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Toronto In Review: January 2012

Ford loses power, union shakeups, G20 prisoner news, killer cops continue to go unpunished

by Toronto Media Co-op

Toronto In Review: January 2012

Toronto Police have been “cleared” yet again, by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, of responsibility for killing a Toronto resident. Charles McGillivary, 45, died after being tackled by two officers while out for a walk with his mother. In a statement issued two weeks ago, the director of the SIU instead blamed McGillivary for his own death, stating that his pre-existing heart condition absolved the officers.

An inquest into the death of Junior Manon, another victim of police violence, heard witness testimony this week from bystanders in the 2010 incident, which occurred at York University. Manon stopped breathing after police sat on top of him and repeatedly struck him in the face and upper body. One of the officers involved is infamous for the violent beating of Adam Nobody that took place during the G20 summit later that year.

A prominent Toronto lawyer has stated that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford did not have the authority to cancel the Transit City project upon taking office last year. The opinion, solicited by Toronto councillor and former TTC chair Joe Mihevc, claims that Ford's unilateral proclamation actually required approval by city council.

Ford's political influence on council may be on the wane, after many of his long promised cuts failed to pass in the January 17, 2012 budget meeting. Wide resistance to the austerity plan spread to the political middle, as centrist councillors and some former Ford allies voted against his most unpopular proposals.

On the night of the vote, a large protest outside council chambers, mobilized by activist groups opposed to Ford's cuts, was met with a line of riot police and pepper spray; many who tried to gain access to the meeting were prevented from entering City Hall.

As the union-busting tactics of Steven Harper's conservative government continue to intensify, organized labour is preparing to confront lockouts. In a proposal paper entitled "A Moment of Truth for Canadian Labour", the CAW and CEP laid out an argument for the largest labour consolidation in Canadian history.

On January 21, the Ontario Federation of Labour carried out a day of action against Caterpillar in London, in solidarity with locked-out workers from CAW Local 27. Four days later, 75 members of CAW Local 88 took direct action to disrupt Caterpillar's operations by blocking a locomotive on the Ingersoll tracks.

The Ontario College of Teachers is investigating a Catholic School principal who blocked the formation of a gay-straight alliance. Although the province has mandated that clubs be allowed to form under the name 'respecting difference', the Catholic board has stated that teens can discuss gender identity or sexual attraction with school chaplains, and bans "activism, protest or advocacy of anything that is not in accord with the Catholic faith foundation of the school."

The Shafia family was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of four family members. The case, one in a series of murders and abuse of Muslim women in Canada, has garnered widespread attention. Yet, while mainstream media have shone a spotlight on so-called 'honour killings,' shockingly high numbers of fatal domestic violence cases have gone largely unnoticed.

Occupy Toronto remains next to City Hall more than two weeks after its comeback during the budget rally. There are currently five tents set up at the location, and a core group of about ten occupiers sleeping there. The group, one of many which have sprung out of Occupy, intends to continue regardless of whether or not it maintains a physical space.

G20 political prisoner Mandy Hiscocks began a 16 month sentence on Jan. 13, when she read out a blistering statement to the court and the judge cleared her loud supporters from the courtroom. Hiscock's blog, which also contains the statement, now chronicles her life in prison. Also this month, Eric Lankin was released. Leah Henderson, Peter Hopperton, and Adam Lewis remain in prison for organizing against the G20 meeting in 2010. Alex Hundert is expected to be sentenced later this year.

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