Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TTC Rally Speech

Yesterday (December 20, 2010) at noon, I read the following speech at a rally outside the Hudson Bay Company, at Bay and Yonge.  Members of DAMN 2025, OCAP, and the Workers Assembly stood with me in the frigid cold as we handed out leaflets and flyers, and spoke passionately about our cause

Some people might say we have reason to celebrate because the elevator at the Yonge/Bloor subway station has been finally been fixed. I say NO! Not on your life should we accept this token response to our demands for full transit accessibility! For nine long months we have waited for this elevator – the one at the busiest subway station in Toronto! - to be repaired so that we could go to work, go to school, visit friends and family, and be a part of the fabric of our society.

Nine months – from April to December! - nobody could use this elevator. It took the busiest shopping time of the year for the TTC to actually do something about this situation. And I can tell you this: it wasn't because the TTC actually cares about making their services more accessible. If they actually cared about the needs of people with disabilities or had any respect for us at all, then 60% of subway stations and 40% of buses would not be inaccessible! No, what spurred the TTC into action finally was the knowledge that people with disabilities do holiday shopping too.

A couple of years ago I was trying to get my wheelchair off a subway train and my front wheel got stuck in the gap. Instead of showing concern or support the driver of the subway yelled out “Why don't you use Wheel Trans?" Excuse me, but I thought we were supposed to be members of society too. I'm sure he wouldn't have been so rude if it were anybody else. And, isn't Ontario supposed to be accessible by 2025? If this is the attitude of the TTC, it will be 3025 before any change happens.

Telling me to use Wheel Trans shows how little people know about this service. People have to book rides one day in advance. You can't just call up for same day service or book a ride way in advance. As well as this, if you manage to book a ride to your destination you are not always guaranteed a ride back. It's ridiculous and something that people have been complaining about for years. Not only that, but people have been stranded and have experienced rudeness and condescending remarks from drivers.

The fact that this elevator was broken for nine months is disgusting! It also demonstrates the lack of respect for us and lack of empathy for our daily lives. I say we don't stand for it anymore! I say we rally at every broken down elevator in the subway system until they understand we won't back down and we won't go away until every last one is fixed!

 Before I read my speech, Lenny told me at the same station as the elevator that had just been recently repaired was another elevator with a sign on it saying that it would be out of service, starting January 10, 2011.  No estimated time-line was given as to when this most necessary mobility aid would be back in service, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't be a top priority for the TTC.

January 10, 2011.  Hmm, I wonder if this start to a brand new decade will actually change anything.  New year, new decade - brand new respect and empathy for those of us who need reliable and well-maintained elevators in order to get around with ease,

Truthfully, I'm not holding my breath....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Year Later

September 19, 2010

(written over approximately 2 weeks)


Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  For the rest of my life those three days will hold such unbearable sadness for me.

It's one year later since Rob's death.  I have a lot of memories of those three days, and I feel like I need to write them down, exorcise them from my mind.  I don't mean that I want to forget them entirely, because bad or good, I want to keep all of my memories of Rob with me always.  I just mean that by writing about them here perhaps I can shed some of the pain they've brought me.

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Lenny got me out of bed that morning.  This was odd because Rob always lifted me out of bed in the mornings.  Odder still was the fact that, without telling me, Rob had called Lenny beforehand and asked him to do this favour for him because he (Rob) was feeling weak and out of breath and had to go see his doctor.

When Rob returned from the doctor, he told Lenny and me that he had been so winded from climbing the stairs that the receptionist had asked him if  he was all right.  The doctor listened to his chest and said that his heart sounded a bit fast but ok other than that.  He was more concerned about Rob's breathing, so he gave Rob a requisition for lung tests at St Michael's Hospital.   Before Rob left, he fed  the cats, had a smoke, and, much to my chagrin, put his Facebook status to: "Rob Warenda is going to the hospital today. He's not sure if he'll ever be coming back."

Rob left for the hospital, and I wanted to follow and stay with him.  Worry began gnawing at my insides.  I thought maybe Rob had pneumonia or the early onset of emphysema.  I wanted to go with him, but  I had a doctor's appointment of my own to go to.  Finally, someone was going to look at my neck (it hurt so much!) and try to stop the constant pain I'd been in for the last 6 months.  Besides, Rob was just going to the hospital for tests.  He'd be home soon, right?

I ended up not going to the appointment. Instead, I took a piece of pot chocolate for the pain and went to the hospital with Lenny.

It seemed so surreal to be in the same hospital again where Rob had almost died from Pancreatitis nine years previously.

From mid-afternoon until nighttime, Lenny and I kept Rob company in the ER. He told us that the doctors wouldn't let him go home yet because they wanted to do more tests. They told him that his heart was "tacky", and then we saw that on his medical  sheet that it had S.O.B. written on it.  We laughed at that and concluded that they probably weren't calling Rob a son of a bitch but simply referring to his shortness of breath.  And we joked that maybe they meant that his heart was tacky like a Valentine's Day card.

Rob told me that one doctor had told him that he had blood clots in his lungs and that was why he was experiencing shortness of  breath.. The doctor also told Rob that if he went home that night he could die.  Rob's response to this  was:  "I told him,, 'Cool! Not   everybody knows what day they're going to die.'"   If  I could have reached him in that hospital bed, I would have given Rob such a smack!  As it was, both Lenny and I chastised him soundly for that cavalier comment. "What?" Rob said with a grin in that smart-ass way of his.  "I'm not going to die!  They think it could be my heart, but I'm not in terrible pain; my left arm doesn't hurt; and, I'm not sweating profusely like I would be if I actually were having a heart attack."  Rob also explained to us that he'd had similar episodes before this and he would always felt better afterward  when he had a bowel  movement.  What heart attack, Rob reasoned, got cured by having a bowel movement?

I didn't know what to think.  All I knew was that I was scared.  Shitless. What was wrong with Rob?  Was it serious?

Now the doctors were fighting about whether to put Rob in the Cardiovascular or the Pulmonary Ward, and poor Rob just wanted to get home.

Rob insisted on going outside for a smoke before committing to the idea of being fully admitted. Lenny and I tried to give him as many reasons as we could think of as to why he should stay. I knew that Rob hated hospitals, and that he didn't actually think that there was anything wrong with him, so I was panicking, thinking that he would just go home.

The three of us went back inside, and Lenny told Rob that if he stayed, they would go home with me and bring back anything he wanted. We sat there and made a list of stuff he wanted. The top three items all said: "I want to go home." Number four was, "I want my coffee." Number five was, "I want to go home." The rest of the list consisted of his I-pod, ginger ale, Halls, and a pack of smokes (that's my Rob!).

Lenny and I went home after that. I went to bed and Lenny gathered up all the stuff Rob had asked for. At 1 am, Lenny was stopped by a hospital security guard, asking where he was going with that enormous mug of coffee. Lenny shrugged and replied, "To the cardiac wing." The guard let him go.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rob called me from the hospital in the early part of the afternoon. He gave me his room number, and I said, "No problem, I'll be there as soon as I can." 

I will never forget this memory for as long as I live: Rob was standing in the hallway like he was waiting for Sarah and me. He said that he had heard the noise of my wheelchair. He seemed excited to see me, and I zoomed my chair right over to him.

As Rob complained about the hospital food, among other things, Sarah and I made packs of cards on Rob's bed. Rob complained about not being able to get Internet service in his room. He told us he had walked down to the visitors' lounge, where there is Wi-fi, but the heart monitor he was connected to went nuts, and his doctor said, "Okay, no more walking for you." Until then, he had pretty much convinced the doctors to let him go home for a while, to straighten up the computers and "take care" of me.

I was there when Rob's doctor came back and explained to Rob that at first they thought it was the blood clots in his lungs that were the main problem, but the blood thinners that they had given Rob seemed to be getting rid of them. Now they thought it had to do with his heart, and they would keep him in over a week to do tests.  I heard Rob explain once again how it couldn't be anything serious with his heart because whenever he had felt this way before, it always  felt better after he had a bowel movement.

I was so scared for my poor Rob that I went hone and cried all during dinner.  Grace gave me a talking to!  She told me that Rob was young and strong,  and he needed me to be strong and not to cry.  Rob would be all right, she assured me.

I felt better.  Grace was right. Rob was young, strong, and healthy. He had recovered from Acute Pancreatitis, hadn't he?   He'd be fine, I was sure of it.  Besides, the doctor said he wanted to have Rob stay in for a week for tests, so it didn't sound like Rob was in any immediate danger.

Lamia went with me back to the hospital.  I can't remember what we talked about, just that we laughed a lot.

I did feel some unease, though, when Rob said he wasn't very hungry, Ginger Ale didn't appeal to him, and his craving for cigarettes was nil.  That wasn't like my Rob at all!

Anger began to stir within me. The doctors prescribed Rob water pills and told him to remain in bed and to wear an oxygen mask, but the water pills made Rob have to get up every few minutes to go to the washroom.  Why didn't they give him a catheter or even a bottle?  And, why the devil didn't I insist on something like this before I left?  I still feel angry over these things!

And, speaking of anger, I got rather peeved at Rob for saying that if he did die at least I wouldn't have to deal with him buying so much computer stuff.  I literally growled at him and said that if he did die I'd kill him.  (I wanted to keep it light and jokey so not to stress Rob out.)   Rob laughed and said, "Don't worry, Sweety, I'm not going to die."

There was a time when Lamia left us by ourselves, to call her partner Mishann, I think. While we were alone, on his way back into bed from the bathroom, Rob hugged and kissed me, told me he loved me, and fondled my right breast fleetingly.

At around 9:00 pm, Lamia and I decided to go.  I was torn:
I didn't want to leave Rob, but I had to pee badly and hospitals, to my knowledge, don't have commode chairs.  Also, I had to go to bed early so I could get up at 5:00 am and go to the market.

And so, Rob and I said our goodbyes.  We told  each other we loved each other, blew kisses at each other (Rob felt too weak to get out of bed again), and I told him I'd come to see him right after the market.   He grinned and said, "Ok, see you later, Sweety."

And then Lamia and I left.

Saturday, September 19, 2009
I heard the phone ring once at 3:30 am, and then again at 3:45.   Except for the cats, I was completely alone.  I thought maybe it was a wrong number, or that Motria was calling to tell me that she'd be late getting me up. And yes, it crossed my mind that it was the hospital calling.  Maybe Rob was in trouble, and they were calling to get permission to do a procedure or something.  If I was honest with myself, there was a tiny spark of fear that kindled way back in the deepest, darkest part of my mind that suspected the worst thing imaginable.

Motria came at 5:00 am, and right away I told her about the phone calls.  To my horror,  when we checked the messages, it was the worst thing imaginable!  Rob had had a massive heart attack, and, although they'd tried their best to save him, they couldn't.

While I cried inconsolably, Motria called my mother and all of my friends and told them the dreadful news.

As you can imagine, that day is a jumbled-up mess of memories. What I remember is this:

  • The surreal feeling of leading my mother and all of my friends to St Michael's Hospital, stopping occasionally to cry and get hugged and reassured.
  • Being alone with Rob's body, saying farewell.   I touched his hair, cheek, arm, hand - even one of his nipples - knowing that I'd never feel the touch of him again.
  • Talking with the doctor, hearing him apologize and say that an MRI should have been done sooner, but no one knew how serious it had really been.
  • Home again, with cats, Mom, friends all around me.  Rob's favourite music played, pizza was ordered, different types of alcohol flowed, humourous tales were recollected.   Delicious dish after homemade dish were given to me, and I accepted graciously, even though the very last thing I wanted to do was eat.
That's it.  Well, I could keep going on, and on, and on ... but I would rather share some of my fondest and funniest memories of Rob Warenda.

The first time that I laid eyes on the hunk of man that was to become my sweetie of 22 years was at the Scarborough Town Centre in January of 1988. We had previously chatted over several bulletin boards online and had found out that we really cared for each other and, well, lusted after each other. My mom and friend Louise thought they'd better accompany me on this first date at M'goo's ice cream parlour. They mistrusted Rob, and Mom even said, "What if he's an axe murderer?" I laughed and said, "Mom, I'm sure he hasn't murdered any axes."

A fraction of a second after they left us alone together, we were in each other's arms. We found a quiet place to talk and kiss and make googly eyes at each other. We knew from that moment on, we were meant to be together.

My Dad, on the other hand, was skeptical about our relationship: the first time Rob took me out in his car, Dad ran out the door and wrote down Rob's license plate number.

I remember one time one of Rob's cousins invited us over to her place. It was an odd and unforgettable afternoon. The place was kind of messy and the doorways were very narrow, so Rob picked me up and put me on the couch. The oddest part was that his cousin never actually showed up, so we entertained ourselves by sitting on the couch and necking for maybe one or two hours. There was a lamp above the couch that hung very low, and I remember hitting my head on it several times, but I barely  noticed because I was young and in love and horny.

Rob and I had a lot of fun on our first dates. We went to parties, and to Canada's Wonderland. I remember going to one party in the evening. They served hot dogs, burgers, and lots of beer. By the time it got dark, I was wasted, and I was in my manual chair with no seat belt. I didn't believe in wearing seat belts back then. The combination of being drunk and sitting on a vinyl seat had comical outcomes: suddenly I slipped out of the seat and onto the foot rest. It was so dark Rob couldn't see me, but he followed my laughter and picked me up.

I loved going to Canada's Wonderland and going on the rides. One time Rob asked me if I wanted to go on the bridge and get sprayed on by the log ride. By "sprayed on," I thought we would get a bit of mist on us, so I agreed. Much to my shock and amazement, this tidal wave of water came straight at us. I opened my  mouth to gasp and swallowed a ton of water. Once again I wasn't wearing a seat belt so I almost floated away, but Rob grabbed me and held me in place.

I love you, Rob!  Good and bad, I'll always cherish my memories of our life together.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Speaking Out Once More for Our Rights

The following is a speech I gave today, August 30th, outside the Provincial Courthouse about the arrests on July 21st of myself and ten other activists at the Ontario Liberal Headquarters. The event was called as a press conference, although only one media representative showed up towards the end. I guess violations of our rights to freedom of expression are so commonplace now that they don't count as news. (Even at the last press conference I got the feeling that the media weren't really interested in the issue of the Special Diet, or our rights being trampled on, but more about the sensationalism of on OCAP "leader," and a disabled woman, myself, being arrested.)

During the G20, we only wanted to voice our outrage at the ableist government for taking away the Special Diet and not listening to us. Our protests were met with violence and blockades.

Then when we once again demonstrated against the unfairness of the government taking away our money, we are met with overreaction and arrests.

The charges should be dropped against our people!

Freedom of expression should not be penalized; the government is supposed to be working for us, and we need to be able to bring them our concerns and hold them accountable in their offices. We only seek justice and freedom and respect from our government. We won't accept that they turn us away with police and ridiculous accusations.

The speech I am reading today was prepared by myself, and read by my communication assistant. I need a communication assistant always to express myself fully. This is my right. But my rights were taken away from me when I was charged on July 21st. The police separated me fro my communication assistant, so I couldn't speak freely. This is terrible ableism! They also threatened to send me to the hospital. Again, that's terrible ableism, because they don't see people with disabilities as fully functioning people, but as people so weak as to need the care of hospitals.

Not only should the charges against me be taken away because my rights were abused, but the charges against our people should be dropped.

Thank you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Liars, Hypocrites, and Jail Time Continued

That last entry was cut short by, well, technical computer/Internet difficulties and, of course, the complexities of life.  What happened to keep me away from continuing from where I left off matters little.  What does matter, though, is the story itself.

My previous entry was a speech I had written. On July 21, 2010, my friend and employee Lenny used a mega phone to read the aforementioned speech out of the office window of the Liberal (Provincial) Party Headquarters. Our peers down below, from both OCAP and DAMN 2025, cheered as we denounced the McGuinty government for cutting the Special Diet and the hypocrisy of the government's recent ridiculous spending spree. Nine other people were with us in that tiny office space, and one person hung a banner out the window. Nothing else was either touched or moved.

The action should have only taken 15 minutes, maybe 20 at the most, and then we were supposed to just leave.  Unfortunately, as Lenny neared the end of my speech, a bunch of cops burst into the room and dragged Lenny into the hall. Soon, all 11 people, including myself, were corralled us into the outer room.

Most people were cuffed and reprimanded by police, although they didn't tell people until much later what they were being charged with.  They did try to tell us that people from the Liberal Headquarters had told us to leave, but I sure never heard them.  In fact, they were very helpful to get us inside.

I was told to go sit by a wall. Two people from my group were in front of me, and everyone else was behind me.  Mostly the cops ignored me, and questioned and yelled at everyone else.  One cop asked  me if he could look in the bag on the back of my chair for identification, and I indicated my money pouch around my waist.  Fortunately, he understood, but I was anxious to get Lenny back with me so that I could communicate more freely.  My two friends in front of me helped me convey this to the cop (I could hear Lenny behind me telling them that it was against Human Rights to keep my communication assistant away from me.) I also told them that I needed Lenny with me for other kinds of assistance that day, because I had no one else scheduled. At that point, the cop actually said, "No problem, we'll call and ambulance for you and send you to the hospital." I almost exploded in fury! "No no no no no! I'm fine! I'm not sick!"

During all of this, I could hear one female officer (I'm pretty sure she was from that YouTube video, "Bubbles the Cop,")  yelling at Lenny and saying it was disgusting how I had been coerced into participating in the action. Lenny defended himself by saying that he had only been doing what I asked him to do, but the cops wouldn't listen.  By this time, Lenny was finally by my side, and I, filled with rage and indignation, spoke up and said that I had written that speech and asked Lenny to read it.  I added, "I am not a pawn!" Why was it so beyond belief for the cops that I might have  a brain in my head and want to stand up for my rights, especially since I would, in all probability, be losing a huge chunk of my monthly income?

Then I was charged with trespassing, as was Lenny. We were the only two who didn't also get charged with mischief and have to do a night in jail (I guess because it was too much work for them to find us an accessible paddy wagon and cell.)

Sometimes our ableist society kind of works in our favour.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Liars, Hypocrites, and Jail Time

Back in March of this year, the Federal budget came out, and much to people's shock and dismay, it was made known that the Special Diet money would be cut from ODSP & OW. Ironically this came upon the heels of a human rights case where the verdict for the plaintiff (people who had lost their special diet) stated that all people on ODSP and OW need their rates raised significantly. Did the government take heed?! No! Instead they completely ignored this monumental statement. Not only that, but they told us they were making these cuts so they could reduce the deficit.  

If we didn't know already what liars they were, we sure found out during the G20. They spent 1 billion on the summit without a single thought as to how hypocritical this action seemed to be! It was a slap on the face to the poor people of Ontario. In that one act of hideous extravagance, our government was, in fact, saying: “We don't care about the poor people of this country. We don't care if they live below the poverty line and have to choose between food and rent. What's important to us is to spend this enormous amount of money on 1) security and turning Toronto into a police state, and 2) hosting this non-sanctioned summit that excludes all but the richest world leaders.”

They think we are afraid of their power and brute strength. We are not! We don't forget and we don't forgive! With the utmost determination, we will not rest until the Special Diet is returned to us so that we can buy good food, stay healthy, and pay our rent! Nor will we stop fighting to get a 40% increase so that we can finally live above the poverty line!

Recently, our government spent 9 billion dollars on fighter jets and one hundred million dollars on war ships. This is truly disgusting! We need to make them see that money should be spent on providing a better environment in which people can live and thrive. The government shouldn't be trying ti think up new ways to destroying life; they should, instead, focus upon bettering the quality of life!
They promised to reduce poverty, but instead they are increasing it. They promised to close down all abusive institutions, but many still remain open. By 2025, they promised that Ontario would become what they consider to be fully accessible. Too little too late, I say!

Over and over, we must remind our government of its many promises, and we must hold them to their word. Only until then can we take back our power and dignity. Only then can the paths to our own lives be self-determined.

Thank you.
Solidarity with all prisoners!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

G20 Surrealism Continued...

This is a continuation from my last blog. I feel like I need to tell my story from my own unique perspective. I feel like if I don't do this soon, I just might explode from my boiling fury at what injustices transpired during the G20 Summit.

Friday, June 25th, 2010: Members of D.A.M.N. (Disability Action Movement Now!), O.C.A.P. (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty), No One is Illegal and Grandmothers for Afghanistan were there, among dozens of other groups of activists. There was a very large contingent of D.A.M.N. that day (as well as other upcoming days) - it was so exciting and empowering to see so many people with disabilities come out to this monumental event!

We were all excited and ready to march and to cry out our frustrations with the government ignoring our pleas for financial stability, and our determination that we would be heard and that things would change for the better!

To have our voices heard, we used chants: Too many barriers, Not enough food, Sit down, roll on, fight, fight, fight! - Stair by stair, Wall by wall, We demand Access for all! - Hey hey, TTC, Public transit should be free, Ho ho, TTC, Make transit barrier free! As the scorching sun beamed down upon all 4,000 of us, baking us, we chanted and a Samba band played periodically, lifting our spirits and giving us strength to continue. It was a slow trek that lasted 5 long hours.

Let me say this: neither D.A.M.N., nor O.C.A.P., nor all of the many activist organizations who were there that day had any kind of thought of committing violence. We simply wanted to have our say, get our message to the public, and try to get as close to the G20 fence as possible. (The latter was a political statement: it was such a horrendous slap in the face, especially to poor people, that two billion dollars had been spent on the G20 instead of on social programs and reducing poverty.) King St, we'd heard, was the farthest point we could go, and that was fine with us.

We started our march from Allen Gardens at 2:30pm, and thousands of police shadowed our every step. Their looming presence was daunting, to say the least, but it didn't deter us from our mission.

Overall, it was a peaceful demonstration - on the side of the protesters, at least! At the corner of Carlton and Bay, cops suddenly grabbed some guy from the march and told him to get off the street. (I still don't know why this happened!) Apparently, the guy was young, of colour, and was Deaf. The cops didn't believe that he couldn't hear, though, and, thus, didn't allow his ASL interpreter to go with him. I was way, way ahead from this particular scene, but my peers explained to me that five friends of this young guy, who were also people of colour, tried to reason with the cops and got beaten for their efforts.

In some way, it was decided that we should keep on moving. So, we did. We marched and we marched, and several times the cops blocked our way, although we were nowhere near King St. or the G2O fence. No word was spoken by cops; we were only met by empty stares. At one point, when we were hemmed into a cul-de-sac off University Ave., there was a rumour that there was a sound canon around, so we all very hurriedly put plugs in our ears. I, myself, held my breath and waited for the attack on our ears. None came.

We started backtracking, until we, once again, reached Allen Gardens. There, we stopped and rested. Pup tents were set up, food was brought out, and entertainment was performed. There were several hip-hop singers singing about the world's injustice. I really liked their singing and dancing, but I was even happier when Simone and Ian came on. I love their music! Speeches about the extravagance of the G20 compared with the serious poverty in Toronto were read with passionate hearts. Lamia read my speech, and people seemed to enjoy it; one woman even asked if she could use it in her documentary about poverty.

Saturday, June 26th, 2010: I was exhausted on Saturday morning! It was the first morning in ages that I hadn't been to the market to sell my art. I half wanted to go to the protest I'd heard about at Queens Park, but my body said rest, rest, rest! I listened to my body and took it easy. I had a late brunch, took a hot shower, got dressed, and went out to buy a few things at the Drug Mart.

I'm not big on the whole soccer mania thing, but I let Motria talk me into watching the game between Ghana and the US at Mickey Finns. We both rooted for Ghana to win. While the game was on, Motria kept checking for updates on what was happening with the protest that day. Much to our surprise, we found out that a few of the protesters had started smashing windows of banks and iconic corporate buildings (Starbucks, American Apparel, Bell, Rogers, Tim Hortons etc - no "mom & pop" shops were touched, as later claimed by the police.) First, one cop car was reportedly torched, then another, and another. We could see cop cars go whizzing by Mickey Finns, and the TV now had vague news of the downtown riot scrolling underneath the game.

A million emotions ran through us at that time: curiosity, fear, excitement, and concern for our friends. Of the two of us though, I'm sure I was the only one who felt a certain amount of awe for the powerful symbolism that the protesters made by the smashing of windows of greedy corporations and banks. I mean, nobody got hurt, and I'm sure the corporations have enough insurance to replace a window or two.

The rest of the weekend was brutal and terrifying for the people who participated in saturday's protest - and even for those who hadn't. 900 people were arrested over the weekend, even during some of the most peaceful protests, where people sat, sang, and prayed. It has been an overreaction on a grand scale. People were corralled and beaten and threatened over and over again. Like dolphins caught in a tuna net, bystanders were ensnared. And now stories are coming up about how horrible conditions were at the detention centre. Some people were in there from 23 hours to 36 hours with no food, no water, no toilet paper. Most people had no idea why they had been arrested. Young teens were not allowed to call their parents, and women inmates were strip-searched by male cops. Disgusting treatment!

In my opinion, these strong and over the top measures were not at all warranted. People broke windows. That's a misdemeanor, at best a fine or community work. Four cop cars got torched. Again, that's a misdemeanor, at best a fine or community work. Our city streets should not have been turned into a war zone where cops could do anything they wanted!

And, where were the cops that fateful Saturday when all this shit happened? I'd seen literally thousands of them for days. You're telling me that so many cops couldn't have stopped people in their tracks and prevented all of the damage that was done. Why didn't they? Eye-witness reports have circulated that cops weren't even near their burning squad cars, nor did they show any overt concern about them at all. It has been said the squad cars, old and without any radio equipment, were planted as bait for the protesters. The cops actually wanted protesters to cause damage so they could justify spending so much money on security.

This is "Toronto the Good". This is Canada the "Peace-Keeper". What happened?! It's Canada Day, and I certainly don't know anybody who feels like celebrating this travesty of a country!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

G20 Surrealism

It's been a very long time since I did a blog entry. My heart was broken two times over. First, my dear husband Rob died in September of '09, which was particularly devastating for me. And then, my best friend Aaron Shelbourne died a few months later of bladder cancer.

Nothing really seemed to matter or had any great importance to write about.

Until this weekend.

On Friday, June 25th, 2010, I went to protest against the G20 Summit in my beloved city of Toronto. Twelve, maybe fifteen different groups all met in Allen Gardens, ready to march down the streets and, hopefully, get within 5 meters of the security fence at King St. (That was as far as you could go before getting arrested. That's what we were told anyway!) to voice all of our objections (of which we had many!) to the way the government was doing things. One of our main issues was that our government had given billions of dollars in bail out money to banks and big corporations and yet had cut the Special Diet from people on ODSP (like me!) and OW - people who really need that money to survive.

I'm a member of D.A.M.N. (Disability Action Movement Now!), and this is the speech I presented on behalf of myself and the group at the end of the demo:

People, we are here today to demonstrate our strength and unity to the government officials who have tried to beat us down, tried to humiliate us, and, finally, tried to scare us with those bloody sound canons!

They want to strike fear into our hearts because they're actually the ones afraid of us, afraid that we won't stop fighting until our demands are met! And, by god, we won't!

We demand that the Special Diet be returned to the people who really need it, people on ODSP and OW, who need to buy healthy food in order to survive and thrive. People on ODSP and OW should have their monthly rates raised by 40% NOW! We need to be able to pay our rent AND buy food within the same month.

People with disabilities are forcibly imprisoned in places, like psychiatric institutions, nursing homes, prisons and detention centres. Refugee claims are commonly denied if someone is identified by the state as disabled, whether or not that person agrees with such a label. People with disabilities are kept out of much sectors of employment and also pushed into labouring in for profit sheltered workshops for miniscule pay. Prisons are full of people with disabilities. This discrimination and so much more adds up to a ensuring that so many amazing people in our city and in our world are kept in poverty, kept incredibly isolated, kept in danger and kept as tools for the profits of exploitative governments and companies. We are people and we've had enough. We demand an end to the systemic abuse and discrimination towards people with disabilities. We have a right to employment, to use public transit, to immigration status, to education, to safe and healthy food and shelter, and to freedom of movement and self determination in our own communities!

We demand that the cap on Direct Funding be lifted NOW! Every day there are many types of abuse that are inflicted upon people with disabilities who live within attendant care projects or institutions. People with disabilities should have the right to be able to say who can assist them with their daily routines and who MUST NOT! Seven hundred people have Direct Funding in Ontario; there are thousands of others who also need this funding in order to lead truly independent lives and feel safe in their own homes

I, myself, have lived within 2 separate attendant care projects before I finally received Direct Funding. I thought the first project was unbearable. The abuse was recorded by management, and then swept under the rug. I decided to move to another project, anything had to be better than what I had just experienced. I was wrong! It was different people, sure, but same types of abuse by the attendants and same do nothing attitude of the management. I felt frustrated and disrespected. I cried buckets of tears, not knowing where to turn, what to do. And then, my tears dried and my anger boiled. I went to the Toronto Star and told them about my abuse and neglect. Soon after the article came out, I applied for Direct Funding, and, amazingly, I got it within 6 months. My life did an 180 after that. I was happy, confident, and in control of my own life. The people I hired to assist me liked and respected me, and I felt the same way about them.

I now feel the same frustration and sense of disrespect as I did when I was dealing with the people at the attendant care projects. The government doesn't respect us! We keep telling them what we need and they turn their backs on us. If they respected us, they wouldn't put off making Ontario accessible by 2025! If they really respected us, they wouldn't have cut the much needed Special Diet only to spend one billion dollars frivolously on the G20! We don't need a fake lake or sound canons – we need enough money to live on! We need accessible transit and affordable housing! We need to be able to have the choice of getting Direct Funding if we need it! And, most of all, we need the respect from the people who govern our country! We need all these things NOW!

Thank you.

Solidarity with everyone who was pushed around, intimidated, beaten or detained by cops this weekend for trying to stand up for themselves, and to those who were simply caught up in the melee.

Is it any wonder I had a Mad Max-like dream last night?