Toronto May Day 2013 – International Workers’ Day

Wobblies at the May Day 2013 in Toronto.

  Toronto IWW

Another May Day has come and gone in Toronto. Toronto wobblies joined the march and had a great party afterwards. Click the preview to see a video one of our members put together of the sights and sounds of the march.

Here are a few pictures. Check out our Facebook album with more.

May Day 2013 in front of Loblaws in memory of Bangledesh garment workers murdered for profit

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Basics at May 18 Tamil Genocide Day in Toronto

Basics was at the Tamil Genocide memorial May 18 2013 in Toronto. In the process of interviewing activists, we caught the police forcing Tamil activists with Tamil Eelam flags, which are completely legal, off Queens Park, which is public property. Tamil youth and community activist showed their commitment and resilience by coordinating raising all the flags at once in one place, after which the Toronto police could do nothing. A lesson here.

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Today, May 18, is one of many days remembering the murder of our people and destruction of our homeland. Truly, if we counted every atrocity and assault, there wouldn’t be enough days in the calendar to commemorate them all. It is important we do not lose sight of our path because of the overwhelming sense of loss and sadness. For in every defeat the seeds of victory are found, for every day of sorrow we commemorate, there will be a day of joy. Thus, in every memorial for the past we must set the plan for the future. While we remember those who have passed and hurt no more, let us not forget those who remain and suffer today, and let us begin dreaming of and fighting for that future where they to will hurt no more.

We are on a journey home, a long journey where we have lost many already, and we will lose more; some at the hands of our enemies, and some will lose heart themselves. But the most important thing is that those who carried the light, passed it on to us before they fell, just as those before passed it on to them. This is a light that must make it home, if not in our generation, then in the next. This will be the light that once again brightens our homeland, Tamil Eelam.

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Not the Usual Ford Story

We had heard stories and rumours about stuff like this coming out of the West end. Some of us had even tried to pin it down and couldn’t. But wow, this is grimy, even for the Teflon Don of Toronto politics, Mayor Rob Ford. it reads like an episode of Boardwalk Empire. It’s even darker if you read between the lines of Ford’s attorney’s message.

Gawkers' screen capture from the video.

Gawker’s screen capture from the video.

For Sale: A Video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smoking Crack Cocaine (Gawker)

Sold: The Toronto Star Has Seen the Video (The Toronto Star)

Update: The Toronto Star Publishes Details from Video (The Toronto Star)

That dude who is publicizing the video is brave; an anonymous hero considering the calibre of people he has just pissed off. He better get the hell out-of-town before he becomes an anonymous martyr.

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Dr. Mukesh Kapila’s Keynote ‘Why do our global institutions fail to prevent & protect against mass atrocities?’ Part 1

On May 10th Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR), the Canadian International Council (CIC), and Gowling LLP organized a keynote talk by Dr. Mukesh Kapila titled ‘Why do our global institutions fail to prevent & protect against mass atrocities?‘. Kapila had led the UN Mission in Sudan from 2003-04; at the time the UN mission had overseen negotiations between Sudan and South Sudanese rebel forces while coordinating the largest humanitarian relief operation in the world. Previously Kapila had worked in the UK foreign office and the Red Cross in crisis zones such as Rwanda and Bosnia. Kapila explained that his experiences in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide had solidified in him a commitment to be vigilant in preventing future mass atrocities and genocide at all costs. Nearly a decade later, in his 2003 deployment as the head of the UN mission in Sudan, he began to see dreaded reports of just such violence emerging in Darfur.

After confirming and documenting the genocidal nature of the violence in Darfur, a long term coordinated destruction of non-Arab villages across a region the size of France, Kapila detailed his attempts to raise the alarm with the Sudanese state, United Nations Aid Agencies, the diplomatic community, and finally directly with the United Nations’ HQ in New York. Here Kapila’s account goes into interesting details: western educated Sudanese elites in the interior ministry acknowledging the intent to draw out peace negotiations until the ethnic cleansing of Darfur was complete; of internal structural conflicts between different UN agencies such as WFP and UNICEF, and UN bureaucrats reluctant to leave their comfortable offices in Khartoum or risk their pensions by shaking the boat; details of diplomats ‘passing the buck’ by forwarding the detailed reports of genocidal violence to their respective national state departments; and finally details of how his reports back to UN HQ were simply lost in a shuffle of memos to the UN Security Council or simply ignored altogether.

Though Kapila’s experiences seem to imply that the UN is structurally incapable, through bureaucratic and political inertia, to prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur, he saves his harshest criticisms for the UN leadership, especially Kofi Annan, the then Secretary General of the UN. Kapila make’s the argument that Kofi Annan’s tenure first as Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations from 1993 to 1996, and then Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006 make him individually accountable for the UN’s failures in 1994 Rwanda, 1995 Bosnia, and 2003 Darfur. Kapila links much of this to the lack of democratic accountability in global institutions. Even though Kapila reiterated several times that the problem lies with the political leadership, or lack thereof, with individuals such as Kofi Annan and not the actual structure or bureaucracy of the UN, one was left with the suspicion that Kapila may have been attempting to preserve any remaining goodwill in the UN bureaucracy. While still working through INGOs at the UNHRC in Geneva, in 2004 Kapila committed political suicide when he bypassed all the non-responsive regular channels in the UN and diplomatic community and went directly to the media about the atrocities occurring in Darfur. Kapila justified this strategy as ‘when the governments of the world ignore you, you must go directly to the people of the world’.

Temporarily skipping ahead here to two questions from the open discussion that expanded on this issue of leadership problems vs structural problems in the UN. A question was raised by a Eelam Tamil activist, of which there had been several in the audience, around the question of accountability for the UN’s failures being placed on Kofi Annan. The growing evidence (here, here, here and here) linking UN complicity with Sri Lanka’s war crimes and mass atrocities against Tamils in 2009 under the leadership of Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan’s successor, seems to indicate that the UN’s problems aren’t limited to the political failings of individual UN leader’s such as Kofi Annan. Another participant asked about how Chapter 6 and 7 of the UN charter relates to the question of preventing mass atrocities. Chapters 6 and outline the powers and responsibilities of the UN Security Council (SC), including circumstances that permit intervention and the use of force. The question was especially pertinent with Russia and China, permanent members on the SC, currently blocking UN action in Syria, and previously Sri Lanka. Kapila’s response was that ‘We must reclaim the United Nations’, and implement reforms that would decrease the democratic deficit and increase accountability; that we must approach this goal with creative solutions such as pressuring the UN SC with different forms of public pressure. Kapila gave an example that during the Beijing Olympics several groups pressured China from vetoing important measures (presumably Sanctions on Iran or North Korea, but this was unclear) by threatening to turn the Beijing Olympics into a public relations disaster with boycotts and abstentions. Unfortunately there wasn’t time or space to ask how democratic reforms could be achieved while an undemocratic institution such as the United Nations Security Council, an institution created specifically to preserve the political dominance of a handful imperialists that had emerged post-World War 2, remained functioning to undermine any democratic reforms. Kapila’s dismissive referrals early in his presentation about anti-imperialist concerns leads this writer to assume he may not have been very forthcoming on the topic.

The most interesting portion of the talk came when Kapila condemned liberal pacifism, did an unequivocal take down of the doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) for being impractical, and supported the right of groups facing existential threats to armed struggle in self defence. This was surprising stuff coming from a career British diplomat and UN bureaucrat. Much of his rationale came out of 3 points: No genocidal regime has been stopped without the use of some form of force; No unjust peace agreement has ever lasted, and that Bashir was simply stalling on a just peace agreement long enough to complete the ethnic cleansing of Darfur, now 10 years in progress; and that the doctrine of R2P has proven an absolute failure without ever being used successfully in the 10 years since its formulation. Kapila’s analysis of R2P’s failure was pretty straightforward in that he sees R2P as impractical. An example of this impracticality is that R2P has steps attempting to get an accused state’s compliance, steps with which a state can easily obstruct and delay the use of R2P by the international committee in the most urgent situations. The contradiction being that R2P is not needed when a state will comply, and it is in those instances that a state will not comply with international law that R2P is most needed. Kapila also distinguished an important issue in International law that where as it clearly recognizes rights of individuals and states to self defence, there exists a grey area around the right of groups to self-defence in the face of imminent threats such as genocide. Here Kapila called for the recognition of the right to armed struggle in cases a group faces an existential threat in the form of ethnic cleansing, mass atrocities, or genocide.

When an aid worker with an NGO working in Sudan raised the concern that political or military intervention in Sudan by the UN would lead to the government shutting down INGO relief efforts in Sudan, Kapila let loose in one of the best exchanges of the event: he responded directly that the humanitarian relief provided so far had been marginal and ineffective; that in essence solidarity was more important and that for the most part people’s survival depended on their individual/communal ability to cope. Kapila went on to add how at this stage with displacement of Darfuris mostly complete, Humanitarian Relief aid is now being used by Sudanese state to settle Darfur with new Arab population completing genocide. This lead to a cheer from African and Tamil sections of the crowd while the aid worker fell silent for rest of the event.

I will end the recap of the talk  here. I will post a second piece with commentary.

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Toronto’s May Day 2013 in Photos

Pictures from May Day 2013 in Toronto.

alex felipe: ramblings

*I was asked to do some video work for and so I don’t have many photos.  Here’s a few of those I did take…


The rally meetup area was at Toronto’s City Hall, seen above as reflected on a bus window–from a bus company called “Bourgeois Tours.”  No more commentary needed here.


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Another Reason Why the Toronto Public Library is Awesome


Now I may have already said how much I love the Toronto Public Library during the original tussle between Ford and the Librarians, but this April’s Keep Toronto Reading Festival, just gave me another reason. This year the ‘one book’ chosen for the community read was Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’. An especially appropriate choice which was combined with an online reading guide, discussions, blog posts, videos, a cross city clue hunt started by calling a mysterious number to a ‘literary resistance’. Absolutely brilliant stuff that ties in well with ‘ Fahrenheit 451’.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book, the first quote struck me as especially apt with the current political and social environment that the Harper Conservatives are trying to create.

“You can’t build a house without nails and wood. If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll  feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving.And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can, nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial lonely. I know, I’ve tried it; to hell with it. So bring on your clubs and parties, your acrobats and magicians, your daredevils, jet cars, motorcycle helicopters, your sex and heroin, more of everything  to do with automatic reflex. If the drama is bad, if the film says nothing, if the play is hollow, sting me with the Theremin, loudly. I’ll think I’m responding to the play, when it’s only a tactile reaction to vibration, But I don’t care, I just like solid entertainment.” (p58)

“You can’t guarantee things like that! After all, when we had all the books we needed, we still insisted on finding the highest cliff to jump off. But we do need a breather. We do need knowledge. And perhaps in a thousand years we might pick a smaller cliffs to jump off. The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world,  we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine percent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees, And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.” (p82)

“Beatty chuckled. ” And you said, quoting,’Truth will come to light, murder will not be hid long!’  And I cried in good humor, ‘Oh God he speaks only of his horse!’  and ‘The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.’ And you yelled, ‘This age thinks better of a gilded fool, than a threadbare saint in wisdom’s school!’ And I whispered gently, ‘the dignity of truth is lost with much protesting.’ And I said, patting your hand, ‘What, do I give you trench mouth?’ And you shrieked, ‘Knowledge is power!’  and  ‘A dwarf on a giant’s shoulders sees the furthest of the two!’  and I summed my side up with rare serenity in, ‘The folly of mistaking a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself as an oracle, is inborn in us, Mr. Valery once said.'” (p103)

If you haven’t read the book yet, go get your copy from the library.

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The Annihilation of Caste Reading Group Texts


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Divide & Conquer: Anti-Racism/Sexism & Individualism

A great analysis of post-modernism.

alex felipe: ramblings

I was in the car and in slow traffic, the DVP (the major highway leading to downtown Toronto) was closed for the weekend and the local streets were jammed.

Along the way I was listening to talk radio on a college station.  It was playing a lecture by a black feminist from the States (I came in late so I don’t know her name).  She was your standard post-modern, identity politics, POC scholar.

The lecture was about the problems of racism and sexism.  The issue basically boiled down to individuals not having done the personal political work to liberate their minds from patriarchy and white power (with passing mention to intersections with class).

I didn’t agree with much of the lecture.  In fact it mostly saddened me.  I saw it as divisive and supportive of the current power structures that use racism and sexism as tools of oppression.

But of…

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The filmmaker Laura Poitras follows the tragic return home to Yemen of a Guantánamo Bay prison detainee, Adnan Latif

“The filmmaker Laura Poitras follows the tragic return home to Yemen of a Guantánamo Bay prison detainee, Adnan Latif.”

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