Letters: November 2017

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Why not aim higher?

Re: “Same Old Story

Your speculation of a hypothetical situation in which Maryam Monsef had been elected mayor seems to ignore her record as an MP. Your emphasis of her willingness to “listen to people… before telling them what to do” ignores her botched electoral reform campaign that was widely criticized for doing just the opposite. Sure, Daryl Bennett is an almost cartoonishly incompetent mayor, but that doesn’t mean Monsef wouldn’t also capitulate to a bureaucratic and financially-expedient political status quo. If anything, her political record suggests she would.

The fact that Electric City Magazine frequently heaps undeserving and uncritical praise on Maryam Monsef makes it difficult to take your political coverage seriously. Monsef’s standing as a respected member of the community should not overshadow her role as a federal politician and her support (either tacit or overt) for the actions of the ruling Liberal Party.

J. Ryan


Peterborough’s Paradox

Re: “The Half-Life of Canadian General Electric

Tough’s well written article captures the paradox and legacy of the GE community in Peterborough, the paradox that fascinates Dr. Robert Storey (a Sociology PhD) and now Dean of Labour Studies at McMaster.

The Occupational & Environmental Health Coalition – Peterborough (OEHCP) was fortunate through Co-Chair Marion Burton to attract Storey’s MSc student Natasha Luckhardt* to tell this story. In her 2013 MSc thesis, Luckhardt poses questions: Why did the Peterborough community take so long to address this paradox? Why did they not join with John Ball and Don McDonnell to help GE workers and their families?

Now GE’s Lethal Legacy story is widely known, thanks to the Toronto Star’s investigative reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh’s extensive coverage in December 2016. What is missing in Tough’s telling of the story is the remarkable legacy of GE retiree John Ball. Ball fought this same good fight both within and during his retirement for more than 48 years.

Ball is the “elder and inspiration” that got us to where we are today.

* Luckhardt’s documentary Widows of Asbestos (working-title) is expected to be available in 2018.

Co-Chair Heather Brooks-Hill

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Solidarity Weekend

As the organizers of Solidarity Weekend (September 29 – October 1, 2017 in Nogojiwanong), we are writing to offer our gratitude, reflection, and clarification.

When a self-declared white nationalist and documented white supremacist announced an “anti-Trudeau/ anti-immigration” rally earlier this fall, it sparked a huge and diverse community mobilization of direct action, creative resistance and solidarity. The resulting weekend of activities saw more than a thousand people fill public space to overwhelm and refuse signs of racism and hate.

This response succeeded in achieving the goals of Solidarity Weekend to:
1) be a visible presence of solidarity with communities targeted by colonialism, racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and xenophobia;
2) expose the true intentions of the planned “anti-immigration” rally;
3) continue the work of relationship-building on the territory of the Michi Saagiig Anishinaabe, where we recommit ourselves to addressing our ongoing colonial history and dismantling the white supremacy at the root of our society.

Solidarity Weekend was only one initiative in the diverse responses to the white supremacy rally. Peterborough Against Fascism also held public meetings and mobilized action. The vast majority of those who attended the intersection of George and McDonnel Streets on September 30 were not affiliated with any group, moved fluidly between initiatives/ locations, and acted autonomously in terms of their own actions, choices, and words. We were heartened by the diverse responses as we believe that many approaches are needed to address white supremacy.

In stark opposition to the image painted by sensationalist media reports, the vast majority of those we spoke with over the weekend experienced a feeling of strength and unity. We felt the reassurance that people in this community will come together across difference to rise up for justice. We witnessed the reality that complete strangers will take risks to uphold each other’s rights. We heard from people of all ages, ranging from those who had never attended a protest to those who have been agitating here for decades, and felt this event as a watershed moment, a potential turning point for this community.

At the core of our organizing efforts, we are committed to continuing to build relationships within and between Indigenous, Black, Muslim, Jewish, and other targeted communities. The collective leadership and active participation of these communities in planning and in action invigorated our understanding of the power of solidarity. We extend our deepest thanks to Elder Shirley Williams, who offered a blessing in her Orange Shirt, herself a residential school survivor; to Liz Osawamick, James Mixemong, and Brendan Campbell, for words and songs, for the big drum, for the sage and tobacco, and for leading a round dance. Thank you to Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell, and to Dawn Lavell-Harvard for the reminder that white nationalism is not only inaccurate as a premise, but it has no place in Michi Saagiig territory. We offer thanks to those who courageously offered their experiences of racism and resistance: Kemi Akapo, Charmaine Magumbe, Desmond Cole, Arshad Desai, Penelope Klees. And to the Jewish folks from near and far who took time out from synagogue on the holiest day of the year.

We would also like to thank the artists, the clowns, the Raging Grannies, the food makers, dancers, drummers, chalkers, and bubble blowers, and the grassroots media like Journey Magazine, Kawartha Now and Anishinabek News, who worked to cover the breadth of expression. This tremendous response took all of us.

Despite our successes as a community, we have more and harder work to do as neo-Nazis continue to organize and plan public events. What are the best strategies for combatting neo-Nazism? What are the politics of terms like ‘nonviolence’? How do we organize across different approaches? How can we empower the City to refuse permits for hateful events? How do we organize on colonized land? We are committed to holding space for these difficult conversations. Our capacity to address hate in our communities is dependent upon our ability and willingness to listen and to work toward unity.

We urge you to consider your particular skills and passions in determining what action you can take against hate, white supremacy and fascism in your communities. We are currently planning a public visioning session and a community conversation with Desmond Cole. Stay tuned for details.

We reaffirm our dedication to building and strengthening a welcoming, inclusive, resilient, loving and diverse community – a place in which everyone can fully enjoy their protected human rights, free from hatred and oppression. We will continue to respond to racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism with a resistance that is grounded in justice, hope, care and creativity, until only #loveliveshere.

Solidarity Weekend Organizers

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