Activists Enter New Surrey Migrant Detention Center on Multi-city Day of Action Against Detention

Migrant Detention Centre - Surrey BC

By Jeff Shantz and Eva Ureta, October 8, 2019

 No borders activists, anti-police organizers, and prison abolitionists gained access to the new migrant detention center under construction located at 13130 76 Ave, Surrey, BC (Unceded Coast Salish territories) on the Multi-city Day of Action against the Canadian state's detention of migrants: October 3, 2019. The action disrupted a Canada Border Security Agency training session for their jail guards. A banner was also successfully unfurled inside the detention centre and viewable to passersby and motorists. It read: “Stop Detentions, Migrant Justice Now!”

The migrant prison is being built under much secrecy with little publicly available information. Gaining this kind of access by people opposing border controls, prisons, and state containment has not been possible previously at this site.

The new detention center is operated by the Canada Border Security Agency as part of the Canadian state's repression of racialized, precarious, migrant working class people. It is an institution of colonial and imperialist state violence.

In addition to the Surrey action, demonstrations were carried out against the other migrant detention centers in Canada—in Laval, Quebec and in Toronto—as well as in other cities within the Canadian state

 (Photo: Eva Ureta)

 Video of the Surrey action can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6ud0kAnGMU

 And at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkRtn24CJQY

Climate Justice with Kids

By Mike Ma, September 27, 2019

I went on the climate march today with my 8 year old daughter. There has been so much hype lately about climate change, with Greta Thunberg shaming the “adults” in the room, and mention of mass extinction I really didn’t know what to expect. But getting there was fun being on a public bus full of kids going to a “protest.” It was kind of different. It was almost like a school trip! But once we arrived, it kind of looked like other such protests that start at City Hall, but with lots and lots of young people.

It was a nice feeling to be among so many fellow travelers who excitedly showed up with their school or kids or friends. There were lots of young people who not only bothered to show up, but also had some fire in their belly and brought plenty of energy and thoughtfulness to the event. So many of the teens were incredibly excited and pumped. I suspect it might even have been their first protest. There were sooo many people! It was packed. So packed I couldn’t find my older daughter who was there with her high school friends.

One thing of note was the ending… after we marched over the bridge and walked past the art gallery it then kind of ended. One fellow protester said as we lined up to get on the skytrain: “There was no finale!” Maybe it’s a fitting capstone to a momentary congealing of world wide attention and youth re: climate change. I guess we stay tuned for the finale to come.

Just a endnote: Just two days earlier I witness the 200+ logging truck protest coming into town on Hastings. They came to protest the demise of an extractivist cut-down-trees industry, and today I’m at a protest to call attention to the very issue of deforestation and catastrophic climate change. What strange bookends.

https://www.thesocialjusticecentre.org/blog/2019/9/25/21i1y109okb94l6o8qoe84a6n3hjsv

Climate Justice Protest Vancouver - Sept 27 2019 (4).jpg
climate justice protest - zoe and kira.JPG

Logging Truck Protest

By Mike Ma, September 25, 2019

I was walking home and was confronted with the logging protest that has come into town today. I was just getting some groceries and as I turned the corner at Hastings and Nanaimo at 3:30pm there was a huge convoy of trucks. They’re coming in from all over BC to protest the demise of the logging industry and sawmill closures all across BC. They are protesting that the forest industry shutdown is killing the hundreds of communities and towns that rely on this sector of work. Wow, those horns were loud!

Living in the Time(s) of Brexit

Photo from: https://cartographiesoftheabsolute.wordpress.com/2019/03/25/brexit-or-ersatz-cognitive-mapping/

Photo from: https://cartographiesoftheabsolute.wordpress.com/2019/03/25/brexit-or-ersatz-cognitive-mapping/

By Alberto Toscano, September 21, 2019

 How long does a crisis take? The inhabitants of the United Kingdom, as well as international witnesses following the events (or lack thereof) of the past three years with a mix of Schadenfreude, bemusement or anxiety, may well be forgiven for asking themselves this question. Irrespective of sober quantitative forecasts of economic doom attendant on a ‘no deal’ exit from the European Union a growing number of people seem inclined to opt for the fanciful but compelling idea of a clean break, if nothing else to ‘get it over with’. When it’s not just the time of policy or planning, of budgets and bureaucracies, but of your everyday life and psyche that comes to be occupied by a political issue, the attractions of finality are considerable. A sense of this public mood, not to mention of the animal spirits of revanchist nationalism that often accompany it, lies behind Boris Johnson’s sub-Machiavellian strategy, hatched with his volatile advisor Dominic Cummings, to “move fast and break things” – things here meaning parliamentary sovereignty and constitutional customs. As that strategy falters – faced with legal challenges, parliamentary resistance and the transparency of its own bluff and bluster – life in the United Kingdom oscillates between a grinding, powerless sense of stasis and stagnation (Brexit never-ending) and the anxiety that protracted crisis will segue into catastrophe, on October 31 (what the more delirious irredentists fantasise as ‘independence day’) or sometime thereafter. Between the ongoing grind and the oncoming crash, one can also find excitement and distraction in the small events and pseudo-events that populate the time of Brexit: parliamentary rebellions, legal opinions, ministerial leaks, Tory expulsions, Labour resignations, or Johnson’s gaffes.  

Deal or no deal, it is evident that the political and social crisis crystallising around Brexit is not going to be resolved – whether in a palliative or catastrophic manner – precisely because it is not one crisis but many (or, perhaps more accurately, many-in-one), all of which have their own rhythms, their own temporalities, which seem to evade any synchronisation. It is one of the lasting discoveries of critical theories and anthropologies that human beings live in a multiplicity of uneven, and sometimes incompatible, times. Writing in the 1930s, the German philosopher Ernst Bloch, talked of the non-contemporaneity of the contemporaneous, and of the emergence of ‘non-synchronous people’, to grasp how the German petty-bourgeoisie could simultaneously inhabit a technologically complex capitalist society and entertain racial fantasies and feudal dreams (as he quipped: ‘Peasants sometimes still believe in witches and exorcists, but not nearly as frequently and as strongly as a large class of urbanites believe in ghostly Jews and the new Baldur’). Notwithstanding its reputation for phlegmatic empiricism, its self-image as averse to the violent enthusiasms and fanatical beliefs raging across the Channel (or the Eurotunnel), the United Kingdom – but especially England – is a deeply non-synchronous place. Living in an old country – to borrow the title of an insightful book about struggles over the nation’s past – also means living in a place with a lot of unfinished, or unfinishable, business.  

So what are these crises that combine to make it so that from Land’s End to John O’Groats the time is definitely out of joint?  

There is a crisis (and a time) of nations: while the regulatory and ideological horizon of European integration somewhat cushioned the creep towards what had already been forecast in the 1970s as ‘the break-up of Britain’, the prospect of Brexit accelerates and intensifies the lines of division. Conflicts that channel entangled histories of religion, class and identity going back hundreds of years are revived by a profoundly anachronistic form of English nationalism, which, at the same time as it calmly countenances the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement or the secession of the Scots, still lives in a kind of imperial time, improbably referring to the reorientation of the economy from the EU to the ‘Commonwealth’. The nationalism dominating the discourse for Brexit is of a particularly mutant stripe: combining nostalgias for Little England, pantomime replays of World War Two, and resisting the impersonality of the federal, the international, and the global, while hankering for the imperial, as it dreams of reviving the glories of a trading power while actually pushing the country to become a deregulated tax-haven. 

There is a crisis (and a time) of capital and class: however many times it may be statistically refuted, and notwithstanding its basis in a lamination of race and class that itself goes back to the days of ‘social imperialism’ (when the colonies were advertised as a boon to the English labourer), the notion of Brexit as some kind of working-class revolt is one of those zombie ideas that refuses to stay dead. In part, it is because it is accompanied and complemented by one of the most powerful notions behind the phantasm of a national(ist) renaissance, namely decline. Now, Britain has been deemed in decline (as the pivot and engine of the world-economy) at least since the 1870s, and deindustrialisation, rather than the European-led calamity it is somehow purported to be, is a matter of secular transformations or of internecine class struggle (as in the trauma of Thatcherism). Even the very fishing industries so often taken as the prime sacrificial victim of European integration were in decline long before the cold hand of Brussels made itself felt in the dreaded quotas and regulations. On the other side from the shearing injuries of class, and the sometime distorting mirrors through which they’re viewed, there is the grotesque continuity of an upper class which flaunts its own anachronism – as in the figure of the MP and ‘Leader of the Commons’ Jacob Rees-Mogg, who delights in being tagged ‘the honourable member for the eighteenth century’, while accumulating a fortune through the most deterritorialised and deterritorialising form of finance capital.  

There is a crisis (and a time) of race and identity: as patent in Nigel Farage’s violent invocations of ‘decent people’, the murder of MP Jo Cox, or in the Minutemen-like patrols of the ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ that the neo-fascist outfit Britain First have recently begun to hound the handfuls of migrants landing on English shores, Brexit has brought to the fore both at its fringes and core strains of far-right identitarianism which some might have wrongly thought quashed with the demise of the National Front, the British National Party and their toxic offspring. Perhaps less talked about is the displacement and continuation of long-standing ‘post-colonial’ racisms against the children and grand-children of imperial subjects onto the seemingly ‘white’ migrants from EU accession countries (Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, though the leave campaign raised the spectre of Albanians, Serbs, Macedonians, and, with an Islamophobic flourish, Turks). ‘White-on-white’ racism, though widespread, failed properly to register on the ideological radar – and the Eurosceptic left largely abandoned its duties of (class) solidarity, preferring instead to twist itself into knots to turn the votes of amorphous categories of English voters including pensioners into claims about ‘the working class’. More, the way in which the xenophobic rhetoric of Leave was articulated with the long history of the anti-black and anti-Asian racisms – with the unending repercussions of the racialisation of citizenship evident in everything from the harassment and deportation of Afro-Caribbean members of the ‘Windrush generation’ to the demands to denaturalise those guilty of ‘Islamic extremism’ – still demands thinking through. It is obvious, in any case, that the coincidence of the so-called ‘migration crisis’ across Europe with David Cameron’s hubristic wish to sort out the Tory’s Europe problem once and for all, was a crucial driver of the Brexit vote – and served as fodder for pervasive racist social media campaigns about invasions of immigrants from the Balkans and beyond orchestrated by malevolent Eurocrats.  

There is a crisis (and a time) of institutions: defeated at the ballot-box by the doomed contest between a myth of regeneration and the reality of bureaucratic integration, not to mention by the unscrupulous machinations of emotion and fact perpetrated by the Leave campaign –  or indeed the inability of ‘Europe’ to stand, especially in the UK, as a sign of rupture, novelty or hope – the case for Remain (or at least against ‘no deal’), has found new energy in delving deep into the procedural resources of parliament. Having subjected Johnson’s government to six defeats, challenged its craven strategy of parliamentary prorogation in the courts (a case now being deliberated on in the Supreme Court), turned it into a minority government through the expulsion of 21 Tory ‘rebels’ and legally obligated the government to ask the EU for an extension in what members of its right-wing nationalist cabinet have called a ‘surrender bill’, the opposition to a No Deal Brexit has seemingly revived the fortunes and efficacy of what is jingoistically called the ‘mother of all parliaments’ (the Icelandic althingi would beg to differ). Here again, we have a clash of temporalities: the body that represents the quintessence of liberal democracy (a.k.a. constitutional monarchy), and which flaunts its venerable age with eccentric pomp (the Speaker’s cries of ‘Unlock! Unlock’ after the counting of votes, the Black Rod, the parliamentary Mace that a particularly cheeky MP tried to run away with), comes up against the bullish ‘now’ of Johnson’s executive tabloid populism – with the next election inauspiciously sold as ‘parliament versus the people’. What might have once, in the time of the Chartists, been a slogan of radical democracy is now turned into a nationalist rallying-cry against ‘betrayal’. But the institutions that are also undergoing crisis and recombination are the political parties. Ever since the 1975 Referendum on entry into the EEC in which the Labour Left (Tony Benn) and the Tory Right (Enoch Powell) campaigned for a ‘No’ vote, while the centre of both parties argued for European integration – a moment still very much alive in Remainers’ animosity towards Corbyn as a closet Brexiter – ‘Europe’ has been an object of obsession and division for the Conservatives (note that before David Cameron’s unfortunate push to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership to placate his party’s chauvinist right, Europe was viewed as a priority for only 10% of the electorate). Brexit is in many ways the externalisation and regressive ‘socialisation’ of their own long-lasting ideological crisis. And the fact that the Tories decided to settle their internal accounts in public, or rather through the public, at the very time when their regime of austerity was further immiserating areas experiencing decades of deindustrialisation, also allowed, perversely, blame for the cruelties of capital to be deflected onto Brussels – whose responsibility for the devastation of Greece was there for all to see, but which is not the primary culprit for misery in the Midlands and beyond.   

To return to the question with which I started: this crisis (or crises) that has crystallised around Brexit is not going to end any time soon. Wishes for a clean break or a return to the European fold, whatever the outcome of the current ‘negotiations’ and creeping constitutional crisis, are unlikely to bring any clarity or stability. The fault-lines cutting across the UK polity, its unwritten constitution, its component nations, its recombinant class structure, and perhaps above all its dreams, fantasies and ideologies, all augur troubled times ahead (and that is without bringing to bear other critical temporalities, namely those of the systemic crises of capital and climate). In an oft-quoted line passage of his prison notebooks, the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci wrote: ‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear’. Ironically, it is in a regnum, a kingdom, whose anachronistic continuation few seem truly to challenge, that Gramsci’s description acquires its greatest force. This regnum, this increasingly disunited kingdom, is an interregnum, and it seems to find ever new and morbid ways for the old to keep dying. 

21 September 2019

Ministerial Order for Heroin Buyer Clubs Needed Immediately

Heroin Buyer Club

NEWS RELEASE

August 29, 2019

Ministerial Order for Heroin Buyer Clubs Needed Immediately

In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st, the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (BCYADWS) requests the provincial government immediately enact a new Ministerial Order to facilitate the rapid implementation of heroin buyer clubs in British Columbia.

This action is within the context of the public health emergency declared in April 2016, and follows the successful Ministerial Order in December 2016 that facilitated the immediate implementation of overdose prevention sites. Similar to the 2016 Order, this action is urgently required while waiting for longer-term proposals that are dependent on federal exemptions or legislative changes. Please find below a draft Ministerial Order for consideration.

Our request to the Hon. Judy Darcy and the BC Ministry of Mental Health & Addictions reflects both the current evidence and policy directives of the Province, the Provincial Health Officer, the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and many other organizations. This evidence includes the BCCSU’s white paper on heroin compassion clubs, the Provincial Health Officer’s report Stopping the harm: Decriminalization of people who use drugs in BC, the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs’ (CAPUD) concept paper on safe supply, among others.

“It is inexcusable for the Province to have the power to sign this Ministerial Order and not follow through knowing the evidence and the devastating loss in our province and beyond,” says Hawkfeather Peterson, BCYADWS board member.

According to Bruce Wallace, a Scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) at the University of Victoria, “As we have published, BC’s legislative process to implement OPS was unprecedented and provides an international example of how to proceed with extraordinary measures under a declared public-health emergency. The 2016 Ministerial Order immediately enabled services that were state-sanctioned and government-directed, yet community-defined, with drug user groups centred in the service design, implementation and delivery.’”

International Overdose Awareness Day is promoted as a “Time to Remember, Time to Act”. We are requesting this action, because remembering is not enough. “Purple ribbons and mourning those we have lost is very important, and the best way to honour our loved ones and those lost is to prevent further losses. We owe it to the thousands of people who have died in BC and those who are left to remember,” says BCYADWS President Kevin Donaghy.

BC is a world leader in harm reduction and the province has been among the most responsive and progressive jurisdictions in North America. Drug user groups from BC are recognized innovators and leaders in implementing harm reduction innovations. This is the time for the Province to act so we can act.

Please find attached a copy of the proposed Ministerial Order and the original 2016 Ministerial Order.

-- 30 --

Media contacts:

Kevin Donaghy, BCYADWS: 250-516-8157 newleafnanaimo@gmail.com

Hawkfeather Peterson, BCYADWS: (604)747-2878 hawkfeather333@gmail.com

Bruce Wallace, CISUR: 250-889-9267 (barclay@uvic.ca)

 

About BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (BCYADWS)

BCYADWS is a grassroots democratic organization of drug users and former users who work to improve the lives of people who use illicit drugs through user-based peer support and education.

 

About International Overdose Awareness Day

Observed on the 31st of August every year, International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) seeks to create better understanding of overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and create change that reduces the harms associated with drug use.

 

 

Proposed Ministerial Order:

PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA Ministerial Order No.

 

ORDER OF THE MINISTER OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIONS

Emergency Health Services Act

I, Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, as per my authority under section 5.2 of the Emergency Health Services Act and section 7.1 of the Health Authorities Act, order British Columbia Emergency Health Services and the regional health boards to provide, on the advice of the provincial health officer, during the public health emergency declared under the Public Health Act on April 14, 2016, drug buyer clubs for the purpose of accessing and storing bulk purchased drugs and distributing in personal amounts, and with revenue designated for in-house operations and supports, as ancillary health services, in any place there is a need for these services, as determined by the level of overdose related morbidity and mortality.

 

Date

Name

(This part is for administrative purposes only and is not part of the Order.)

Authority under which Order is made:

Act and section:- Emergency Health Services Act, s.5.2

Other (specify):- Health Authorities Act, s. 7.1

 

Previous (2016) Ministerial Order:

PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA Ministerial Order No. M 488

ORDER OF THE MINISTER OF HEALTH

Emergency Health Services Act

I, Terry Lake, Minister of Health, as per my authority under section 5.2 of the Emergency Health Services Act and section 7.1 of the Health Authorities Act, order British Columbia Emergency Health Services and the regional health boards to provide, on the advice of the provincial health officer, during the public health emergency declared under the Public Health Act on April 14, 2016, overdose prevention services for the purpose of monitoring persons who are at risk of overdose, and providing rapid intervention as and when necessary, as ancillary health services, in any place there is a need for these services, as determined by the level of overdose related morbidity and mortality.

December 9, 2016

Terry Lake, Minister of Health

(This part is for administrative purposes only and is not part of the Order.)

Authority under which Order is made:

Act and section:- Emergency Health Services Act, s.5.2

Other (specify):- Health Authorities Act, s. 7.1


The Use and Abuse of ‘Identity’: Samir Gandesha’s Fanonian Critique

Samir Gandesha.jpg

August 24, 2019

By Jeff Shantz

 Through his work with the Institute of the Humanities at Simon Fraser University, Samir Gandesha, Institute Director, has done much to provide opportunities locally for substantial analysis of the current rise of fascist movements and politics, and to discuss ways to confront this rise. On August 17, 2019, Gandesha presented a wide ranging discussion on the nature of identity politics in the current fascist period drawing on insights from Frantz Fanon, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Louis Althusser among others.

The Uncanny Return of Fascism

The historical context today is what Gandesha calls “the uncanny return of fascism.” He rightly notes that the stakes today are quite high. As his talk was happening clashes were underway in Portland, Oregon as antifascists sought to stop a fascist rally organized by the Proud Boys.

Gandesha suggests that today it is difficult even to have the discussion about identity politics and about free speech given the fraught context. He says that his concern is to renovate democratic institutions (which, he notes, are quite broken anyway).

Contemporary fascism, Gandesha points, out, is a militantly anti-democratic response to the multiple crises of capitalism. It uses a mobilization of collective identities and cultural “traditions”—including the mobilization of traditional, patriarchal, authoritarian collective “identities.” Yet fascsists assail the identity politics of those who have been subjected to forms of oppression and marginalization and who seek to mobilize against conditions of inequality and hierarchy.

Identity Politics?

So what is “identity politics?” Gandesha suggests that, in part, it is understanding political commitments from experiences of oppression or the individual’s “subject position,” to use a term from Althusser. Gandesha starts with Althusser’s notion of interpolation. The response when the police officer calls out, “Hey you.” Who turns to answer the “Hey you” and why? It very much depends if a Black or Indigenous person is being hailed by the cops, or if it is a white male. And it matters that it is a cop doing the hailing, not someone else.

Here Gandesha builds up the analysis with reference to Kimberlé Crenshaw’s foundational work on intersectionality. Police violence is represented almost entirely as targeting Black men, not Black women. Gandesha also references positively Natalie Clark’s notion of “Red Intersectionality—feminism situated within Indigenous traditions and concerns.

The Combahee River Collective (1974-1980) significantly connected identity politics and collective liberation politics. They developed a critique of both masculine forms of liberation politics and feminist approaches that overlook race and class. They insisted, and Gandesha takes up, that the liberation for oppressed people must be anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist.

Gandesha too insists that radical politics must be a politics of fundamental social transformation. Yet, he makes the claim, controversial for some, that identity politics in theory and in practices undermines the approach to a large scale transformation of society. In his view it undermines its own emancipatory aspirations. More than that, Gandesha argues that identity politics creates problems of even having a discussion about having a discussion. He suggests that the guns become turned inward. What results, according to Gandesha, is a closing of critical discussion and debate rather than actual engagement and response.

Identities, he argues, demand recognition. That is a vital aspect of the politics. He points out though that class cannot be understood in the same way. Class is an empirical sociological category. It is a specific form of structural negativity. Class demands its negation not its recognition. As for homelessness—it is not about recognizing an identity—it is about abolishing a structural condition (a negative one). It requires the abolition of class society itself.

Identity politics is based on a reified account of experience, for Gandesha. Claims to “authentic” identity are similar to property claims, he suggests. Identity is carried around and possessed, and this fits with a neoliberal possessive individualism. It is a proprietary relationship with and to identity.

Gandesha wants discussion and debate. He suggests that even where artwork (or argument) fails it could “fail better” and in doing so help us to learn something. Demand for artwork’s destruction (as in the recent case of “Open Casket” which Gandesha references) rules this out—and for all time. Truth becomes based on the identity of the artists—not on the collective response and criticism.

Failed Revolutions

Gandesha notes that conflict and abuse are not the same thing. Here he brings in a reading of anti-colonial theorist Frantz Fanon and his dynamic understanding of identity. Fanon offers a transnational perspective—not one drawn from US experiences. Gandhesa points out that Fanon hits on exploitation and oppression as intra-racial facts (colonized colonials).

What Theodor Adorno calls the “Unitarian Trick of Authoritarianism” reduces differences within groups and exaggerates differences between groups. Typically reducing class distinctions within identity groups, nationalities, etc.

Gandesha then turns to issues of contemporary fascism. He starts with Walter Benjamin’s famous quote that “Behind every fascism is a failed revolution. Gandesha argues that there is a larger failed revolution here—the bourgeois revolutions of the 1700s that promised a better life but did not deliver. Since there have been several failed revolutions aimed at transforming the failed bourgeois revolutions—responding to unmet promise and disaffection with bourgeois life. Now multiplied in economic and ecological crises.

Conclusion

Gandesha offers a challenging and compelling response to and assessment of identity politics. There is much to debate and develop. He argues that the Left must distinguish itself from Rightist attacks on liberal democracy and this is not about natural hierarchies and identities. Gandesha suggests that the Left must insist on thoroughgoing democratization of social life—for free and autonomous life.

He references the work of Franz Neumann, “Anxiety and Politics” (1957) in calling for a dual offensive on anxiety and for liberty. Education is necessary—not an idealism that excuses assaults on libertarian (in the socialist, not in the US sense) impulses.

The conclusions are a bit lacking. He ends up with a defense of liberal democracy and seeks a response to this. Of course, liberal democracy has been a tool of management and reproduction for capital—the continuation of exploitation and oppression. And appeals to discussion and debate can be abstract and repressive when taken from real world struggles. We do not need to hear from and debate fascists. Rather, it is right to punch Nazis. Neither do we want a world where we have to turn when hailed by cops (we want no cops at all, not better debates with them). They have every opportunity to speak and do not need to be heard. 

*Much thanks to Eva Ureta for insightful conversations about this material and the presentation itself.

Rita Wong - Public Statement regarding Trans Mountain Injunction, Arrest & Sentencing

Rita Wong protest

August 17, 2019

By Rita Wong 

I’m grateful to be here alive today with all of you on sacred, unceded Coast Salish territories, the homelands of the Musqsueam, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh peoples.

On 24 August 2018, while BC was in a state of emergency because of wildfires caused by climate change —breaking records for the second year in a row; putting lives at risk, health at risk, and displacing thousands of people— I sang, prayed, and sat in ceremony for about half an hour in front of the Trans Mountain pipeline project’s Westridge Marine Terminal.

I did this because we’re in a climate emergency, and since the Federal government has abdicated its responsibility to protect us despite full knowledge of the emergency, it became necessary to act. We are in imminent peril if we consider the rate of change we are currently experiencing from a geological perspective – we are losing species at an alarming rate and facing mass extinction due to the climate crisis that humans have caused. This is the irreparable harm I sought to prevent, which the court, the Crown, and corporations also have a responsibility to prevent.

Everyone has the responsibility to respond to this crisis. We are on the global equivalent of the Titanic, and this industrialized ship needs to change direction. We also need to build life boats, healthy places that can support resilience in the future, such as the sacred Salish Sea.

I acted with respect for the rule of law which includes the rule of natural law and the rule of Indigenous law and the rule of international law. Under the rule of law:

·       I have a responsibility to my ancestors and the ancestors of this land to protect the lands and waters that give us life with each breath, each bite of food, each sip of water.

·       I have a responsibility to reciprocate to the salmon who have given their life to feed mine, to reciprocate to the trees that produce and gift us the fresh air from their leaves through the perpetual song of photosynthesis.

·       I have a responsibility to give back to the great Pacific Ocean, the Coast Salish Sea, Stalew (the Fraser River), and the many water bodies on which human life – and other lives - depend.

·       I have a responsibility to hold our politicians accountable when they persistently breach their international legal obligations to protect us. They should be reducing greenhouse gas emissions, not increasing them in ways that put the very existence of life at risk.

By breaching the injunction, I had no intention of reducing respect for our courts. I do intend to ask the court to respect Coast Salish laws that uphold our responsibilities to care for the land and waters that make life, liberty and peace possible for everyone. I sincerely ask the court to take our reciprocal relationship with the land and water into consideration because we are on Coast Salish lands, where everyone is a Coast Salish citizen.

I’m one of over 200 citizens of conscience who were arrested because, unlike our federal and provincial governments, we take the climate crisis seriously. We take the need to protect society seriously. We did what we could to maintain respect for our justice system:

·       We cooperated with Indigenous spiritual guardians, non-governmental organizations and the police.

·       We waited patiently for decades before determining —at a moment in history when time has almost run out to act —that orthodox ways of getting the federal government to act were doomed to fail.

·       The police were informed in advance and they appointed people to liaise and communicate with the NGOs in order to maintain order.

All of this is evidence of the rule of law working.

I respect the court’s concern for the rule of law. I do appreciate that obeying court orders is part of the rule of law. There are more aspects of the rule of law that I would ask you to consider before sentencing me.

Natural law and Indigenous law rely on mutual aid and cooperation, qualities that require maturity and a deep love for one’s community, recognizing that we are all equal. It is a rule of law that works primarily from a place of love and respect, not from fear of authority and punishment.

This is the aspect of rule of law that has moved the hearts and spirits of the thousands of people who’ve shown up to care for the land and waters of this place. Such an understanding of rule of law, as coming from a place of love and courage more than fear, could strengthen our sense of democracy. It could make our commitment to reconciliation a sincere one.

We can all learn from natural law and Coast Salish law that we have a reciprocal relationship with the land; and that we all have a responsibility to care for the land’s health, which is ultimately our health too. This was reinforced most recently for me by Tsleil-Waututh speakers at the Drums Not Drills gathering at the scene of my arrest, the Westridge Marine Terminal, on Aug 5 this year, which I helped to co-organize as part of the Mountain Protectors group. 

My ancestors teach me to act responsibly, to honour the water, the land and my relatives.  I feel their teachings in my blood & guts, my bones that carry their spirits within them, my heart as it closes & opens again & again with each beat.

The morning of my arrest we hung red dresses to honour the murdered and missing Indigenous women, the sisters who are made more vulnerable and victimized by the man camps that accompany pipeline expansion and massive resource extraction.  We sang the women warriors song, over and over again, for each woman who should have been there & wasn’t.

We sang for our grandparents, for people from all four direction of the earth.

Our ceremony that morning was an act of spiritual commitment, of prayer, of artistic expression, of freedom of expression, an act of desperation in the face of climate crisis, an act of allegiance with the earth’s natural laws, and a heartfelt attempt to prevent mass extinction of the human race.

As I see it, one shows respect by speaking honestly, a view shared by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. To speak the truth is not to show contempt, but to hold those in power accountable for failing to protect us and for instead knowingly choosing to inflict systemic harm & violence upon us and upon the land and waters that give us life.

I pray that the urgency of the climate crisis and our responsibilities to be good relatives living on Coast Salish lands, under Coast Salish laws, will help to guide this justice system as it encounters land defenders. As land and water defenders, we do what we do for everyone’s sake.

Thank you.

“Our Space! Our Safety”: Reflections on Community Alternatives to Police

vandu vpl image strip.jpg

By Eva Ureta and Jeff Shantz

Close to 35 community members gathered on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, at the nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona VPL Branch for a moderated discussion on security and policing approaches in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The session entitled Our Space! Our Safety! was moderated by Danielle LaFrance of VPL in collaboration with VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users). Typically VPL hosts monthly meetings with VANDU and this month both decided to host an event on a much needed and urgent topic: policing and surveillance.

VANDU is a group of users and former users who work to improve the lives of people who use drugs through user-based peer support and education. They’re committed to increasing the capacity of people who use drugs to live healthy lives on their own terms and according to their own needs. With over 2,000 members they are committed to challenging public policy in the face of police repression.

After some introductions and basic ground rules the discussion started with a pretty loaded question: “What has your experience been with security and policing in Vancouver?”

One community member from VANDU spoke at length about how women are under attack. She spoke about her own run in with the law at the age of 41 when she was charged with a minor drug offense. It was her first time being introduced to the process of the justice system. She is now 52 and struggles with navigating around her 13 conditions which are due to expire in 2022. In her words “we’re screwed – we’re screwed”. There was further elaboration on the pressure the police put on community members to “rat” on their friends and family during a time when “our street families are dying!”

Another member of VANDU and a resident of Vancouver’s DTES for more than 40 years followed up with a sentiment felt around the room: it feels like the government is trying to kill us and they should be held responsible. He expressed his frustration with being miss-handled and labeled which on occasion has led to police throwing him to the ground and robbing him.

A youth spoke at length about the aging out process (too young or old to access services) and the harassment she faced as a young woman with local security firms which are hired by the surrounding Business Improvement Associations (BIA). On one occasion the police were offended by the sight of her pipe and asked her to put it away. Unfortunately, she did not do so in what they viewed as a timely manner so the police used their baton to smack it out of her had which sent the pipe flying and left her arm injured.

After further discussion surrounding the experiences of long-time members of the DTES everyone got engaged in talking about survival in relation to policing and surveillance in the community. Meenakshi Mannoe, Manager of Community Education at PIVOT, pointed out that the numbers show that police are racist and target Indigenous peoples, which is not surprise when you look at the statistics, including those of the Vancouver Police Department themselves. Indigenous peoples being over represented in all aspects of the Criminal Justice System. And, in this community, Indigenous women are under constant surveillance, targeted and underserved by police and private security. Just look to see who is getting carded, sentences, incarcerated and subject to the worst probation orders. Security in this community is also hyper present in that they are an omnipresent reality that can be seen almost at all times either on foot or in a well-marked vehicle. It’s important that we see the role of security “officers” as an extension of the police and the power that they have over people’s privacy and safety. The only real distinguishing factor as far as function is that they are far cheaper than police. Private security are everywhere and the impacts of their function as an extension of the police are felt hardest in the Social Housing, non-profit and “community” spaces that are becoming less safe as a result of their presence. Their role is not to be a part of the community but to be a stand in for officers to provide information for the police when needed to “assist” in matters of community safety.

Bad apples make it hard for the good apples: Good Cop, Bad Cop debate!

The topic of there being some bad apples that unravel or undo the work of the good apples tends to rear up at most events where policing is debated or discussed at a public level. An employee of VANDU quickly intervened and explained that the police are part of a broken system. At the heart of this system was the violent removal by colonial states and settlers to remove Indigenous Peoples, therefore anything built as a result of that system, and established to maintain it, is rotten. No matter the intentions of an individual officer they all operate, respond to, and are accountable for a system rooted in colonial practices in the lands we now call Canada.

Self-Policing and Alternatives to Policing

VPD Surveillance tactics affected close to every community member in attendance. One thing community members could all agree on is that they are all capable of policing themselves and looking out for each other thanks to places like VANDU that have become a community through their lived experience. In being such an outspoken, focus driven and collective community they have discovered that they in fact police themselves quite regularly around issues that could involve the police. Instead they decide that by not turning to the police they create a safer space for people to come up with solutions that are beneficial to all parties involved. Much of the work is being done as peers and colleagues look out for a care for one another on a regular basis.

The police bring with them a whole host of problems. It was noted that police do not like to be witnessed and that sometimes police wait to get you alone so they can abuse their power such as robbing or intimidating you.

What can we do as a community to move forward?

“We have power in numbers”, mentioned one attendee. There are more of us becoming poor than there are people getting rich. The idea of forming a collective or union comprised of those most targeted by police and private security would be a great idea to discuss at a future date. This was one of the only ideas put forward that in other provinces has had great success with shifting the power and narrative to expose the practices that hurt and criminalize the most visible and underserved populations. Although VANDU has its hands full combating police, private security, and local/provincial government, it would be a powerful move if VANDU takes the lead on implementing such changes in Vancouver’s DTES.

In addition to collective care and community self defense networks, much can be done in pushing for a defunding of police and a redistribution of social funding towards meeting real needs and sustaining resources that support community well being. These discussions are happening in Vancouver, as the “Defund the Police Town Hall” hosted by the Carnegie Centre Action Project on a day after the VPL event testifies. These conversations are also happening in Surrey through the work that Anti-Police Power Surrey has being doing.

Cut the Police Budget Town Hall: Defund the Cops

By Jeff Shantz

There is a real need, across diverse neighborhoods and communities, from the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver to Surrey and beyond, to confront and oppose the domination of police in our communities—in terms of their physical domination and control and in terms of their domination of public resources and public funds.

This requires organizing and building community counter-power. Groups and resources and infrastructures that can call out police structures and practices while starting to build real world alternatives to state policing models and institutions.

On June 26, 2019, Carnegie Community Action Project organized a town hall on cutting the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) budget. Participants included representatives from community groups ranging from Pivot Legal Society, Hogan’s Alley Society, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), and Anti-Police Power Surrey.

This town hall offered some important insights and reflections on building community-based counter-power against police. Beginning with the very practical issue of police funding and the pressing need to defund police and redirect police resources to community care and supports that can actually address and meet real community needs. And it did so from the perspective of communities most targeted and punished by police in Vancouver.

Speakers touched on intersecting issues of poverty and class, racism, colonialism, and imperialism. It was noted that police do not serve and protect people—they protect structures of ownership and property (wealth inequality) and specific interests of property owners, businesses, and business associations. The stark deprivation that people in the DTES face (in housing, food, funding, etc.) is made even more stark with reference to the millions (about $300 million) spent on basic police operations in Vancouver.

The session started with an overview of the VPD budget. A handout showed visually and effectively the distribution of spending in the City of Vancouver Operating Budget for 2019. 

The event ended with a “community town hall” forum of open question and discussion. People were invited to come up to speak and share their ideas and thoughts about developing alternatives. Those who spoke noted the loss of resources—the theft of resources—from communities that could actually address underlying social causes of social harms and societal threats. There was agreement that funds need to be directed away from police and put into services and infrastructures that are actually needed and useful and support and care for people.

At the center of concerns were pressing questions about what can be done. Ideas and suggestions included a community police watch or counter-patrols to observe police actions in the community. There was a call to observe Police Board meeting. Building networks among groups that are doing work against police and police budget increases was identified as necessary. A call was made that people join organizations doing this work, such as VANDU, CCAP, Our Homes Can’t Wait, and Anti-Police Power Surrey. There was a call to join the emerging Cut the Police Budget Campaign in Vancouver.

Notably, given the anger directed at me by Kwantlen Polytechnic University faculty for conveying an invitation by community members that police leave an event, ironically on “prisoner justice,” the “Cut the Police Budget” event started with a strong statement that out of respect for criminalized people, and in recognition of the harms that police inflict socially, any police or VPD employees present in the room must leave. This is basic protocol in communities, even if some privileged faculty (or those who view community members disrespectfully) want to deny it or erase it.

Police are institutions for maintaining colonial capitalist social structures. Addressing police oppression means fighting against colonialism, exploitation, and repression.

 

Event Videos

https://www.youtube.com/user/RadicalCriminology

Anti-Police Power Surrey Confronts RCMP ‘Open House’ Public Relations Stunt

By Jeff Shantz and Eva Ureta

 On Saturday May 11, 2019, Anti-Police Power Surrey (APPS) went to Surrey RCMP headquarters to confront their “Police Week” open house event. The aim was to Stand openly against police domination in Surrey, British Columbia (unceded Coast Salish territories) and to oppose police public relations stunts and the wasting of public resources on policing.

While essential community services go badly underfunded or excluded by the City of Surrey, police in the city have no shortage of resources for whatever exercise they determine is useful to reinforcing their power and reach in the community. This includes for useless copaganda contrivances like “Police Week.” Complete with a “mini jail” for kids and a flyover by the police helicopter, the RCMP spared no expense to try to make repression and state violence seem like fun for all ages.

Ahead of the event APPS released a statement. It reads in part:

“You can count on the Surrey RCMP to show up at community events and festivals, take selfies, and hand out stickers to kids. This is part of a concerted effort to normalize the massive police presence in Surrey by branding police as ‘family friendly’ and ‘community oriented.’ But regardless of any public relations efforts, police remain a threat to our communities. They surveil and harass homeless people, enforce the catastrophic war on drugs, and terrorize racialized and Indigenous communities, profiling and brutalizing young people of colour with impunity.”

APPS was having none of it and set up an alternative table to discuss the harms police inflict on our communities, the massive consumption of social resources involved in policing, and the need for non-repressive community alternatives. APPS also distributed an information pamphlet discussing the RCMP killings of Nona McEwan and Randy Crosson in Surrey in March. Police do not keep us safe—too often they kill.

Many good and important conversations were had, and many people were surprised to see open opposition to police right at their doorstep on their special “Police Day.” One point that grabbed the attention of the public was the cost of policing in Surrey (33% of tax payers dollars which could go to other resources that could address real issues of crime) and further talks about the proposed switch/transition from the Surrey RCMP into a municipal force. Weather a firm believer in policing or on the fence most of public engaging in dialogue with APPS agreed that both come at a hefty price tag and at a cost to the citizens of Surrey, especially youth! More such opposition is needed.

Anti-Police Power Surrey is a group of people living and working in Surrey who oppose the domination of police, police violence and repression, and the wasteful, and wildly disproportionate, expenditure of public resources on policing in Surrey. APPS calls for social resources for communities not cops, for people not police and aims for the development of non-repressive social supports and care.

Art Versus Debt: Capitalism, Creativity, and the Commons—A Roundtable


By Jeff Shantz and Eva Ureta

On April 27, 2019, a mix of academics and artists gathered at OR Gallery in downtown Vancouver to discuss the relationships of art to financialization, debt, and capitalist markets. Speakers included, in order of presentation, Max Haiven (Lakehead University), Noah Fischer (Occupy Museums), and Cassie Thornton (Feminist Economics Department).

Haiven, began the discussion stressing the deep integration of arts within financial markets. He referred to artistic gentrification and the longstanding role played by arts in gentrification—as “value added” (for capital) in neighborhoods displacing poor residents in pursuit of investment and profit.

Haiven then highlighted the Indonesian Free Port, a collection of art held by global capital in a luxury storage space for high end art. The site is so private, and secretive, that no one knows all of the pieces held there. The artworks in the vaults are pure commodities for trade. No one, except investors, can even access them—so are they art anymore? Pieces can be sold multiple times a minute, day, week, month, year. They circulate only as value, simply by an exchange of ownership documents. This relates too to debt as it is primarily financiers who are the demand in the global art market—those who own the debt of everyone else.

Artists today represent part of the vanguard of new configurations of labor according to Haiven. They are a model for flexibilized capitalism. They are forced to pursue innovation for survival in an austere global market.

So, there are important questions. Can art and artists create autonomy and experimental spaces? What are the possibilities? How does art raise possibilities?

Next up was Noah Fischer who notes that art’s relationship to creativity and dreams are also central to contemporary capitalism. He starts with a story from Zuccotti Park in 2011—Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Fischer says he saw OWS not as a protest but as a “nation state” (his words)—curious, indeed, given the anarchist impetus and form of OWS. Explaining further, Fischer says he saw a sense of autonomy and freedom. A creative space for social art, at a visible level and outside of the financialization of art. He saw creation in the form of protest—in the form of shaming. Shaming was directed at institutions and at figures like New York’s Mayor Bloomberg.

Fischer helped create Occupy Museums out of the creative collective at OWS. Museums are sites of capital flow under a cultural cover—money laundering, brand washing of fossil fuel corporations, colonialism, and the sanitizing of leftist histories of resistance. Occupy Museums sought to re/claim the content inside museums as political. It looked to highlight the relationships within museums as spaces of the one percent. They used shaming politics which did get some media attention.

From there Fischer shifted to a “Trojan Horse” tactic—Debtfair Version 1 and the Debt Exchange. These involved special exhibitions which curated artists according to data from their financial lives. They displayed art in the walls, not on the walls. They displayed the economic lives of the artists. These included experiences of debt and evictions—and how these impact the artists and their art.

They also mapped debt and targeted institutions related to the debt. This led to the doorsteps of Black Rock. Black Rock had been relatively small before the 2008 crisis. It grew afterward as Director Larry Fink figured out how to valorize bad debt. Fink, it turns out was also on the Board of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Fischer pointed out that eight out of ten of the most expensive schools in the US are art schools. Yet art graduates make less money than high school drop outs do on average. Capital makes money off of failure—but shows success (the few artists who make it).

Fischer noted in the discussion that museums are held out by elites as part of the deal of democracy. They are spaces where treasures can be accessed by the public temporarily and under specific conditions, Unlike the storage facility of the Indonesian Free Port.

Cassie Thornton wrapped up with a discussion or the Feminist Economics Department and Public xEducationx Transformation projects. In Thornton’s view, feminist theory must be about abolition—destroying entire structures. And developing alternatives. Her work focuses on videos that play with value and values. One project highlighted was the Desperate Holding Real Estate Agents which showed listings for the homes of capital, eviction lawyers, landlords, etc. in San Francisco. The listings gave their addresses and said they should be reclaimed—re-expropriated. The aim was to transform relations to land, property, and homes.

One issue with the discussion was the very limited political view fixated on shaming politics (not that they were not harsh enough for the task at hand—but that they are supposedly too harsh and perhaps dehumanize the capitalist targets). But direct action activists have known for some time that shame politics are ineffective because you cannot shame those who have no shame. Shame politics assumes that economic and political power holders can be embarrassed into acting against their own self interests. It assumes that they do not already know what they are doing, why, and the harms they are inflicting on people, society, the planet (Hint: They do). 

It assumes economic and political power holders share human values with those they exploit- But they are already dehumanized in relation to the human values of the exploited and oppressed. In fact, though, they have dehumanized themselves, voluntarily, willingly—in becoming and remaining exploiters and oppressors.

Digital-Debt-Empire was a suite of events, publications, media and collaborations centred around a gathering of scholars, activists and artists in Vancouver, 25-28 April of 2019.

Policing Racialized Communities - BCCLA AGM - May 8, 2019

By Mike Ma

BCCLA AGM – Wednesday, May 8, 2019, Vancouver Public Library

Last week I attended the BC Civil Liberties Association annual general meeting at the Vancouver Public Library. There were the usual agenda items you would expect: a review of activities and milestones, farewell to outgoing board members, and an election of new board members. However, what was of note was the panel discussion organized by Dylan Mazur, Community Lawyer, titled: Policing Racialized Communities. Dylan invited Andrea Glickman, Senior Policy Advisor, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Lama Mugabo, Hogan’s Alley Society, and Audrey Siegl, Musqueam Activist, to speak about street checks and the targeting of people of colour by police services. Audrey spoke powerfully about her experiences of the downtown eastside and her distrust and frustration with police services. Lama reminded us of the daily indignity of being racially profiled by police services when “driving or walking while black.” And Andrea re-affirmed the fact that indigenous peoples are over-policed and under-served by police. She sees street checks as “a tool of discrimination and institutionalized oppression.” It was a great conversation showcasing the issues that BCCLA is continuing to work on this coming year. For more click on the video links below.


Billonaire Bash - May Day Event (May 4, 2019) - Interview with Tamara Herman

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Billionaire Bash - Poster - May 4, 2019.jpg

Interview with Tamara Herman (by Mike Ma)

 Mike: What is Billionaire Bash?

Tamara: So Billionaire Bash was an event that we organized for May Day. We essentially took to the street in West Vancouver in an area known as Billionaire Row where 10 houses alone are worth $433 million. So we gathered in a park and we essentially gave people an interactive tour of the “who’s who’s” of BC’s billionaires. It was a chance for people in Vancouver to learn about BC’s wealthiest developers, resource extractors, tech moguls, landlords, and bad bosses. And the folks who attended were from community members and we heard from different organizations engaged in campaigns and organizing efforts.

 

Mike: One of the main features of the protest was around land wealth. Could you elaborate on this critique or issue of land wealth and how it expresses itself in British Columbia?

Tamara: Yeah, well the starting point is that most of British Columbia is unceeded territory. It is stolen land and the models of colonization have expanded and they have taken some of the old forms and some of the new forms today. So, BC has long been a resource economy and so a lot of the wealth has been based on natural resources, and that is a form of land wealth, but more and more of the wealth has started to become concentrated in real estate as well. And so there is a huge grab right now for land that is valuable real estate, and we’ve seen low income communities being increasingly gentrified and the government subsidizing wealthy developers to build rental housing that rents at rates beyond what most people can afford. So that is just some of the manifestations of land wealth. What we wanted to show is that these 10 houses alone --being worth $433 million-- is essentially a symbol of everything that is wrong in BC right now: it is a symbol of the injustice of colonization that still continues and it is a symbol of the growing wealth inequality in our communities.

 

Mike: What was the one thing that stood out for you during the day’s event? What was the one thing that was memorable or rewarding that stood out?

 Tamara: I think there were two things that stood out. 1) There was a billionaire who tried to drive up to his house, which was worth upwards of $40 million, and was quite frustrated that he couldn’t get there because we were blocking the road. We found that pretty amusing that he would be outraged at the small inconvenience of not being able to access the house that is worth more than most people will ever see in their entire lives. 2) The other great thing is that we had a really wonderful piñata and so when we came down from Billionaire Row we had a great BBQ where we had a piñata of the monopoly man and the kids really loved smashing it and so did we. It was a really great way to end the day.

May Day - Billionaire Bash Facebook page

Billionaire Bash calls on government to tax the rich to house the poor - Vancouver Sun


Interview with Brenna Bhandar - April 29, 2019

Interview with Brenna Bhandar re: Colonial Lives of Property (by Mike Ma)