This weekend I witnessed the massive hypocracy of these truths which i was schooled to believe were the unalienable rights of canadian citizens.
As a trained legal scholar, a political scientist, a community activist, a poet, an arts administrator, a women’s shelter worker, i have witnessed the erosion of the canadian welfare state, the social safety net for the poor and disabled, the prohibitive cost of post-secondary education and even public schools which pass on costs to parents, as public resources dwindle. I have witnessed first hand how starving public health care jeopardizes lives and the health of people i haved loved and lost and those i love.
I have seen government cuts to arts and culture cut only to be replaced by corporate sponsorships and deals which force artists to compromise their artistic and musical integrity and innovation just to get a paying gig or a recording deal.
I have helped beaten women and kids look desperately for safe housing, mentally ill people released into a community that is cold, uncaring and terrified of mental and physical disabilities.
I have been belittled for the colour of my skin, my unpronounceable name, my intellect, my sexuality and for being disAbled.
Every day i watch the news about Europe and see the impact of bank and credit insitution protections as ordinary folks like you and me are on the reciving end of austerity measures designed to make the mass of european citizens pay for the lifestyles and profits of a mere handful of the very rich. The Third Worldization of Europe, in fact. I see lives, communities and ecosystems irretrieveably destroyed by deepsea oil drilling.
Nonetheless, I have seen this weekend events that rival and surpass the 2001 Quebec City FTAA meetings where thousands of Canandians were harmed by excessive police brutality and toxic chemicals, simply for trying to speak with world leaders. But what I saw this past 4 days in Toronto, a city where i have lived much of my life, shocked, angered and depressed me.
It did so, because unchecked provincial police powers were secretely enacted to protect a handful of world leaders, who benefit from corruption, destruction of the environment and callous contempt for the majority of the world’s peoples.
It depressed me as I question the absence of coherent and organized responses of the labour and union movements in this country and the lack of solidarity from international labour brothers and sisters with regard to police and armed forces attacking peaceful and unarmed protestors, mainly youth, women, immigrants, people of colour, queers, and people with disabilities.
I ask myself if labour’s slogan was “put people first” so we can hide behind them?
I am outraged that the basic rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (for which I am in debt for having the privilege to study), such as equality before the law, the right to know what you are being charged with, the right to a lawyer, the need for a warrant before having your person or property searched, the need for a warrant to arrest persons accused of commiting a crime and the like, were all abandoned for the benefit of a few white anglo-Canadian politicians who strive to join other capitalist and chinese elites in arms-running, war-mongering, drug-running, mysogyny, vioelent homophobia, and the starvation and oppression of their own peoples.
I have watched our nation go through the war measures act, the oka standoff, crisis after crisis with First Nations people whose land we occupy, with the poor and their advocates. I have seen such narrow interpretations of Charter rights so that starving underhoused people don’t even get a chance as economic security and affordable housing are not constitutionally protected.
I have watched police and army in seattle, quebec city , pittsburgh, greece, france, argentina, chile, peru, colombia, and now Toronto, to name a few places.
When citizens permit their leaders to let police and armed forces run amok, when leaders and military strategists test out tactics and killing toys on peaceful people, who for the most part could be their kids, nephews, nieces, grandkids and the like I am appalled and ashamed to call myself Canadian.
When I see impunity for armed forces, the criminalization of progressive political dissent, the harassment of citizens who are passing by and still caught up under police sweeps i ask myself, “what’s going on?”.
When I see cop cars and businesses torched at will by some testorone laden agents of either the state or seriouslyy unconstructive political motives, while police who spent over a billion dollars to prepare for such an eventuality are conspicuosly absent, I ask “what’s going on?”
When i see students, social service and low-wage workers being singled out for unlawful detainment under conditions that have even provoked Amnesty Internation to demand an Inquiry, I ask “what’s going on?”
When I am illegally searched for joining friends in a park or to enter my public transport system, when I see t”Transit City” donated for the deployment of armed forces against my fellow torontonians I ask “is this why i pay $3 a ride?” A
nd finally I want to ask you, politicians of the NDP, the Liberal Party, Canadian intellectuals and artists and musicians so quick to aid the downtrodden as far away from here as possible, “what’s going on?”
Where are the statements of outrage on behalf of your children and fellow residents of Canada. Where are the artists who sing so articulately and soulfully about the shit that goes down all over the world?
Where are the writers who make up PEN, the Canadian League of Poets, The Writers’ Union of Canada? Where are the voices of civil servants, transit workers, educators, who should be speaking out for their coworkers and the people they serve? Where are the voices of parents who see their children illegally and brutally detained?
Toronto has undergone an infamy, a shock and awe campaign against its own human beings, visible on facebook, twitter, youtube, independent and even corporate media. Why the deafening Silence?
I ask that there be an Independent civilian investigation and inquiry into the G20 security response in our City. I ask that all people of conscience, regardless of your political affiliations, call your councillors, write to youir mpps and most of all tell McGuinty and his chum Harper to account for the mayhem and trauma they have caused to our population.
I ask if a day and half of eating, drinking, belching and farting together of 20 VIPs and their Spouses is in any way worth both the human cost and the financial cost which we as taxpayers must shoulder? and finally i ask those of you who have talent, integrity and commitment to living in an operative constitutional society to come forward and donate your talents to the legal costs for those unjustly detained and, humiliated and violated human beings whom you will be hearing from in the next while. And I ask you to ask yourselves, “what’s going on?” and seek some real answers based on concrete evidence and due process.
Kaushalya Bannerji, B.A (Hons), M.A., LLB. LLM., PhD Candidate