C/O Adam Thomas

Repeal of the 2020 encampment protocol sparks disapproval across the community

In fall of 2020, the city of Hamilton worked with a number of activist groups to develop an encampment protocol agreement. This protocol allowed unhoused individuals to remain in encampments for up to fourteen days and in some cases, to remain indefinitely. The protocol also called on the city to assist these individuals in moving to shelters or housing.

On Aug. 9, 2021, Hamilton City Council held an emergency meeting in which they voted to repeal this protocol and return to pre-pandemic policy, which disallows all encampments on city property. According to a media release, the decision came because the protocol was deemed ineffective. 

“Following today’s Council decision, the City will return to the pre-pandemic approach to services, which includes continued dedication to helping those sleeping rough find safe and humane options while enforcing its bylaws prohibiting camping on public property,” City Council stated in its media release. 

"Following today’s Council decision, the City will return to the pre-pandemic approach to services, which includes continued dedication to helping those sleeping rough find safe and humane options while enforcing its bylaws prohibiting camping on public property.”

Hamilton city Council

The council held this meeting as a closed session in a private video conference room. Activist groups who were a part of the development of the protocol were not included in the discussion. The motion to end the protocol was moved by Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr. 

Many activist groups have criticized the city’s decision to prohibit encampments once again. Keeping Six, one of the activist groups that first worked with the city to develop the encampment protocol, released a statement on Aug. 10, detailing their position. 

“For the city to walk away from this negotiated settlement unilaterally and without even the courtesy of any communication with us, or any apparent consultation with those on the front lines, is deeply anti-democratic and repressive,” wrote Keeping Six.

“For the city to walk away from this negotiated settlement unilaterally and without even the courtesy of any communication with us, or any apparent consultation with those on the front lines, is deeply anti-democratic and repressive.”

Keeping Six

Hamilton Encampment Support Network, another activist group criticizing the city’s decision, has put forward an open letter to Hamilton City Council.

HESN is a volunteer-run activist group that supports and advocates for unhoused Hamiltonians. According to their Instagram, HESN advocates for the principle that housing is a human right and they seek to make housing accessible to all Hamiltonians. Their methods, as stated on their Instagram, include site monitoring and check-ins, supply drop-offs and observation and de-escalation during teardowns.

In their open letter, which has amassed a number of signatures from both organizations and individuals, they stated the following: “Encampment evictions have been and continue to be dehumanizing, insidious displays of violence in a sustained municipal war on Black, Indigenous, racialized, disabled, poor and unhoused communities, both in so-called Hamilton as well as across Turtle Island.”

“Encampment evictions have been and continue to be dehumanizing, insidious displays of violence in a sustained municipal war on Black, Indigenous, racialized, disabled, poor and unhoused communities, both in so-called Hamilton as well as across Turtle Island.”

Hamilton Encampment Support Network

The open letter goes on to detail how encampment evictions are currently a public health crisis and how the national and provincial governments have been lacking in addressing this issue. 

According to Vic Wojciechowska, a volunteer with HESN, even the previous protocol did not adequately protect people from encampment evictions.

“People [were] displaced from park to park, often faster than within a 14-day framework. That's because the city was initiating that 14 day process the moment that a tent would appear in a green space. This was not public information; this is something we learned by showing up to encampment teardowns.”

“People [were] displaced from park to park, often faster than within a 14-day framework. That's because the city was initiating that 14 day process the moment that a tent would appear in a green space. This was not public information; this is something we learned by showing up to encampment teardowns.”

Vic Wojciechowska, HESN VOLUNTEER

Further, the letter emphasizes how the current pandemic has exacerbated the public health threat that encampment evictions pose.

“We also know that houseless community members are at far greater risk of contracting COVID-19 under current overcrowded shelter conditions and that encampment evictions physically prevent homeless community members from accessing resources, supports,and medical care through routine displacement,” stated the open letter. 

According to Wojciechowska, the open letter is an important way to create awareness about encampment evictions. 

“It was one thing that [could] be done to bring people together, to talk about what it means for the protocol to happen, [to be] repealed and to just create some sort of initial conversation,” said Wojciechowska.

According to Wojciechowska, there are many reasons why shelters may be inaccessible for some unhoused individuals or why they may choose encampments over shelters. They explained that, due to COVID-19 precautions, shelter space has decreased dramatically. As well, Wojciechowska said that shelters can restrict the autonomy of their residents in multiple ways, such as through implementing strict check-in and check-out times. 

“People have shared with us that they actually look forward to the summer months when they can stay in an encampment and can actually create their own communities and ways of keeping each other safe,” stated Wojciechowska. 

“People have shared with us that they actually look forward to the summer months when they can stay in an encampment and can actually create their own communities and ways of keeping each other safe.”

Vic Wojciechowska, HESN VOLUNTEER

When discussing the city’s response to encampments, Wojciechowska emphasized the importance of listening to unhoused individuals in the community.

“Let them choose to stay outside. Let encampments exist. If people are telling you that they feel safer in encampments, listen to them and build that into your response,” said Wojciechowska.


When the Silhouette reached out to Councillor Jason Farr, they were not available for an interview.

Black McMaster students reflect on the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020

This article is a part of the Sil Time Capsule, a series that reflects on 2020 with the aim to draw attention to the ways in which it has affected our community as well as the wider world.

In the summer of 2020, sparked by the death of George Floyd, there was a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protests spread across the United States and the world. Businesses and individuals, both with and without a history of supporting Black communities, began posting messages of solidarity on social media and pledged to do better.

In just over a month, it will be a year since George Floyd was murdered. In addition to the killings, we have also seen how Black folks have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. For Black folks around the world, this year has been exhausting and retraumatizing.

It’s been exhausting and retraumatizing to learn of more killings and what little action has taken place. It’s been exhausting and retraumatizing for our organizers and protesters, who have been met with police violence. It’s been exhausting and retraumatizing to field questions and concern from those in our lives who have never before cared about our Blackness.

It’s been exhausting and retraumatizing for Black students. All year, Black students, alumni, staff and faculty have been observing McMaster University's response to the resurgence and continuing to advocate for safe spaces and meaningful action.

So as this academic year comes to a close, it was important for me as a Black woman at McMaster to use one of my last articles at the Silhouette to discuss how Black students have been dealing with this tumultuous year.

C/O Camiah

Student activism in summer 2020

On May 25, 2020, in Minnesota, George Floyd was killed while in police custody, for which now-former police officer Derek Chauvin currently is standing on trial, charged with murder and manslaughter. The news and video of Floyd’s murder flooded traditional news and social media. In the days and weeks that followed, protesters took to the streets across the United States and the world.

While this wasn’t the first time a Black person had been unjustly killed, for many, Black and non-Black alike, the summer of 2020 felt different. There are many factors that influenced the increased response, chief among them the pandemic. Black folks, who have been disproportionately affected, were fed up with government neglect while non-Black people quarantining at home had no choice but to pay attention.

“People rioting and actually protesting and doing stuff like that was the reason people started talking about it more, because, essentially you had something for white people to debate about and to fight about . . . [T]hat eventually just made a chain of events so people were being like, “Why are black people rioting?” Okay, well, why are black people rioting and then people were actually looking at it,” said Aaron Parry, a fourth-year student and promotions executive on the Black Students’ Association.

“People rioting and actually protesting and doing stuff like that was the reason people started talking about it more, because, essentially you had something for white people to debate about and to fight about . . . ”

Aaron Parry, a fourth-year student and promotions executive on the Black Students’ Association

Black McMaster students were among those protesting both online and offline last summer, continuing the work that many have been doing for years. For instance, on June 17, 2020, McMaster student organizers held a protest to demand the removal of the special constables on campus and the dismissal of Director of Security and Parking Services Glenn De Caire, who has a history of supporting the highly controversial practice of carding. Students have been advocating for De Caire’s removal since 2016.

Black students also spent the summer further educating themselves and having difficult conversations with friends, peers and others in their life.

“I actually did summer school in June, July . . . Since I'm in political science, race [is] a topic, especially during this course. I feel like I tried, as a Black person, to educate some of my fellow peers about what we experience,” explained fourth-year student and Women and Gender Equity Network Research Coordinator, Shae Owen.

Online, many students responded to McMaster’s statements on Floyd’s death and anti-Black racism at the university with demands that they fire De Caire. Students were quick to point out that McMaster’s statements did little to address Black students’ concerns and calls for action.

Both current and former students took to social media to share their experiences of racism at McMaster. Canadian football player and former McMaster student, Fabion Foote, tweeted about the systemic racism he experienced at McMaster, which was met with support from other Black McMaster students, alumni and faculty.

However, while students were generally glad to see increased awareness, many worried that it was performative or fleeting.

“Doing nothing is no longer acceptable. However, reposting on social media is classified as hardly doing anything, because it lacks your personal tone and influence,” wrote the Silhouette Production Editor and Black Students Association Photographer Sybil Simpson in a June 2020 Silhouette article.

C/O Estee Janssens

Effects on mental health and academics

While Black students were at the forefront of the activism, many also found the summer and current academic year overwhelming. Students didn’t get to take a break from their everyday lives to grieve, having to continue to work, attend summer school classes and study for tests.

“In Nigeria — this was in October — there were killings of peaceful protesters . . . and that was very close to home. Things don't necessarily slow down. When all of this is happening, it's not like school pauses. You still have deadlines. I used my MSAF for the first time in four years last semester, that's how much I just felt like everything was going on. I had to ask for extensions and I couldn't make deadlines,” explained Toni Makanjuola, a fourth-year student and director of logistics with Black Aspiring Physicians of McMaster.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Black Students’ Association (@bsamcm)

For some students, these feelings of being overwhelmed were compounded by the physical and emotional isolation caused by the pandemic. Students who were not able to go home to see family often had to deal with the devastating news on their own.

“There's a lot going on with just COVID by itself. I couldn't see my family because of COVID and I was already planning to see them. I think I mentioned I'm an international student and my parents live abroad and my family's kind of dispersed. So it was definitely a lonely time,” said Makanjuola.

“There's a lot going on with just COVID by itself. I couldn't see my family because of COVID and I was already planning to see them. I think I mentioned I'm an international student and my parents live abroad and my family's kind of dispersed. So it was definitely a lonely time.”

Toni Makanjuola, director of logistics with Black Aspiring Physicians of McMaster

Moreover, Black students expressed how the summer of 2020 changed their relationships. Students reported that they got closer to Black family members and friends as well as non-Black allies. On the other hand, relationships fractured with those in their lives that failed to check-in or speak out.

“I found myself being like, “okay, I can't actually be friends with this person, even if they make a racist joke like here and there.” That’s now too much for me. It wasn't too much before, but now that everything's become more extreme, my barriers have to become more extreme,” said Aaron Parry, a fourth-year student and promotions executive on the Black Students’ Association.

C/O GV Chana

Response to university initiatives

During the summer, McMaster put out several statements, some of which addressed how the university intends to tackle anti-Black racism on campus. While none of these intended actions included firing De Caire as students had demanded, some positive actions included the accelerated hiring of Black faculty, the hiring of an anti-Black racism education coordinator and the announcement of a Black student services office.

“In terms of the hiring, I think that was extremely needed because personally, I'm in my fourth year, and this was like the first year that I've had Black professors and that's because I'm taking history . . . I'm interested in research right so [when I found a potential Black supervisor], I emailed her. I was so excited because I knew she wasn't there before. I got to share a research idea with her. But I don't know that I would have felt as comfortable emailing someone else,” said Makanjuola.

“In terms of the hiring, I think that was extremely needed because personally, I'm in my fourth year, and this was like the first year that I've had Black professors and that's because I'm taking history . . .

TONI MAKANJUOLA, DIRECTOR OF LOGISTICS WITH BLACK ASPIRING PHYSICIANS OF MCMASTER
View this post on Instagram

A post shared by McMaster University (@mcmasteru)

However, the fact that many plans were created without the input of Black students begs whether they’ll be helpful at all.

“What little they do give to Black students, it's not even involving Black students that often and then they just kind of surprise us as if it's a gift . . . They design whatever services they think that we want rather than actually actively involving us and actively asking us, “what do you want, what do you need, what are you looking for in a Black Student Services, what do you think will help?”,” explained Parry.

In response to Foote’s tweets, the university organized a Black student-athlete review, which was completed in October and revealed “a culture of systemic anti-Black racism within the department.” However, many students believe the review did not do enough.

Some of those who were involved in the review noted that internal politics played a role in what actually made it into the report and how what was included was worded.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by McMaster University (@mcmasteru)

“[W]e know that they have their agenda and it's not in the interest of Black students most of the time. It was definitely disheartening to know that I was a part of a project that was doing that,” said Parry, who was part of the review’s task force.

Many students wondered why the review was restricted only to athletics when many of the stories told are experienced by Black students across campus. Others were eager to know what comes next.

“[The positive changes] are, however, being done so very slowly and with caution; this is unchartered territory for Mac. However, I’m growing increasingly frustrated, not only with the immediate aftermath but with the contents of the review. How could they let this happen? How has it taken so long for someone to finally put their foot down? Moreover, where the heck do we go from here?” wrote McMaster rugby player Payton Shank in a December 2020 Silhouette article.

C/O Good Faces

Creating safe spaces

Support for Black McMaster students this year didn’t come directly from the university, but through the actions of Black students, faculty and staff. For example, on June 11, 2020, Black staff members facilitated a Black student virtual check-in to give students a safe space to share their thoughts and experiences.

Black community members at McMaster took on this work for no pay on top of their work, school and personal lives. Many Black students at McMaster are executives on multiple Black-focused clubs while the African-Caribbean Faculty Association of McMaster offers mentorship and events with no funding from the university. However, because of the importance of these spaces, Black students, staff and faculty feel an obligation to continue.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Black Students’ Association (@bsamcm)

“We are going to help ourselves and our siblings because there's not a lot of us at McMaster. But it kind of brought us closer together, because during that time a lot of clubs had talks and chill sessions and discussions . . . I even made some new friends that way,” said Owen.

“We are going to help ourselves and our siblings because there's not a lot of us at McMaster. But it kind of brought us closer together, because during that time a lot of clubs had talks and chill sessions and discussions . . . I even made some new friends that way.”

Shae Owen, WGEN Research Coordinator

All year, Black students have been continuing or creating clubs and events to have important conversations and take a break from the constant stress. Some of these new clubs came from discussions among students that occurred last summer, such as the Black BHSc Association.

Established Black clubs used their platforms to empower Black students and support new Black clubs. For example, BAP-MAC chose the theme Black Resilience for their annual iRISE conference and had talks and workshops dedicated to medical racism and health advocacy. In November 2020, the Black Student Mentorship Program held an event for first-year students that focused on coping with loneliness and online school.

“[The summer] also made me a lot more conscious of other people's mental health and that was like one of the reasons [behind] the loneliness event idea. Because of what I was experiencing during the time, I just thought it would be nice to do something where people could speak out and be vulnerable and know that they aren't alone with that during the school year, especially first years,” said Makanjuola, who came up with the idea for the BSMP event.

However, in creating these safe spaces, Black students had to be wary of other students infiltrating these spaces. On Nov. 20, 2020, the Law Aspiring Black Students of McMaster experienced a racist attack during their Zoom LABS Chat. Since then, Black clubs have been trained on how to avoid Zoom bombing and have had to take special care to avoid similar incidents.

“I was shaking because I never expected something like this to happen at a university, especially because we can’t put a face to the name. We don’t know who these people are. So it’s like am I walking amongst people who feel this way, am I sitting in classes with people who could possibly infiltrate a chat?” said Maab Mahmoud, the vice-president of events for LABS, during diversity services’ podcast, Listen Up.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Black Student Mentorship (@bsmp.mcmaster)

The incident served as a reminder of the importance of safe spaces, but also made it clear that Black students at McMaster are not safe among their peers. This was also seen in the reactions to Black student initiatives such as the new Black engineering student scholarship, where non-Black McMaster students complained that it gave Black students an unfair advantage.

“Mac did the exact same thing where they just go, yeah, here's the scholarship to help Black students. We're going to ignore all that shit about non-Black students attacking Black students . . . we're going to continually let you go to school with and live with your abusers, constantly,” said Parry.

Yet through it all, Black students have continued to be there for one another and create places where they can be seen and heard. We do not know what the future holds and if the university will become a safer space for Black students.

But I know that we are resilient. As I graduate this year, I have faith that the Black students, staff and faculty of tomorrow will continue to make McMaster a place where Black students can succeed.

The Holland Marsh Highway proposed by the provincial government plans to increase connectivity in the region but at the expense of the wetlands’ well-being

C/O Bryan Hanson

Plans for the Bradford Bypass, also known as the Holland Marsh Highway, is an east-west, four-lane highway between Highways 400 and 404 that has been in the works for decades. The proposed highway would connect York Region and Simcoe Country, to ease traffic congestion and support commuters from both communities. Environmental groups say that these benefits would be at the expense of the well-being of the Holland Marsh Wetlands.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Stop the Bradford Bypass (@stopthebradfordbypass)

Initial studies were conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. All of the studies concluded that there was a need for this type of provincial highway.

The ministry studies cited expected significant population growth in the region. An environmental assessment was conducted in 1997 and the project received approval in 2002. 

The project was then shelved due to its incompatibility with the provincial A Place to Grow Act. It was not until August 2019 that the Ministry of Transportation approved its re-commencement.

The highway is one of two controversial transportation projects resurrected by the provincial government in 2019. The other was Highway 413 which was shelved by the previous Kathleen Wynne Liberal government due to similar concerns regarding its potential to harm the surrounding natural environment.

The Ford government sought to fast-track these developments by exempting them from the Environmental Assessment Act. It has also recently been reported that there are nearby large expanses of real estate owned by eight of Ontario’s most powerful land developers.

Half of these developers — which include John Di Poce, Benny Marotta, Argo Development and Fieldgate Homes and the Cortellucci, DeGasperis, Guglietti and De Meneghi families — are connected to the Ford government through former members of the party or current officials. Most have donated a great deal of money — at least $813,000 — to the Progressive Conservative party since 2014.

The Bradford Bypass had and continues to have strong support from municipalities, which have grown substantially over the past four decades. These areas are expected to continue to grow in the future. 

"For decades, commuters in York Region and Simcoe County have been demanding a connecting link . . . The Bradford Bypass will bring relief to drivers, support development in York Region and Simcoe County and bolster Ontario's economy following this pandemic,” said Natasha Tremblay, a spokesperson for Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, in a statement to the CBC.

While the main benefits of the highway will be less traffic congestion and the connection of York Region and Simcoe Country, supporters of the project have pointed to its economic benefits, particularly as part of the province’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The project will generate a number of jobs during its construction. Once completed, it would further support the creation of more local jobs by connecting communities to major job centres in the Greater Toronto Area and encouraging more business within the area.

However, the Holland Marsh Highway would pave over the provincially significant wetlands. It would impact endangered species, migratory birds, aquatic life and generate significant groundwater contamination.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by SC Greenbelt Coalition (@simcoecountygreenbeltcoalition)

“Lake Simcoe is stressed by development impacts, salt from the expanding road network and excess nutrients already. Historically, the Holland Marsh filtered pollutants from the waters that flowed into the lake. It is extremely sensitive and a wholly inappropriate place to put a highway,” said Claire Malcomson, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition's executive director in an interview with Barrie Today.

Local groups, including the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, have consistently voiced their concerns about the project and called on the government to reconsider, at the very least, conducting a more up-to-date environmental assessment.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (@ontariogreenbeltalliance)

Student organizations on campus, including Mac Climate Advocates and McMaster Outdoor Club, also have similar concerns about the project and its impact on the marsh.

“So because it's been in the works for quite a while, [because of] the connectivity issues, I think the actual standards that they've been using to conduct these assessments is probably even older [than the initial 1997 assessment]. As mentioned before, just to reiterate, so much has changed in the last 30 years or so,” said Vidushi Saxena, co-president of Mac Climate Advocates.

Students also raised concerns about how the construction of this project might encourage urban sprawl and new housing development, further damaging the wetlands and its impact on farms in the area. Holland Marsh is considered a significantly productive specialty crop agricultural area.

“[The highway] will encourage housing developments in rural areas and that will damage wetlands and farms and those are two things that have been really important throughout the pandemic . . . Having local agriculture is super important to climate change and it's been important throughout the pandemic because it's more affordable to transport food locally,” said Jenn Cross, the other co-president of Mac Climate Advocates.

Additionally, Cross noted that given the rise of remote work due to the pandemic that many have noted is likely to continue, it is possible that the need for such a highway is no longer quite as high.

“There'll always be a reason to go through with [projects such as the Holland Marsh Highway] but we have to be sure that we're looking at it holistically, looking at the big picture and recognizing the significant consequences that might arise . . . There is always an alternative as well” said Saxena.

“There'll always be a reason to go through with [projects such as the Holland Marsh Highway] but we have to be sure that we're looking at it holistically, looking at the big picture and recognizing the significant consequences that might arise . . . There is always an alternative as well.”

Vidushi Saxena, co-president of Mac Climate Advocates

Madeleine Hayes, the environmental coordinator for McMaster Outdoor Club, also stressed the importance of students being aware of developments and projects such as this highway.

“I think it’s important for students to get involved . . . There are students from that area too, right? The more you get involved in local [advocacy], the more — globally — different things are going to happen, right? Because that's how change happens, a little bit at a time. So by bringing attention to local issues like this, I think it really makes a difference,” explained Hayes.

Activists gather to demand defunding of police services and investments in free housing

On Nov. 23 following National Housing Day, a group of activists known as Defund HPS gathered outside of Hamilton City Hall to demand the defunding of police services across all levels of government and greater investment into free permanent housing.

The group is asking for an immediate 50 per cent reduction of the Hamilton Police Services budget.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Our coalition is outside @cityofhamilton. We won’t leave until money is divested from municipal, provincial, and federal police, and invested into free permanent housing. #HamOnt #OnPoli #CndPoli #HousingIsAHumanRight 1/9

— Defund HPS (@DefundHPS) November 23, 2020

Other demands from the group include rejection of the $4 million budget increase that was requested by the HPS and that the HPS budget surplus of $567,875 is reallocated toward free permanent housing.

“Despite years of promises [regarding] housing, houseless people across the country are being brutalized by municipalities and police. Right now, there are [more than] 20 encampments in #HamOnt,” the group wrote on Twitter.

“Despite years of promises [regarding] housing, houseless people across the country are being brutalized by municipalities and police. Right now, there are [more than] 20 encampments in #HamOnt,” the group wrote on Twitter.

The group added that tents are being destroyed and mass park evictions are occurring while women’s shelters reach maximum capacity and men’s shelters provide unlivable or undignified conditions.

“People will die in the cold because our economy is prioritized over human life . . . Housing is a human right and must be free,” the group tweeted.

“People will die in the cold because our economy is prioritized over human life . . . Housing is a human right and must be free,” the group tweeted.

The group has now set up tents outside of Hamilton City Hall and state that they won’t be leaving until their demands are met. They are also asking to meet with Hamilton’s Mayor, Fred Eisenberger.

Sarah Jama, the organizer of the protest, has been charged by Hamilton police due to the number of people at the protest allegedly exceeding what is permitted for an outdoor gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jama will appear in court on Feb. 22, 2021 and is liable to pay a minimum fine of $10,000 if convicted.

On Nov. 26, after days of remaining outside of City Hall, Defund HPS organized a dance party to gather more attention and continue calling upon the mayor for action.

Maybe they can't hear us - let's get LOUD. Join us tonight at 6:30 PM for a dance party in front of City Hall! DJ miss crabs will keep us warm and grooving - let's make it unmistakable that if we don't get it, we WILL shut it down and we WILL turn it up. pic.twitter.com/MSw895z198

— Defund HPS (@DefundHPS) November 26, 2020

Also on Nov. 26, a news release from the city stated that bylaw officers will start issuing removal notices for the tents that are set up in front of City Hall. The release said that the notices do not impact people’s rights to gather in front of City Hall, but will indicate that tents and other structures need to be removed immediately.

“[T]he City will work with demonstrators to have them removed by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday night to allow reasonable time for dismantling and removal. It is only the tents and structures that are being ordered for removal, individuals are permitted to remain on site, provided they do not exceed the 25-person outdoor gathering limit,” the city wrote.

On Nov. 27, the fifth day of the demonstration, a statement from Defund HPS was released. The statement shared that Eisenberger had finally spoken out about the demonstration and that he had called the group’s demands to defund the police irrational. Eisenberger said that the city had already made investments into housing.

However, the group stated that they believe the $50 million invested over a 10 year period into housing is insignificant in comparison to the $171 million budget allocated to the Hamilton Police Service in this year alone.

DAY FIVE: PLEASE READ OUT STATEMENT BELOW #DefundThePolice #HamOnt #onpoli #canpoli pic.twitter.com/gTRDGGMUMt

— Defund HPS (@DefundHPS) November 28, 2020


The next day, on Nov. 28, Eisenberger refused to meet with Defund HPS publicly but instead said that he would be willing to meet the group privately within closed quarters with no technology present.

In response, the group rejected meeting privately as they believe it is not safe and would like to meet in a way that provides transparency to all the activists that have gathered for the demonstration.

Others have criticized the mayor’s request to meet privately, noting that the housing crisis in Hamilton is a public issue and deserves input from the public.

“Our mayor always wants to meet privately. Why? Residents of Hamilton expect their elected officials to engage with everybody in the city. Private meetings do not help with the situation. More often than not, in these private meetings no work is done,” said musician and Executive Director of the Hamilton Center for Civic Inclusion, Kojo Damptey, in a video he shared in support of the protest.

On Nov. 29, a vigil was hosted to commemorate the lives lost of unhoused people. Following seven days of the ongoing demonstration, the activists continue to stand by their demands and run interactive programs for all those joining them in front of City Hall, including mural painting as well as tote bag and t-shirt making.

On Nov. 30, bylaw officers and police began forcibly removing tents. Videos show that tents and other belongings are being thrown in the garbage.

On Nov. 30, bylaw officers and police began forcibly removing tents. Videos show that tents and other belongings are being thrown in the garbage.

A statement has since been made by Defund HPS in regards to the tent removals. The group noted that the organizers were not communicated with by police prior to their sudden arrival. The officers were not socially distanced and were handing out trespassing tickets to people for random actions such as holding flowers.

“What we witnessed today was a complete failure on the city’s part to keep people safe. It was a violent attack on people’s livelihood and right to existing in a public space . . . These structures at the camp were critical to keeping people alive, keeping each other fed, keeping each other clothed, keeping each other healthy. We enforced social distancing measures and COVID-safety measures the entire week. We were simply exercising our right to protest,” the group wrote in their statement.

“What we witnessed today was a complete failure on the city’s part to keep people safe. It was a violent attack on people’s livelihood and right to existing in a public space."

Defund HPS is now asking people to “wake up the mayor”, getting his attention by calling his number, posting on his Twitter or sending him an email.

THREAD:

Wake up Fred get out of bed! Let’s give the Mayor a morning reminder, given his refusal to meet with his constituents in public!

Check it out pic.twitter.com/HtP3bztvCZ

— Defund HPS (@DefundHPS) November 30, 2020

As the demonstration continues, the group is asking for donations from the community for items such as tents, sleeping bags, blankets, umbrellas and more. Items can be brought to New Vision United Church, which is across the street from City Hall, for volunteers to receive and sanitize.

When the Silhouette reached out to Defund HPS, they were unavailable for an interview.

Piper & Carson’s second album Edgewalker’s Remedy is about divesting from colonist structures

By: Tracy Huynh, Contributor

For singer-songwriter duo Piper & Carson, music is about disarming people, building community and creating intentional art that heals. They sought to embody these ideals in their second album, Edgewalker’s Remedy, which was released on Oct. 23, 2020. 

Piper & Carson is the stage name of duo and couple Piper Hayes and Carson Ritcey-Thorpe. Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe met when Hayes, who was raised in the east end of Toronto, was performing at a Harvest Bash in Ritcey-Thorpe’s hometown of Millgrove. 

Feeling a deep connection with the land and the community, the two moved to Hamilton five years ago. In 2017, they released their self-titled debut album, Piper & Carson. The theme of nature is apparent throughout their music, with sounds of water and birds underlying the melody. 

Their second album, Edgewalker’s Remedy, is about divesting from capitalist and colonial systems. The title paints a picture of how colonialism pushes groups of people to the edges of society. Tackling themes of anti-racism, Indigenous sovereignty and respecting the Earth, the album is strikingly relevant to the topics currently explored by media today. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Piper & Carson (@piperandcarson)

For example, in Mother’s Prayer, background heartbeat sounds, vivid imagery and lyrics such as “Decolonize your mind/You don’t own anything” bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s clear from the first listen that this duo isn’t trying to shy away from topics that spark conversation. 

“We felt really strongly that it's really our responsibility as settlers here to be part of anti-racism and to be part of amplifying the voices of Indigenous people. It's people [and] it's communities that are going to change things. I have very very little faith in the current structures that are in place,” said Hayes.

The duo has been amplifying Indigenous voices by sharing content from Indigenous activists on their social media platforms. However, they aim to create a long-term exit strategy from social media.

“For years it has felt imperative as musicians to have a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account. Lately, however we are questioning this reasoning and wondering what better ways we can collectively invest in each other and our relationships,” said Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe in a press release.

Wanting to further reject the predatory capitalist practices of the music industry, Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe did not put the album on streaming platforms. Instead, the album is available on their website and Bandcamp in a pay-what-you-can model. They wanted to make decisions centred around their art, rather than around what would do well on the market. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Piper & Carson (@piperandcarson)

The project also includes a companion book of lyrics and stories for “adult children.” The book features custom illustrations by Métis artist and friend of the couple Riley Bee. The physical and digital versions of the book are available on their website.

“Our goal is to just get us all collectively to slow down, reflect and hopefully seek out the connection to this natural world, to step into that as much as possible and build and foster wonder,” said Ritcey-Thorpe. 

Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe recorded their latest album in their Hamilton home in the midst of the pandemic. For the pair who are used to performing live, this was new territory. With the help of their friends, Greyson Gritt and Chris Bartos, the duo navigated the challenges of learning new equipment, setting up their home studio and working digitally with other artists. 

It was important for the duo to collaborate with artists like The Rough and Tumble and Lacey Hill. They found that the digital space combined with the insights of other artists allowed for creative and serendipitous ways of building a song. 

Piper & Carson are livestreaming a show on Nov. 29, 2020. As with their other work, tickets are being sold using a pay-what-you-can model. Hayes and Ritcey-Thorpe are going to use the show to serenade, tell stories and connect with their guests. Through this show, they continue to build community with their music even during the pandemic.

By: Esther Liu, Contributor

Yahia Hassan is a first-year student in life sciences. He co-founded the nonprofit, The Altruist.

The Silhouette: What are you passionate about?

Hassan: I'm really interested in how people interact with each other and what makes people choose one thing over something else. I'm also really into biology and other sciences so I like to look at that in terms of the psychological side of it. In terms of humanitarianism, it's really important to get that perspective and over the years I've sort of trained myself to try and get empathy and get open-mindedness and perspective from other people. 

When did you start getting involved in your community?

My first volunteer opportunity was back in Egypt in Grade 9. [W]e went to one of the villages that were damaged over the years and we re-decorated and refurbished that village. We built a whole community centre for them with a group of 50 people. I think it's the experience of helping others without really getting anything in return, right? I'm not getting paid or anything but I'm still doing good for others. Knowing that they now live in a place that I helped improve.

Later in high school, I took more leadership roles where it's more of helping a bigger organization. So, I'm volunteering for something: I'm helping ship medicine boxes for example and I don't know anything about it later on, right? But I don't like the idea of that because I don't know where it's going. I'm not sure if it's actually going to go to the place where it's intended.

Between Grade 11 and Grade 12, I was volunteering with Trillium Health Partners. There, I had to really think on the spot about how to help people directly. As an intern, I had to step up right because nurses and doctors are not going to be free to help you. That was a good experience of helping other people no matter what the situation is. So a lot of empathy came with it. [I thought] “right this is hard, but I have to help this person because they can't really help themselves or they don't they can't fathom helping themselves.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Altruist (@altruistca)

What is The Altruist?

The Altruist is a youth journalism organization. We were starting out with five people. Now we're over 20 people and we have people in nine countries contributing. The purpose of The Altruist is, through youth journalism, giving other youth a voice and giving them a platform. What we're really focusing on is humanitarian issues. It's a lot about goodwill without anything in return.

How did The Altruist start?

Originally, it was two people: me and a friend of mine. We were first based in White Oak Secondary School. Over time, we contacted people that we knew from our school and a few people from Egypt. We now have people from Canada, the UK, Egypt, Indonesia, China, Pakistan and India. We started back in March – not coincidental with the pandemic.

But when the pandemic hit, there was a lot of news that was misinformed and contained a lot of implied and explicit hatred [with] each headline. So we wanted to create a safer source of journalism and information. The goals for the organization are to create honest news and news that doesn't spark fear. [We want] to influence and inspire other people to go out of their way to do good for other people. Since this is a non-profit and we're really focused on the goodwill of our actions, we want others to do the same.

What are you working on now with The Altruist?

For the audience, we want workshops in different schools or venues to inspire change and inspire people to be good. Right now, we have webinars every month where we would talk about different issues. So, for example, if we're talking about oppression against racialized communities, we might talk about oppression in the medical community, in the film industry and more. We want people to be aware and, through that awareness, to say: "Oh, this is not a good thing and this is something that I can change within myself.”

A brief overview of activist action in Hamilton

CW: mentions of violence and racism

2020 has been a rough – albeit transformative – year for everyone. From the pandemic to the racial injustices across North America that gained media attention to global emergencies such as the Beirut explosion or worsening of the Yemeni crisis, the world has lived through some of its worst times in recorded history.

However, in the midst of the anger and sadness, there have been sparks of spirit and action as activists took the summer of 2020 as a time to enact social change. From rallies to sit-ins, activists across the country, even at McMaster, have advocated for change. Whether it be fighting for a home country’s autonomy and nationhood, empowering marginalized communities in Canada or reclaiming land that was lost to colonization, summer 2020 was full of activism.

[/media-credit] Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution 2014 爭取香港真普選

Pushing for Autonomy: Hong Kong’s Fight

In June 2019, protests took place across Hong Kong in response to plans to allow citizen extradition to mainland China. Although the bill that would allow for the extradition to occur was withdrawn in September, demonstrations continued as people demanded democracy and inquiries into police actions against protestors and activists. As police brutality against the citizens of Hong Kong became increasingly violent, many pro-independence activists are now seeking asylum in Canada as refugees. Canada has begun accepting these refugees into the country. 

The events unfolding in Hong Kong are heard here, on the other side of the globe, through media and first-hand accounts. Despite the physical distance between us, these issues directly affect and involve us, including students at McMaster.

McMaster Stands with Hong Kong is a student activist group that was founded last October. The mandate of the organization is to support and bring awareness to Hong Kongers in their fight against Chinese occupation, police brutality and to support all refugees seeking asylum in Canada. This past summer, the organization engaged in multiple acts of activism.

In May, Mac-HK opposed the Student Success Centre’s decision to post a Hong Kong police job on their student website, which yielded significant results as the Student Success Centre quietly deleted the post. In August, Mac-HK co-organized an event in downtown Toronto with other universities that called out Chinese influence and actions in Hong Kong and the need for Canada to protect Hong Kongers’ safety here. In September, Mac-HK co-organized a rally for Status for All, a rally focusing on giving status to international students, refugees, farmers and workers, who were all particularly affected socially and financially by the pandemic. 

These acts from McMaster students are a reminder that what happens across the world affects us right here in Canada and at McMaster. 

[/media-credit] Black Live Matter Plaza, Washington, DC - today with military vehicles removed

Fighting Social Injustice: Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter: this sentence and movement have been gaining traction since its use as a hashtag on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin in July 2013. This year, the movement reached a peak in traction and recognition following the shootings of Black men and women, including the murder of George Floyd in May.

An international fight against systemic racism and police brutality in the form of rallies, protests and petitions took center stage. In response to police brutality, many organizations seeking to fight systemic racism and police brutality in North America have emerged, some of them right here in Hamilton.

HWDSB Kids Need Help is an organization that was formed by Hamilton students, including some who currently attend McMaster University. The organization seeks to support the rights of high school students, particularly those from marginalized communities, in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and oppose police presence.

In February 2020, HWDSB Kids Need Help assisted in a report that requested the termination of the HWDSB police school liaison program. The program supported the presence of six officers at 38 secondary schools and five officers in a partnership with 158 elementary schools. This presence was meant to prevent crime, but HWDSB Kids Need Help researched and outlined the impact of the program. After a summer of activism, the motion to terminate the police school liaison program was passed

Reclaiming Land: Land Back Camp

Today, Indigenous people continue to face systemic oppression as a result of colonialism in many forms. In response to this, many movements fighting against land occupation have come about.

One example is Land Back Camp, which was set up in June in Kitchener’s Victoria Park. The camp was set up to reclaim land that was once a central hub of activity and life for Nations such as the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.

Beyond existing as a way to reclaim land and send a political message to authorities, the camp is said to connect young Indigenous adults to their culture and offer youth and two-spirited people a place where they feel more at home.

Movements like Land Back Camp that occur so close to home offer an opportunity for students to reflect on their role in supporting Indigenous communities.

Although social issues can often appear abstract or distant, it is important to remember that our neighbours and peers are actively shaping and defining change in our society. Large-scale issues manifest in one way or another within our school and communities and it is important not to disregard them, but to rather acknowledge the efforts local activists are putting in catalyzing change.

This article is the first in a series on the many acts, events and movements of activism from summer 2020.

Photo C/O Silhouette Photo Archives

On June 2, Black Lives Matter — Toronto posted a livestream series on Twitter of students protesting the “violence that Black and racialized Indigenous students face” on McMaster University’s campus.

“McMaster also silences students when we protest, we get ignored and we get ticketed for speaking against basic injustices that happen here on campus,” a student on the livestream stated.

At the end of the livestream, they call for McMaster to remove the presence of special constables from campus and to cut ties with Hamilton Police Services and to immediately terminate Glenn De Caire’s contract — the former Police Chief for the Hamilton Police Services who has been employed as the Director of Security and Parking Services at McMaster since 2016.

Background:

Much debate and controversy over De Caire’s tenure as police chief came to light while in the role. In 2010, De Caire introduced the Addressing Crime Trends In Our Neighbourhood team, five high-profile groups of officers tasked with lowering crime in the downtown-core. These officers were the only ones who conducted “street checks,” a practice also known as carding.

However, in June 2015, seven members of the ACTION team were arrested, with five members being charged after it was alleged they falsified tickets. The provincial government cut ACTION’s funding in half and sparked the government to enact regulations to stop carding within all police services across Ontario.

In response, De Caire sent a letter to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services outlining his worries that Hamilton could be at risk if carding practices ceased, citing “officer discretion” as being paramount to “stop, investigate, identify and record information of individuals in the appropriate circumstances.”

“Information must be gathered before it can be analyzed and interpreted . . . [t]he result of reduced officer-community engagement can lead to increase, crime, violence, injury and death” stated De Caire.

In a response to De Caire’s letter, Ruth Goba, Interim Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission classified the police chief’’s position on carding and street checks as a “textbook description of racial profiling”.

“Racial profiling in street checks has a corrosive effect on Black and other racialized communities. As the OHRC has said repeatedly — it must be stopped,” stated Goba.

Around the same time, De Caire forwarded an email to all police members that included an anonymous note commending the HPS for their work on a case involving a Black teenager being killed downtown.

“I also wanted to say that I believe it is time for these Black kids to stop blaming the police for the problems and take responsibility for the actions of the youth,” read the anonymous note.

Included on the bottom, De Caire hand wrote: “All of our officers that responded to the recent homicide did a great job. Keep up the good work.”

In an interview with the Hamilton Spectator, then-city councilor Matthew Green, Hamilton’s first Black councilor, expressed his concern over the email. “Does the Chief not understand how that . . . might create a culture of us-versus-them when it comes to community relationships?” said Green.

City Councilor Terry Whitehead, a member of the police services board, also shared his concerns with the Spec. “When you look at that line it looks like an endorsement that the Black community is blaming the police for all their issues . . . I think that’s a dangerous ground to walk on,” said Whitehead.

In late 2015, De Caire was initially set to continue his role as police chief when the Hamilton Police Services board unanimously voted to extend his contract by an additional two years. A month later, De Caire announced that he would be retiring from his position, a move that puzzled the board as well as the mayor.

“McMaster has offered me an opportunity to contribute to their organization over a long term, and my opportunity here with the Hamilton Police Service has been limited by the contract term,” said De Caire during a press conference.

Calling for accountability:

The June 2 protest at McMaster parallels the worldwide public outcry following the deaths of several Black people at the hands of police officers, notably the murder of George Floyd, who died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death is one of several publicized deaths of Black people in the United States (including Breonna Taylor, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton) that sparked protests in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement internationally. In Canada, the deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet and D’Andre Campbell, among others, have also led to public demands for justice and accountability from police departments.

As a result, there have been many protests and riots against police brutality against Black people internationally. On a local level, students have been calling McMaster to address the racism that occurs at the university, as shown by tweets and comments by Mac students and alumni.

Oh cause I thought a school that hired a racist ex police chief as head of security said something https://t.co/LwEHixziXo

— 🌻 (@ItsIeshaa) June 1, 2020

how about doing what you already said you would over four fucking years ago now? https://t.co/x6a1qayWXi

— death to canada ✨✨ (@dah0nggou) June 3, 2020

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBWXVN6jN9y/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

One group that has been advocating for De Caire’s removal is De Caire Off Campus. The group was established by Black women studying at McMaster when De Caire was hired in 2016 and exists to advocate for the removal of police on campus. Although the surge of support has benefited this group, they want to ensure that this movement against police is sustainable.

“This isn't a temporary outrage. It has been present for decades and will continue to exist as long as police are on our campus,” said De Caire Off Campus in an interview with the Silhouette.

Among demands for De Caire to be removed by McMaster, the McMaster Students Union has also taken heat.

“The MSU can and should keep to their abandoned commitments — that is, to do the work necessary to remove De Caire and special constables from campus,” the group said.

In March 2016, the Student Representative Assembly passed a motion to call on the university to remove Glenn De Caire as the director of security and parking services and a call to end the university’s campaign of increasing police presence on campus. However, the execution of the SRA’s call to remove De Caire and special constables off campus remains to be seen.

On behalf of the board of directors, MSU president Giancarlo Da-Ré assured that the concerns regarding De Caire have been heard “strong and clear.”

On June 14, Da-Ré moved a motion to call on faculty offices to permanently terminate all ties to the Hamilton Police Services, Halton Police Services, and any other police service. This includes internships and training or co-op placements that involve police services. In addition, an amendment was made to the motion where the MSU will consult any relevant groups or stakeholders that hire private security firms in replacement of campus constables.

Both the motion and the amendment were passed during the meeting. This motion will be binding for the 2020/2021 SRA term.

Da-Ré also mentioned that the vice president (administrative) team is developing “Equitable Hiring Best Practices & Guidelines” in order to address the underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour within the MSU.

“These practices will include changes to application processes, hiring committees and promotional strategies, and be created upon consultation with [the Equity & Inclusion Office], [President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community], the [Student Success Centre]’s Diversity Employment Coordinator and various other stakeholders,” Da-Ré explained.

The Silhouette asked McMaster University about the growing concerns students had and while providing a statement, did not directly address the concerns about De Caire.

“Equity, diversity and inclusion are critical to the university. McMaster denounces anti-Black racism and violence and supports the ideals expressed by the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Wade Hemsworth, the Manager of Media Relations for McMaster University.

Hemsworth outlined ways in which McMaster was addressing anti-Black racism and violence, such as a PACBIC and the EIO hosting a virtual check-in and conversation for Black students on June 11, the EIO hosting a virtual discussion called Let’s Talk About Race for BIPoC students, staff and faculty on June 18 and several statements made by McMaster.

What’s next:

Moving forward, De Caire Off Campus demands that McMaster “completely severs ties with Hamilton Police Services.”

“The removal of special constables cannot be followed with the hiring of private security or the enshrinement of surveillance against students,” the group said.

In addition, they demand that the budgets for special constables and security be released for transparency, to remove the university’s freedom of expression guidelines and that the MSU ensures that clubs are not forced to collaborate with security services.

As the 2020 fall term approaches, McMaster students continue to call for change on campus, holding the university and MSU accountable for their past actions and their next steps.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Photo C/O The LGBT Community Center National History Archive

By Lauren O’Donnell, Contributor

In the early hours of  June 28, 1969, there was a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Inn was one of the only places where 2SLGBTQIA+ people were able to gather as it was one of few places that accepted drag queens as well as trans men and women. On June 28, the police raided the bar, assaulted patrons and arrested 13 people. The riots that followed were not about fighting for marriage equality, they were a response to police brutality against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Stonewall is frequently hailed as a catalyst for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights in North America, and it began with riots.

Many of the pioneers of the 2SLGBTQIA+ rights movement were Black trans women and trans Women of Colour, like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Sylvia Rivera. These women paved the way for Pride as we know it today. Griffin-Gracy is still alive, and continues to be a pillar of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. You can support her retirement fund here. Within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, People of Colour and particularly trans Women of Colour are still routinely attacked. While the mainstream 2SLGBTQIA+ movement may be slowly gaining acceptance, the people who made it possible are still in constant danger.

Many of the pioneers of the 2SLGBTQIA+ rights movement were Black trans women and trans Women of Colour, like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Sylvia Rivera. These women paved the way for Pride as we know it today. Griffin-Gracy is still alive, and continues to be a pillar of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. You can support her retirement fund here. Within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, People of Colour and particularly trans Women of Colour are still routinely attacked. While the mainstream 2SLGBTQIA+ movement may be slowly gaining acceptance, the people who made it possible are still in constant danger.

Oppressive systems are able to continue because they pit oppressed groups against one another, fearing that if we work together none of us will have rights. It’s an either/or mentality that drives a wedge between oppressed groups. As a result, we push away the very people that we should seek to work with. A case study of this can be seen at the 2016 Toronto Pride parade, where the parade was paused by activists from Black Lives Matter until Pride Toronto signed a list of demands. The media response to this event was varied, but there is a common theme— let’s take a moment to unpack it.

Many of the responses suggested that Black Lives Matter sought to undermine Pride. In 2016, The Globe and Mail published a particularly vitriolic opinion piece by columnist Margaret Wente. In the piece, Wente suggested that Black Lives Matter was usurping Pride Toronto.

“You'd think, just weeks after the slaughter [at PULSE Nightclub] in Orlando, that they might have chosen to cede the spotlight to the dead and wounded, who really were under attack. But no. The Black Lives Matter activists are firmly convinced that they are at the very top of the pyramid of oppression. Only after the parade's executives meekly agreed to all of their demands (basically, more money for their projects) did they allow the show to go on,” said Wente in her article.

The pyramid of oppression — or the oppression olympics — is one illustration of putting oppressed groups in opposition. Being at the top of the so-called pyramid supposedly brings along with it more media coverage and public support. Wente uses this term to undermine Black Lives Matter’s protest, framing it as an attempt to dismiss the suffering of others.

In particular, Wente points to Black Lives Matter’s demand that the police be removed from Pride as being “wrong, and sad and bad,” and that their claims of being oppressed by police are over-exaggerated. Defending the police’s right to be at Pride is not uncommon, but the urge to defend the police should be examined. The first Pride was a riot against police brutality.

“Defenders of Black Lives Matter insist that the gay rights movement was birthed in protest against police harassment at Stonewall, and in Canada, amid riots triggered by raids on a gay bathhouse. Gay people, thus, should indulge BLM in its anti-police agitation. But invoking Stonewall and similar episodes of historic police abuse only shows how far our two countries have come. In so many places around the world — Russia, and, most recently, Turkey — the police attack pride parades and arrest gay rights activists. In North America, police protect them,” reads one article from the Los Angeles Times.

To be blunt, the fact of the matter is that North American police don’t always protect Pride. Our countries have made progress, certainly, but not for everyone. Progress isn’t the same as completion. Sometimes direct action is necessary in order to draw attention to the insidious ways that systemic oppression functions.

Thus far we’ve looked at how non-Black people covered the event. However, the Black 2SLGBTQIA+ community is not monolithic, and not everyone in the community supported the actions of Black Lives Matter, instead suggesting that they were detracting from Pride for their own agenda, or ignoring systemic problems within their own communities.

“Black Lives Matter could use their political and social power to actually raise awareness about this issue, but it is apparently easier for them to target the white gay community than it is to tackle black homophobia. And Pride Toronto yields to their requests, as if the black community is a monolithic entity represented by a single group,” said Orville Lloyd Douglas in an opinion piece for CBC.

Critiques from within the Black 2SLGBTQIA+ community are infinitely more important than those from outside the community. It’s nigh on impossible for a reporter from L.A. to see problems in Toronto, so in order to fully understand all sides of the issue, it’s important to seek out the voices within affected communities.

Speaking of listening to voices from within the community, what was the intention of Black Lives Matter in stopping the event? Let’s turn to the motivation behind the protest, from an article interviewing Alexandra Williams, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto.

“We are not taking any space away from any folks. When we talk about homophobia, transphobia, we go through that too . . .  It should be a cohesive unit, not one against the other. Anti-blackness needs to be addressed and they can be addressed at the same time, in the same spaces,” she said.

The execution of the protest may not have been flawless, but the intent matters. As Williams points out, these issues are interconnected. Highlighting Black Lives Matter doesn’t usurp Pride, it returns it to its roots. Pride was spearheaded by Black trans women and trans Women of Colour as a protest against police brutality. How can we turn our back on the people who helped us the most?

So where do we go from here? White folks in particular need to use our privilege to support the movement however we can. We need to call out public officials, sign petitions and continue supporting Black Lives Matter long after the hashtags fall off the trending page. There are a number of ways in Hamilton that you can practice active allyship, including supporting local grassroots organizations, buying from local Black-owned businesses and being proactive in seeking out additional resources and education. Redefine Twenty is a local organization and an excellent place to start. Allyship is not an identity, it’s a constant action.

Ultimately, however, it isn’t up to us to lead this movement; we need to amplify melanated voices through direct action. This is not about us. This is about us showing up for the people who always showed up for us, from the very beginning. This isn’t about retribution, it’s about restitution.

As you celebrate Pride this year, know that any time you side with the police, or dismiss the actions of protesters, you are telling your Black 2SLGBTQIA+ friends that they cannot trust you. You are telling them that you value your own safety and comfort above their lives. Just because we can’t see systemic oppression doesn’t mean it’s not there.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Photo C/O Anders Nord

By Adeola Egbeyemi and Caroline Bredin, Contributors

One like helps clean one beach. Repost on your story to plant 100 trees. Share to save the bees!

Slacktivism is a new and trendy form of online activism that, according to the United Nations, involves “people who support a cause by performing simple measures [but] are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change.” Slacktivism looks like reposts, retweets and shares on social media with no deeper commitment to the issue at hand. It’s being used increasingly often for social movements. 

Slacktivism has developed because of the usage of Web 2.0, a shift to a user-centric internet, ​allowing individuals to create interactive profiles and share their thoughts, likes and photos. This internet evolution has fostered the growth of opinion leaders, who receive information from media and pass on the content, with their interpretation, to a reachable audience. This is exactly what we see with slacktivism, where large, branded accounts are believed to be opinion leaders and trick a considerable number of individuals into thinking they can passively support a good cause. As Web 2.0 is carefully designed to maximize shared content, it’s not surprising how fast spreading these accounts can be.

To be clear, sharing posts about social movements or global issues does raise awareness of those issues. It may even reflect a deeper desire to create positive change, regardless of whether this desire is actualized outside of social media.

However, there are negative implications of slacktivism that seem to be overshadowing the good. Instagram accounts that claim to be helping an issue can often be deceptive. The Instagram account @plantatreeco, boasting nearly 580,000 followers, is one example that has been subject to scrutiny. In one popular Instagram post, the account promised to donate one dollar for every 100 people who shared the post and followed the account.

Last week, the Huffington Post reported that a number of Instagram accounts promising to donate money to Australian wildfire relief efforts could not prove that they had actually made the donations. Hours after Huffpost reached out to @plantatreeco about allegations that it was a scam, the account provided what appears to be a $3,173.00 receipt of donation to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. However, HuffPost did not receive immediate confirmation of the donations’ authenticity from the NSW Fire Service. 

@Plantatreeco also constantly post stories, urging people to visit its website, where they sell jewelry, with no indication that this money is donated anywhere. Additionally, the account has erased all its Instagram content, starting over multiple times. Lastly, the account does not seem to have partnerships, or any other external source of money. These are good indications of fraud because the account is able to jump from planting trees, as their name suggests, to the next popular issue like the wildfires in Australia. This allows them to constantly maintain popularity and page traffic. With no identifiable source of money or partnerships, there is no tangible evidence that they are receiving resources to do what they claim. The account has not issued any statements responding to these concerns. Yet, we see individuals still sharing stories with posts from this account. 

 It’s a scheme that seems paper-thin, but the fact that we are seeing it occur time and time again says otherwise. Last June, for example, the Instagram pages that sought to increase awareness of the plight of Sudan were, at best, simplifying the complex political issues in the nation. At worst, they were using tragedy to garner social media traffic. Sudan Aid accounts, such as the now-deactivated @savesudanpeople and @sudanmealproject, claimed to donate to Sudan through, for example, one meal for a Sudanese person per like on the post. 

But, according to the BBC, “there [was] no evidence that any of the ‘Meal Project’ accounts were going anything at all.” The Meal Project accounts did not respond to these allegations, but are now shut down. Misinformation spread by “Meal Project” accounts was then disseminated by individuals who thought they were promoting positive social change through their shares and reposts. 

In the case of immediate disasters, like the current wildfires in Australia, taking time to educate yourself and donating money directly to established causes is your best bet to help. However, after Australia has contained its wildfires, we’ll see slacktivism move to the next issue — beach clean-ups or tree-planting — with a disregard for the reasons why we are seeing fires more often globally. Donating to solve an issue like the wildfires does not prevent it from happening again because does not address the pervasive source of the problem: climate change. Thus, in the case of systematic problems, we should begin to consider supplementing large social media movements with consistent environmental engagement at the personal and local level. Examples of this are volunteering with Zero Waste McMaster, Fridays For Future Hamilton, The Sustainable Future Program or leading an OPIRG project. There’s even a fourth-year Communication Studies course at McMaster that explores the role of media in social activism. 

Slacktivism is becoming more prevalent and although awareness is necessary, it is hardly sufficient for change. McMaster University is ranked second in the world for global impact. This ranking means that, as students and navigators of today’s Web 2.0, we should hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to how we deal with social issues, taking care to read up on issues, being critical of social media pages and looking for local opportunities to effect meaningful change. The most significant threat to modern activism may not be the issues it fights against, but the passive and indifferent “share it and move on” attitude we see forming towards them.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.
magnifiercrossmenu