Occupy Montreal – Occupy the world!
I’m very happy to be here today to stand with you in solidarity today and express my support for peoples’ movements around the globe fighting for national and social liberation; fighting for their right to life and confronting a world system which is intent on keeping them enslaved.
I’m a member of the Métis nation of Manitoba. I want to acknowledge the original inhabitants of this land, the Kanien’kehá:ka. Let’s be aware of the history of occupation on which this city is built. Recognition of and support for indigenous sovereignty must be front and centre of this struggle in settler nations like ours.
I’m speaking here today on behalf of the March 8 Committee of Diverse Origins.
This Committee is an alliance of grassroots women’s organizations representing the diversity of cultural communities in Montreal. Since 2002, we have organized an International Women’s Day march and event that reflects our militant stand and our awareness about the world context and the role of our own struggles and actions. We are founding members of the International Women’s Alliance, a global alliance of anti-imperialist grassroots-based women’s organizations, institutions, alliances, networks and individuals committed to advancing national and social liberation.
Marie Boti, a founder of the March 8 committee and the secretary general of the International women’s alliance was to be here today. She asked me to to deliver this statement on her behalf.
The financial and economic crisis which Wall Street unleashed on the world as a result of its unlimited greed has had a devastating impact on the lives of millions of people globally, especially indigenous peoples, migrants, and women.
In Canada, we have felt the impact of the Harper government’s neo-conservative policies that slash funding to education, health and social services while sharing in the profits from large-scale industrial projects that devastate native lands and communities. Women as principal caregivers have to pick up the slack when services are lacking and community members are vulnerable. When they are employed, women are concentrated in sectors reeling from factory closures, austerity measures, privatization and increased workloads. Hanging on to hard won gains, like pensions and the right to organize is a tremendous challenge in this context. And when women are on the front lines of these struggles, against the privatization of universities and cutbacks in education- like the administrative and maintenance workers at McGill University who shut down the mega hospital construction site last week, we need to support them! Yes to the McGill workers!
Services to women migrants and immigrants are also being slashed, even as women’s centres have been forced to operate as if they are producing widgets, with statistics and proof of profitability. Fewer support and services leaves women more vulnerable to exploitation.
The government has also cut funding for indigenous community projects. Sisters in Spirit (SIS), an initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, conducted groundbreaking research on hundreds of cases of Aboriginal missing and murdered women. The funds they received for research and community work have been diverted to an RCMP-led missing persons database. It will also be easier now for police to obtain warrants and install wiretaps. Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous women state that ‘Many believe that both of these police privileges will be used to further allow the government of Canada’s criminalization of Native communities rather than increasing the safety of Native women.’
As women of diverse origins, linked to other countries and communities, and part of an alliance of women’s organizations from around the world, we look at our situation in a broader context too. Who is responsible for this crisis? Why are migrant workers coming to Canada to take cheap labour jobs at inferior conditions in the first place? Why are indigenous peoples world wide particularly vulnerable, and forced to head into battle on a regular basis?
Canadian imperialism is among the culprits. Corporations promise short term gains in exchange for Indigenous land rights and ways of life. The Cree in Mistissini are fighting Strateco Resources’ Uranium mining on their traditional lands. Hydro Quebec is facing resistance from the Innu of Uashat Mani-Utenam, on Quebec’s north shore, to their $6.5-billion Romaine River hydroelectric project. The Secwepemc nation is protesting the expansion of Sun Peaks ski resorts onto traditional lands in the BC interior.
When Canadian-based mining companies plunder the natural resources of countries of the south, causing environmental destruction to get at ore deposits, people are displaced. One of our member orgs, Frente de mujeres defensoras de la Pachamama in Ecuador, made up of indigenous rural women have been waging a pitched battle to stop large-scale mining operations of a Canadian company International Minerals Corporation. Despite their mobilization and militant opposition to the megamining project, the company is using the usual lobbying tricks and collusion with government officials and weak environmental legislation to try to push the project ahead. Please see their website for news about their struggle: http://defensoraspachamama.blogspot.com/.
As representative of IWA, Marie Boti just attended a huge conference with 15,000 women in Argentina, Patagonia – near the border with Chile. Marie was in a workshop on women and the global crisis- and when she introduced myself as a Canadian, she caused a stir. Some women present were from the area where Canada’s very own Barrick Gold is actually moving glaciers to get at the gold underneath, in a fragile eco-system where water is scarce. I was able to talk about some of the activities of Barrick and its sister companies in Canada, where entire towns have been abandoned and mountains of mine tailings and moonscapes left behind after they have taken what they want from the ground, or when the ore prices take a dive on the stock exchange.
This is one of the reasons why people are forced to migrate from their regions and countries. This is also a reason to unite our struggles.
Other reasons people migrate are wars of aggression, waged in their countries or regions. Canada is playing an increasing role in these as a junior partner of the US, whether it be with its occupation troops in Haiti, or its troops in Afghanistan, or more recently as a key player in NATO sending troops and bombing Libya to oust a leader that wasn’t compliant enough to US and Western interests.
While the Harper government cuts back in services to the 99%, it has been spending billions to beef up its weaponry and military to police the planet and make sure that US-led imperialists have their control of the world’s oil and other resources. Other state expenditures that Harper government finds worthy are the billions of dollars earmarked to renew and expand prison facilities at a time when violent crime is on the decline. (That’s to protect the 1% and their system, and hold more people for property crimes, as they become more impoverished.) The most vulnerable will continue to end up behind bars and you can guess who that will be. Aboriginal women are already the most disproportionately represented in all state jails. At 2 % of the population they represent 29% of women in federal Prisons, and close to half of the women in maximum security prisons. This will only get worse as Harper beefs up an already racist and biased criminal justice system.
Then there are the unequal free-trade agreements that destroy agriculture and industry in countries like Mexico, Philippines, Indonesia, Guatemala. The people who were former farmers end up in the crowded cities, and eventually as migrant workers in the fields of US and Canada, and Europe.
We at WDO think it is useful and necessary, to look at the issues of migrants and women and indigenous women in the global framework. Canadian imperialism is one culprit in the dominant system, led by the US, in collusion with local elites, that operates on pillage, plunder and great wealth for the one percent, and poverty, war and environmental destruction for the 99%. It is the system that we must target, not only a few corrupt businessmen or overly-rapacious bankers.
We are happy to participate in Occupy Montreal, as we are linking with others around the world who have a long history of struggle. We need to unite with the peoples of the world facing the same enemies: capitalism, imperialism and all reaction. We are the 99%. We have a world to win!
Women of the working people unite!
Makibaka huwag matakot!
Viva las mujeres combativas del mundo!
Vive les femmes militantes du monde entier!
Let’s Decolonize Montreal!
Koushkoupayawn! (Let’s wake up)