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This evening my daughter and I went to “Shout Out for Global Justice,” organized by the Council of Canadians at Massey Hall. A series of speakers gave their own particular angle on what’s happening in the world right now – all of it depressing, horrible, and yet – extremely hopeful and marvellous because there we all were, in a jam-packed Massey Hall, clapping and listening and learning and being inspired.

A fiery Native Canadian spoke about aboriginal rights, followed by Dr. Vandana Shiva from India, who spoke about environmental justice and the agribusiness war on grassroots agriculture, and who was so wise and warm, I wanted her to adopt me. Amy Goodman, the executive producer of “Democracy Now!”, an American TV program I’ve never heard of, spoke about the dangers of “the criminalization of dissent” and corporate control of the global media.

John Hilary, the Executive Director of the War on Want, was direct about what exactly is going on when these G20 guys meet – they’re gathering to administer “a macho game of cuts” to social programs, to see which one can engineer the biggest assault on the welfare state and the poor. Hilary introduced the first villain of the evening – Canada’s Paul Martin, the first to institute huge cuts to welfare and the public service as a way of balancing the budget, instead of raising taxes. Hilary, who’s British, pointed out that this destructive and unjust model is now being used around the world, including, right now with the latest budget, in Britain.
Pablo Solon of Bolivia told us how his people fought to regain control of their water and then their natural resources, by, he said, “nationalizing our government.” A few years ago, Bolivia hosted an international conference to ratify the “rights of mother earth” – 35,000 people attended. I read at least one if not two daily newspapers, and I heard nothing about it. Which was the point made earlier about media by Amy Goodman. I did not know that access to clean water is not considered a basic human right, and that when there was a proposal to make it so put forward at the U.N., Canada voted against it.
Many shouts of “Shame!” from the audience, throughout the evening.
The biggest stars of the night were two spectacular women, Naomi Klein and Maude Barlow. When I grow up, I want to be them. It is unfair that someone as brilliantly incisive as Klein should also be beautiful, but there you go. She told us what the G20 really is – a boy’s club, an insider club for global elites, founded by our own villain, Paul Martin, and the evening’s other villain, the American Lawrence Summers; the two of them scribbled a few countries on the back on an envelope, leading to our billion dollar expenditure today. The G20, she said, is designed to sideline and eviscerate the U.N. Why? Because at the U.N., the rich nations are sometimes outvoted by the poor. So they formed their own club in 1999, “to serve the interests of their class, the elite.” She is an electrifying speaker.
And Maude Barlow, with her list of the ills of the world, brought tears to my eyes. She spoke of how she loves her country, but that now, Canada is “a human-rights-denying eco-outlaw” that should be denied its place at the Security Council. She quoted the President of Norway, who said that the G20 “is the biggest step backwards in global cooperation since the Second World War.” We stood to cheer as the evening wound down. And then Naomi Klein invited us to march with her to the tent city that has just been set up in Allen Gardens, in solidarity with Canada’s poor.
So thousands of people spilled out of Massey Hall and began to march through the streets of night-time Toronto, with the usual chants like “The people, united, will never be defeated,” which always bothers me because it doesn’t rhyme. Our city, our streets! they shouted over and over. Our city, our streets! Suddenly, there they were, our boys in blue, scores of cops in their jaunty shorts on snazzy bikes, with their riot gear and handcuffs dangling from their belts, riding ahead to block off roads, to steer the huge noisy crowd. At one point, I got quite scared. Someone must have been grabbed by a cop, because the march stopped and a crowd gathered, shouting, Let him go! Let him go! It was getting ugly. But the tension dissippated, I don’t know how, and the march went on. I was walking on the edge, near the phalanx of cops; I felt pretty shaky, and it looked like some of the cops were pretty shaky too, to tell you the truth.
The march was perfectly peaceful until the police arrived. Seeing them all there, the overkill of their numbers and weapons, even I felt a surge of fury, let alone the angry kids around me, with bandanas ready to pull over their faces.
I marched with the crowd to Allen Gardens, where the hundreds gathered around a straggly bunch of tents set up by anti-poverty activists and their homeless clients. And then I left. What is happening now, I don’t know, though there is ceaseless helicopter activity now at midnight, fwapping round and round in the sky above. What is that but intimidation? What can a helicopter do to a group of marchers on the streets?



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I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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