parent, or you’re a refugee seeking healthcare.

Perhaps it’s easy to be misdirected by the billions of dollars that was spent on the Games and forget we’re in a province that underfunds social assistance and social housing, still has high unemployment for disabled people despite the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the Guy Mitchell inquest.

If I may, let’s take a lesson from our Prime Minister on what not to do, and stop trying to make problems go away by pretending they don’t exist. Disabled people exist in Canada, and not seeing that is part of the problem. Shielding our eyes from oppression is not something to be proud of and it won’t make ableism disappear.

How about we focus on making Canada a country that sees disabled people, and sees them as an asset. That sounds like something to shout into a microphone.

For more on ableism see The Invisible Backpack of Able-Bodied Privilege Checklist.

Support a Barrier-Free Canada.

Some thoughts on Disability, Privacy, and Privilege

Privacy has a bit of a different meaning for me than most people. I hire people to help me shower and help me dress. This is not something I am ashamed of, or that makes me less than anybody else. I’m ok with it, partly because I’ve always had to live with it, but mostly because I get to choose who I am vulnerable with, this has not always been the case.

As I grew up with my disability this vulnerability was most often not within my control, and that was always difficult, always. When I was in elementary school more people had access to my body and its functions than I can count. I remember reading a poem about a butterfly pinned up in a shadowbox, and people were looking at it, checking it for flaws, and realizing how much I felt like that butterfly. I was told this was normal, I’m sure my parents were told this was normal, but it never felt normal. I was told it made things easier. I wonder if any of those professionals thought about how all of that public access to my body was going to be viewed by the teenaged me as she tried to claim her body as her own. How do you claim sacred space after years of no one asking your permission?

When I got older and on social assistance, privacy became even less tangible to me. To go on social assistance you sign over access to your bank records and your medical information, so you can maybe have enough money to cover rent and a little bit of food. Again I was supposed to be ok with this, because I have a disability, and there was nothing I could do about this for a long time, because I have medical costs, and it took ten years to find a job that someone hire me for. I signed over my life, and promised to live alone, so I could eat; we all do. I’m now working, and have for a few years, but it’s hard to shake that feeling of someone watching over your shoulder.

Many disabled men and women have experiences similar to these, and the chilling effect these experiences have is immense. We don’t need whistleblowers to tell us how the loss of privacy silences our voices. The worst part is that many of us who can speak out distance ourselves from those who are more marginalized, and we forget what it’s like. Then we wonder why we have leaders who fight for tax breaks and building codes while people sign over their privacy so they can eat and shower.

Today on the sidewalk there was a man in a wheelchair like mine singing for change. I gave him a toonie, what I wanted to give was my solidarity. If my life had different circumstances that could be me, and I can’t forget that. If we don’t hold each other up we will all be pushed down when they tell us what we disabled people should expect.

“…If we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others – and for their use and to our detriment.”
~ Audre Lorde

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Let’s Remember our Rights

In 2010 Prime Minister Stephen Harper ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  (CRPD). This historic document recognized specific ways that disabled people are often left out of society such as Access to Justice (Article 13), Living independently and being included in the community (Article 19), Education (Article 24), Adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28), as well as participation in political and public life (Article 29); the CRPD also recognized that women and children are further disenfranchised (Articles 6 and 7).

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities states that the CRPD marks a paradigm shift by addressing the human rights of persons with disabilities from a progressive social model approach to disability. In many instances, this new approach requires a new way of understanding the exercise of key human rights.

However, CRPD also has an Optional Protocol that Harper left unsigned. The Optional Protocol on Communications (OP) provides for a complaints mechanism whereby groups and individuals, after having exhausted all national resources, can have the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities consider a claim that a State Party has violated the provisions in the CRPD. In other words, while the Harper government was agreeable to these rights for disabled people, it did not want to be held accountable for upholding these rights.

Disabled people face different levels of oppression depending on the communities they come from. This varies not only on an international level, but also across province and territories, genders, age, race, class, disability, and whether or not the person is Aboriginal.

This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2014, we call on Canadians with Disabilities and organizations to demand that the federal government of Canada sign the Optional Protocol in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Let this be a first step towards greater social justice for Canadians with Disabilities, and the international communities we come from.

Melissa Graham, on behalf of the Toronto Disability Pride March.

Sign the Petition

Why Students with Disabilities should Support the National Day of Action

The Canadian Federation of Students national day of action is coming up Wednesday February 1, that’s right TODAY! Now more than ever it is important that students with disabilities show their numbers and advance the fight for accessible education in Ontario and around the country. This type of Canada-wide student day of action doesn’t happen very often, so even though it’s February, here’s a few reasons why students with disabilities need to make themselves heard:

People with disabilities are more likely to enter post-secondary education than the general population, yet we are rarely represented in our student unions, that is if we can even access our student unions (the Graduate Student Union at the University of Toronto is not accessible to people in wheelchairs, for example). Apparently the CFS in Ontario has a Constituency Group for Students with Disabilities, but until I decided to write this article I’d never heard of it, so it’s a fairly safe bet that neither have you. All the more reason to show student unions that we exist.

Despite our levels of education, people with disabilities still face many barriers to employment, discrimination being the biggest barrier of all. A great way to fight this discrimination is to make ourselves visible, and in the meantime lower tuition fees to make post-secondary education more accessible.

Activism can be really fun, and a great way to get to know new people. It might also help you to know that some institutions have Campus Students with Disabilities Groups (and I’m not talking about accommodation bureaucracy), so check them out too!

There is now a listing of all events to-date across the country, so be there and have a blast!

NEW LOCATION: OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST. . . How do we beat the 1%?

#OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST.
. . . How do we beat the 1%?

A one-day political conference
Saturday, February 4 from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm
Galbraith Building, 35 St. George Street, University of Toronto – wheelchair accessible
Organized by the International Socialists
Register online: http://bit.ly/Feb4conf
Strike Occupy Resist.jpg
With every passing day, the capitalist system spins deeper into crisis. Politicians, bankers and bosses are trying to force us to pay for their mess – by slashing our jobs, pensions and wages. But across the globe, people are fighting back. The Arab Spring has inspired resistance all over the world, general strikes have rocked Europe, and the call to #Occupy and resist was taken up in over 1,700 cities world-wide. Millions of people are beginning to question the logic of the capitalist system.
Join us for this one-day conference as we discuss the next steps of the movement and the best ways to challenge capitalism.
11:30 am to 12:00 pm: Registration and snacks
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm: Opening meeting
Room 1: Occupy, strike, resist: How do we beat the 1%?
1:00 pm to 1:15 pm: Break
1:15 pm to 2:30 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Capitalist crisis: What’s behind the Great Recession?
Room 2: Student power: How can students change the world?
Room 3: ‘Humanitarian intervention’ vs. national liberation: How do we help oppressed nations?
2:30 pm to 2:45 pm: Break
2:45 pm to 4:00 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Climate chaos: How do stop capitalism from killing the planet?
Room 2: Crisis and resistance: Fighting racism by any means necessary
Room 3: From strikes to revolutions: How can workers change the world?
4:00 pm to 4:15 pm: Break
4:15 pm to 5:30pm: Closing meeting
Room 1: Building an effective movement: The role of revolutionary organization
For a list of suggested readings, please visit http://bit.ly/Feb4read.

OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST. . . How do we beat the 1%?

#OCCUPY. STRIKE. RESIST.
. . . How do we beat the 1%?

A one-day political conference
Saturday, February 4 from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm
Bahen Centre, 40 St. George Street, University of Toronto
Organized by the International Socialists
Register online: http://bit.ly/Feb4conf
Strike Occupy Resist.jpg
With every passing day, the capitalist system spins deeper into crisis. Politicians, bankers and bosses are trying to force us to pay for their mess – by slashing our jobs, pensions and wages. But across the globe, people are fighting back. The Arab Spring has inspired resistance all over the world, general strikes have rocked Europe, and the call to #Occupy and resist was taken up in over 1,700 cities world-wide. Millions of people are beginning to question the logic of the capitalist system.
Join us for this one-day conference as we discuss the next steps of the movement and the best ways to challenge capitalism.
11:30 am to 12:00 pm: Registration and snacks
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm: Opening meeting
Room 1: Occupy, strike, resist: How do we beat the 1%?
1:00 pm to 1:15 pm: Break
1:15 pm to 2:30 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Capitalist crisis: What’s behind the Great Recession?
Room 2: Student power: How can students change the world?
Room 3: ‘Humanitarian intervention’ vs. national liberation: How do we help oppressed nations?
2:30 pm to 2:45 pm: Break
2:45 pm to 4:00 pm: Workshops
Room 1: Climate chaos: How do stop capitalism from killing the planet?
Room 2: Crisis and resistance: Fighting racism by any means necessary
Room 3: From strikes to revolutions: How can workers change the world?
4:00 pm to 4:15 pm: Break
4:15 pm to 5:30pm: Closing meeting
Room 1: Building an effective movement: The role of revolutionary organization
For a list of suggested readings, please visit http://bit.ly/Feb4read.

Rally to save City Services and Good Jobs ~ January 17th

City Council will be voting on January 17, 18 and 19 on the 2012 City budget.  At present, there are $85 million in cuts on the table, as well as, a TTC fare hike and increases to recreation user fees.  The budget includes elimination of hundreds of good City jobs – jobs that employ people who deliver vital services in our communities.  As well, the budget includes a 9.8% cut to community grants that enable nonprofit community organizations to provide much-needed programs and services across Toronto.  We need to protect our communities from these harmful cuts.
Please come out to the rally on Tuesday, January 17th at 5:30 p.m.  If you are available at any time on January 17 and 18, please come down to City Hall in Council Chambers to support our city.

For more information about the City budget:

We Strike Together ~ Public Forum January 11th

UofT PUBLIC FORUM
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 5PM
OISE room 2214 (252 Bloor St. West)
The 1% are undermining accessible public education
by increasing tuition and class sizes, cutting funding
and corporatizing campus. Join a discussion about how
the 99% on campus–students, TAs, staff and faculty–
can unite to support upcoming campaigns, like the
February 1 Day of Action and a possible CUPE 3902 strike.
Organized by Occupied UofT, in solidarity with UofT General Assembly,
UofT Students’ Union, UofT Association of Part-time Undergraduate
Students, UofT Graduate Students’ Union, Unite HERE 75 and CUPE 3902
For more info contact occupieduoft@gmail.com   @occupieduoft   #Occut