Friday, November 30, 2007

Anti-Racists Attacked by Police Outside "Reasonable Accomodation" Hearings in Montreal

On Tuesday night i was one of a hundred people who gathered on the ground floor at the Palais des Congres conference center to protest against the racist reasonable accommodation hearings being held there (on the third floor) that night.

(i would have posted about this earlier, but have been without internet for a number of days - i'm not actually posting from a public terminal right now)

The protest was organized by No One Is Illegal Montreal, and attracted people from a number of organizations and communities, including Solidarity Across Borders, the IWC, NEFAC, the PCR, and i'm sure many many others whose affiliations i did not get.

There were speeches, some more inspiring than others, some great poetry... and then we went up the escalators to the hearings, leaving some befuddled security guards behind (it's difficult for a half a dozen secuirty to stop a hundred people who want to go somewhere...)

We were up there for hours, more speeches, music, chanting, etc. At about 9pm, after our numbers had thinned, a group of people tried to actually enter the room where the hearings were happening. They were physically blocked by the security guards, and this time they failed to get through. (It's trickier to open a door towards you with security in front of it than it is to just walk up some stairs.)

At which point the cops, who had been lounging around, came to reinforce the conference center security. It was obvious that nobody was getting in to these supposedly "public" hearings, and so we left, at this point numbering perhaps fifty, walking down all those stairs to the ground floor with some now hyped up very young cops shoving people from behind, including people on the stairs who were trying to leave as quickly as was safely possible.

In my opinion, the reason the cops were being aggressive is because they felt stupid for having been caught sitting on their asses not noticing when folks tried to get in to the hearings. They were embarassed that the conference center security staff was left to "guard the gates" on their own, and they didn't like being called pigs by the demonstrators as they were leaving.

What happened next was a perfect symbol of the hearings, of "accomodation" in an unreasonably racist Quebec, and of plain old Montreal policing.

As everyone was milling around on the ground floor, surrounded by cops, it was announced that we all had to leave. It was obvious at this point that there was no point in resisting: there were many people there who could not afford to get arretsed, there were little children, and we were outnumbered.

So immediately, people started filing out of the building. The only reason for some delay was some people had to pick up their things, including a sound system. Nobody was staying behind or resisting, but the cops had already identified a few people they wanted to get, and they moved in to do so, grabbing folks, throwing them to the floor, all the while others charged at the remaining stragglers, shoving them with their batons.

This all happened less than one minute after it was announced that everyone had to leave. There was obviously no intention of allowing the demo to end peacefully.

Four people were arrested. Two inside the building, and two others outside as they waited there, loooking in through the windows at the police and their arrested comrades. Police pulled out their tasers and "shot" them in the air, and were obviously enjoying the fun.

This is reasonable accommodation. This is what it's all about. Hearings thoughout Quebec where the state legitimized the most crazy racist and anti-semitic conspiracy theories, thanking bigots as they make their submissions, making it clear that if nothing else, there is not thought of not accomodating racism.

When the hearings come to Montreal, it is no surprise that they get protested. It is no surprise that activists come out to denounce them.

Now, as i already mentioned i have no internet access. On top of that, i had ot go out of town, so i was not at the follow up demonstration scheduled for last night. i hope there were lots of people there, because it strikes me that the police made an error in attacking people. By marring the second Montreal hearings with arrests and gratuitous violence, there is an opportunity to rip a hole in the democratic mystification surrounding these hearings. Hopefully, this opportunity will be/has been capitalized on.

While today some people have difficulty denouncing the hearings, the idea of "no platform for racists" being less easy when the mass media and democratic politicians are the ones supporting this crap, in the future it will be of obvious importance how one responded to the fragmentation of (social-democratic, "sovereignist" sections of) the Quebec left and the consolidation of a racist political pole in 2007.

What follows is the rpeport from the No One Is Illegal blog:

At least 75 protesters gathered in the lobby of the Montreal Congress Center, before proceeding past security guards upstairs, near the hearing room. The protest was well heard inside by participants. After more than 90 minutes of protesting outside the hearing, at least 20 police officers entered to remove demonstrators. During the police attack, uniformed officers pushed and punched protesters, and used batons; several police had also drawn their taser guns. The protesters included small children, as well as elders, who were pushed.

-- Police attack and arrest anti-racist migrant justice protesters at Bouchard-Taylor Commission

-- Protest and speak-out against the commission to continue on Thursday

MEDIA REQUESTS: Contact Leila Pourtavaf at 514-994-4595

Wednesday, November 27, 2007 -- Last night, No One Is Illegal-Montreal and
allies began pickets and speak-outs against the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on
"reasonable accommodation".

A statement on the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, and the racist "reasonable
accommodation" debate, is available here

At least 75 protesters gathered in the lobby of the Montreal Congress Center, before proceeding past security guards upstairs, near the hearing room. The protest was well heard inside by the some 190 participants.

After more than 90 minutes of protesting outside the hearing, at least 20 police officers entered to remove demonstrators. The protesters proceeded back to the main lobby of the Congress Center, where security had earlier said the protest could continue unimpeded. But, after an eviction order, protesters began to leave. Without provocation, police targeted individuals for arrest.

During the police attack, uniformed officers pushed and punched protesters, and used batons; several police had also drawn their taser guns. The protesters included small children, as well as elders, who were pushed.

Ironically, one officer, who didn't have ID, identified himself as "Stante". When asked if he was Giovanni Stante, the officer said "yes". Giovanni Stante was implicated in the murder of Jean-Pierre Lizotte in 1999. More background info available here:

During the speak-out outside the Commission, demonstrators addressed issues like poverty, police brutality, racism, immigration status and more, thru speeches, music and spoken word.

Photos and updates from the Commission pickets will be posted at

No One Is Illegal and allies refuse to be intimidated by police attacks, and will return to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission this Thursday for another picket and speak-out outside the commission. The protest will begin at 6:30pm at the Montreal Congress Center at the corner of Viger and de Bleury (near metro Place d'armes).

For more info:
No One Is Illegal-Montreal
514-848-7583 –

Friday, November 23, 2007

La Guerre Larvée

Can anybody help me translate this term?

i've looked it up in Le Petit Robert, but can't seem to find it...

translations translations...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NOII Actions Against "Reaonable Accommodation" Hearings, Nov. 27 & 29

Denounce the racist Bouchard-Taylor Commission
Solidarity across borders, not "reasonable accommodation"

TUESDAY, November 27, 6pm
THURSDAY, November 29, 6pm
- in front of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission at the Palais de Congrès, corner of Viger and de Bleury
- by metro: exit at metro Place d'armes; stay inside and enter the Palais des Congrès directly).

No One Is Illegal-Montreal and allies are organizing pickets and speak-outs outside the Bouchard-Taylor Commission's public forums in Montreal next November 27 and 29. We encourage you to join us in large numbers.

The Bouchard-Taylor Commission has been a forum for racists and bigots for the past several weeks. The Commission itself is based on a fundamentally racist premise, which is to stand judgment of immigrant communities. This Commission, sanctioned by the state, is a process of submission, whereby minority populations are forced to justify their very existence in Quebec.

Join us for a speak-out and picket outside the Commission, as we share our struggles of resistance to poverty, precarity, racial profiling, police brutality, war, capitalism and gender oppression. Instead of "reasonable accommodation" we will share our perspectives of organizing against borders, for free movement and status for all.

INFO: 514-848-7583 –

-> If you plan on attending the pickets and speak-out, get in touch for more info.

-> Endorse the No One Is Illegal statement on reasonable accommodation which is linked here

et en français:


- Dénoncez le racisme et la Commission Bouchard-Taylor!
- Oui à la "solidarité sans frontières", non au débat sur les "accommodements raisonnables".

MARDI le 27 novembre à 18h
JEUDI le 29 novembre à 18h

- devant la Commission Bouchard-Taylor au Palais des Congrès de Montréal, coin Viger et Bleury
- pour vous y rendre: métro Place-d'Armes, restez dans la station de métro et prenez la sortie qui donne directement sur le Palais des Congrès)

Le collectif Personne n'est illégal-Montréal et des allié-es organisent des lignes de piquetage et des tribunes publiques devant les audiences publiques de la Commission Bouchard-Taylor à Montréal les 27 et 29 novembre prochain.

Depuis plusieurs semaines, la Commission Bouchard-Taylor sert de forum public pour racistes. La Commission elle-même est basée sur une prémisse fondamentalement raciste, celle de faire le procès des communautés immigrantes. Cette Commission, sanctionnée par l'État, est un processus de soumission, par lequel les populations minoritaires se voient obligées de justifier leur existence même au Québec.

Joignez-vous aux tribunes publiques et aux lignes de piquetage qui auront lieu à l'extérieur de la Commission. Ensemble, nous partagerons nos histoires de lutte et de résistance face à la pauvreté, la précarité, le profilage racial, la brutalité policière, la guerre, le capitalisme et l'oppression. Plutôt que de discuter d'"accommodements raisonnables", nous parlerons de mobilisation contre les frontières, pour la liberté de mouvement et pour des papiers pour toutes et tous.

-> Pour plus d'information: 514-848-7583 –

-> Vous pouvez également appuyer la déclaration de Personne n'est illégal
sur les accommodements raisonnables

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Henry Aubin on the Police Murder of Robert Dziekanski

cellphone-video of an RCMP murder:
Robert Dziekanski was killed on October 14 in
Vancouver International Airport

Pulling the plug on Taser deaths
INCLUDING A CAMERA on the electric-shock weapon would help clear up questions on its use

Everyone is appalled by the tragic death of a man in Vancouver after police shot him with a Taser. But you don’t have to go far to find other cases of questionable use of this electric-shock weapon.

So far this fall, two men have died in Quebec after police tasered them. Unlike the death of Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver International Airport, no videos exist of the incidents, and they have received too little attention in the Montreal media.

On Oct. 14, the same day that Dziekanski died, Montreal police stopped Quilem Registre, 38, because of his erratic driving in the St. Michel area. Police say they shot him with a Taser because he was aggressive. Cocaine has been linked to numerous deaths of tasered people, and tests show that cocaine was in Registre’s blood when he was admitted to hospital after the incident. Relatives say he was in a coma for three days and suffered heart problems before he died.

The other case is still more troubling because a witness says the victim was peaceful. Claudio Castagnetta, a 32-yearold translator, was arrested for loitering barefoot and acting strangely inside a small grocery store in Quebec City. Unlike Registre, he had no criminal record.

The store owner who called police because of Castagnetta’s annoying presence told the Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil that when he asked the man what he was doing, “To my great surprise, he was not at all arrogant and was very diplomatic.” The store owner said that when the cops arrived, Castagnetta told them he had the right to be where he was. When police took him to their cruiser and tried to put handcuffs on him, he resisted – not with violence but by making his body rigid.

Two witnesses say police fired a Taser at him not once but at least three times – although they were unable to say how many times the weapon’s two darts hit him. It took six cops to bring him under control while lying on his stomach. Afterward, he was well enough to tell a lawyer that he suffered from bipolar disorder, but he died two days later in his cell.

Let me say right off that there’s not a mote of evidence that the Taser directly caused the deaths of Dziekanski, Castagnetta or Registre. Eight police forces in this province use Tasers (including the Sûreté du Québec and the Laval and Longueuil police), and a spokesperson for Quebec’s public security ministry, which oversees police, stresses that no deaths are directly attributable to the weapon since its introduction here in 2001.

The key word in all this, of course, is “directly.” The fact is that people hit with Tasers have a way of dying shortly thereafter. Amnesty International counts 18 such deaths in Canada and more than 240 in the U.S.

The only time police ought to be able to use Tasers is to defend either themselves or other citizens from life-threatening attack or injury – precisely the same criteria that governs (or is supposed to govern) police use of firearms.

We can’t tell if the Registre case meets that criteria because Montreal police have divulged so little about it. But the Castagnetta and Dziekanski cases flagrantly fail the test. First, neither victim had threatened police or endangered the public in any way. Second, police fired the Taser at them more than once, then pounced on them en masse (possibly inflicting serious injury on Dziekanski when an officer knelt on his neck).

Both times, then, police used the weapon gratuitously as an easy way to master people. Pardon me if I sound like the National Rifle Association, but Tasers don’t kill people, irresponsible police do.

A way exists to deter police from such casual use of this dangerous device. Taser International now makes a camera that clips on to a Taser and records what’s happening in video and audio. The company’s website notes that this “offers increased accountability – not just for officers, but for the people they arrest. Until now, it’s been the officer’s word against the suspect’s word.” If the suspect survives, that is.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has made the camera a precondition for introducing the Taser to his country. This little gizmo might be worth the Charest government’s consideration.

The above is from today's Montreal Gazette - i apologize for not having time to write about this myself, as some of you have noticed i'm posting a lot less these days. Too much work, and it's not showing any signs of abating...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Settler Colonies

French Jesuit Mission of St. Sauveur in Acadia:
corrupting the Wabanaki Nation with christianity

someone emailed me asking what the definition of a "settler-colony" was...

i gave a lame ass answer, but then figured i should post it here so that people can either agree with it or explain to me the places i'm wrong...

this is a paraphrase of what i answered, based on my sketchy memory of high school history class...

i went to high school in Quebec, and from memory we were taught that France was defeated in North America because its mode of colonization was insufficiently settler-oriented. By this what was meant was that instead of building new European-style societies in areas claimed by the French crown, the colonial policy relied heavily on planting flags around the continent and and saying "this belongs to us now."

The strategy was to corrupt the Indigenous nations, to have them reorient their economies to serve as the labour behind the fur trade. The idea was also that these Indigenous nations would provide military support in the recurrent conflicts with the British crown. The idea was not to create a white North America, not even a French-speaking North America - both those goals came much later, and were never taken up by anyone's ruling class, lip service aside - the real aim was to create a Roman Catholic North America serving the economic interests of the increasingly dysfunctional French monarchy.

A few white settlements on the banks of the St-Lawrence were supposed to be the base for mass conversion of francization of indigenous folks across North America. Cultural genocide yes, physical extermination only in exceptional circumstances.

The French were using methods that today we associate with neo-colonialism (fucking with your economy and culture to make you dependent) instead of what we often think of as classic colonialism. Which just goes to show the degree to which what we consider "classic" is really modeled on the British strategy which ended up fathering the United States... perhaps another example of tunnel vision on the u.s. experience?

The French model worked fine for them for centuries in places like the Maghreb, but couldn't compete side by side with an aggressive anglo-capitalism based on settler colonies. which is why although a Quebecois nation exists in a corner of the continent, most of those places claimed by the French crown have been easily anglicized. Just think of all the American cities with French names...

Again according to my high skool history teacher, the reason the English won out was they utilized a different mode of colonization. The details - really only glossed over in skool - being that this model was based on displacing Indigenous peoples or physically exterminating them and setting up settlements of Europeans who might use Indigenous slave labour (or imported Africans) but whose communities were meant to replace, not incorporate, the previous inhabitants' society.

So a colony would be any outpost of a foreign power (in the case of North America, these powers being England, France or Spain) which is meant to be permanent, whereas a settler colony would be a subset of colonies which are based on importing new populations to set up a new society replacing completely that which existed before, either through exterminating the previous inhabitants or else shoehorning them into the new society, generally as a proletarian layer whose labour is used to support the settler population.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Pauline Marois, the PQ's "Quebec Identity Bill" and Divided Strategies on the Radical Left

Pauline Marois: white woman on a mission

On October 18 Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois proposed a new piece of legislation, Bill 195, the "Quebec Identity Act."

This piece of legislation would create two classes of citizen within Quebec. You would have Canadian citizens, and then within this group you would have a second set, those who would pass a French exam and pledge allegiance to the Quebec nation.

Only those in this separate group would have the right to run in provincial, municipal and school board elections, or address petitions to the national assembly. Obviously, once this second tier of citizenship was established it could be tied to any number of other rights or privileges.

A bit of background perhaps...

For those from elsewhere: Pauline Marois is the head of the Parti Quebecois, which has revolved through the provincial government in Quebec (taking turns with the Liberals) for over thirty years now. When i was growing up people still talked about the PQ as if it were a progressive party, and many leftists a generation older than me still feel that way. And at one point in time there was some truth to this, as the PQ combined social democracy with an officially unracist nationalism.

(Of course, there were those who were clear on the actually racist underpinnings of the nationalist project, and the bankruptcy of social democracy, even back in the seventies.)

The PQ jettisoned social democracy early on, but continued to pay it lip service whenever this helped to rally the troops. It similarly rejected those separatist strategies which would upset the North American capitalist applecart - the PQ when first elected disappointed many people by not declaring independence, rather it would hold referenda asking for a specific mandate to "enter into negotiations" on the subject, or else later to establish a "sovereign" state which would retain all of the colonialist and capitalist hallmarks of the present "un-sovereign" one.

This watering down of both the left-wing and separatist elements in the party led to further confusion between these two different aspects of its program, and to the development of a "left" within the party which saw its "leftism" as having as much to do with being more nationalistic as with being more committed to social democracy or "socialism".

All of which is in a sense irrelevant, or at least of purely historical interest at this point.

The year two thousand and seven can be seen as a turning point, a watershed of sorts in Quebec politics, as certain (decades old) changes in the class structure and the demographic balance finally found their corresponding political expression.

The PQ, which has at all times since the early seventies been either the government or the official opposition, was relegated to being a third rate rump party in the spring elections. Under the blandly center-right leadership of Andre Boisclair, the endless watering down of its nationalist content and the final erasure of its left-wing pretensions brought about the predictable results, as the party was eclipsed by the more openly and honestly right-wing and xenophobic ADQ.

Following the March elections, which were preceded by a wave of media-instigated racism around the "reasonable accommodation" soap opera, the PQ was confronted with a necessity to act, and act boldly, or risk permanent eclipse.

Boisclair resigned, and longtime party-insider Pauline Marois - who had already failed in two previous attempts to run for party leader - won the leadership by acclamation.

The task immediately confronting Marois's PQ has been to win back voters who had drifted to the ADQ, and the way in which this is to be achieved is to further imitate the latter. So it is that "sovereignty" has been put on the back burner, replaced with the same amorphous, and essentially racist, concept of nationalism as that put forward by Dumont's ADQ.

What we have seen since has been a calculated and deliberately public embrace of xenophobia, a public relations strategy of which Bill 195 is simply the latest and most obvious example.

Marois racist "Quebec Identity Bill" has been denounced privately and publicly by all manner of establishment voiceboxes. Including many longtime PQ supporters. It has been declared illegal, unconstitutional, unacceptable and a betrayal of all kinds of things good people hold dear.

In conversation, many point to the surrounding context of the racist reasonable accommodation hearings, and say that given this context, now is certainly not the time for any such piece of divisive legislation.

Which is a really curious criticism, if you think about it.

Marois obviously put forward this piece of racist legislation because of the surrounding "reasonable accommodation" shit. She is well aware of what she is doing: riding the wave. The fact that "to ride a wave" in politics is also to contribute to it, is no skin off her back.

The criticism that "this is not the time" begs a certain question, namely when would the right time be to legally establish two classes of citizenship?

This confusion says something about the mixed up ideas and unfinished thoughts which make up the left of the nationalist project, or also those leftists whose understanding of nationalism bleeds into sympathy.

The particular kind of racism which has popped up all over Quebec this past year bears perverted witness to changes in the class structure of Quebec and changing meaning of nationalism here over the past forty years. What has been going on is an example of what we discussed last August, the way in which "Quebecois nationhood" plays a role in people's consciousness similar to "whiteness" in the united states, and as such racism is the likely response to social crises and tensions:
But where this increasing similarity is relevant is that white Québecois – and most especially nationalists – are liable to resist this globalized capitalism in ways that have more in common with white US workers than with the radical labour movement of the 70s. (Never mind the Patriotes!) Pat Buchanan-style, not Malcolm X-style, if you know what i mean: with an increased openness to racist demagogy and national chauvinism. Even (or perhaps especially) amongst people who admire Che, loathe Bush, and consider themselves to be social-democrats or even “socialists.”
Today the mandate to put immigrants in their place, to "let them know who's boss", runs like a knife through every political grouping, of both left and right. Quietly, often unreported in the media, and loudly, with banner headlines, individuals and groups are positioning and repositioniing themselves around this question, conveniently labeled "reasonable accommodation."

Marois has risked alienating many of the PQ's longtime supporters, but it's a risk she is wise to take. The PQ can't survive indefinitely on nostalgia for the Quebec nationalism of thirty years ago. It can't attract voters based on what their class interests used to be.

Chances are most who are scandalized by Marois' bill will continue to support the PQ anyway. And among those broad swathes of society who have come to identify more and more with a certain style of racism, the PQ can only gain.

Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of her proposal, a Leger marketing poll clearly showed how she had played her cards right: 35% felt she was the leader who best defended the "Quebecois identity" (as opposed to 30% for Dumont and 18% for Charest) and 52% of francophones supported Bill 195 (38% opposed).

On the left, two different anti-racist positions seem to exist in regards to the ongoing "reasonable accommodation" racism. For want of better terms, let's call them the "anti-racism through secularism" and the "pluralist anti-racism" positions.

"anti-racism through secularism" position has been adopted by certain people in NEFAC, and in l'aut journal, and in the historically "progressive" sections of the nationalist movement.

Noting that the "reasonable accommodation" brouhaha centers on religious practices of certain racialized groups, these people argue that the best way to defuse the rise in racism is to expose it for what it is. They propose doing this by insisting on greater secularism in all spheres of life and for all religions. These people agree that Islam, Judaism and Hinduism should not be catered to, but wish to deracialize the issue by also insisting that Christianity be pushed out of the public sphere. Muslim women not allowed to wear hijab, Jews not allowed to wear kippa, Sikhs not allowed to wear a turban, Christians not allowed to wear a crucifix, etc.

This position, spelled out for instance in some of the comments left on my blog here,
is an organic expression of the historical secularism of the Quebecois left, a direct consequence of the role the church had in propping up corrupt and oppressive governments for 150 years in this province. It also caries with it the imprimatur of the Quebecois feminist movement, which is very much the sister of the left nationalist movement that emerged here in the 1960s.

The second anti-racist position, that of "pluralist anti-racism", has been elaborated by the (maoist) Revolutionary Communist Party and various anti-authoritarian groups based in Montreal like Solidarity Across Borders and No One Is Illegal, who just today spelled out their position condemning (amongst other things), the fact that "
so-called progressives and feminists have used the [Bouchard-Taylor] Commission platform to promote their own sophisticated brand of racism."

The pluralist position
challenges without compromise the idea that the State or para-state institutions like trade unions or school boards should have any power to regulate or control how immigrants (or anyone else) expresses their culture or religious feelings. The pluralist position does not actually state that concerns about religious fundamentalism and sexism are red herrings, but at the same time it does not address these.

Despite the serious differences between these two positions, it is striking how little debate or criticism there has been between them. This is an example of the fragmentation of the radical left, and even of the anarchist section thereof, where the "pluralist" camp is very much based in Montreal, and seems to have weak ties to the francophone working class.

The "anti-racism through secularism" position strikes me as wrongheaded through and through. It seems to be a case of instrumentalizing racism rather than opposing it outright. i write that knowing some people who hold this position, and knowing them to be sincere comrades and anti-racists. But this is a point on which we disagree.

Mario Dumont and the ADQ rode the wave while making it, and did so to great success this spring, catapulting the "fringe" party into the center of Quebec politics. Pauline Marois has shown that she understands how this game is played, she has upped the ante, and unlike those mired in the past she's giving the ADQ a run for their money - and she may just come out ahead.

These people are neither stupid not confused. Opposing them is our task. We need to move in that direction.