September 21, 2021
From It's Going Down
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cover photo: @KanahusFreedom

The past few weeks saw a number of anarchist gatherings across so-called Canada, along with the announcement of a digital bookfair interview series coming soon from Victoria.

Here at CTF, we’ve found that as the summer dies down and as the election serves as a great distraction from grassroots organizing, news has been a little slower the past few weeks. That said, there is always resistance worth noting, including, this week, a collective effort to fight repression of encampments in Toronto and the ongoing forest defense struggle at Fairy Creek that recently broke 1,000 arrests.

As always, we welcome feedback and tips on stories at [email protected]!

Good Riddance to the Election

Canada’s 44th election draws to a close on September 20th. Over the course of the election, we’ve been reminded of the ways that elections, and orienting one’s struggles toward elected decision-makers in general, is an uninspiring and disempowering practice. For groups that factor lobbying into their strategy, the election can be a tempting time to double down on this practice. It’s a time when usually-indifferent leaders may take more time to listen to what their constituents are asking for; when it’s really worth their while to appear to care. It’s tempting to try and seize this moment to force candidates into election promises that will forward one struggle or another.

Ultimately, most substantial election promises won’t be kept. Those that are don’t result in changes rooted in community, that can be sustained or defended. Time spent developing strategies to get leaders to care is time not spent figuring out how to do things ourselves.

This is not to pretend that there are no differences between parties – the party in leadership will shape the terrain on which we fight over the coming years. Election results also tell us something about the political climate in the communities in which we live. The rise of the People’s Party of Canada, and general far-Right engagement in this election cycle, points to a building of frustration, polarization, fear, and misinformation, concentrated as xenophobia, white supremacy, covid-denialism, etc. When we can only expect wealth disparity and scarcity of resources to grow in the coming years, paying attention to and pushing back against increasingly-overt fascist rhetoric that attempts to present authoritarian nationalism as a solution to the current crisis is crucial.

And yet, on some critical issues, whatever wording they use, the outcome of any given party’s approach will be indistinguishable. For example, the struggle against the Trans Mountain Pipeline, one of the most inspiring and uncompromising struggles across so-called Canada, can expect an uphill battle regardless of which party is in leadership.

We continue to be inspired by struggles that expect nothing of politicians – mutual aid programs, overdose prevention networks acting outside the law to provide safe supply, Indigenous-led land defense, just to name a few. Struggles that don’t rely on politicians making the “right” choices or lending their support are resilient to the ebbs and flows of the political tide, instead of being swept away in the distraction of an “opportune” moment to participate in democracy. Finally, we can’t forget that engaging with politicians and elections means participating in a violent system that we want to destroy, not add legitimacy to.

As Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel recently wrote for Ricochet, on the subject of not voting as a Kanien’kehá:ka person,

I remember Elders telling us not to vote or it would mean losing our rights to our lands, our inherent rights to self-determination. They knew that participation in colonial election systems was a threat to our sovereignty; we would essentially be turning our backs on our own laws. As the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau said in regards to his White Paper, when you no longer speak your language or practice your culture, you have become assimilated. This remains the mantra of provincial and federal colonial governments. Sounds outrageous, but it’s true.

Fighting Encampment Support Repression in Toronto

On September 16th in so-called Toronto, Ontario, anti-poverty and housing activists gathered outside the home of Mayor John Tory to call for safe, affordable housing solutions, an end to encampment evictions, and an end to the repression of those charged during encampment evictions this summer. Over 50 people were charged or ticketed over the course of three encampment evictions this summer, and the press conference called for those charges to be dropped. 45 of the people charged or ticketed are working collectively to fight the charges.

A number of people spoke, including former encampment residents, those brutalized during the encampment evictions, and other organizers. During the event, police doubled down on the repression. 1492 Landback Lane spokesperson Skyler Williams, who had attended the Lamport Stadium encampment eviction defense, was arrested by Toronto police just moments after speaking. By the end of the press conference, two more people were arrested. It seems that all the arrests were for charges tied to activities on the day of the Lamport Stadium eviction. On the same day, police released a list of 8 more suspects from the day of the eviction.

Toronto’s mayor and police have continued to defend the City’s actions on the day of the encampment clearing, where many encampment residents and their supporters were brutalized and arrested. People came away with injuries including broken bones and concussions, and many were pepper sprayed.

Meanwhile, on September 17th, the City of Toronto announced in a press released that the total cost of encampment eviction activities this summer totaled almost $2 million. One calculation found that this worked out to $33,333 for each person evicted – resources that could have instead gone toward providing long-term housing solutions.

Halifax and Montreal Hold Anarchist Gatherings, Victoria Announces an Online Bookfair

In Montreal, the first in-person anarchist bookfair since the beginning of the pandemic took place on September 12th. The all day event took place in a park and featured tables with books, zines, and art, food provided by Food Against Fascism, a grief space, and discussions on inter-generational anarchism and race and racism in anarchist organizing and community. Despite a lack of permit, there was no trouble from the cops.

For the second year in a row, organizers in Halifax tackled the challenge of holding a COVID-safe bookfair. The bookfair took place on September 4th and included workshops, tables, and a concert. For more about the bookfair, check out this From Embers episode.

The Victoria Anarchist Bookfair also just announced an upcoming online bookfair. Their announcement states:

In 2021, due to the worldwide pandemic, the Anarchist Bookfair Collective has decided to host an online Bookfair. Working with the podcasting radio collective From Embers (visit them here: https://fromembers.libsyn.com) we will be producing a series of interviews covering such issues as Indigenous anarchism; anarchist perspectives on Afghanistan; activism against prisons; policing the police; defending old growth forests, anarchism and the arts, and more!

We expect to launch the 2021 Victoria Anarchist Bookfair on-line in early October. Stay tuned!

Fairy Creek Blockade Becomes Largest Act of Civil Disobedience in History of Canada

The longstanding blockades against old-growth logging at Fairy Creek in so-called BC have hit another milestone. On September 9th, the arrest count rose to 882, surpassing the previous record for largest civil disobedience act in Canada.

As reported by CBC, the record-breaking arrests included 16 individuals arrested during a police attempt to clear an access road of people locked down in trenches and on tripods. Until now, that record was held by Clayoquot Sound. Also known as the “War in the Woods.” the 1993 months-long logging protests at the Clayoquot Sound in BC saw 856 arrests. As CBC explains, the War in the Woods ended with “the promise of a provincial government review, which wound up reducing the annual allowable cut and clearcuts in the area to a maximum of four hectares.” However Fairy Creek, and other land defenSe struggles across the country, show us that these policy gains are never sufficient. New waves of resistance to colonial environmental destruction will remain crucial.

Teal Cedar, a Teal Jones subsidiary, has applied for a year-long extension of the current injunction beyond the September 26th expiry date. The judge responsible for deciding the fate of the injunction has noted that he is not sure what his decision will be but that he anticipates making a decision in the next few weeks. In the meantime, the injunction has been temporarily extended pending his decision.

In continuity with the last several months of resistance and repression, the blockades remain active and the arrests have not stopped, with the count recently surpassing 1,000. To read an anarchist analysis of the struggle at Fairy Creek, go here. Follow the campaign on Instagram here.

10,000 Western University Students Stage Walk-out Against Sexual Violence

Following orientation week at London, Ontario’s Western University, students’ social media featured multiple reports of approximately 30 women being drugged and some sexually assaulted in the Medway-Sydenham Hall student residence. The reports sparked more students not staying in residence halls to come forward about their own recent experiences of sexual violence on campus. These students articulated their assessment of the university as playing host to a culture of misogyny which enables abuse and makes it difficult for survivors to seek support.

As reported by CBC, a student sexual violence survey found that that as many as 71% per cent of Western University students reported being sexually harassed in the 2017-18 school year, with more than 32% of students reporting being sexually assaulted during the same time span. In response to the crisis, students staged a walkout against sexual violence on September 17th.

An estimated 10,000 people attended to show support for survivors and demand the university address the issue of sexual violence. So far, the president of the university has announced an increase in campus policing and security patrols as well as mandatory consent training for students in residence.

We know that cops don’t keep anyone safe, and are themselves an integral part, and defenders of, a system of patriarchy and rape culture. We hope that the students resisting sexual violence in their context will find creative ways to build a different culture at their school without relying on the police.

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Source: Itsgoingdown.org