OCAP | Solidarity Actions
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is a direct action anti-poverty organization that fights for more shelter beds, social housing, and a raise in social assistance rates.
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Statement on Bill 168

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has a longstanding history of challenging all forms of racism, including antisemitism. On this basis, we utterly reject and oppose Bill 168, the misleadingly called Combating Antisemitism Act.

The IHRA definition, that the bill bases itself upon and seeks to promote, is not primarily focused on responding to hatred and bigotry that is directed against Jewish people but, rather, on silencing criticism of the state of Israel. Most of the examples it provides are aimed at those who would speak out in solidarity with the Palestinian people, as they resist occupation and banishment from their homeland.

If the Ontario government is bound by the requirements of Bill 168, it will treat expressions of support for the just struggles of the Palestinians as if they were examples of hate speech. At one and the same time, the rights to free expression and academic freedom will be severely curtailed.

The great irony is that antisemitism is actually on the rise in many countries, including Canada. However, it is coming overwhelmingly and dangerously from the racist far right. As a form of bigotry, it exists within the broader framework of white supremacy. Bill 168 deflects attention from this while trying to stifle the voices of Palestine solidarity.

We urge you reject this bill but must also make clear (and we know we speak for many others in this) that no legislation passed at the Ontario Legislature or by any other body will ever prevent us from expressing our full support for freedom for Palestine.

Wet’suwet’en Strong: In Defence of Land Defenders

Thursday, Feb 20 | 6pm-8pm| CRC, 40 Oak Street
[Free event with meal, childminding, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook Event

[Speakers Series: Free event with meal, child-minding, wheelchair access and tokens]

 

 The people of the Wet’suwet’en nation in northern British Columbia courageously defied a supreme court injunction by blocking Coastal Gaslink (CGL) from building a pipeline through their territories. The company is attempting to build a 670km fracked gas pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, but has not secured the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who remain opposed to its construction.

The hereditary chiefs evicted CGL workers from their territories in early January and called for the construction to cease. The company refused to comply and militarized police (yet again) raided Wet’suwet’en territory earlier this month. The resulting arrests have triggered ongoing protests and rail blockades nationwide. 

Join us to understand why the land defenders are risking their lives to oppose this and other pipelines, how this struggle is linked to those of Indigenous people here, and how we can support.
 
Speakers: Eve Saint, Vanessa Gray and Niloofar Golkar
Eve is a Wet’suwet’en land defender who was one of the four people arrested at the Gitdumt’en checkpoint on Feb 7 when RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en territory. Eve’s father is the hereditary house chief of the Gitdumt’en clan (house of Casiyeh). Eve was based in Toronto but left the city to stand with her father as the hereditary chiefs evicted Coastal Gaslink from Wet’suwet’en territory in early January.
 
Vanessa is a 27 year old Queer Anishinaabe kwe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located in Canada’s Chemical Valley. As a grassroots organizer, land defender and educator, Vanessa works to decolonize environmental justice research by linking scholarly findings to traditional teachings. Vanessa is a co-founder of Aamjiwnaang & Sarnia Against Pipelines (ASAP), host of the annual Toxic Tour of Canada’s Chemical Valley. She continues to take part in a diversity of tactics such direct action, classroom lectures, co-hosting Toxic Tours and Water Gatherings.
 
Niloofar is a member of Rising Tide Toronto, an organization that has organized actions in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en in Toronto.

Audio from event:

This event is part of OCAP’s monthly Speakers Series. It’s where we discuss issues critical to the success of poor people’s movements.

Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty expresses our solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders in northern British Columbia who are courageously defying a supreme court injunction by blocking Coastal Gaslink (CGL) from building a pipeline through their territories. The company is attempting to build a 670km natural gas pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, but has not secured the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en nation who remain opposed to its construction.

The hereditary chiefs of the nation evicted CGL workers from their territories on January 4 and called for the construction to cease. The company however has indicated it would not comply, raising the threat of a militarized police invasion similar to the one last year that made headlines around the country.

We unequivocally support the demands of the Wet’suwet’en nation, as articulated by its hereditary chiefs:

  • That the province cease construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
  • That the UNDRIP and the Wet’suwet’en right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimiation’s (CERD) request.
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to access Wet’suwet’en lands or remove Wet’suwet’en people.

As a poor people’s organization, we recognize that the battle against poverty is inextricably tied to the fight against colonialism. We pledge our support to the Wet’suwet’en land defenders and will mobilize our networks in their defence.

Support the Fight for $15 and Fairness in Ontario this Saturday!

The Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign won a major victory in the fall of 2017 with the introduction of Bill 148: an immediate jump in minimum wage to $14/hr with a further increase to $15/hour scheduled in January 2019, paid sick days, equal pay for equal work provisions for contract and temp workers, and fairer scheduling rules, to name just a few gains. Taken together, these gains represent the most significant progress for low-wage workers in this province in decades.

However, the Ford Conservatives are set on repealing many of these gains, including blocking the raising of the minimum wage to $15. It is no coincidence that this attack on workers is progressing alongside the recently announced cuts to social assistance rates and the additional sweeping changes to OW and ODSP expected later this fall.

How better to roll out the red carpet for big business exploitation than to keep minimum wage workers and those on social assistance as poor and precarious as possible. Corporations and their executives make massive profits on the backs of poor workers – take for example Galen Weston Jr., the CEO of LoBlaws, who has a net worth of $8.82 billion. Unsurprisingly, he is also one of the people leading the charge against the minimum wage increase.

We need to be organizing with all we’ve got to defeat Ford’s cuts to welfare and workers’ rights. The Fight for $15 & Fairness is organizing a day of action this Saturday, September 15 with actions across Ontario, and we encourage everyone to join in. Details can be found on their website here.

What if Doug Ford wins?

We’re not suggesting in OCAP that the outcome of the impending Ontario election is settled or that any result is inevitable. However, we do feel that the possibility of a majority Tory government, led by Doug Ford, is serious enough that it would be wise to consider now what that would mean and how unions and social movements might respond to such an outcome.

We would be the first to agree that an austerity agenda has been at work during the years the Liberal party has been in government and that it will continue regardless of who wins the next election. However, a Ford government would be a hard right regime that could be expected to escalate the attack on workers and communities considerably.

There are obviously some comparisons to be made to the Harris Tory regime that held power from 1995 to 2003.  There was considerable resistance during those years but there are lessons that must drawn as well. When the Tories first took power, there was a kind of stunned demobilization that lost us time and momentum and, when the Days of Action strikes and mass protests got underway, as impressive as they were, there were serious limitations in how they were conducted. The object of the whole mobilization was never made clear. Was it all about trying to put moral pressure on the Tories or to create a social force that could actually stop them? At the same time, the events were sporadic and no plan to escalate to province wide shutdown was ever developed.

OCAP is proposing that organizations and union and community activists who think we should be ready for Ford, should meet, discuss and plan a fitting response should he take the election.  There will certainly be protests against the regressive measures his government would take but we are suggesting that we need a movement ready to fight fire with fire. The response to his attacks should be a working class common front that is ready to create a level of economic and political disruption powerful enough to force the Tories to retreat or to drive them from office. Ford would attack worker’s rights, the social infrastructure and the environment, fan the flames of racism and trample on Indigenous rights. The potential for a winning social mobilization against him is enormous but only if a lead is given.

We’re hoping that, we can bring together the basis for a kind of caucus for a real fightback that could influence union and community action and the course of the struggle. Please let us know if your organization or you, as an individual activist, would be interested in being part of this by emailing ocap@tao.ca.

CUPE 3903, we got your back: Strike to Win!

Below is an open letter of solidarity sent to CUPE 3903 – the union representing teaching and graduate assistants, contract faculty, and part-time librarians – at York University, who have been on strike since March 5.

Dear CUPE 3903 Members:

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) expresses it full support for and solidarity with the present struggle of the members of CUPE 3903 against your employer, York University. We’d like to set out why we take such a position.

OCAP is, of course, an anti poverty organization. We take up struggles and campaigns on the issues facing poor and homeless people. They are the most extreme victims of the agenda of neoliberal austerity that you are confronting. Income support systems have been gutted, so as to create a climate of desperation and force people into the lowest paying jobs. Housing has become unaffordable and hundreds of thousand live on the edge of homelessness, while thousands face overcrowded shelters or the streets.

Right here in Toronto, the neoliberal city, York University is making its own major contribution to this agenda by working to ensure that post secondary education is provided through the super exploitation of workers. The university as a precarious low wage employer is a work in progress and, with its attack on the members of CUPE 3903, York U is trying to advance this agenda with a vengeance.

Your Local has shown its support for the fights that OCAP takes up many times and in many ways and we are proud to return that solidarity. However, we also offer our support because your fight is too important to disregard. Your victory in this strike will be a victory for all of us. Correspondingly, it will be a defeat for the agenda of austerity and greed that we are all confronting.

We express our full and unqualified support for CUPE 3903 and its present vital struggle. Strike to win!

In solidarity,

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Toronto’s Poor: A Rebellious History

Book Launch: Thursday, December 8 | 6:30 pm | St. Luke’s Church (353 Sherbourne)
Website | Facebook | Wheelchair accessible venue, Childcare available

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Join us for the launch of long-time OCAP member, Gaetan Heroux, and labour historian Bryan Palmer’s new book, Toronto’s Poor: A Rebellious History, documenting more than 180 years of poor people’s resistance in this City.

The book reveals the long and too often forgotten history of poor people’s resistance. It details how the homeless, the unemployed, and the destitute have struggled to survive and secure food and shelter in the wake of the many panics, downturns, recessions, and depressions that punctuate the years from the 1830s to the present. It is about men, women, and children relegated to lives of desperation by an uncaring system, and how they have refused to be defeated. In that refusal, and in winning better conditions for themselves, Toronto’s poor create the possibility of a new kind of society, one ordered not by acquisition and individual advance, but by appreciations of collective rights and responsibilities.

Written by a historian of the working-class and an anti-poverty activist, this rebellious history links past and present in an almost two-hundred year story of struggle and resistance, inspiring a sense of what can be accomplished when poor people fight to win.

OCAP Demands Justice for Disabled Children in Greece

On October 5, a delegation of OCAP members and supporters delivered a letter of protest to the Greek Consulate in Toronto.  In solidarity with the Emancipation Movement of People with Disabilities in Athens, we demanded justice for disabled children, confined under appalling conditions in a centre in Lechaina and in other facilities around the country.  Our allies in Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) held an action at the Greek Embassy in London, UK on the same day.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_xx8zp_jCM&w=560&h=315]

Our delegation was met at the entrance to the building by the First Counsellor at the Consulate who, with the RCMP watching over the proceedings, received the letter and heard our demand for justice for these children.  He promised to convey our message to the Greek officials responsible for the matter and was made to understand that OCAP was prepared to take such further action as our comrades in the Emancipation Movement of People with Disabilities feel is necessary.

OCAP is proud to have taken an action in support of those resisting austerity, social abandonment and the particular abuses faced by disabled people in Greece.  In response to the OCAP delegation, Antonios Rellas from the EMPD wrote: “Mighty greetings from Athens, thank you very much for your invaluable help in the fight for the dignity of disabled persons living in institutions.”

Click here for additional background.