“Torontonamo Bay”

Toronto just finished hosting the G20 Summit, which literally lasted about eight hours in our city. The meeting got started at around 9am on Sunday and by 5pm leaders were already on their way out of town. An eight-hour meeting sure cost a whole lot and wreaked a whole lot of havoc.

I was glued to live news coverage on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday I skipped out on plans and watched the news from about 5pm until midnight. On Sunday, after participating in the completely peaceful, happy, and fun bike rally protest for a couple of hours, I was glued to the TV again from about 5:30pm until 11pm. I want to say that CP24 did an amazing job…for those two days…covering the vandalizing and police standoffs. It would have been nice if they had also provided wall-to-wall, commercial-free coverage of the demonstrations that took place all week—thousands of people in the days before the summit peacefully demonstrating on the streets of Toronto, getting their message out. That wasn’t so interesting, you see, because there were no assholes lighting police cars on fire.

Where were the media for the “Shout Out For Global Justice,” which took place at Massey Hall and featured Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, and Maude Barlow (among others)? And when Naomi Klein led the entire audience on a peaceful walk to the temporary “tent city” at Allen Gardens in solidarity with the homeless, where were the media? And when Allen Gardens became a peaceful dance party? That wasn’t so interesting to the media since there were no assholes smashing store windows.

What occurred this past weekend in Toronto was nothing short of a clusterfuck. These meetings should not be held in densely populated urban settings. They should not cost, for two days, what the United Nations spends in an entire year. They should be held in places that are already fortified and secure enough to protect the heads of state that reside in them—the White House, Parliament Hill, Downing Street, the Palace…or the freakin’ UN! And they should not pick the pockets of cities, small-business owners, and residents when it’s the federal government making the decisions.

There’s a lot to say about the G20, the politics, and what happened in Toronto on the weekend. There is a vast echo chamber now and there’s little chance I’ll say something that hasn’t already been said. Except for one thing.

Yesterday there was another demonstration, an extremely peaceful and massive “jail solidarity” demo for the 900+ people who were arrested and detained in the makeshift detention centre. I heard two or three people who were interviewed on the news refer to the detainment facility as “Torontonamo Bay.” And today I read the report of Cameron Fenton, a 24-year-old who was arrested and detained for 17 hours; he referred to the detention centre as “tantamount to torture.”

No one is denying that the conditions at the detention facility were bad—they probably were terrible. I would have been miserable if I had had to stay there for even 3 hours, let alone 24. I would likely be complaining about it to anyone who would listen. I might even be seeking legal representation. But let’s be reasonable and respectful. There are innocent people at Guantanamo Bay and other detention facilities overseas who have been held—without charges, without lawyers, without habeas corpus—for many, many years. There are innocent people in these facilities (and some who are likely not innocent) who have been tortured. Truly tortured. To compare your treatment for 12, 17, or 24 hours at a makeshift detainment facility in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to a military-run torture centre that exists in a legal no-man’s land is completely ignorant. It’s akin to comparing Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, or anyone besides Hitler, to Hitler. It’s like Gretchen Carlson comparing her job as a talk-show host to that of the President of the United States.

People who have been held in a legal abyss and who have truly been tortured would likely have a thing or two to say about your experience versus theirs. So no more of this “Torontonamo Bay” and “tantamount to torture” bullshit. If you want to have your issues taken seriously, then be serious.

Tidy, friendly garbage

The Toronto city workers strike is over! Yay!

I didn’t personally feel any of the effects of the month-long strike: my neighbourhood and neighbourhoods I frequent aren’t near a temporary garbage dump, weren’t over-run by garbage, nor did they smell like garbage. I don’t have children, so I didn’t need city-run daycare. I don’t live on the Toronto Islands, so I didn’t need the ferry. Except for having to hold my pee during my baseball games because the washrooms were locked up and not being able to use the library, my life has been pretty much the same. But I do have empathy for those who have suffered from the strike and I’m happy it’s over.

This has got me thinking, though. I wish there were some way that government workers could show their displeasure and frustration with their employers that wouldn’t make the public suffer. Strikes are supposed to hurt the employers. If you work in a factory and have sub-standard working conditions or pay (and are a member of a union), you go on strike. The factory won’t be able to make its widgets and the company will suffer financial losses.

But when you’re a public worker and you go on strike, your employers don’t suffer all that much (if they do, it’s mainly in the polls), but the public suffers immensely.

People who couldn’t collect their welfare cheques, or who depend on city-run daycare/day camp for their kids in the summer, or who had to pay someone to cart away their garbage because they don’t have a car to drive it to the temporary dump—those are the ones the strike hurt the most.

Why should we, the public, have to pay the price for the employers (the government) not meeting its employees’ standards?

I know it’s practically an irrelevant complaint because this is how it works and there is no other way. But what if there were?

What if the government officials and the striking individuals had to pay out-of-pocket for “scabs” to keep all of these services going during a strike? What if they couldn’t dip into the government budget, nor simply shut down these services, but had to keep them going and pay for them personally? Say a “strike tax” on their paycheques, which they’d get back at the end of each year if no strike occurs. If a strike does occur, then that money would be used to keep vital services going, both sides of the dispute would have to deal with the financial loss, and the tax-paying public wouldn’t suffer? Don’t you think that would resolve a strike situation more quickly?

Unrealistic, I know. But dare to dream.

By the way, I thought I’d mention a cute American-commenting-on-Canada remark I heard a couple of weeks ago regarding the garbage strike.

I went to see the amazing singer-songwriter Neko Case at Massey Hall. Neko commented that you wouldn’t really even know there was a strike going on if you weren’t told, that it was the cleanest garbage strike she’d ever seen. Her back-up singer extraordinaire Kelly Hogan added (I’m paraphrasing a little): “I know. Even your garbage is clean! Tidy, friendly garbage.”

Cute.