Monday, January 10, 2011

2010 Year in Review

We rang in 2010 without a working Parliament, our prorogue-happy prime minister having shut it down in order to escape unwanted scrutiny over a few pesky allegations of complicity in torture. As you'll recall, Harper had also prorogued Parliament less than a year earlier, alarmed at the prospect of being ousted by a Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition government. Upset at what is shaping up to be a pattern of undemocratic and immature behaviour, Canadians took to the streets in droves to protest the second prorogation. We were among them here in Winnipeg, helping to organize a protest and march. On the one hand it was a success, with hundreds of attendees and even media mention of the “prorogie” noisemakers we painstakingly crafted for the occasion. On the other hand, we still have a frighteningly unaccountable right-wing government (and a government at all, for that matter), and one whose leadership appears to be climbing in the polls as 2010 draws to a close.

Police brutality continues to be a problem in Winnipeg, despite the force changing its official motto to “Building relationships.” If you click here, you can see a group of five of our city's finest building relationships with the back of 18-year-old Cody Bousquet's head as he's lying handcuffed on the ground in a PartSource parking lot. International Day Against Police Brutality in March was an opportunity to try to bring these issues into the eye of the wider public. Our local event, organized by Copwatch, New Socialist Group, FemRev, Anarchist Black Cross and others, featured a march, a movie, and, unfortunately, an awkward speech from Gordon Sinclair Jr., whose few-bad-apples police apologia incensed and dismayed the crowd. Rally coverage in the Winnipeg Free Press did not materialize, despite Gordo's promise.

And speaking of asshole cops, the summer of 2010 marked an unprecedented violation of charter rights as over 1,000 protestors, journalists and bystanders were swept up in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history at the G8/G20 summits in Toronto. This sparked not only fiery debate in leftist circles about protest tactics and the good/bad protestor divide, but also several solidarity and awareness-raising events, including a Canada Day demonstration in Osborne Village, a discussion panel at the Millenium Library, and many afternoons of bubble-blowing on the street, surveying curious passerby as to whether blowing bubbles in public should be a crime (we think not, but Officer Bubbles and the Toronto Police apparently feel otherwise). Our personal favourite was a rainy mid-July rally that happened to coincide with the Fringe Festival. Seeing the Old Market stage abandoned due to the downpour, our group commandeered it with the hope of educating festival-goers about our country's most recent attacks on its citizens' right to free speech and peaceful assembly. We soon found ourselves being chased away by festival organizers (not to mention a performer with a bullwhip), who reminded us that the Fringe stage is for fun and frivolity only. (For a lengthy discussion on 'diversity of tactics,' see post 1, post 2 and post 3)

If the summer was a rough one for anti-globalization protestors and people who happened to be going to work in downtown Toronto in June, it was perhaps even more so for anti-apartheid dissidents. Nine activists were killed by the Israeli army in international waters as they attempted to break the Gaza blockade with a shipment of food, toys and medical supplies. On the home front, Education Minister Nancy Allan completely lost her shit when she discovered that the 2010 Grade 12 provincial exam contained an antisemitic reference: a two-line description of a Gazan child wounded in the Israel/Palestine conflict, excerpted from an essay Chantal Kreviazuk once wrote about war being bad. Oh, the bigotry! Both Allan and Kreviazuk apologized for the offence, and we are told that steps are being taken to ensure it never happens again. In the meantime of course, the CPCCA continue to work tirelessly at redefining antisemitism so that it encompasses any criticism of the state of Israel. We hope to be more actively involved in that particular brand of antisemitism in the coming year as we attempt to bring Israeli Apatheid Week to the U of W for the first time. President Lloyd Axworthy has vowed that such a thing will never happen on his watch, so this could be fun. Stay tuned! (For more on Canada's relationship with Israel, see this video)

And while we're on the topic of Axworthy, his concern about racism and prejudice apparently doesn't extend to bigoted sitting parliamentarians, at least as long as their party has recently given money to the university. In October, the U of W announced it would be bestowing an honorary Doctorate of Laws upon Public Safety Minister Vic Toews at the fall convocation. Yes, the same Vic Toews who fought not only to prevent same-sex marriage in Canada, but also to prevent LGBT* Canadians from being added as a protected group under hate crime legislation. The same Vic Toews who called the recent Tamil refugees “terrorists” (and then went on to introduce a bill permitting the government to incarcerate undocumented refugees for up to a year), and the same Vic Toews behind the recent $155 million prison expansion – in order to effectively combat all that “unreported crime,” no doubt.

Obviously a protest was in order, so we organized one on the day of the convocation, lining up outside the Duckworth Centre to disseminate some info about the honoree that was likely left out of the graduation program. Better still, the class valedictorian Erin Larson, a person who is also concerned about human rights, used her valedictory address to blast Toews for his intolerance and the university for its hypocrisy. (If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth a watch on youtube.) It was, hands down, the best graduation ceremony ever! (For more on Vic Toews, click here)

A civic election happened this year, and the local left predictably rallied around an only-slightly-lesser-of-two-evils candidate, who eventually lost after an over-hyped campaign. The new council, not satisfied with the current state to which poverty is already criminalized in Winnipeg, are planning to make boulevard panhandling illegal in 2011. It's good to know there will be no shortage of things to object to in the New Year. If City Hall does us a great big favour and releases it to the public, we might even be able to object to the 30-year contract they signed with Veiolia to privatize Winnipeg's waste water management system. (For more on the Veiolia contract, click here)

It's been an interesting year in many other respects as well. When we weren't angrily waving placards, we could often be found touring the Oxford Bible Church Creationist museum with our heathen pals in the Atheist Students Association; attending the wedding of a local messianic cult in order to gain insight both into their communal and sustainability practices and to their seemingly contradictory fanatical misogyny; sitting in on question period at Parliament Hill and experiencing the extreme depths of exasperation and loss of confidence in humanity; and, in Rob's case, dressing up as a giant box to protest the increased corporatization of the U of W campus. (For boxing coverage, click here)

We also got married this year, as some of you may already know. While initially trepidacious about making a lifelong commitment in exchange for the health and dental benefits promised to married couples, we cheered up when we learned that if you stop liking your partner, you can always get divorced (and it's only $250!). The wedding also afforded Rob the perfect chance to deck himself out in white lace, and Jac the opportunity to wear her Rob Halford costume one more time. Thanks again to our officiant, Jennifer, and our wedding party, Kelsey and Amanda, for continuing the time-honoured wedding tradition of putting on silly costumes picked out by the bride and groom. Thanks also to our photographer, Steve, for helping us to capture and immortalize memories that will last a lifetime. (For the full wedding ceremony transcript, click here)

That about brings you up to speed on what’s been going on with us. Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season, and a revolutionary 2011!

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