This is an interview by Camila Uribe-Rosales of BASICS with Oscar and R (who prefers to remain anonymous), two Latin American youth who migrated to Canada from El Salvador and Mexico, and their experiences in the Canadian education system.
O: I was born in El Salvador. My parents migrated here. I didn’t speak the language at all as a youngster, and I remember I was about 7 years old. You definitely feel outcasted. I remember feeling that the only people that really knew me and the only place where I felt safe was at home amongst my family. I would go to the classrooms. Kids would laugh at me.
R: The first school I went to, there was no ESL program at that school. There was one Latina. Actually she was from Spain, she wasn’t Latina, and she refused to speak to me. I remember very clearly that she said she would be considered low class if she was to speak Spanish to me.
O: There was one particular incident where there were these two girls that were speaking and they were talking about my skin colour. Something along the lines that “We shouldn’t judge him because of his skin colour, like it’s not his fault.” And I was like “Really? Like why is that even a problem?” I didn’t even know that that was an issue.
R: I remember being picked on a lot. People would come to me and sing Daddy Yankee songs, like that was cool or that I would feel at home or something, and people bullying me. It was very hostile. A lot of people tried to fight me and I didn’t really know why.
At one point, I went to Mexico to celebrate Christmas. And so when I came back, the teacher had a set-up with chunks of desks, like she had four here, four there, whatever. And when I came back, my desk was at the corner closest to the door. And everyone else’s was at the opposite corner, packed away from me. And so when I walk into the classroom the teacher says to me, “Look, we just really feel you shouldn’t be here, because you’re Mexican and we don’t want to catch swine flu. And so we wanna ask you not to come back to school.” I got completely bullied. I was harassed. People wrote this on my Facebook and made videos about it.
R: I got kicked out of the school because, well, I was in a classroom and the priest walked in and he started to ask people the commandments. And so I didn’t know them in English and so he threw a set of keys at me. And I picked them up and I walked to him and I gave them back to him in his hand. I mean, he was a priest and I was just coming from Mexico. And so he once more asks me for a commandment which I don’t know how to say. And so he throws the keys at me for the second time, and I pick up the keys and I throw them at him. And so I was like arrested [sic] by a teacher, and they took me to the office and they were just screaming at me. Like I understood what they were saying. They were saying I was stupid or I was gonna burn in hell, that Mexicans were violent, that it was all because I was Mexican. That Mexican people were horrible.
Then I arrived at Downsview which is where I completed my high school. There was a lot more Latinos at Downsview and things were a lot more enjoyable in the sense of students. I remember at one point we had a group of like 30 friends and we would help each other out. But as soon as I got there I was told by the principal that I would never be able to go to university, and that I would never achieve to graduate high school, because I would never be able to pass Grade 12 English.
And I was bashed out of many classrooms by teachers because I was called a communist, simply because I wanted to speak about things. I remember one time, this teacher wanted to give us a lot of homework for Thanksgiving. And I said to him, “No, this is a holiday.” And he started to argue to me and I said, “Look, this is not a dictatorship. You’re not an ultimate power. You are in a sense elected by somebody and if we all work as a collective and decide to walk out on you, you will be fired.” And he bashed me out of the classroom. He called me very nasty things and started to relate me to a lot of nasty characters in Latin American history. He started saying “Oh, don’t call Pablo Escobar on me,” and stupid things like that.
O: I remember this one professor, he was white, but I remember one of the first slides. He showed a little caricature, and he said, “Oh its scientifically been proven that those students that wear hats backwards, there is a correlation with lower grades.” So I purposely would bring in a cap. I wouldn’t always put it on backwards, but I would always bring it in, as a form of resistance. And you know, that’s bigotry right to the end because it’s based on absolutely nothing, and yet you’re claiming it to be scientific evidence, as a professor. I don’t know if he was joking but even if he was, like who jokes around about that? Why, out of everything, pick that? And I think that’s definitely targeting racialized groups. They don’t understand the culture that it even comes out of.
R: I was incarcerated [sic] by a principal. It was in high school and the teacher said we could do whatever we felt like doing, but our teacher had written on the board that we had to do a shitload of work, like a crazy amount of work. He had been absent and he hadn’t taught any of the material he wanted us to do, and so I was like “Wait a second, this guy never comes to class, never teaches the material and expects us to perform like a super student.” And so I said to the students “Look, if we all walk out of this classroom, the teacher can’t fail us all. If all of us get up and walk out right now, he’s screwed.” And so, we all got up… Well it took some convincing, took me a little more convincing. And so we all got up and started walking out, and the principal grabs me. Grabs me by the shoulders and yells, “Everybody get back into the classroom!” Everybody gets freaked out. Everybody started heading back in. And he says, “You’re coming to the office with me!” By the way, that class was very crucial to me. That was Grade 12 English and if I didn’t pass I wouldn’t graduate. And so he took me to the office and made me sit in a corner of his sketchy office. And so I said, “No, I’m an adult. You’re not gonna treat me like this. You’re not gonna segregate me, you’re not gonna outcast me because I was speaking about my rights.” And he was literally like, “Shut up, I don’t wanna hear you, go in your corner.” And so he locked the door and locked me in. And he left me in that office for two hours, just sitting there. And I remember kicking the doors and getting angry and screaming. I started writing step by step how I was segregated, and comparing it to acts of genocide which have happened in our society. Like I was locked in an office as a student for fighting for my rights! And I drafted this to the director of education. He looked at the paper and said, “Oh yeah, this is a good principal, don’t worry about it.”
At one point in my life, I was like, “Fuck this. These guys are all racist. I’m never gonna win against them. There’s no one like me. I’m a nobody. I’m not gonna go to university,” and I started believing it. And it’s really hard without teacher support, it’s really hard as a student. And it’s quite frustrating because you don’t have control over them. If a teacher wants to be racist to you, he will be racist to you. And to know that you can’t do anything about it, that you report it to the Director of Education and he does nothing about it. It’s frustrating. It’s heartbreaking.
You don’t feel like you belong in the school, all your teachers are white, and they talk about white behavior, and they’re all racist towards you, and it’s like well, what am I? A fucking alien? Am I the weird one? We talk about why there is so much violence in youth, why there is so much anger…fuck, what do you think this frustration builds to?
O: I feel like a lot of times we have to resort to those things [violence], or fit into the stereotype that was being projected onto me. As a young Latin American male, you’re like cholo, gangster, like you have to do that. You have to be a drug dealer, beat people up, treat women like shit, be a scumbag, machista. Even with all the bullshit that we have to go through, I imagine it’s much, much more difficult for a Latina.
R: My girlfriend was told to take parenting classes five times because she was told by a guidance counselor that all she needed to do was go to university to find a husband. And that once she found a husband that what she would do for the rest of her life was be a mom, so she might as well take a lot of parenting courses. And so it took her two extra years to graduate high school because of that, because the courses she was supposed to take were not given to her because she didn’t need to be smart. All she needed was to find a good husband, so she was given almost a semester and a half of the same subject. Just because she was Latina.
R: There was definitely a lot of pride in the land where we came from and I never wanted to turn my back on mi gente and my community. I was blown away by the lack of community that I experienced here. Coming from a little colonia back home, it was all like one family and that was something that I lost. Every time you try to explain to people who we are as Latin Americans, we aren’t listened to. Like I feel that we are a minority and not even recognized…things like the constant need to remind people that we’re not Spanish but Latin American, and the constant need to remind people that we’re not all Mexican. We’re not all the same. It’s important for us to come together; I remember one of the chants in El Salvador that is used all over Latin America. “El Pueblo unido jamás será vencido” [The people, united, will never be defeated] and I truly believe that.
Ontario Court of Appeal says communities of Ecuador affected by Chevron can enforce Ecuadorian rulings in Canada
by Santiago Escobar
As the Unist’ot’en continue their protracted battle against Chevron and other companies in resistance to the Pacific Trails Pipeline in northern B.C. over unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, Indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador are pursuing Chevron in Canada for damages in one of the largest oil-related catastrophes in history.
This past December 2013, after twenty years of legal battles with America’s third largest corporation – ranking 11th in the world – the 30,000+ Indigenous plaintiffs of Ecuador made a small step forward when an Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that they could pursue Chevonr for damages they were awarded in the Ecuadorian courts. But the battle is far from over.
We interview two long-time organizers around the issue, whose positions though not necessarily contradictory somewhat reflect the long-standing debate between those pushing for “decriminalization” and those advocating “abolition”. We speak to Chanelle Gallant from Maggie’s-Toronto, a Toronto-based sex workers action project; and Suzanne Baustad, co-founder of Grassroots Women – an anti-imperialist women’s group that was active in Vancouver between 1995 and 2010 and worked to address the systemic marginalization of working class women. Baustad also wrote in to BASICSNews.ca with an Op-Ed that you can read here.
Jim Pictou is a member of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, “the homeland security of the Mi’kmaq nation.” Today, the Mi’kmaq, whose ancestral lands span much of the Atlantic region of Canada, are at the center of a developing resistance to hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ in New Brunswick, the process by which high-pressure water and chemicals are injected into the ground to remove natural gas from shale rock. The resistance to fracking in New Brunswick has seen the development of a broad united front of native and non-native people.
by Moshe ben Velvl and Megan Kinch
Two of Canada’s biggest unions, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and Canadian Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) have merged into a new mega-union, Unifor. They have sketched out an ambitious vision that promises to revolutionize the way unions have traditionally organized and the way they have related to the rest of society and the working class who are not organized in unions. Unifor is now Canada’s largest private sector union. But is it a new day for the labour movement, or is it business as usual?
Rank and file workers, especially in the auto sector, have long been demanding a more democratic unionism — for example, Soldiers of Solidarity in the United States. But in a disappointing turn, the “Unity Team” slate ran almost unopposed for 25 leadership positions at the Unifor convention. Long time union leaders Dave Coles of CEP and Ken Lewenza of CAW resigned their presidential positions shortly before the new convention, paving the way for the official choice for new president, Jerry Dias. Dias was being referred to as the new president before the convention even took place, as if it was just a formality. And that’s almost what it was. All of the leadership positions had “Unity Team” members acclaimed, meaning no one ran against them. All, that is, except for one.
Lindsay Hinshelwood, a rank and file worker at Oakville Ford and member of Unifor Local 707, threw in her hat to challenge the leadership at the last minute. Not only that, but she provided a real alternative vision to the business-as-usual attitudes.
Hinshelwood gave an interview to BASICS, in which she was also quite critical of the cheerleading culture being promoted at the convention:
At the CAW convention yesterday, Ken Lewenza gave the exact same speech. We didn’t address the issues that are really affecting us. It was the old cheerleading speech, we fought for this, we fought for that, rah, rah, rah, and meanwhile our economy’s been going backwards for the last 40 years. We weren’t addressing the problems and we weren’t offering solutions to those problems.
After Hinshelwood was nominated to run for the election, co-chair Dave Coles (the outgoing CEP leader) wasn’t even going to allow her to make a speech, supposedly because of time constraints and the fact that there were 24 more “elections” scheduled for that afternoon.
He only changed his mind after someone issued a challenge to the chair from the floor, meaning that he would no longer be able to run the meeting if it was actually put up to a vote and passed. He noticed that the rest of the room was very upset with the fact that he wouldn’t let her speak and probably would have ousted him as chair if he continued to refuse her this right. Hinshelwood had this to say about that important moment at convention:
I’m very proud that the crowd challenged the chair and allowed me to speak. I really appreciate getting the time to speak. And that wasn’t rehearsed, that just came out of my mouth without me thinking about it, and it was really great that the audience responded to it, so obviously people were identifying with what I had to say.
Hinshelwood’s speech made strong criticisms of the practice of the CAW heading into the convention, for agreeing to continuing concessions over the course of the past 15 years that would essentially sell out the new hires and lead to continually declining wages and benefits for workers in the automotive sector.
In the election for president of the union, Hinshelwood got 17.5% of the vote against Jerry Dias. This is an impressive number for a last-minute candidacy with no campaign literature or official backing.
This raises the question of how Unifor can claim to be forging a vision for new fights against corporations and governments, and new organizing drives, when the CAW leadership has shown little desire to actually fight against concessions that will hurt their members. In the last round of negotiations with the big three automakers in 2012, CAW leadership agreed to a concessionary contract without calling a strike in any of the three negotiations. This despite the fact that they had received strike mandate votes of 97% or higher at all three automakers, with Chrysler having a 99% strike mandate overall and the Chrysler Etobicoke plant garnering a rare 100% strike mandate vote. What a strike mandate vote does is give the union representatives a mandate to call a strike at any time during the negotiation of a new collective agreement. The fact that the CAW representatives at Chrysler failed to utilize a strike in 2012 as a bargaining tactic despite the obvious willingness of their members to do so does not provide much promise that the new union, Unifor, will do things any differently.
On the second day of the convention, Hinshelwood provided more concrete ideas about how to fight back:
I’d like to see improvements to the Rand Formula. Workers should have the right to strike between contracts. And I have a question about the Supplemental Workers (SWEs) in the union. For example the SWs on GM lines who pay union dues but are not covered under the collective agreement. How are you going to convince these workers who have no representation but pay dues to fight to protect the first-tier workers?
Currently, the Rand Formula only allows workers to strike at designated times when a contract is over and negotiations are occurring for the signing of a new contract. What Hinshelwood was calling for was for workers to be able to strike between contract negotiations at essentially any time, which has historically been the quickest and most effective way to deal with dangerous conditions or any violations of the collective agreement by the employer.
In this very short comment and question on the second day of the convention, she brought up two of the main problems with the way unionism has been done since World War Two. While Unifor is working to bring the SWEs into the union as regular full members with full union rights at work, the new leader Jerry Dias did not even respond to her first recommendation about the right to strike between contract negotiations and updating the Rand formula. This is despite the rhetoric of Dias and other leaders about the need to change the way unionism is done in this country and really go on the offensive.
It remains to be seen how Unifor will fulfill the tasks it has set itself in the coming years and how it can be changed by rank and file activists like Hinshelwood, who had this to say to BASICS about how Unifor could address these issues and the consequences that will result it if doesn’t:
They have to listen to the dissidents instead of trying to shut the dissidents down. The dissidents are speaking for a lot of people and a lot of people are afraid to speak within their unions because you get the ‘union shun’. And you have to acknowledge where you’ve gone wrong and you have to acknowledge what people are angry about and address that situation. Sometimes it’s okay to do some cheerleading, but not when we’re facing losing our country. When you drive workers down, your social structure declines, your infrastructure declines and your civil liberties disappear too.
The word “Oshkimaadzig” refers to the “New People” of the Seven Fires Anishinaabek Prophecy, the people who were prophesied to be the ones who would pick up the remnants of their traditional ways of life and values long repressed by colonialism, and by reclaiming these values they will begin to unite all peoples for the survival of humanity and Mother Earth.
Oshkimaadzig Unity Camp is located in traditional Wendat (“Huron”) land, and since the genocidal dispersal of the Wendat by the French and the wars that forced them to flee the area in the mid 17th century, the Anishinaabe have been the keepers of the eastern door, recognized by the Three Fires Confederacy (Odawa, Potawatamie, and Ojibwe). This land also falls within a number of treaties amongst indigenous people and between indigenous nations and European settlers, including the Two Row Wampum, the ‘One Dish, One Spoon’ Treaty, the Beaver Belt, the Haudenosaunee-Anishinaabek Friendship Belt, the 1764 Fort Niagara Silver Chain Covenant, and the 24 Nations Belt.
Oshkimaadzig Unity Camp is located in ‘Awenda Provincial Park’ two hours north of Toronto in the Penetanguishene Peninsula and is by the Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood (ACTION), Oshkimaadzig.org, a member organization of the chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles in Canada.
Video produced by BASICS Community News Service (BASICSnews..ca).
by Noaman G. Ali
“We said we would be willing—and this was just dialogue, wasn’t offers passed back and forth—that we’d take this,” Bob Kinnear makes a zero with his fingers, “provided that the Toronto Transit Commission maintains the level of service.”
But according to Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 (ATU 113), which represents over 10,000 TTC workers, the City’s negotiators rejected the proposition during bargaining last year.
“You know why? Because for Mayor Ford it’s all about an ideology that they have.” Rob Ford and his crew would rather give a pay increase, so that in the end they can blame tax increases on the workers.
For our second feature interview, we talk with Canadian Auto Workers Local 27 President Tim Carrie about the situation of locked-out Caterpillar workers in London, Ontario.Featuring music from the Consumer Goods – ‘Hockey Night in Afghanada’ off their 2008 album, The Anti-imperial Cabaret.
Click here to link to podcast or listen to the interview directly from the Mp3 player at the bottom of your BASICSnews.ca window.Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a research associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization, (GlobalResearch.ca) an independent research and media institute organization and one of the world’s leading sources of news and analysis for geopolitics. Nazemroaya is also a sociologist and an award-winning writer, specializing on the Middle East and Central Asia, with numerous contributions to ALJazeera, Russian TV, and Press TV. Nazemroaya was also on the ground in Libya reporting live for multiple media outlets as NATO conducted its merciless bombing of that country’s civilians and infrastructure. Nazemroaya has published numerous pieces on the geopolitics of the looming U.S. war against Iran.
On this episode of Radio Basics (December 19, 2011), Steve da Silva and Kabir Joshi-Vijayan interview Russell Diabo, the spokesperson of Defenders of the Land and the Editor/Publisher of First Nations Strategic Bulletin.
Click here to link to podcast or listen to the interview directly from the Mp3 player at the bottom of your BASICSnews.ca window.
An Interview with D’Bi Young, creator of The Sankofa Trilogy
by Corrie Sakaluk
D’Bi Young’s powerful Sankofa Trilogy played at Tarragon Theatre between October 22 and December 4. This interview was originally conducted for The Dialog, reproduced for BASICS at the request of the author.
What were the seeds from which the Sankofa Trilogy first started to grow?
I think the seed was seeing my mother perform when I was about 5 years old in Jamaica, at the Jamaica School of Drama, which is the school that is at the centre of Word!Sound!Powah. My mother was doing a one-woman show directed by Honor Ford Smith, who is actually now a professor at York University teaching community arts. So Honor Ford Smith was in Jamaica at the time teaching at the Jamaica School of Drama, and my mother was one of the students there between 1982 and 1985. I will never forget being in the audience and watching my mom, only my mom, on stage. It was a silent play about a woman living alone in her apartment, her routine and how she experienced her aloneness, and it had such a profound effect on me. That’s one thing that pops up to me.
The next thing that pops up to me is that I watched this film called The Three Faces of Eve, I must have been 8 years old. That film was a black and white film about a woman who was schizophrenic and she had three personalities, and I don’t know why that stuck with me, but for some reasons I’ve never gotten that film out of my mind. That film always comes back to me. So those two experiences were seeds that were planted in my young impressionable mind long ago. Read more…