The Electric Pencil

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From Manila to Palestine

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Campaign signs for the 2007 mid-term elections fly amidst improvised electricity wires in Tondo, Manila.

Campaign signs for the 2007 mid-term elections fly amidst improvised electricity wires in Tondo, Manila.

I have to be honest and say that while I have been aware for several years now of the situation facing Philipino immigrants to Canada – particularly those who come to work as migrant workers – I maintain very little knowledge of the history or current political situation in the Philippines itself.

That all changed a little when I had a chance to see a new exhibit at Sablo Kafé, On Movements in Manila, put on by Stefan Christoff (full disclosure: he’s a friend and colleague on several projects). Christoff visited the Philippines in 2007 as a journalist and election observer. The photos he took in and around the capital explore both the intense levels of poverty, but also the community organising and push-back that has developed. The exhibit is timed with a call from the Centre for Philippine Concerns in Montreal (which is co-sponsoring the exhibit) and the International Philippine Election Oberservation Team 2010 call for volunteers to help observe the upcoming 2010 presidential elections. The need for outside observers are clear. There are a large number of reports of military intimidation during the last election, which some believe will only increase this time around. Christoff wrote a two part series on the topic upon his return in 2007 as well. There are also reports of up to 1000 political killings of progressives and leftists in the country since 2001.

The exhibit runs at Sablo (50, St-Zotique East, corner Boul. St-Laurent) until the end of September, and while small is definitely worth seeing; while Christoff is more of a hobbyist photographer, the images in this exhibit are thought provoking and blend artistry while shedding light on violence, repression and movements against it.

I can also hardly mention Christoff without also reminding people that DAM, an incredible Palestinian hip hop ensemble, are coming to Montreal for the next installment of Artists Against Apratheid – the ninth if you can believe it. It’ll be going down on Sept. 28th at Café Campus (57 Prince Aurthur East). Also performing that night will be Montreal Iraqi-Canadian hiphopper the Narcicyst. To give you a little taste of what to expect, here’s Narcy’s latest video…
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Narcicyst- P.H.A.T.W.A. (Official…“, posted with vodpod

Written by Tim McSorley

September 21, 2009 at 11:22 am

Wade Rathke: Healthcare, Neo-McCarthyism and the need for a progressive pushback

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Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to hear Wade Rathke speak at Concordia University, as part of the Too Cool for School alternative orientation, and organised by the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy and the School of Community and Public Affairs. I’m not a student there anymore, but I’m glad I can take advantage of these kinds of events.

Rathke is the founder and former chief organiser of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now; he stepped down after 38 years at the helm in 2008. Like any organisation, it has had it’s fair share of ups, downs and scandals*; but it has also had some pretty major successes, including working to ensure living wages in at least 15 cities across the US, and on issues such as housing, immigrants rights, and voter registration.

I was curious to hear Rathke speak; I didn’t know much about him, except for his long tenure at ACORN, or much about ACORN, except what little I had heard during the last presidential election around their efforts to sign up voters.

He gave an interesting, wide-ranging talk on everything form the history of ACORN, to voter registration reform, to housing laws and protections, to areas where Canada is lagging behind the US in social policy (there are a few). He also highlighted that there is, in fact, ACORN Canada, which I had never heard of, and that they are campaigning for a living wage in Ottawa, which is great to hear.

I’m being intentionally vague here – I recorded the talk for CKUT 90.3FM radio, and we’ll be playing it next Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm when the Avalanche Collective hosts Off The Hour. But to give you a sneak peak, I thought I’d put up this short, 4 minute clip:

It’s a response to a question that came up a few times: how is it the right-wing seems to be more organised and mobilised around health care? And is anything being done about it? Wade was at times more positive, at times more negative, but he was clear: the left became to complacent after Obama’s election, and it needs to stand up – together – or right-wing, anti public health care forces will definitely win on this one – and who knows what else. In particular, he took called out the Neo-McCarthyism he sees in the media, and called for progressives rally together in a pushback, or be ready to loose on this.

*Those scandals have erupted recently with the posting of ‘sting’ videos allegedly showing ACORN employees in several offices providing income tax advice to a prostitute and her pimp. The two were in face undercover right-wing activists. I won’t post directly to the videos here, but Bertha Lewis, Chief Organizer with ACORN, responded to the allegations on Democracy Now yesterday. She makes it clear that while ACORN takes these issues serieously (they have fired the employees involved) there’s a lot more to this story than the media is saying. Watch her response here. Wade has also written a bit about this on his own blog.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 18, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Hanlon Creek occupation update

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Since the beginning of the direct action against the HCBP, there was a clearly agreed-upon conclusion that this occupation was first and foremost to be a space of resistance. This was to ensure a “safe and healthy space” focused on the defense of the land, and to forgo all possibilities of reason for police intervention, such as substance abuse or partying. This was to define all camp activities. The point was to maintain a sense of purpose and direction for a potentially tense political situation that seemed inevitable and to continue to examine the place of action against the HCBP in a wider resistance movement.

That’s from “Protect Mother Earth, Don’t Settle For Less” by Adam Lewis, a new article posted at The Dominion presenting a first hand look at the occupation of the proposed area for the Hanlon Creek Business Park on the outskirts of Guelph, written by one of the participants. I’ve been meaning to post an follow-up to my previous post about this for a while now, and this piece gives me a good reason to.

After nearly a month, the City of Guelph announced that developments in the area will be put on hold for a year. But even in doing so they continued their slander campaign against the occupiers, claiming that they ‘held the city hostage’. This pushed even the local daily, the Guelph Mercury, to call the city on their scare tactics. The city is also pursuing the land defenders for $150,000 in damages, down from an original $5 million when the papers were first served in July; city lawyers say the amount could rise again though.

And after hand delivering a letter to the house of one of the developers involved in the project, two members of Friends of Hanlon Creek (it isn’t clear if they participated in the occupation itself) are being accused of intimidation by police; they deny the charges and voluntarily visited the police station, only to be greeted by a locked door and to be told that they would have to come back the next day.

So while the fist part of the battle has been won – postponing the actual development – it seems that the city and police are bent on vilifying this group of non-violent activists looking to protect important and increasingly rare greenspace and habitats in Southern Ontario. You can continue to follow the situation – and what they describe as the growing anti-development sentiment in Guelph in general – on their blog at http://hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com/.

Written by Tim McSorley

September 12, 2009 at 12:55 am

Audio from Hoodstock ’09/Fredy Villanueva memorial

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Today was the second and last day of Hoodstock ’09, to commemorate the death of Fredy Villanueva, to remember his life cut too short, and to discuss the questions that his shooting still brings to mind. Questions of racial profiling and police brutality, but also of community response & organising.

Below is some quick edits of audio from the event. More to come, and cleaner version will follow… Feel free to use them for your own work; attribution to myself & CKUT 90.3FM radio would be nice, though.

Aujourd’hui marquait la fin de Hoodstock ’09, évènement pour commémorer le mort de Fredy Villanueva, de s’en souvenir de son vie coupé trop court, et pour discuter des questions que cette tragédie soulèvent. Des questions de profilage racial et la brutalité policière, mais aussi de la réponse de la communauté et comment on s’en organise.

Ci-dessous sont quelques pièces audio de l’évèment, monté assez vite… D’autres clips s’en viennent, et des versions plus ‘net’ suivront sous peu… Utilisez les clips pour votre propre travail, mais SVP attribuer-les à moi et à CKUT 90,FM

Patricia, soeur de Fredy Villanueva:

Manon Massé, travailleuse communautaire et candidate de Québec solidaire:

Mohamed Bennis, père de Mohamed Anas Bennis abattu par des policiers du SPVM:

Written by Tim McSorley

August 10, 2009 at 3:32 am

Occupation to stop destruction of Guelph Old Growth Forest

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The damage at the Guelph Old Growth Forest so far. Via http://hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com/

The damage at the Guelph Old Growth Forest so far. Via http://hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com/

Residents of Guelph, ON, have been occupying the proposed site of the Hanlon Creek Busines Park. The site is also home to Guelph’s Old Growth Forest, and endangers local wetlands and the Jefferson Salamander, on Ontario’s official threatened species list.

The occupation began on Monday, July 27th. They were notified that they would be evicted as of July 30th at 4pm, but the time came and went and protestors are still there.

The fight to protect this area isn’t a new one. In 2008, Guelph residents who had been working on this issue already founded LIMITS (Land Is More Important Than Sprawl) to raise awareness and fight the HCBP development.

I also had the chance to be in Guelph a few years ago at the same time as the launch of the Plant an Old Growth Forest initiative, to restore land and grow an new old growth forest on the lands of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph. The stereotype of southern Ontario, one I admit I often hold, is that of highways and strip malls. Many of Guelph’s residents, though, have long been an example of that other models can work.

Sunrise grounding circle on the occupied land. Via http://hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com/

Sunrise grounding circle on the occupied land. Via http://hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com/


More information is available about the occupation is available on the HCBP Occupation blog at http://hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com, or contact them for interviews or more information at +15198206280, +15198206239 or hcbpoccupatio[at]gmail[dot]com.

They are also inviting supporters to the site to lend a hand – a map with directions can be found on their website.

[cross-posted from The Dominion]

Written by Tim McSorley

July 31, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Thursday/Jeudi: La fin du néandertal

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This Thursday at 8:30pm, Bruno Dubuc will be screening his latest film at Club Social in the Mile End (180 St-Viateur East). Three years in the making, La fin du néandertal is an exploration of Montreal city politics, activism, and the hope for a better city friendly to pedestrians, cyclists and all residents, and devoid of cars: a city that has moved outside of the age of the neanderthals. In particular, it follows both the municipal party Projet Montréal and the Maison Aurore Traffic Committee, a community organisation in the Plateau, as they both set out to change the city in their own way. I had a chance to interview Bruno at the end of June just before the premier screening of the film at Cinéma du Parc. Below you can listen to the unedited director’s cut. I haven’t had a chance to see the film yet, but in a year where we are in line for a heated municipal election – and a possibly strong turn out for Projet Montréal – the film is a must-see, based on the topic alone.

Ce jeudi, Bruno Dubuc présente son nouveau métrage La fin du néandertal au café Club Social dans le Mile End (180 St-Viateur est). Un exploration qui à durée trois année, ce film chronique les changements dans le militantisme urbaine à Montréal depuis 2006. Entre autre, ça suit le développement de deux organismes – le parti municipal Projet Montréal et le comité de circulation de la Maison d’Aurore, une organisme communautaire – qui s’engage à changer comment nous vivons ensemble en ville. J’ai eu la chance de parler avec Bruno en fin juin, juste avant la première de son film à Cinéma du Parc. Vous pouvez écouter ci-bas l’entrevue en entier. J’en ai pas encore eu la chance de visionner le film, mais j’en suis certain que dans cette année qui annonce des élections municipaux chauds cet hiver, c’est une film à voir.

Bruno Dubuc: La fin du néandertal/Le lendemain de la veille/25 juin 2009/19min23sec:


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Written by Tim McSorley

July 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Two audio pieces: Abdelrazik, Canada and torture

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A quick post with two audio pieces about the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik, one in French, the other in English.

As I wrote earlier this week, I produced a piece for CKUT’s Le lendemain de la veille about Abdelrazik’s return home to Montreal. It features the voices of some of his supporters, Abdelrazik himself and his step-daughter Wafa Sahnine. And, of course, the music of the Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble who were out to liven up the evening.

http://www.radio4all.net/responder.php/download/34261/39278/55922/?url=http://www.radio4all.net:8080/files/tim.mcsorley@gmail.com/3840-1-abdelrazik_final.mp3″

The second piece is an interview by Samaa Elibyari and Stefan Christoff at CKUT radio. They spoke with Dr. Sherene Razack about Canada, torture, and the broader context of Abdelrazik’s ordeal.

http://www.radio4all.net/responder.php/download/34255/39272/55916/?url=http://www.radio4all.net:8080/files/christoff@resist.ca/784-1-ckutsherenerazacktorture.mp3″

If you’d like to either download or re-broadcast either piece, you can find them on Radio4All.

Written by Tim McSorley

July 3, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Activism, media

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