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Aug 16, 22

Canadian Tire Fire #42: Prisoner Justice Day, Vancouver Street Sweeps, Wet’suwet’en Tour and Actions, Unsanctioned Pride

In this issue of Canadian Tire Fire we bring you a roundup of Prisoner Justice Day events from across the country and coverage of the street sweeps in Vancouver which have resulted in many arrests.

Wet’suwet’en chiefs and land defenders continue their sovereignty tour visiting communities across so-called Canada, and solidarity actions have also again popped off. In Montreal, queers and anarchists took part in an impromptu unsanctioned pride march after the corporate Pride Parade was cancelled at the last minute.

We’ve been keeping our eyes on developments surrounding the proposed Prairie Sky Gondola in Edmonton, which, if constructed, would be built on traditional burial grounds. The project is opposed by many Indigenous organizers and groups in the area. Right before publishing this column, Edmonton city council voted against the land lease agreement that would move the project forward, meaning that for the time being the project will not advance.

This week, forest defenders at Fairy Creek celebrated two years since they began the largest active civil disobedience campaign in Canadian history. Two years later, the old-growth forest remains under grave threat, and there is still much to defend.

Read on for this week’s full stories!

Prisoner Justice Day Roundup

August 10th marked Prisoners Justice Day, a day to remember all those who have died behind bars in Canadian prisons. The first prisoner justice day was held to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of Eddie Nalon, a prisoner at Millhaven Prison near Kingston, who bled to death in his segregation cell in 1974. The next year, prisoners at Millhaven began the tradition of fasting and refusing work on August 10. Almost 50 years later, folks on the inside and outside continue to mourn those we have lost to the cruelty and injustice of the prison system.


In Ottawa, prisoner support and racial justice groups organized a release camp to: “welcome newly released kin exiting state confinement and provide them with care packages filled with essential items to promote community belonging, well-being, and safety. Stipends and other supports are also being provided to people who incur costs associated with the incarceration of their loved ones.” Other groups held a vigil, where formerly-incarcerated people, current prisoners, and their loved ones spoke or had statements read.

In Kingston, the P4W Memorial Collective held a Healing Circle on the grounds of the now-closed Prison For Women. For years, the group has been advocating for a memorial garden to be built on of the grounds of the old prison. A local community radio show, CFRC Prison Radio, also hosted their annual PJD broadcast, playing song requests and shoutouts for prisoners listening in the area, as well as reading the names of all those who have died in Canadian prisons since 1974 on air.

In Toronto, PASAN, a prisoner support and harm reduction group, hosted a community breakfast in honor of those fasting inside. Groups also protested in front of the office of the Solicitor General, the Ontario Ministry responsible for provincial prisons. Later, a memorial service was held.

Memorials and events were also held in Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Halifax.

Vancouver Street Sweeps and Tent City Eviction Escalate Into Violent Attack by Police

This week, mounting violence and criminalization of Downtown Eastside residents in Vancouver hit a flash point as police and city workers instigated multiple days of escalated attacks on the community.

Residents of the tent city located along the eastern section of Hastings Street, in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, have been an ongoing target of Vancouver police and the City of Vancouver, whose daily ‘street sweeps’ have put even more pressure on a population deeply impacted by the housing crisis, addiction, colonialism, and other factors.

According to Stop the Sweeps, “Unhoused residents of the Downtown Eastside targeted by the street sweeps report a daily routine of harassment, intimidation, and the theft of their property along East Hastings. The street sweep team regularly bully and taunt residents as they take their belongings, which include everything from survival shelter gear, mobility devices, and irreplaceable items like baby photos and relative’s ashes.”

On July 25, the Vancouver Fire Department issued an order for structures on east Hastings to be removed. As Meenakshi Manoe pointed out in an op-ed published in The Tyee:

Since the order was issued, there has been no provision of fire-safe sheltering supplies or guidance on fire-safe sheltering in public space, and no viable alternative housing options offered.

On the contrary, in the first week of August, the City cut off garbage removal from the neighbourhood. Residents picked up the slack, organizing their own cleaning initiatives.

Then, on August 9th, police and municipal workers moved in to evict residents from the street. Throughout the morning, residents were pressured to remove their belongings. By the afternoon, as residents prepared to hold a community meeting, city workers had departed but over 50 police officers remained. At this point, according to a statement by Our Streets, community members and supporters witnessed the violent arrest of a person who had been causing a disturbance in the neighbourhood. As people voiced their anger at the arrest, and moved to support the individual, police attacked the crowd, deploying pepper spray, grabbing people, and ultimately arresting five others. Folks then moved the police station, staying outside until everyone was released.

According to a further statement by Our Streets, police continued to show up in the neighbourhood over the course of the week, entering residents’ dwellings without permission and making more arrests. On August 15, a note found by Downtown Eastside community members was circulated on social media. The note threatens to burn residents’ tents and belongings, as well as a local self injection site.

The City of Vancouver will have blood on its hand as long as they continue to normalize and perpetuate violence against people experiencing povery, homelessness, and addiction, and as long as they invest in policing instead of housing.

Wet’suwet’en Tour and Solidarity Actions

Dini ze’, Ts’ako ze’ and Sky ze’ from the Wet’suwet’en Nation continue their Strengthening our Sovereignty tour across so-called Canada, building connections of solidarity with Indigenous communities from coast to coast. They have so far stopped in Six Nations, Kahnawà:ke, Kanehsatà:ke, Aamjiwnaang, and several other communities. They stopped in Edmonton on August 13th, and were greeted with a solidarity rally by supportive community there.

Source: @batulgulamhus

In Vancouver on August 15th, a solidarity rally was planned as well. Supporters can register online for a seat in the caravan headed to the yintah for a 10-day gathering from Vancouver, Blue River, or Prince George.

A gathering is scheduled for their Prince George stop on August 18th as well.

The tour seems to have coincided with the re-ignition of clandestine anarchist solidarity actions as well. In Vancouver recently, 7 RBC branches were vandalized.

A communique reads:

Early Monday morning, several small groups targeted 7 RBC branches spread across so-called Vancouver. We damaged locks, smashed windows, and left messages.

RBC continues to provide funding for the Coastal Gaslink pipeline crossing Wet’suwet’en territory. They are violating Wet’suwet’en law and are complicit in the criminalization of land defenders on their own territory.

We have not forgotten RBC. Lack of media attention will never diminish our hatred for CGL and their financiers. State repression won’t take away the joy of destroying their property.

May we find love and solidarity in the struggle against extractive projects.

Fuck RBC. Fuck the RCMP. No pipelines on Wet’suwet’en Yintah.

And in Ontario, anarchists wrote “A Love Letter To The Wet’suwet’en (And Their Allies) Who Fight For The Land” detailing solidarity actions they undertook to welcome Wet’suwet’en land defenders to the area while they visited Six Nations territory.

Their communique reads, in part:

We cannot be out west with you, but we are with you from here.

In the night of July 31, 2022 several small groups enjoyed the cool evening and – where opportunities presented themselves – took small actions against local rail infrastructure. We see rail as a colonial imposition, forced upon the territories of Turtle Island (and beyond) to expand colonization – and eventually industrialization and destructive extraction. An attack on rail is an attack on those things, and rail is everywhere and indefensible – so it is also an opportunity that is available to most.

Using various methods…we had ourselves a low stress evening which ultimately endangers no one but ourselves, but does create several annoyances for operators.

You, dear reader, can do any of these things too! We can slowly erode this system, as water will do even to rock.

We remember the rail blockades of 2020. We remember the slow build. The energy. We remember people stepping on to railways and wanting to know what was next: wanting more. They were ready to take a stand for the Yintah. For its people. And against our genocidal government and corporations.

We think it will look different – but believe we can get there again. The same way in which the hottest of fires can overwinter in a tree trunk only to burst forth when the time is right, making way for new life and a new world.

We stand with the Haudenosaunee taking back their land.

We stand with the Wet’suwet’en defending their land.

Welcome to the territories of the Haudenosaunee, Missisaugas, Huron-Wendat, Chonnonton, Erie & Petun people.

Corporate Pride in Montreal Cancelled, Impromptu Alternative Pride March Held

On the morning of August 7th, the day of the annual corporate Pride Parade organized by Fierté Montréal, queers of all stripes were shocked to hear the news that the event had been cancelled at the last minute. For hours there were conflicting media reports about whether the organization had cancelled the event or the cops had.

A communique shared by queers who took part in the impromptu march that followed the debacle explains:

While they initially claimed that there had been an impasse between organizers and the SPVM on questions of ‘security’ following early-morning negotiations, Fierté later retracted that statement, assuring the public that the SPVM had nothing to do with the decision. The current media line coming out of Fierté seems to be that the person responsible for making sure there were enough volunteers on the ground to block off the streets simply ‘forgot’ to do exactly that.

The communique continues:

Angered by the decision to cancel the Parade, queers on social media called for the community to meet at Place Émilie-Gamelin. A spontaneous demonstration, led by queers and anarchists on site, left the square, heading West on Sainte-Catherine Street. There were no paid staff or trained volunteers, but there was a banner, black marker on cardboard, “Queer liberation without authorisation”, and another, “Fuck le cis-tème”. Rather than private security, politicians, or corporate sponsors, we had anti-police chants. We’d like to think the latter put out the right energy, because when we doubled back past the square, the street rapidly filled with more people.

The march continued through the Village, growing in size as it went, and up to Sherbrooke street, where it headed west. The demo was so big that we could never see the back of it from the front; one participant estimates we were at least 40,000 people. Bike cops surveilling the march were overheard telling participants: ‘You really don’t know where you’re going, do you?’ True, but as always, the cops missed the point. Folks might not have known where they were going, but they sure as hell knew exactly what they were doing. Refusing police presence at the march and pushing back against the anti-queer police/security logic which led to the cancellation of the parade, folks chanted, ‘La fierté, sans sécurité’. After the march turned north on Saint-Laurent, folks started chanting ‘Tou.te.s, uni.e.s, contre l’homophobie’, later holding a minute of silence for the victims of HIV/AIDS. The march then headed south and from afar, marchers could see the SPVM’s riot squad gearing up to protect… its headquarters. The march ended at the Quartier des Spectacles, with folks taking advantage of the water-works and blending into the crowd. As the march came to an end, a jock-strap sporting twunk said, ‘You see, this what happens when you say no to the gays’. Indeed.

Earlier that day, the SPVM had taken to twitter to let us know that “like every year, we were ready to oversee the event and we will be there for every edition”. It would seem, however, that very few cops were there for this year’s edition. While the SPVM did have a few bike cops present for the march, it was unable to adequately block streets, outpaced by the spontaneity of the march, as marchers looked out for one another rather than relying on police to keep us safe. This is precisely the kind of scenario that Gamache feared when he made a statement discouraging Pride-goers from joining “disorganized” marches throughout the city. This year, however, neither Gamache nor the SPVM had anything to say about what took place. Let’s make sure it stays this way.

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A weekly roundup of anarchist and anti-authoritarian news from so-called Canada. Email us at: [email protected]

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