Saturday, July 20, 2002

walk against racism

Three of the Jaballah kids -- Usama, Afnan and Ali -- join the overnight vigil at the Metro West Detention Centre.
July 20-26 Walk Against Racism, Repression and War Faces Daily Surveillance, Threats of Arrest, and Acts as A Magnet for some of the Horror Stories of Racism Experienced Daily in Happy Canada.

A Walk Diary of Sorts

 Over 100 people took part in some or all of the 100+ km walk against Racism, Repression and War from Hamilton to Scarborough July 20-26. Walkers ranged in age from three to 84, and included farmers, teachers, caregivers, retirees, artists, students, nurses, musicians, and people from a variety of faith backgrounds, including Muslims, Mennonites, Quakers, United Church, Anglican, Catholics, Agnostics, and at least one confirmed Radical Orthodox Pantheist. Folks from as far away as Windsor, St. Mary's, and Durham joined a regular crew from Hamilton, Burlington, Milton, and Metro Toronto.

Despite facing a surreal combination of the regularized repression which daily meets dissent on the streets, heat exhaustion from four days of 100 degree F temps, severe sunburn and endless smog advisories, many of us felt blessed to take part in a project which reminded us of the Susan Sontag comment that "someone who has enjoyed...a reprieve, however, brief, from the inhibition on love and trust this society enforces is never quite the same again."

Indeed, at a time when the idea of pilgrimage was in the press due to the World Youth Day activities in Toronto, it seemed most appropriate to hit the road at the height of a hot summer to show solidarity with all those targetted by racism, repression and war and, especially, those individuals who have been victimized by the "security certificate" secret trials and their families. For many, it was an emotionally draining introduction to what is often swept under the rug in this land: the daily face of racism. For others, a reminder of the need to redouble our efforts.

Among many demands, the walk tried to place a human face on this repression by calling for the release of Mahmoud Jaballah -- already cleared by a Federal Court of Canada Judge but re-arrested by a vengeful CSIS and in jail since last August 14 (nine of those months in solitary confinement) -- and Muhammad Mahjoub, held in jail since June 2000 on a flimsy guilt-by-association security certificate but not allowed to see the "evidence" against him. It also demanded an end to the extradition proceeding against Abdellah Ouzghar, who was tried, convicted and sentenced in absentia by a French court which knew his Hamilton address but neglected to inform him of the "judicial" proceedings until they were over.

The walk was meant to also state that racism does not take a summer vacation, and so as we went through communities, we reminded folks that we have a responsibility, especially as those who might enjoy the privileges of white skin, to address and end the roots of racism in Canada, which is as Canadian as the Maple Leaf.