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November 11, 2010 18:18 +0000  |  Activism Anarchy Canada Civil Rights Toronto 0

Today is the day that we reserve for Remembrance, a day when each of us are expected to take a moment to acknowledge and remember the bravery and devotion to duty of the millions of men and women who fought and often died "for King and Country" in dozens of wars past. It's also a day when we must remember that it's not only soldiers who die in war, but civilians as well. Often it is the case that for every one soldier killed in the line of duty, ten, or even one hundred civilians are killed.

As a society, we tell ourselves that war is a terrible, but sometimes necessary Last Line of Defence against those who would attack our Freedoms. It is therefore with bitter irony that I must point out that today the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Union of Public and General Employees are co-hosting public hearings to examine police activity during the recent G20 Summit in Toronto.

Every Canadian owes it to themselves to read these testimonies. Canadian citizens, rounded up, arrested, and held for upwards of 32hours in squalid cells, or tagged with bogus charges like possession of tools for burglary (door keys). Unarmed, non-violent citizens punched and kicked, by police not wearing name tags or badge numbers. In one holding cell case, a woman apparently asked for a tampon and was told that she "should have thought about it before", after which he threw his sock into her cell.

In a Free country, citizens must be allowed to peacefully assemble, and to criticise the government openly, and they must be able to do this without fear of persecution from the state. What we saw in Toronto was not what Canada should be, but whether we like it or not, it was our Canada. Unless we stand up and fight those responsible for abridging our freedoms that day, claims that our military "defends our freedoms" will become even more hollow than they already are.

Please take a moment to read one of the following:

October 26, 2010 09:31 +0100  |  Activism Democracy Politics Toronto 3

Toronto's flag, inverted

I remember the day I heard that Rob Ford would be running for Mayor in Toronto. I figured this to be great news. Ford, a blustering idiot councillor from the suburbs needed a good smack down, and there was no way that a racist bigot like him could ever win in a city as beautifully diverse as Toronto. He would be ejected from politics, outed for who he was, an ignorant blowhard who couldn't possibly hope to represnet the most multicultural city in Canada.

Oh how it hurts to be so wrong.

Not only did Rob Ford win, he won with 47% of the vote. That means that 47% of Torontonians either voted for a bigot or didn't bother to do the research themselves to find out that that they were going to vote for a bigot. On top of that, 50% didn't even show up to vote at all. We're past a question of "who stole votes from whom" here, this is problem is systemic.

Dave Meslin had part of it right when he talked about Toronto's invisible primaries, an ugly byproduct of our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system is that we exclude voices from the debate because they aren't loud enough to win. Remember that 50% that didn't even show up to vote? Well knowing that your vote actually counts for something is a great way to energise interest in politics.

But there's a second element that we don't hear discussed enough and that's interest by virtue of time and energy. Ford won because he ran a great campaign. It painted him as a straight-talking, no-nonsense guy who's going to "clean up City Hall" while somehow obscuring the fact that he himself was a millionaire, bent on destroying everything most Torontonians hold in high regard. All anyone had to do was Google his name to find out who he really was, but too few people did -- 380,201 people actually, and now we have four years to find out just how much this man can do, both to the city itself, and to its reputation on the world stage.

For political devotees like myself, it's easy to dismiss 47% of the voting public as either ignorant or crazy, but it's just not true. I honestly believe that people want to understand the politics of their city, province and country, but they simply don't have time. For those of us for whom politics is a hobby or interest, it's hard to accept that someone wouldn't want to burn a few hours a day reading up on local events, or watching a news show, but for most of us, a few hours is all we have, and many of us would rather spend that time on something that makes us happy, whether that be painting, reading, hockey, or just socialising. Democracy is work for many of us, and it's a commitment that some of us can't make without sacrificing our sanity.

Now I'm not excusing political apathy, far from it. For the next four years, every one of the 380,201 people who voted for Ford and the million or so who didn't vote should be reminded that the state of things is in fact their fault. No, I'm trying to point out that any society that doesn't allow for enough time to both do what we personally need for our sanity as well as take part in our own governance isn't really a Democracy. In a real Democracy, a blustering fool like Ford couldn't hope to succeed because the public would actually know what kind of person he is. His comments about cyclists being at fault when they're hit by trucks and his tirades in council would be lunch counter conversation in every home in a real Democracy, his archaic views on homosexuality, a joke told over dinner.

We need to slow down, decompress and work less, engage more... with each other and with our community. Activist groups are great, but they're not much good if they only include people between the ages of 18 and 28, or those over 65. Too many people are just too busy paying rent and feeding their kids to worry about more than the 30second spot they saw on TV and that is the real problem here.

I've attached some Youtube videos to this post along the side to give you a taste for what kind of man is sitting in the Big Chair now. Know that Toronto is not unique in this, in fact I'd argue that such misfortune is just as likely to happen anywhere where the public is sufficiently overburdened and disenfranchised. I can only hope that he angers enough people in these next four years that it inspires others to re-engage with their Democracy.

August 18, 2010 04:26 +0100  |  Friends Toronto Who Am I Why I'm Here 2

After more than two years, I've finally found my way back to what I've come to call my "spiritual home". Toronto hasn't changed much, the weather is still sticky, the politics is still chaotic, and the garbage is still left on the sidewalk to bake in the sun. Toronto is hot, crowded, and still just as amazing as I remember.

I've made a special effort to get out to see as many people as possible, as well as re-sample the various tasty food joints scattered around town. I've also been playing Gowalla like a madman. More than 1500 check-ins in only a few days, acquiring all but one of the items. Big thanks to Stephanie who emailed me the locations of a few she found with Gowallatools, that was really cool of her.

Outside of the fluffy Gowallaness, I've taken a lot of time to reacquaint myself with the city. I've been thinking about moving back here ever since I left, and I want to take this opportunity to try to re-imagine my life had I never left, or if I were to return some day soon. It's not something I can really have covered in the few short days I've been here, but I hope to have something worked out before I leave.

A lot of it has to do with my social network. In Vancouver, I feel as though my friends there see me as the person I was back in 2001 when I ran away from that place. Here, I see the person I want to be in the eyes of my Toronto friends.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be renting a bike and Stephen & I will go for a ride across town. I hope to visit High Park, and maybe even Robin (HEY ROBIN, TXT ME BACK ALREADY!) Then I'm hoping to see Tanya in the evening as well. Coming up this weekend is the Green Party National Convention, which so far doesn't look all that exciting but I'm hoping that looks are deceiving on this one. After that, I'm headed to NYC, then DC, then back here for Sheena's Wedding and then back to my other home in Vancouver. Keep your eyes on Twitter feed for more up-to-the-present detail and pictures, and I'll try to post again here soon.

June 29, 2010 09:05 +0100  |  Activism Anarchy Canada Police Politics Toronto Violence 2

I'd like you to take 30seconds to watch something for me:

Violence has its place, and that place is when words are no longer enough. Anyone paying attention to what's going on in the world can tell you that the gap between the rich and the poor is dangerously wide and that the priorities of the rich minority are not in the best interests of the poor majority. Ecological disasters like the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and the recent world-wide economic collapse are symptoms of a greater problem, one the "civil" protesters are campaigning for... if only someone were listening.

But no one is listening... at least no one with any measurable power. Instead, our leaders erect fences and spend billions dollars on making sure that the voices of the people aren't heard at these events. They take our money and construct elaborate indoor lakes to placate the media, while they conduct the business of governance behind closed doors. This is not democracy, and people insisting that standing in a street and waving a sign is the best response to such injustice just don't get it: we should be angry! Those are our streets, our spaces, and our leaders, talking about issues that relate directly to our lives and they shut us out with wire fences, concrete walls, and thousands of violent police? Where's the rage?

Martin Luther King had it right when he said that "a riot is the language of the unheard". The overwhelming majority of Canadians want action on things like the environment, peace, the economy, and poverty, but rather than moving on these issues, our leaders consistently work against our interests. Chants and sign-waving clearly aren't getting it done, and so a few among us have started smashing things. It's not intelligent, it's not tactical, it doesn't even have to make sense. It's rage, and it's not only justified in such a situation, but called for.

That video clip is about oppression:

  1. Convince the majority that opposition isn't worthwhile.
  2. Beat the remainder into submission.
  3. Simultaneously encourage and incite violence from the reactionary minority, so that the press sides against them. This returns us to #1.

I'll be the first to concede that violence is not the answer here, but the time for chanting and sign-waving is through. I don't want to hear any more of this "if the violent people would just stop, then maybe they'd listen" business because sadly, that's just not true. Something has got to be done, or soon it might not just be a Starbucks and a few police cars that get smashed.

March 26, 2009 01:52 +0000  |  Activism Energy Environment Public Space Toronto Vancouver 9

I'm going to participate. I'm not really concerned about the effectiveness of that single hour's darkness on energy consumption as a whole, rather I'm more interested in taking a moment (or in this case, an hour) to reflect on our habits and maybe even convince others to slow down a bit. Besides, who doesn't love a party in the dark?

As always, Toronto is having a party in Nathan Phillip's Square while Vancouver still lacks any real public space capable of such an event. If you know of anything that Vancouver is doing that's interesting please let me know.

August 20, 2008 23:47 +0100  |  Activism Politics Public Space The Toronto Public Space Committee Toronto Transit 13

In 2006, Jane Pitfield, one of Toronto's mayoral candidates had mentioned the possibility of selling naming rights to subway stations as a way to help fund the system. As insane as it may sound to some, this idea did gain traction among some supporters in council and the media. At the time, I'd toyed with the idea of creating a corporate-sponsored subway map to raise some awareness around this woman's position, but as it became clear that she was unlikely to win, my interest faded.

However, the idea didn't die with Pitfield's campaign. Toronto City Hall has continued to toy with the idea of selling off the naming rights of public spaces to corporations, so Jayme Turney and Jonathan Goldsbie from the Toronto Public Space Committee started work on a campaign called City for Sale -- an advocacy campaign to raise awareness about the result of this line of thinking as well as push council on considering other options. When I heard about this, I contacted Jonathan to let him know that I had a fun idea in mind that might help them out, and after roughly a week of off-hours toying with Inkscape, and lots of help from the City For Sale volunteers with logo acquisition, "The Wrong Way" was born:

April 23, 2008 09:58 +0100  |  Geek Stuff Toronto Work [at] Play 4

I'm back online! Yay for me! It's also really late though and I have to go to work early tomorrow (the hours were changed out from under me) so I really can't write much so here's the gist:

I went to Toronto and had a lovely time. It's funny the kind of perspective one gets on their home town by living elsewhere. Ask me about it sometime... I promise a healthy rant. It was wonderful to see everyone again too, and not surprisingly, staying with Melanie was um... interesting. I reconnected with almost everyone and got to play tourist in my former home. I even went up the CN Tower (yay!).

Pictures of all of this will follow of course, but later. I need sleep.

My server (Moulinrouge) has been completely rebuilt and now sports a clean slate and a whack of services (Apache, Bind, DHCPd, Dovecot Imap, Exim, Fetchmail /w Procmail, MySQL, NTPd, Subversion and SSHd). My wireless is offline for now though since it would appear that I've run out of outlets on that side of the room. I left my good power strip at Melanie's so I'll have to go out and buy one tomorrow.

Things at the office are going very well. James and I are writing the Free software policy of the company and I got to write the preamble. When it's published, I'll post a link 'cause I'm rather proud of it.

That's it for now, to bed with me :-)

December 12, 2007 08:31 +0000  |  Moving Toronto Vancouver 3

It's hard to believe it sometimes, but I just realised it today. It's been 3months since I left Toronto. Not that I've had time to settle of course. Only one month here in Vancouver, and while I'm well on my way, I'm no where near "settled"... won't be for some time I think.

The Vancouver Public Library

Adjustments have been tough too. Sure it's still Canada but Vancouver is a very different place... at least for me. I've had to move back into the life I left, crowbar the new me into the old me's social circle. Some people still fit, others don't. And family... well we're always family, but it's taking them some time to get used to who I am now and not fixate on who I was when I left.

Living with the grandparents has been entertaining though. Aside from the fact that they're unapologetic racists, I've had pleasure of trying to explain to my grandfather that the reason his computer crashes with this program has performed an illegal action when he's looking at certain sites is not because they are trying to prevent it, but rather that his computer is running Windows 98 and is over 12years old.

I've also been able to "come out" to my grandparents with regard to my religious leanings. Until now, they were the only members of the family who didn't know that I was pagan and strangely enough, I was able to have a quiet, civilised conversation with my grandmother about it. She's Orthodox Christian, therefore she's not big on evangelism, so it was easier than one might think.

My grandfather still thinks I'm crazy for not believing in his god though, but he likes talking to the Jehovah's Witnesses so I don't take him too seriously :-)

For the most part though, I'm glad to be back. It's hard to explain, but the feeling I get when I tell someone that I'm going to the Vancouver Public Library is pretty great. It's a hell of a thing to live in a city with so much beauty. Seriously, Toronto people: come visit, see what I'm raving about.

June 27, 2007 15:22 +0100  |  Toronto Urban Design 0

Interesting things are happening down near the water on the East side of Toronto: someone is trying to build a Walmart. I rode my bike down there about a month ago and the whole area is being dug up in preparation for a sort of "power centre" (to borrow a phrase from Radiant City).

The new complex calls for roughly 2000 parking spots, yet claims to be an "urbanised" environment and Councillor Paula Fletcher isn't falling for it for a second.

Today City Hall denied Walmart permission to build its box down there and it did so in part due to support from people like her. It wasn't a big leap really, no one wants the damn thing there anyway so she's just acting as her constituents have asked. Frankly, I think that that area would be much better served by a mixed use residential/greenspace/commercial area, especially since it's right on what is possibly one of the prettiest bike lanes in the city.

Nice job Paula, keep up the good work. The fight isn't over yet (it rarely is with Walmart). The issue is expected to be brought before the Ontario Municipal Board sometime in the next month and sadly, that particular institution is not known for it's smart urban planning. If anyone has any ideas regarding how we might help the OMB make an intelligent decision, I'm all ears.

June 25, 2007 16:37 +0100  |  Politics Toronto 0

Torontoist has a great story dealing with the recent debate at City Hall over whether or not city-run vehicles should be permitted to sport those yellow "Support our Troops" ribbons. Frankly, I'm a big proponent of the "no" position, but I couldn't have possibly said it better than Ken Hunt:

At best, the yellow ribbon decals (like all the other ribbon campaigns) are merely a form of advertising. Putting on a ribbon is a way of acting like you're doing something, without actually making the effort to do anything. The yellow ribbon is especially powerful and popular because, like the Nike swoosh, it lets us affiliate ourselves with heroic actions and individuals without ever breaking a sweat.

Of course, the post is considerably more fleshed out than this particular snippet, but I liked it so much I wanted to post it here.