Thursday, April 16, 2009

May Day 2009 / Día del Trabajador 2009

Cultural and Political Festival / Festival Cultural y Política:
Friday / viernes, May 1, 6pm - Steelorkers Hall, 25 Cecil St.

'NO ONE IS ILLEGAL' Rally and March / ‘NINGUNA PERSONA ES ILEGAL” Concentración y Marcha
Saturday / sábado, May 2, 1pm – Sherbourne and Carlton

On April 2nd and 3rd, over 100 temporary and undocumented workers were attacked by armed border guards, dragged in to detention and are now being forcibly deported. On 2 May, thousands of us will say Enough!

Migrants, poor and working people; undocumented people and people of colour live in constant crisis in Canada, attacked daily. A crisis has always existed in Teesdale, in Regent Park, in farm fields, on factory floors and in hotel service areas.

Corporate and political elites are using the current 'Economic Crisis' as an excuse to attack poor, working-class and racialized communities by increasing immigration enforcement; stealing public funds; wrecking social services; taking away people's jobs rather than cutting profits and targeting those they perceive as the weakest - indigenous people; the homeless; refugee claimants; women in shelters; queer and trans migrants, caregivers; factory workers and temporary workers.

We say there are no illegal human beings, only unjust laws and governments. No one, poor or undocumented, is illegal. The struggle of workers - waged and unwaged, with or without immigration status – is against powerful elites and systems of oppression. Citizenship, jobs and houses - granted to some and denied to others - are tools to divide us.

We will not be divided.

On May 2, join thousands of us as we take to the streets and demand an end to corporate and state attacks on our communities. We demand an end to detentions and deportations. We demand access without fear to essential services. We demand an end to security certificates and secret trials. We demand a full and inclusive regularization program. We demand justice, dignity, and status for all!

We did not create this crisis, and we will not pay for it. On May 2nd, create power. Resist. Because No One Is Illegal

Rally at Sherbourne and Carlton, 1pm.

March will begin shortly afterwards.

En Español...

Las comunidades inmigrantes, los trabajadores, las personas sin estatus y de color viven en una crisis constante siendo atacadas todos los días en Canadá. La crisis siempre ha existido en comunidades marginadas como Teesdale, Regent Park, en el campo, las fabricas y para trabajadores de limpieza.

Los ricos, las corporaciones, y los políticos están usando la “crisis económica” como una excusa mas, para atacar a los pobres, los trabajadores y las comunidades de color. Han incrementado el numero de oficiales de inmigración y de redadas, están robando fondos públicos y recortando los servicios sociales. También nos quitan nuestros trabajos en lugar de recortar sus ganancias. Hostigan a los que perciben que son los mas vulnerables—las comunidades indígenas, las personas sin hogar, los que piden refugio, las mujeres en los albergues, los inmigrantes queer y trans, las trabajadoras temporales en el campo, en los hogares y los trabajadores en las fabricas, en la limpieza y en la construcción.

Afirmamos que ninguna persona es ilegal, solo las leyes y gobiernos injustos. Nadie, ni pobre ni indocumentada/o, es ilegal.

La lucha de los trabajadores—con o sin salarios, con o sin estatus migratorio—es contra los sistemas que nos oprimen, que es controlado por los ricos. La ciudadanía, los trabajos y hogares son otorgados a unas personas y negados a otras para crear diviciones entre nosotros y afectarnos en nuestra lucha.

No lo lograran.

El 2 de Mayo, únete a las miles de personas que saldrán a las calles para exigir el fin a los ataques del gobierno y las corporaciones en contra de nuestras comunidades. Exigimos servicios sociales para toda/os. Exigimos justicia, dignidad y estatus para toda/os.

La crisis del capitalismo nos la están imponiendo. Nosotros no creamos esta crisis y no vamos a pagar por ella. El 2 de Mayo, juntémonos porque juntos somos más poderosos. Resistamos.
Porque Ninguna persona es ilegal.

Concentración en Sherbourne y Carlton, 1 de la tarde

La marcha empezara poco después

Organized by / Organizado por: No One Is Illegal-Toronto | Mujeres al Frente | SAWRO | Migrante Ontario | Canadian HART | Casa Salvador Allende | Basics Newsletter | OCAP | Jane and Finch Action Against Poverty | Sikh Activist Network | Toronto New Socialists | Barrio Nuevo | the Stop Community Food Centre | BAYAN Toronto | PCLS | OPIRG Toronto | CAIA | GGAPSS

FMLN Triumphs in Elections in El Salvador, But the Struggle Continues

by Nicolas Lopez (of Barrio Nuevo) Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)

Patiently enduring a long road of suffering and disillusionment, the FMLN, the main people’s party of El Salvador, has set an example of how perseverance and conviction can achieve what it aims for. On March 15, 2009 the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) triumphed in El Salvador’s presidential elections, bringing a major political defeat to the right-wing governing party, ARENA, and bringing the people one step closer to the reality of social and economic justice.

During the 1980s, five insurgent groups united to form the FMLN coalition, which they named after the internationalist-minded Farabundo Marti, a Salvadorian leader of a peasant and working class uprising against electoral fraud in January 1932. Dictator Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez reacted with furious violence against the movement, backed by U.S. and British military support. During an event known as ‘La Matanza’ (The Massacre), Farabundo Marti was executed and historians estimate that some 30,000 people were killed during four days. Since then, the people’s movement in El Salvador took to the underground to organize themselves clandestinely to overcome repression. In response, the Salvadorian government began using death squads to kill the revolutionaries’ social base. During those years of fierce repression, the people’s movement was forced to take up armed struggle as a way to defend the poor from the violence imposed on them, enduring the hardships of a gruesome civil war that lasted from 1979 until 1992. Although the people’s movement was unable to seize power from the powerful Salvadorian army aided by a million-dollar-a-day U.S. investment in paramilitary squads, the movement was still able to achieve wide political support and legitimacy, laying the foundation of what today is a victorious movement.

This is the brutal history that set the tone for the 2009 Presidential elections in El Salvador.

A week before the elections, the FMLN closed the campaign in the capital, San Salvador. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in a public gathering, the largest crowd for a political event in decades. It was a show of support far superior to what the right wing party displayed the next day. It was obvious by then that the FMLN had a greater following than the opposing party, and during the days of that week ARENA (Republican Nationalist Alliance) desperately tried to convince people through an intensive media bombardment that if FMLN were to be elected, El Salvador would become subordinate to Venezuela and “President Hugo Chavez’s expansionist project”, and that Salvadorians would risk having remittances from family members in the U.S. halted by the U.S. government.

ARENA’s maneuvers to discredit the revolutionaries included personal attacks against FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes, to which Funes responded by highlighting his party’s proposals to overcome the devastating effects of the neoliberal capitalist policies implemented by ARENA since 1993. ARENA has a long track record of using tricks and foul play to maintain power, but this time the frustrated population would not allow another fraud to occur and perhaps wouldn’t limit their furious reaction.

ARENA has in past handed out thousands of fake IDs to people they brought in from neighboring countries to fraudulently vote for their party. Although widespread evidence indicates this also happened on March 15th, 2009 FMLN was still able to move their voters and supporters to the vote and defend their electoral rights against these ‘tactricks’ of ARENA.

However, change will only occur gradually in El Salvador, with the right still firmly entrenched in the bureaucracy, the judiciary, and with the FMLN lacking a majority of seats in the Parliament. At best, the FMLN’s presence in the government will only be able to pave the ground for future rounds of struggle. For a start, it will begin by opening the books and taxing big business and recover the U$2 billion lost every year on tax evasion. This could allow them to increase wages and subsidies to basic social services, implement land reform and increase agricultural production, increase employment and scholarship opportunities and reduce gang violence in urban areas. Also, the FMLN’s political presence will give them the opportunity to strengthen the social and political capacity of the mass movements, for example by strengthening community media. Furthermore, with the FMLN at the head of the executive branch of government, they will be able to establish independent foreign relations, which under ARENA’s governments were so submissive to U.S. policy.

All of this, however, will only be possible through the continued participation and increased development of an organized mass movement to defend and advance the struggle for the economic and social power of the people.

‘They Don’t Belong’: The Solution is Not Cops

by Rayon
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)

A few weeks ago, our high school, Weston Collegiate Institute, had a few people from the NO COPS campaign (Newly Organized Coalition Opposing Police in Schools) pay a visit to us at lunch time. They set up a table across the street and had stacks of free BASICS newspapers to give out. While BASICS organizers are well known for distributing the papers in Toronto communities, the members of NO COPS who were there that day, strapped with their BASICS issues, had another purpose.

What these guys had was a petition to the remove the “Special Resources Officer” - the uniformed armed police officers in high schools – from the 30 or so TDSB secondary schools across Toronto.

For the majority of the students at Weston, this petition is allowing us to voice our concerns about having a cop in our school. There was a lack of community consultation in bringing this cop here in the first place. The Toronto Police Services initiated and funds this program and the Toronto District School Board approved it at an executive level. The feelings among most of the students at Weston C.I. is that they do not want a cop in their school and they feel threatened by the presence of an armed police officer in the school for numerous reasons. The students cannot identify with an individual who wears a massive bullet proof vest and carries a loaded gun and taser, which is quite intimidating particularly for people coming from T.O.’s “priority neighbourhoods” – let’s be honest, ghettoes – who witness and experience police activity in a whole different light than youth from more affluent areas.

On a day-to-day basis, the police harass, bully, and brutalize people from our communities and get away without being held to account for their actions. How can we accept having police in our schools to “build relations” with us if they are getting away with daily brutality and sometimes murder in our communities? (Anyone remember Alwy Al-Nadhir or Byron Debassige?) We have already experienced police (SRO) harrassment at Weston C.I. There was a conflict with two young women and the SRO used unnecessary and excessive force on the two young women. This incident was captured on video.

The effect of having police in schools is going to push more and more marginalized students out of school altogether, furthering the divide between youth from financially-stable homes and communities and youth from working-class homes and communities. We cannot let this happen. We will not let this happen.

We want cops out of our schools!

If you are interested in becoming an organizer with the NO COPS campaign , please contact us at

Protests in Toronto respond to Ontario immigration raids

by Syed Hussan, Faria Kamal, and Chris Ramsaroop
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)

Nearly 200 outraged community and labour activists rattled the fences of Rexdale Immigration Detention Centre on April 5, demanding the release of over 100 undocumented workers arrested during unprecedented immigration raids across southwestern Ontario.

Chanting ‘No One Is Illegal! Stop deporting people,’ ‘We didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us’ and ’Justice for migrant workers,’ teachers, lawyers and organizers from OSSTF D12, Parkdale Legal Community Services, Mujeres Al Frente, the Sikh Activist Network, the Good Jobs Coalition, CUPE, UFCW, CAW, OPSEU and many others joined family members and friends on Sunday morning. Organized by No One is Illegal-Toronto, Migrante Ontario and Justicia for Migrant Workers, the spirited action was in response to three separate but coordinated attacks against undocumented communities.

This past week, Canada Border Services Agency and South Simcoe Police arrested hundreds of people, detaining over 100 workers. At the same time, in Leamington and Windsor, Ontario, dozens of undocumented people were picked up on their way to work, in their homes and in public spaces. Homes were also raided on the Danforth where absentee workers possessions were confiscated.

''For Justicia, these are our friends and our families that are on the inside," says Chris Ramsaroop from Justicia for Migrant Workers. "For Justicia this isn't just political, it’s personal. Our activists are impacted by these workplace raids."

“Racialized people have been targeted once more while working to pay for the basics while corrupt employers go free. And to this we say No!" he thundered.

No charges have been laid against the employer, Cericola Farms. These raids come the same day the migrant worker community celebrated a victory against recruitment agencies charging large “placement" fees to workers even if no legal work was found. Many workers were forced to work under precarious immigration status in order to secure an income.

As supporters encircled the premises of the detention center, the detainees came to the windows, applauding, cheering, pounding at the glass and waving fists. The action saw both the imprisoned and their community allies demanding an immediate end to immigration raids, detentions and deportations.

Numerous Studies Show Cops in Schools Make Matters Worse

by James Campbell Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)

The first School Resource Officer (SRO) programs began, unsurprisingly, in the United States. The goal of the first programs, started in Flint, Michigan during the 1950s, was to “improve relations between police and young people”. Despite the long history of these programs and their growing expansion to school districts all over the U.S. and Canada, a report by the International Center for Crime Prevention (ICCP) suggests that these programs have no long-term measurable benefit to student engagement or school safety.

If these programs have no measurable benefit, then why would Toronto Police Services (TPS) and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) be spending invaluable financial and institutional capital on an SRO Program at a time when our schools and our students are in crisis?

The answer, according to the ICCP report, is the move made by most police forces in the 1990s towards “community policing”. In the wake of the release of the Falconer Report, in response to the shooting of Jordan Manners at C.W. Jeffries Collegiate Institute, Toronto's own champion of “community policing” Police Chief Bill Blair made his own pitch to the TDSB to install armed police officers in schools.

In keeping with the history of SRO programs, and despite the dire warnings of the Falconer report, about the urgent need to make schools safer places for students, teachers, and staff, the goal of Blair's program is not to make schools safer but to “improve relations between police and young people”.

Despite being explicitly part of the TPS's 'community policing' mandate, there was absolutely no community consultation before the pilot program was implemented in September 2008. The decision to create the program was made in a series of back-room meetings with members of the Safe and Caring Schools department of the TDSB and members of the TPS.

Not only was the program created without consultation, it explicitly ignores two major community consultations done at the cost of millions of precious taxpayer dollars. Both the Falconer Report on School Safety and the Curling-McMurtry report on the Roots of Youth Violence spent months talking with and listening to students, parents, teachers, and school support workers. Out of these direct and extensive consultations, both reports painted a picture of a system in critical need of repair, and outlined extensive and specific recommendations to both engage marginalized youth and make our schools safer. Not once did either report recommend putting armed and uniformed officers in schools.

In fact, the Curling-McMurtry report explicitly points to the racial profiling of racialized youth by Toronto police as a major contributing factor to the increased climate of fear for many youth:

“Many youth also told us that they felt uncomfortable walking through policed areas within their neighbourhoods for fear of being harassed. One senior civic official highlighted this for us when he explained that in one community the youth favoured the use of surveillance cameras in public areas because they created zones where the police did not harass the youth.”

While the TDSB is still struggling to come up with funds to hire the highly-trained youth and social workers recommended by the Falconer and Curling-McMurty Reports, the TPS has stepped in with funding to replace social workers with the very police officers many youth fear.

Despite explicit assurances that the SRO program is not about school safety, the TDSB continues to justify the program on the grounds that it's making schools safer. This February, the TDSB released its preliminary report on the 5-month-old SRO program. In glowing articles in both The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, school administrators as well as TDSB and TPS officials told seemingly charming stories about police officers staying late to coach teams and participating in school-wide events by dancing in tutus. Based on these stories and other “anecdotal” reports, journalists and administrators happily concluded that the program was so far a great success in making schools safer.

Not only did these stories ignore the numerous reports by students, teachers, and staff of police harassment and an increasing climate of fear and repression, but they also ignored the TDSB report's own data. While TDSB data shows a reduction in suspensions and police charges in schools with SROs, there is nothing to support the claim that these reductions are the direct result of the SRO's presence. Indeed, these drops are consistent with a similar drop in suspensions and police charges in schools without SROs, which have been credited to the changes made to the Safe Schools Act explicitly intended to reduce suspensions and the intervention of police.

There is only one significant difference when it comes to data comparing schools with and schools without SROs: while the report indicates a 24% drop in violent incidents board-wide, it shows a 15% increase in violent incidents in schools with SROs. (Officials blamed this increase in violence in SRO schools on two major incidents in two different schools, and then conveniently chose to exclude these two incidents from the data set because it “skewed” the results.)

With no contemporary or historical data to suggest SRO programs have any measurable benefit for students, and with much historical and contemporary data that suggests that increased police presence alienates and marginalizes many youth, both the TDSB and the TPS continue to struggle to come up with a rationale for the program. At a time when there is almost universal consensus on what our schools and students need, our police force and school board are spending precious time, energy and resources on a program whose stated goal is not to benefit students in need, but to benefit the police force itself.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month
April 2009

WHEREAS the Hispanic population is among the fastest growing ethnic groups in the City of Toronto and is committed to preserving its rich culture and traditions. Hispanic Heritage Month provides our Latin American communities with the opportunity to showcase and share their lively and captivating culture and traditions with Toronto residents and visitors to our city.

In Toronto, we encourage and welcome cultural celebrations of our many cultural groups that work hard to promote and preserve their rich heritage. Thes celebrations encourage understanding and goodwill and enrich our social and cultura developmen and the quality of life for many.

NOW THEREFORE, I Mayor David Miller, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby proclaim April 2009 as "Hispanic Heritage Month" in the City of Toronto.

Mayor David Miller

For more information visit:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review of Steven Soderbergh’s 'Che'

by Sana Malik
BASICS Issue #13 (April/May)

Steven Soderbergh's 4.5 hour biopic on Ernesto Che Guevara is an accomplished and respectful take on the revolutionary years of Che’s short life. For those who expect a celebratory tribute to the Latin American figure, Soderbergh’s piece will seem like a vague attempt to represent a hero’s tale. However, Soderbergh’s depiction and stylistic choices – always showing not telling – are as complex as its subject. Che was a principled man, but he was not without flaws or errors in judgement. This is an epic that celebrates his victories, but it just as easily leads you into the frustration of crushing defeat that Che was surely encountering. Soderbergh's strong cinematic overtures, and the contrast in pace and tone between part one and part two provoke questions on who Che was as a revolutionary and as a leader forced to make conflicting decisions. And that's exactly where this picture is the strongest- never making any judgements but leaving the viewer in the position of dissecting Che’s actions as a man of principle, without ever making his thoughts or actions palpable.

Part one contrasts scenes of guerrilla fighting in the 50’s in the Cuban heartland with Che’s first visit to the UN in 1964. His zeal and confidence are on full display in the gritty black and white reel, and a BBC reporter’s voiceover makes distinct the simultaneous suspicion and intrigue the West held of Che. It’s here that Soderbergh introduces and plays on the iconic and visionary poses that make the Argentine recognizable as a revolutionary, while the battle of Cuba wages on in subsequent scenes. Che remains obscure in Soderbergh’s vision - adding to his larger than life image as a popular icon – and Benicio del Toro captivates with perfection in the lead. Del Toro’s Che is equally compassionate and cruel, sometimes dogmatic and other times rash, his brilliant intellect on display and his crucial miscalculations devastating. It makes the man all the harder to understand.

The battle has been won and Cuba’s glorious socialist revolution is now place, and part two begins with Fidel Castro reading Che’s farewell letter to the Cuban people he helped free from the forces of imperialism. Che’s vision for a free and socialist Latin America has compelled his return to guerrilla warfare in Bolivia and to his eventual death. This story is less about his image as a revolutionary icon and more about a man as complex and conflicted as a determined fighter. The glamour is left behind in part one, and the continuation is a more reflective piece that captures Che’s raw emotion and human spirit. Or at least as much is accessible. Soderbergh reconstructs the complexity of Che’s covert battle – in the landscape and with himself – through discrete, but powerful sequences in the fateful year Che spent in the Bolivian highlands. Che sees everything that happened in Cuba in reverse: he is rejected by the peasants he hopes to liberate, his battalion shrinks as fighters die, are wounded, or run away, and the American-trained Bolivian militia encroaches his terrain. But he never turns back and that is the biggest message this film delivers.

The film is challenged by it’s slow pace and choppy storytelling attempting to mesh parts that don’t quite work together. It’s not entirely a glamorous portrayal and part two, especially, will probably suffer in commercial success. But it’s as honest, direct and significant as the subject it portrays.