Occupy Canada should evolve in new directions .. but what are they?

Nov 9th, 2011 | By | Category: In Brief

Occupy Halifax. Geoff Bird/Toronto Star.

Some will stress that the Occupy protests in Canada have been pale echoes of Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland, etc.  When the “Toronto-based freelance author, journalist and activist” Nick Fillmore writes about “Occupy’s impact …  Spontaneous movement a catalyst and inspiration,” he urges that continuing “strong citizen-led action could result in a number of important changes,” and then quickly adds “in the US more so than in Canada.” Back when Occupation Wall Street first put down genteel roots in Canada’s current most populous metropolis (and largest financial centre), Thomas Walkom at the city’s most widely circulated newspaper worried that “It’s polite, but Toronto protest lacks Canadian content.”

Occupons Québec, 4/11/11. Francis Vachon.

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail nonetheless reported that “Canadians tend to view Occupy protests in positive light: poll … Most Canadians who know about the Occupy Wall Street movement view it favourably, a new poll has found, reflecting anxiety over job prospects and savings plans amid Canada’s fragile economic recovery … The Nanos Research poll conducted for the Globe and Mail and La Presse found that 58 per cent of Canadians who are aware of the protests have a favourable or somewhat favourable impression of them … Occupy activists have pitched tents in at least eight Canadian cities, building on a protest movement that started in New York’s financial district nearly two months ago.”

Organizing Occupy Toronto.

Even so, even in the United States there are those who at least want to believe that: “As radicalism creeps in, credibility retreats from OWS.” The Globe and Mail today is reporting: “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to Occupy protesters: ‘Time to move on’ … Mr. Ford’s remarks come as the Occupy movements in three Canadian cities are facing challenging moments, with a man suffering an apparent overdose in Toronto, police in London [Ontario] dismantling the protesters’ encampment and clashes with police and firefighters in Vancouver.”

As the Winnipeg Free Press has further explained: “The public square in front of Halifax city hall was unoccupied Tuesday [ie yesterday] for the first time in nearly a month as the anti-capitalist protesters relocated ahead of Remembrance Day ceremonies … In Vancouver, the battle to move the protesters from their encampment in front of the city art gallery was being waged in the courts Tuesday … The City of Victoria also announced … it has been granted a hearing on Nov. 15 to apply for a similar injunction … Calgary city council voted unanimously Monday night to start moving protesters out of Olympic Plaza.”

* * * *

Occupy Toronto General Assembly, October 14, 2011.

Meanwhile, back in beautiful downtown hogtown, an unscientific cp24 poll that had attracted more than 2300 respondents by 2 PM today, showed 72% answering Yes to the question “Should the city intervene and remove Occupy Toronto protesters’ tents from St. James Park?” And this past Monday (the day before yesterday) the two oldest local newspapers came out with Occupy editorials of one sort or another — more or less on either side of the biggest issue: “There is no constitutional right to Occupy” (Globe and Mail) and “Forcing a needed debate” (Toronto Star).

I have no doubt that in the end I’m with the Toronto Star here. I found the fourth-last paragraph of its “needed debate” editorial article this past Monday especially compelling: “Whether Occupy Canada will result in political action is still an open question. The activists are leaderless by choice, and offer few specific remedies. People have rallied against social and economic inequity countless times before; more often than not, the movements have faded without much lasting effect. The Occupy protests have succeeded in starting a new and badly needed national dialogue about inequality, but unless there is a next step, that may be all it is.”

Occupy Vancouver. Laura Duhan Kaplan.

I wish I had even the vaguest idea about just what this next step might be. The only thing I feel quite clear about is that it is not just flowing into the ordinary political party system, in Canada at any rate. For evidence here I’d cite these random intriguing items on the current world wide web: “Conservatives, NDP guilty of populist pandering, Rae says” ; “Middle class is key to economic recovery, Rae says” ; “NDP not ready for official opposition role, academic says” ; “NDP not ready for the big leagues” ; “Brad Wall and Saskatchewan Party cruise to second majority” ; and “Tim Harper: Saskatchewan has a big player on the federal scene.”

Young financial planner at Occupy Oakland.

At the same time, another passage from the Toronto Star’s “needed debate” article this past Monday remains at the back of my mind. The “message” of the Occupy protests, the article urges in its second last paragraph “is getting through. Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has called the movement ‘entirely constructive.’” Outside Canada (and not just in the United States), two further random news items today seem to lend weight to the-message-is-getting-through argument: “American voters push back against Republican game plan” and ”Students stage huge protest in London” [England]. And then, even in Canada : “Flaherty sounds like a Liberal” and “Walkom: Surprise! Harper Tories acknowledge reality.” So … the song, or the first part of the song, may be ending in some places but, in one way or another, the melody is going to be lingering on — and (as I certainly pray myself) on, and on, and on … for quite a while yet.

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