by Comrades Jorge, Maggie, and Arthur
Many people inside and outside of Canada see this northern country as a society and a state which—while in many ways similar to the US—is friendlier, more progressive, and maybe even a bit socialist in comparison, given its system of socialized emergency services and basic medical care. This report calls bullshit on all that. Through the last two years of global health crisis, uprisings against police violence, the catastrophic destruction of climate change-induced extreme weather events, and a deeply-divided, faltering economy, it’s never been more apparent that a tiny fraction of society continues to amass obscene wealth to itself while a growing majority of the people are being pushed down into endless struggle for their livelihoods and lives. Furthermore, among the many struggling there is emerging a growing portion becoming completely dispossessed and denied any right to exist. What follows are the chronicles of these struggling and dispossessed—testimonies on the other side of Canada.
A Call Worth Answering
In April 2021, kites put a call out to its readers1 to join it in an initiative of going to the people and investigating the conditions of the masses in our times of growing oppression and cascading crises. The call looked back at the summer of protest and rebellion in 2020 against police violence in the US, lamented the failure of would-be revolutionaries to consolidate much of anything from it, and in turn called upon kites readers across North America to intervene through a joint campaign of social investigation. Instead of mourning the political ground lost to the forces of liberal co-optation and right-wing reaction, kites posed to its readers the entirely reasonable task of going to the masses one year after the rebellion to investigate the state of mind and objective conditions of the people.
This call prompted a network of kites readers in Canada to consider the form that such an initiative could take in our context. Certainly, exploring the sentiments and thoughts of the people in relation to police violence, impunity, and corruption in Canada would be a valuable initiative both for what it could reveal about the level of popular discontent with the repressive apparatus in this country as well as beginning to identify those sections of the people most in contradiction with it (which we know exists, given the long and never-ending list of scandals concerning the brutality, impunity, and overall corruption of police forces in Canada tracing from the present to as far back as anyone can remember2). But we wanted to make sure the scope of our investigation was oriented to the most urgent crises and contradictions playing out across Canada.
In the spring of 2021, Canada was deep within the third and worst (to date) wave of the pandemic. By the end of November 2021, nearly 30,000 had died in Canada from Covid-19—six times higher than the number of people who died in all of China. Meanwhile, residential evictions were ripping through the working-class in the wake of rescinded eviction moratoria; people were living on the streets and in parks in visibly unprecedented levels; and the conditions of labour were shifting in ways more dramatic than any one of us could keep up with. If Gen Z seemed like a lost cause to anyone, what about the next generation coming down the pipeline who’ve been treated to the shock therapy of “going to school” on Google Meets for six hours a day?
A summer of widespread social investigation seemed as urgent and necessary an initiative for us in Canada as it was for partisans of kites in the US. But where to begin? And furthermore, how could we make such efforts fruitful in the struggle to unify would-be revolutionaries across this country (so that’d we’d all be better positioned to lead the masses to intervene in the next crises)? Then May came and posed the answer.
On May 25, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation reported that ground-penetrating radar had revealed the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Kamloops was just the first of many revelations to come. In the following weeks, the number of remains discovered on the sites of the Christian-run institutions of stolen Indigenous children just kept leaping higher and higher: 751 unmarked graves were identified at Cowessess First Nation in the Qu’Appelle Valley of Saskatchewan; another 182 at the St. Eugene Indian Residential School on the territory of the Ktunaxa nation in Cranbrook, B.C.; and more than 160 at the Kuper Island Industrial School on the remote Penelakut Island—which has been dubbed “Alcatraz” for its inescapable terrain—near Nanaimo and off the coast of Vancouver Island, B.C.
The publication of the final reports of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2015 and 2016 created unprecedented public awareness among the 95% non-Indigenous population in Canada concerning the historical and ongoing genocidal oppression of Indigenous peoples in the country. But truly reckoning with this genocidal past (and present) has been sidelined and postponed by the Canadian state’s “Reconciliation” agenda of woke performances and gestures, meaningless (if not insulting) “land acknowledgements,” and the token inclusion of Indigenous “voices” in arts, culture, and academia. The Reconciliation agenda has co-existed right alongside (and has arguably even helped enable the continuation of) ongoing land dispossession (as the ongoing struggles of the Wet’suwet’en and 1492 Land Back Lane reveal), police violence against and the mass incarceration of Indigenous people, and the continued apprehension of Indigenous children by Canada’s “foster care” system. But since May, the shocking and incontrovertible evidence of these stolen and murdered children has dealt a blow Canada’s national identity that has left the public relations known as “Reconciliation” in complete tatters—and our network of kites readers in Canada would be damned if we let the Canadian state patch this up without a fight. (Also, we really weren’t trying to see the kites Editorial Committee flame its comrades and readers in Canada for letting such a momentous opportunity pass us by without an intervention!).
As Canada Day (July 1) approached, a great reckoning was descending on the country. The Canadian flag of every Federal building across the country was indefinitely lowered to half-mast until all sites had been searched. A growing number of churches were vandalized or torched across the country, presumably to bring attention to the role that all major sects of Christianity in Canada played in the administering the genocide. Statues of Canada’s first Prime Minister John A. McDonald and other monuments to colonialism were toppled with little-to-no harassment from the pigs.3 An unprecedented scope of the population in Canada (and throughout the world) were being exposed to the reality that Canada’s Indian Residential School system looked remarkably closer to a Nazi-run institution than any facility ever intended for the genuine education, moral guidance, and well-being of children. Suddenly, the entirety of Canada appeared to us as a site for social investigation—a continent-spanning crime scene, with hundreds of thousands of victims and their traumatized descendants still alive today, and with perhaps as many as tens of thousands of perpetrators, handlers, enablers, and profiteers all living among us. It was time to hold court, it was time for the people to testify.
Our network of kites readers resolved to organize ourselves to recruit as many comrades as we could to take to the people to investigate the conditions, views and aspirations of the masses, and determine what was to be done about Canada. In late June 2021, we circulated an appeal within our networks entitled “No more lost opportunities,” wherein we wrote:
A growing proportion of Canadian society is being made painfully aware that this society is built upon genocide. With the mass graves of Indigenous children that have been revealed in recent weeks—and the many more that are sure to come in the following months—there’s no turning away from the grotesque, abhorrent truth of this country’s constitution: colonialism and genocide. And these events are unfolding against the backdrop of severe and deepening crises at all levels of the capitalist-imperialist system. The present order is facing a crisis of legitimacy that is perhaps unmatched in any of our lives…
“No more lost opportunities” went on to call upon the comrades in our network to join together and fan out across the country in a summer caravan of social investigation (SI). Between early July and late September 2021, our caravan took to the road and to the streets, entering hoods, towns and reservations from one side of the country to another to talk to the majority in this country who we suspected were struggling in one way or another. All in, about two dozen comrades joined the project,4 conducting nearly 80 interviews across six provinces and in more than a dozen cities and regions. What follows is a synthesized report of this caravan.
While we can’t say this report amounts to a complete picture of either the country or the masses as a whole,5 we’re confident that it represents a substantial account of the suffering and struggles of the people, especially the proletariat,6 in Canada today. Furthermore, our caravan of social investigation and this report amounts to one of the most extensive and most collaborative investigations into the conditions of the proletariat that’s been conducted by any group of would-be revolutionaries in Canada since, as far as any of us can tell, the 1970s. And what we’ve found, in overwhelming proportion, is a people fed-up with the present order and deeply despondent about an even bleaker future—in other words, a revolutionary people dying to be born. We hope this report and its popular dissemination can play a part in its conscious awakening.
“Genocide happened… it’s not something people think happens in a first world country like Canada”
The comrades in our social investigation caravan saw the importance of cutting through the headlines by hearing directly from communities impacted by the Indian Residential School system and going directly to the sites where unmarked graves had been identified.
One group of comrades stopped off at a Native weed dispensary in the Algoma region of Northern Ontario, figuring that it seemed like a good enough place to strike up a conversation. Comrades met budtender Tony from the Mississauga First Nation, a reserve situated about 100km east of Sault St. Marie on the north shore of the North Channel (just opposite Manitoulin Island). Comrades told Tony that they had taken to the road to find out what was really on people’s minds across Canada in light of the unmarked graves revelations, and asked what he thought of the issue. “There’s gonna be a lot of graves. The government needs to recognize what they’ve done… There’s no way things can get better in the future unless they can own what’s happened, admit what happened.” We asked Tony how the residential school system affected people locally:
It’s a very touchy subject. Some people won’t talk about it because it brings up such bad memories and I don’t think anyone in the world would blame them. Genocide happened. I can’t imagine being four years old and people coming in and taking you from your family and then they beat you when you speak your language, or if you do anything traditionally, culturally, that you’ve done your whole life. “Let’s just take this society and wipe them out as fast as we can.” It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it happened and people have to realize this. It’s not something people think happens in a first world country like Canada.
“Yup, that’s how Canada was created,” one comrade replied. “Yeah, exactly. We have conversations all the time [here] where we just relate it back to the genocide [that] Nazi Germany [committed]—like wiping out a race and culture, just [to] get rid of it. Sad times.”
The comrades talked with Tony for some time longer about the serious problem of unemployment, drug addiction, and the opiate overdose crisis in the Algoma region: “From Sault St. Marie to Sudbury, there’s deaths every day, this shit is terrible. Partially why we opened up this marijuana dispensary was to give people an alternative to opiate use.”
* * *
Many in Canada have either heard of, if not experienced directly, driving through (what seems like) the vast and clear emptiness of the Prairies. As it turns out, while this flat stretch of the Prairies may have been the most convenient corridor to build the trans-continental rail and highway system, its also a colonial trope that serves up well as colonial propaganda for a country that’d like to pretend that it was always empty. Just a few kilometres north off the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatshewan, the breath-taking rolling hills of the Qu’Appelle Valley begin, and therein one can find the Cowessess First Nation, where realities are anything but flat and empty.7 In early June 2021, this Cree reserve began scanning the grounds of the Marievel Indian residential school, and local officials were shocked to report the remains of 751 people in unmarked graves.
After seeing the sign to Cowessess from the main highway, comrades pulled off onto a series of dusty dirt roads that meandered for about 10km before entering the reserve. A few kilometres before reaching the main section of the reserve, the out-of-province license plate and unfamiliar vehicle of the comrades had earned them a tail. A car started following them closely and then gently overtook them, kicking up a cloud of dust before gently braking in front of them, bringing both cars to a stop. They had just been pulled over by what seemed like a rez car—it certainly didn’t seem like a cop car. Whatever came next, the comrades were determined to make this their first interview.
A guy in his 20s got out of the dusty car, and approached with a friendly but cautious advance. “Hey there! Can I help y’all with summin?” Comrades emerged from their car: “Hey! This might sound weird, but… we’re some buddies on a road trip tryna learn for ourselves and talk to people about how fucked up this country is, and what’s been going on in Cowessess seemed like an important place to start.” His name was Ryan.
Ryan told the comrades that there had been a flood of journalists on the reserve since news broke about Cowessess revealing the largest-to-date site of the unmarked graves. Comrades felt a bit awkward about breaking out a recorder as the conversation got rolling, but they did inform all those they talked to at Cowessess that they were working on a report about everything they learned from the cross-country investigation they were a part of.
Ryan told us to follow him into the main part of the reserve so they could get off the dirt road. They drove ahead a few more kilometres, and stopped near the Band office and other administrative buildings.
“You just missed Trudeau!… he just signed a $39 million deal for a Cooperation Agreement,”8 which Ryan goes on to explain as a new and first-of-its-kind program that would “reach out to the Cowessess children across the province, Canada, and even the world” who had been ripped from the Cowessess community or Cowessess Band members by Canada’s foster care system. Ryan told us that the Federal agreement and the monies coming from it would “create an opportunity for children to reconnect with their reserves, and even return some home to live at a lodge that can house 20–30 people… A lot of media swarmed the community to cover the graves, but the real news was this historic Cooperation Agreement – Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge.”9
Ryan tells us the program had been in the works for years, but evidently it only took a public relations disaster the size of a continent of stolen and murdered children for the Feds to finally approve the program and fork over the money so the ball could finally get rolling on tracking down all the missing children.
The prospect of reconnecting Cowessess kids to their home reserve in the near future struck a very personal cord with Ryan, as he himself was a survivor of the child apprehension system that replaced the Indian Residential School system. Indigenous children make up 52% of the children of those apprehended by the Canadian Child and Family Services, even though they make up only 7% of the population of children in Canada. Even Canada’s Minister for Indigenous Services has acknowledged that “there are more First Nations kids in child welfare today than at the height of residential schools, where 150,000 kids in total were taken.” In other words, today’s “foster care” system carries forward the same functions that residential schools once served in breaking Indigenous kinship structures and communities, including shocking mortality rates for Indigenous children in the system.10
The purpose of Trudeau’s visit to Cowessess was to sign the Cooperation Agreement, but Ryan recounted how Trudeau and Co. had turned the whole thing into cynical photo-op to do damage control around the mass graves:
Trudeau tried to steal the thunder of the press conference with his $39 million, but one of the elders brought to speak spent the time he was allocated to tell his story about residential schools and to talk about the $200 million minimally owed to the Cree of Cowessess First Nation based on the fraudulent land surrender.
Ryan was referring to the 1907 TLE [Treaty Land Entitlement] land surrender that covered the land between the Trans-Canada Highway and the Cowessess First Nation.11 Ryan explained how farmers leasing the land had extracted untold fortunes from the Qu’Appelle Valley where “some of the most fertile land in the country” could be found (while the reserve itself contains little productive land). Ryan asked, rhetorically, “How many hundreds of millions were made off that land that could have helped develop our community?” Ryan told us that the new Band Council and Chief Cadmus Delorme were investing in renewable energy, like solar panels and wind turbines, and they were looking for new ways to get agriculture going on the reserve. But just how far this reserve could get trying to advance and compete on the playing field of a market built on genocide and colonialism (without itself having genocide and colonialism to profit from in the market) was not something comrades had a chance to further explore in that conversation.
After talking with Ryan for close to an hour, he pointed comrades in the direction of the Marieval Indian Residential School a few hundred metres away, and then escorted them to the Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge to meet its Executive Director, Eva. Comrades were warmly welcomed, and offered refreshments and seats. Eva slid a piece of paper across the table: “That’s the [Cooperation] Agreement Trudeau just signed… This is the first time the Canadian government has given over information about children in their possession, and this is a first time Saskatchewan has ever agreed to share these ‘sensitive’ documents with First Nations.”
Eva, who we’d later learn is white, went on to tell us that her background was in the “child services” sector, and that she’d been teaching a course on the federal Bill C-92,12 a law passed in 2019 to recognize the jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples over child and family services and reduce the number of Indigenous children in Canada’s possession. To our surprise, Eva remarked “[my] ancestors were among the founding fathers of this country [Canada].” The irony of someone whose ancestors were “founding fathers” of Canada—and whom (it’s pretty safe to assume) played some part in planning if not profiting from the genocide—now being entrusted with the task of tracking down the children the colonial regime of Canada stole was not lost on the comrades. Comrades also learned in that conversation that there was no intention of bringing all or even a majority of the identified kids home, in part because some part of them will have now established lives elsewhere and may not want to move back, but also, it seemed, because there simply wasn’t the resources for that kind of relocation. Behind this historic agreement lay a number of sobering truths.
After leaving Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge, comrades walked out into the large field outside the Marieval Indian Residential School building. Tiny flag markers stretched out in all directions, marking the remains of those who would have left behind many thousands more Plains Cree, which the colonial regime of Canada did everything in its power to repress out of existence. To comrades, this $39 million seemed more like hush money intended to quiet the outrage across the country, and, whether intentional or not, would probably further deepen the divisions on reserves like Cowessess.
* * *
Across the Prairies, over the Rockies, beyond the Numbered Treaties, and into the land of unceded territories,13 comrades in our caravan also visited the other major focal point of the unmarked graves story this past summer: Kamloops.
Crossing the bridge over the South Thompson River and into the urban reserve of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, one could see memorials lining the road in memory of the children lost to residential schools. As comrades entered the reserve, they drove up close to a small group of people sitting beneath a pop-up canopy tent, escaping the beating sun in one of the hottest summers ever experienced in British Columbia. Initially, comrades figured the people under the canopy were there to greet the influx of people curious about or paying their respects to the victims of residential schools. It turned out, however, that these people were managing wildfire evacuees displaced from nearby reserves and now staying at the Moccasin Square Garden sports complex and community centre on the reserve.
A swole guy in his 30s approached our group of comrades, and asked if we needed assistance (comrades in the caravan were learning that this was a courteous way of asking what the hell are you doing on the rez?). Comrades stated their purpose, and the guy introduced himself as Danny and walked our group over to the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Danny recounted stories of the many who’d come through to “pay their respects,” and shared with comrades the terrible legacy of violence and trauma that Canada’s genocidal institution had left to him and so many others: “Five years ago if you came on my rez, I would have fought you—who the fuck are these white people pretending to learn from me—but now I see that was just my own insecurities from my trauma.”
We talked to Danny for well over an hour. One story he recounted was about the integrated high school he went to in Kamloops where violent encounters with racist white gangs was to be expected: “Back in high school, there was this one guy with a big ‘A’ on the back of his head; you know what that means right? Aryan Nation.” Incredibly, Danny went on to tell us how he overcame the tension with this particular individual later in life, and how this guy had become a motivational speaker against hate.
Comrades managed to get much deeper into political discussion with Danny, and were able to convey a bit more about the deeper purpose of the caravan. “Danny, this isn’t a camping trip and we’re not here as tourists: our purpose is revolutionary. We believe this colonial regime needs to fall, and we think there’s enough people in this country—Native and non-Native—who can be organized to make that happen.” Danny chuckled a bit in disbelief—but he could see this group of comrades, while also smiling, were serious. “Y’all are a bunch of crazy motherfuckers,” he responded, and with a finger sweeping from one side of the semi-circle of comrades to the other, he replied, “in ten years, you’ll be in jail, you’ll be dead, you’ll be living on the streets, you’ll be working for a cartel, and you,” he stops on the final comrade, “you’ll be rich… because you look pretty smart and someone’s gonna buy you out.”
Danny showed no signs of ever having heard of what a proletarian revolution is—so what, he’s among the vast majority who are victim to a vast system of bourgeois propaganda that’s effectively rendered the history of proletarian revolutions forgotten if not vilified. And given how endemic the corruption and nepotism is within the colonial governance structures on reserves, where resources are scarce and control for those resources is that much more intense, who could blame him for a little bit of cynicism? “Divide and conquer isn’t like it used to be. You wanna know how to destroy an Indian Nation? Through money… There’s fights between nations because of how the government selectively gives money only to certain people.” Danny went on talking about the divisiveness of politics on reserves: “Every election, there’s a big fight here.” And Danny didn’t see himself as somehow righteously above that fray: “Sure I’d take $80,000 right now if they offered it to me. I’ve never seen that kind of money, of course I’d take it!”
Comrades parted ways with Danny with a warmth that few people would expect a group of randos to have received after wandering onto a reserve just an hour earlier: “You’re not revolutionaries…,” he said, suggesting he viewed the R-word with suspicion, “you’re visionaries.” Danny parted ways with the comrades with tightly-clasped hands, hugs, and these final words: “When it all goes down, I’ll be watching y’all from over here on my war pony. I may even come to help you out, but only in the dark so I’m not labelled with you all [laughs]. Eh, maybe you can even hide out on the rez for a bit.” That one hour conversation left comrades full of hope and conviction that a revolutionary alliance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of the popular classes was not only necessary, but entirely possible. If only we had the force to carry out these sorts of conversations thousands of times over, such a revolutionary alliance would certainly begin to take shape. (Alas, such is the work of a proletarian vanguard party that we sorely lack and desperately need to build).
* * *
Earlier that day in the sweltering heat of the B.C. interior, comrades had a picnic in a Kamloops park straddling the shore of the South Thompson River. Dozens of people were cooling off in the river and it seemed like a great place for some rest, recreation, and revolutionary conversations.
One guy running around the park shirtless with his dog seemed to be living his best life, but the back doors of his van were flung wide open and revealed a bed and the miscellaneous contents of a tiny living quarters. A pair of folded-up construction clothes slung over the doors suggested he was still in the labour force, and yet, he was living in a vehicle, which we could only assume indicated he was living at that half-way point that’s becoming more and more common for people between being unable to afford a home or rent and being completely homeless.14 Comrades tried to strike up a discussion with him after carrying out some other interviews, but as the evening neared, this guy started packing up and indicated he had to go—to where, we failed to ask.
The comrades got a little BBQ going, and after a swim in the river, they struck up conversations with two different sets of people: one, with a couple guys who worked in the construction trades, and another with four Gitxsan15 girls who had just graduated from high school and moved to Kamloops for work from their small town of New Hazelton, B.C. about a thousand kilometres to the north. Both groups readily agreed to being recorded once comrades explained the purpose of the project.16
Comrades struck up a conversation with the white guys about residential schools. The younger of the two was a worker in HVAC (heating-ventilation-air conditioning), and he remarked “there was a residential school right here… it’s really sad.” The other guy was closer to his 40s and owned a small masonry business. In contrast to the remorse expressed by his working-class buddy, this small proprietor seemed less concerned with the oppression of Indigenous people, and in fact, more defensive about it. “The mass graves? It’s sad, but it’s in the past, what can we do about it?” He went on to express his concern for “cancel culture,” saying that it’s “good to speak out about shit, but it’s not a long-term solution,” adding that he was “afraid of mob mentality.” We asked him about other problems people were experiencing in the region, and he took the conversation in the direction of unscientific conspiracy theories about 5G cell-phone towers, argued for the need to boycott China, and said he felt like the solutions to problems with the economy were to “shop local.” Talking to this small business owner reminded comrades of how important it was that we chose to focus our social investigation project onto the popular classes of labourers, Indigenous people, and the poor and dispossessed, rather than narrow-minded proprietors like this one masonry contractor we talked to, whose most tangible complaint about the last year was losing 65k in contracts. However, it was noteworthy to talk to a few petty-bourgeois along the way, even if only to be reminded ourselves how much of their anxieties and fears are driven by invisible threats, reactionary propaganda, and a very narrow, individualistic view of self-interest.
Our conversation with the Gitxsan girls from New Hazelton, however, brought things back to more concrete reality. We asked what kind of work existed in their home community: “One of the main jobs is underground mining. Other than that there is not much work at all.” One of the girls clarified that it was gold mining, and that “without that, we would be struggling a lot more than we are. There is no work… and it’s hard for people with families because it’s three weeks in, three weeks out” while working in the mines. It was no wonder these girls got out of their small town upon their first opportunity.
Comrades explained the purpose of our project and moved the conversation towards residential schools. One of the girls responded:
My grandpa is a residential school survivor. Picturing them not coming back from that is heartbreaking. And thinking that it wasn’t just one or two kids but hundreds that never made it back home—it’s honestly heartbreaking.
My grandpa won’t speak about residential schools at all with us… And I don’t like it when people use the term “history.” It’s not history, my grandparents are residential school survivors. It’s still affecting all of us today. My grandpa wouldn’t even say I love you to us because they got no love growing up.
We eventually learned that one of the girls had a Cree background and their grandfather was a residential school survivor from Saskatchewan: “My grandpa barely speaks; nowadays he’s very silent.” Another chipped in: “Mine doesn’t even leave his room.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the park, the other comrades were being told by the masonry contractor that this was all “in the past.”
The conversation turned to the suppression of Indigenous languages for a while and the arduous attempt that was being made to revive the Gitxsan language: “Forgetting our language is forgetting a big part of our culture.” Then the conversation tracked back onto the conditions of life in New Hazelton today, particularly how serious the “addiction [crisis has been] in our communities for years—from meth, from heroin,” but that “deaths from overdose is recent.”
Despite the pain from continuous loss of life in their community, the girls demonstrated a remarkable compassion for those swept up into either side of the drug trade:
Drugs have been really bad in our community. The past month there were five overdoses. Really young people too. The last one was 19-years-old. Our community came out with their drums to the drug dealer’s house to get them to come out. One of the big drug dealers got evicted. She’s been the reason for most of the deaths. There’s been protests outside the Band office because people think they should help her instead of kicking her out. People want her to get help since she’s a community member. She’s causing lots of pain, but it’s still better to help her out.
Adding to the hard times playing out in New Hazelton, the girls remarked that “people were really upset” about some of the churches that had been burned in B.C. The church in Gitwangak near New Hazelton had been torched a few weeks prior, and three of the girls spoke to the widespread opposition to the arson in their community:
“We just had our Church burned down. / Yeah, people are so upset about this. / That was the second oldest church in BC. That church had nothing to do with the residential schools. / It was built by our grandparents, it wasn’t a Catholic church. There’s been a lot of rumours about who did it. Rumours are saying that it was a settler, but some others are saying that it was a First Nations member hurt by all the news.”17
Whoever was responsible for the arson of the Gitwangak church, the girls offered an insight into the impact of lone-wolf actions that not only exclude participation of the masses, but are also rejected by the masses. Aside from this particular church being seen by the people as their own, evidently its burning and that of others divides the masses along incorrect lines by sullying the cause of opposition to the crimes of residential schools with actions that are not only rejected by the masses, but serve as a distraction from the issue at hand: a genocide was committed and the perpetrators and profiteers remain at large.
However, much bigger fires were on the minds of these girls and most others across B.C. and western Canada. Under the hazy skies of that day (and for much of the rest of the summer throughout western Canada), one could look directly into the sun—now a hazy and eerily unfamiliar reddened ball. The smoke of a burning continent quite literally hung over our conversation, so eventually the question arose: “What do you make of all the fires?” The four girls took turns sharing their thoughts and feelings:
It’s honestly so scary, waking up in the morning and not seeing the mountains because the smoke is so heavy. / We tried to go to the beach yesterday and it was so smokey. / Last year we had so much rain and clouds. This year is so hot and dry.
The conversation wrapped up shortly thereafter, with the comrades remarking how people like this— who are already among the growing ranks of the dispossessed, staring down a life of toil and struggle ahead of them, a life already so full of pain and hardship—are just waiting for revolutionary answers.
Not The Prairie Fire We Were Looking For
Liberation struggles have a history of drawing on extreme weather events to describe political phenomena or even name their movements. In Haiti, for instance, the liberation theology priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide—the twice-elected President and twice-overthrown by the imperialists, including Canada18—named his political party Lavalas, which is Kreyol for an avalanche or flood that would sweep away the corrupt and hated neo-colonial politics of that country. And then there’s Mao Zedong’s “single spark…” of indignation or rebellion among the masses that “…could light a prairie fire.” Our caravan of social investigation set out on a mission to find those tinder-boxes of discontent among the broad masses of the people, and, sure enough, we found them. What comrades didn’t expect to find, however, were actual single sparks setting whole landscapes ablaze. As one comrade on the caravan remarked, “You know, driving across Canada, the vast, green magnificence of this country really takes on a different hue when you realize that, under any further shift in climactic conditions towards greater heat and drought, this entire country can go up in fire.”
While stocking up on supplies in Merritt, B.C., comrades talked to an older man in a parking lot who was trying to find cheap cigarettes. He was from Lytton, where 90% of the town burned down on 30 June 2021. The day before the fire, Lytton experienced the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada—49.6 °C (or 121.3 °F) . The next evening, a fire rapidly ripped through the town after sparks from a braking CN Rail train, locals claim, started a fire. Not surprisingly, CN Rail has denied the claim and it remains undetermined to this day.19 Whatever the case, Lytton was a tinder-box waiting for its match while some 170 other wildfires burned throughout B.C
“I lost everything in that fire, even my medication and money,” the old man reported. He had just retired and moved to Lytton two months prior. “I couldn’t even save my dog because of the black smoke… I left the door open and I’m hoping he got out.” He was staying at the campground in the area with others displaced by fires in the region.
Some 6,224 wildfires burned throughout Canada in the summer of 2021—nearly twice as many fires as the previous year, and burning an area 17 times greater.20 The conditions responsible for these fires was a summer of unprecedented heat across North America, with 1200 new temperature records being set on the continent as a whole.21 Nearly 600 people died in B.C. from heat-induced death. A global consortium of scientists are now studying the “heat dome” that suffocated the Pacific northwest, and which some are saying would have been impossible without human-induced climate change. Some half a billion dollars were spent fighting the fires alone, while the damage of the fire and heat remains untallied in both economic and ecological terms.
This past summer’s heat was also accompanied by extreme drought, reducing crops yields by 50% or more in many parts of the Prairies, elevating the cost of livestock feed by double or triple its normal cost, and leaving water tables dangerously low for the winter season.22 While the authors of this report are not too worried about agricultural enterprises that will almost certainly receive bailout support from the government, what we are concerned about is how this contributes to further increasing the cost of food. Working-class people and the poor have already been suffering dramatic increases in food costs and other costs of living since the beginning of the pandemic, and now climate-change induced disasters are making things worse for most people.
Comrades talked with a tourist information clerk named Charles in Wolseley, Saskatchewan in early July, and he said “this drought’s pretty bad. We had three inches of rain in May and that’s all that’s been sustaining us. If you see the crops in the fields, they’ve come out, but the problem is that they’re not gonna be very full unless we get more rain,” which the summer of 2021 failed to bring.
And the deluge of rain in the spring didn’t exactly balance things out: “Those three inches of rain we got in two days… wiped out our geese. Usually this time of year, the geese will… raise their goslings here. But they were wiped out by the rain, and so the geese are gone.”
While wildfires were breaking out across half the continent and hundreds of people were dying from the heat, Charles remarked how amidst the chaos some were finding new opportunities in his small town. “Our community has really grown since the pandemic. We have a fella here who works in Japan, just recently moved here, he does all his work online.” Stories like these left comrades wondering how many of the nearly 600 people who died from heat-related deaths this past summer in B.C. will leave behind dwellings that will be replaced by the likes of remote workers or globe-trotting petty-bourgeois professionals.
Our caravan managed to interview a home-owner named Marie from Lillooet, a small town an hour up the road from Lytton. Marie was a healthcare worker, and the Federal government had just offered to rent or buy out her house so that emergency crew workers could be stationed in the region to battle the proliferating fires. Cheekily, comrades asked why she decided to buy a house in a region on fire:
Well it wasn’t always on fire! But yeah, when we put an offer on the house, we did have friends say, “Are you worried about the fire zone?” I said “No, I mean, I know there’s been forest fires, but nothing was that bad.” My understanding was that the wildfire forest service comes in and they build a guard for protection and to protect the town, right? There’ve been histories of evacuations, but it didn’t really cross my mind that a town could burn to the ground. That seemed like some spectacular event.
While Marie admittedly hadn’t considered how the growing ecological crisis could impact her new home, it was now something she spent a lot of time thinking about. “The forecast now is zero precipitation for the next ten days!” Marie went on to describe how one extreme weather event was cascading into others: “[The fires] actually create their own weather system, like all the intense smoke and heat create lightening storms without precipitation. It’s fucking wild. I watched some of the storms from my balcony and was terrified.”
We asked Marie if she had any perspective on how fellow residents in Lillooet or throughout B.C. were dealing with the mounting ecological crisis.
Well, I can only speak for my friends, but yeah people are scared. One of them told me she’s the most scared she’s ever been in her life. She’s packed all her belongings and she’s a single mom with disabilities, and she can’t lose all her stuff, she doesn’t have tenant insurance, she’s got nothing. I think it’s incredibly stressful. Climate anxiety is a real thing.
Comrades asked Marie if she thought this was creating a shift in people’s perspective around the urgency of climate change:
I think people are still dealing with things in the day to day. I know in Lillooet there’s still fires on each side: one in Lytton, one in McKay Creek. There’s like 200 fire fighters within 80km of our town. Wait… no, more than that because Ashcraft is on evacuation notice as well, and so is 100 Mile House. Like, there’s 125 fire fighters just in Mckay Creek, so there’s encampments of forest firefighters because there’s nowhere to house them. We actually had the federal government call and ask to rent out our house because there’s nowhere for them…
And it never even crossed my mind: Where do all the people go? You evacuate 1,500 people from a town, where the fuck are they supposed to go?… I think a lot of people still don’t know if or what they’re going back too.
Comrades had already stumbled into one climate refugee—the retiree from Merritt who lost it all. We asked Marie if insurance companies were covering the personal property people lost:
I’m not sure, it’s a little unclear to me, there’s some band announcements on rezes that if you’re not insured they’d cover the cost of the house, but… in town there are people that weren’t covered. If you go to the Lytton municipal website, you’ll see pages and pages of GoFundMe’s for people that have lost their homes.
Our investigation wasn’t able to uncover what percentage of uninsured people, but after meeting the old man from Lytton, we wondered how many people lost the life savings they had stored in residential property which they’d never regain. All the while, the insurance industry will continue to rake in huge profits by speculating off of this and future catastrophes.
We asked Marie if she was aware of other ways in which the fires and heatwave were impacting life in B.C.: “Farmers are saying their fruits are burning on their trees.” Next, the conversation turned to the opposing side of extreme weather crises, water, which was in deficit and alternating with deluge:
We went hiking in the Rockies in June and it was very noticeable. On the drive up there was flooding in Pemberton, so either you’re burning or flooding because what traditionally was snowpack that would steadily melt over the summer and provide water instead all melted at once, creating a flood, and now it’s all tinder dry. You would look out the window and see snowpack, check again and it would be gone; there’s no snow on those mountains that usually would have been there till July.
Marie elaborated on what this meant for people’s access to water:
Water has always been a big issue. Like, if you’re reliant on wells, you’re fucked, and like water has always been a big thing in Lillooet, and now it’s really boiling up because they have to keep the reservoir above 70% to fight [the fires], because if a fire was to come to town this is how they would fight it. So keeping these water reserves high to protect the towns definitely effects agriculture.
In sharp contrast to the suffering and insecurity that this ecological crisis was causing to so many across western Canada, comrades drove past a logging company in the interior of B.C. that had a vast web of sprinklers to protect its timber supply from going up in flames like the mountains and valleys around it. The wall of protection Marie reasonably assumed that the government would be able to erect during such crises evidently only really exists for the capitalists.
* * *
Just a few months later, another event in the catastrophic oscillation between drought and deluge would strike B.C. once again. Twenty new rainfall records were set across B.C. in November 2021 as the Pacific Northwest was hit with one “atmospheric river” after another between the middle and end of the month. All the major roads in southern B.C.—part of the Trans-Canada Highway, as well as Highways 99, 7, 3, and the Coquihalla Highway—were damaged by mudslides. North America’s busiest port in Vancouver was cut off from the heavily-populated Fraser Valley, the rest of British Colombia, and the rest of Canada. CN Rail and CP Rail tracks were also severed at multiple locations, cutting off commercial and commuter freight between Vancouver and the rest of the country. Overwhelming floodwaters led to the evacuation of over 7,000 residents in Merritt, as well as parts of Abbotsford and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. People had to seek refuge with acquaintances or else seek shelter in the emergency centres in Kelowna or Kamloops, just like the one that our caravan had seen at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation. Tens of thousands of people also lost electricity to their homes. B.C.’s flooded fall was proclaimed by the Premier of B.C. John Horgan as a “500-year-event,” while a CBS News described the summer of heat and fire as of “an intensity never recorded by modern humans. By one measure it is more rare than a once in a 1,000 year event… if you could live in this particular spot for 1,000 years, you’d likely only experience a heat dome like this once, if ever.”23
Over the past five months, our caravan, along with many segments of the people across western Canada, has witnessed the emergence of a whole new layer of entrants to the ranks of the dispossessed—climate refugees. As Canadian society stumbles through one crisis after another, each of which have been set in motion by capitalism-imperialism, the masses are suffering in growing numbers while the richest continue to accumulate in ways old and new.24
What our caravan witnessed up close during the summer and from a distance while writing this report left the writers of this report with a number of questions. How would this intensify the cost of rent and residential housing in a market that’s already “on fire” (excuse the pun) through much of Canada? Would those who had lost their homes and had no insurance be abandoned or rescued? Would Canada bailout the insurance sector of finance capital just as it bailed out the banks during 2008-09 global financial crisis?25 How much will be spent on reconstruction and “climate adaptation,” and how much will this intensify the past four decades of neoliberal attacks on government spending that the masses rely on? What does this mean for the Indigenous peoples from regions that are being devastated by one extreme weather event after another? What’s the future of all those dispossessed by the climactic and economic processes that have been playing out for decades, but intensifying more recently? None of this has ever been put to a vote or an honest and open public debate. The best answer we have as to what can be expected for this new strata of dispossessed and precarious is to look at the lives of those already dispossessed, those who capitalist society has some time ago cast away as a surplus population that can no longer be profited from. This is the next section of this report.
Neither Wanted Nor Needed
If there’s one segment of the proletariat that tells the future of its other segments, it’s the urban poor, especially the homeless. Those dealing with chronic addiction, those cast out of the labour force by injury and despair, and those who, for whatever reasons, have no social safety net—be it family or a social network—fall out of the working-class through some combination of injury, mental health crisis, drug addiction, destitution, and homelessness. What our social investigation among the urban and rural poor revealed was a class of people who had either once been active contributors to the society around them, until some combination of addiction, criminalization, police violence, and/or national oppression had dispossessed them of everything they had, including a foothold in the labour force. These were people as storied as any one else, with diverse interests, and a real concern for the larger problems of society, putting the lie to the claim that only the smugly comfortable can worry about problems like climate change, imperialism, or injustice elsewhere.
One group of comrades in our caravan undertook their social investigation while doing outreach and food distribution among Montreal’s homeless population. Another group of comrades posted up at a table in a park in Winnipeg, trading free coffee for political exchanges. And yet another group of comrades drove into North Central Regina, one of Canada’s biggest and more dangerous urban Native ghettos. The Regina interviews was carried out earlier in the summer of 2021, while the two sets of interviews from Winnipeg and Montreal were conducted later in September 2021 around the time of Canada’s Federal election, when Justin Trudeau was re-elected Prime Minister in another minority government with barely any change to the size or composition of Parliament.26 Montreal was also in the midst of a municipal election, so the people interviewed there expressed an even more acute level of discontent with bourgeois democracy.
“I Worked All My Life, And What Do I Have To Show For It? Nothing.”
It was an evening in early autumn, and Mustafa, an east African in his 50s, sat on a bench outside a large apartment bloc in Montreal. He’d spent the last six months in prison and was just released that morning. Mustafa once worked in Montreal’s textile industry, and was an experienced machinist. He also held a Master’s degree and once taught literature in summer school. “Give me a sheet of paper, and get ready,” he boasted. But now he was on the street. Comrades sparked up the discussion with Mustafa by asking if Covid-19 had affected him: “Of course it affected me! It turned my life upside down… In prison, while I was there, all the new people coming in, they had to be quarantined. And… you have to be quarantined with them… I tell you, it pissed me off incredibly. You know why? You’re already doing time.” Mustafa said that it got to the point where “a new person came in; instead, we did a strike. We said, ‘Listen to us. We’re old. We’re here. We’re doing time. And you’re bringing in new people. Why don’t you put all the new people together?’”
Comrades didn’t dig into that remark about a strike in the prison, but instead turned the conversation to how he ended up in prison. “I’m not a violent guy. In my case, it was fraud with my credit card. That’s it. There’s no violence in my heart. I’m a lover… I just burned all my credit cards, and after three months, not a day more, they came to get me.” His disavowal of violence was noteworthy. It’s like Mustafa was trying to say he was only guilty of being poor. By the sounds of it, he “stole” from the highest echelons of finance capital, and for that, he spent six months of his life incarcerated.
Comrades walked and talked for quite some time with Mustafa. Next the conversation moved into the alley way, where they all sat down on some cardboard boxes. We ask him if the recent elections interested him. “I just got out of jail this morning. What do I have to care for the elections?! I haven’t voted in nine years. I hate politics! I want nothing to do with that.” Of course, Mustafa was referring to bourgeois politics, evidenced by the next thing he said: “I’d prefer that you ask me about the planet, the climate, all of that. On that topic, the government has fucked us over.”
Mustafa went on tell us a bit about some climate activism he had been involved with while a student: “Before I landed in jail, I was a student at [a university here in Montreal]. We did a petition, two or three years ago… But the government didn’t consider it. It was a petition to stop climate change.” We asked him what a petition could do, since the government had just ignored the one he was involved with. Mustafa expressed doubts about the efficacy of a petition, but wasn’t sure what else could be done.
We asked Mustafa if he thinks we’re “free” in Canada, and he said freedom is about “being able to breathe… we aren’t free in Québec.” He answers that he doesn’t think we were free before the pandemic either, speaking about police violence and racism. Mustafa requests that we move to a nearby park, and he buys a bit of weed on the way:
We’re going to talk about immigration, now… Someone that has lived here for thirty years, how can you tell them to go back where they’re from?… If young people make demonstrations, petitions, immigration is going to shut its mouth. They aren’t going to send back people that live, that work here and that haven’t done anything. And whose son or daughter is crying? How many people do we send back every month, every year? Look it up! Look it up! That’s what we need to be talking about. That’s the reality. Families being torn apart. That’s what we call injustice.27
Later in the conversation, we find out why deportations were of such concern for Mustafa: “My best friends, two, three, four of them got sent back. One of them, I can understand, because he was violent. He would pick fights with people that hadn’t done anything.” One must wonder from everything Mustafa had to tell these comrades if the violence of people like Mustafa’s friend wasn’t just a reflection of all the violence that people like Mustafa and his friend were forced to endure.
Mustafa proceeded to tell the comrade that his daughter was studying criminology, and he seemed hopeful that she’d be defending immigrants soon.
The conversation meanders across a number of other topics—Covid-19, the lack of affordable housing, his memory of people back in Somalia being so much healthier than they are now today in Canada—then he gets a call from a friend who lent him a bike. Comrades asked Mustafa what he was going to do next.
Yeah, let’s get back on topic. I just got out of prison. Until I get a paycheck, I need to get welfare. What are they going to give me? Nothing! $500, some. How can I pay [rent]? It pisses me off. Sometimes I’m sad, why? I opened my heart to the whole of society. I worked all my life, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing. Nothing but terrorisation. But I’m happy this evening… You helped me tonight, you’re speaking to me with respect, that’s how you can help people.
Comrades didn’t pick up on what Mustafa meant by terrorisation, but it could be discerned from other parts of our conversation with him, which seemed to revolve largely around being an immigrant, African, working class, and living on the streets.
“The next war, we won’t be fighting against a country, we’ll be fighting against pharmaceuticals and meds. That’s the Third World War.”
Mustafa proceeded to tell us a story of a friend of his who’d been homeless for eight years and faced discrimination in his search to find housing due to alcoholism. Mustafa could see clearly the class forces behind the everyday forms of oppression people face:
You ask for affordable housing and you wait for six years or seven years. I don’t find that funny. It’s sad. It’s really sad. A friend of mine, he asked for help. He had been eight years on the street. The [social worker] who wasn’t even as educated as him, she told him that because he drank beer, he had to do a month of rehab, and then they would see! That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He gave her this look and he told her, “You’re fucking with me? Today’s not the day I’m gonna stop drinking my beer. And I came to see you to have affordable housing. And you drink your fucking wine at home!” It’s like a doctor is smoking in front of you and telling you it’s not good for you. But social workers, they don’t decide. It’s the higher-ups… instead of helping people that are suffering… we’re labeling people as rotten addicts, alcoholics… And behind the social worker, there’s also the pharmaceuticals, doctors, psychiatrists, this, that.
Comrades walked and talked with Mustafa as he moved on to another park to hand over a bike that he had borrowed from a friend. Mustafa seemed as concerned if not more with the larger problems facing people in our society than his own problems—issues ranging from climate change to family separation:
I miss my mother. But I can’t leave now, because I’m on probation. Next year… She lives in Norway. I was supposed to go to Norway, but I didn’t go. Because I had kids to feed. My daughters are students. I don’t know if they’re working. I can’t tell you. It’s been what… four years since I’ve seen them. It just didn’t work out. I’ve been in prison twice. But, yes, I’ll see them again. I speak to them on Facebook. I contact them on Facebook. But I’m their father. I don’t want to show my face if I’m not up to the task of helping them. Because I would help them. I would do everything for them.
Comrades walked and talked with Mustafa for some time, eventually reaching a park and sitting down at a picnic table. Mustafa salutes a couple people he knows in the park, and returns to lament the opioid epidemic:
They told me a friend of mine took his life. While I was in prison. He took his life…he took a lot of pills, I believe. It’s always opioids. It’s the opioids that have killed people. I don’t take pills… My friends, they take marijuana, what I smoke—but not opioids. The opioid crisis is pathetic. We need to stop the supplier. We have to stop that person… It kills people.
“And let’s not even talk about Indigenous people,” Mustafa exclaims as the topic shifts in that exact direction:
Canada was stolen. They stole their identity. They [tried to] annihilate them… They did a genocide. Well, in clean language, we can’t say genocide. But yes, it’s a genocide!… But now? What now? We owe these people. We need to understand these people. They came before us. They have a right to live, like everyone else… When you put them in reserves… fuck, I don’t want to talk about Indians. It hurts me. They’re good people. And we terrorized them. We put them on the ground. And now, even when they’re in the street, people look at them like this [he gestures a face of disgust] and scoff. Fuck. It’s not because they’re alcoholics… Now, all of this because, “I’m a white guy. I’m of the Aryan race. I’m the most important person. The people around me are dust.” But it’s not that. “I don’t want to be white! I want to be balsamic!” That’s the truth! He doesn’t want to be white! He just wants to be Inuit or Indian! Is that too much to ask?
Mustafa gets a phone call from someone asking to meet with him, and we part ways. The last questions that comrades had for Mustafa concerned the increasing propaganda, military threats and hysteria against China. Mustafa could see through the pro-imperialist stories being whipped up in the corporate media, and he closed out our conversation by bringing the question of war right back home:
[China] injected money in the United States, in Europe, in Africa. [I] now call China the World Bank. Before, we would say it’s [about] cheap labour. Now they control this planet. There will be a Third World War. But it’s going to be biological, that is, pharmaceutical. The next war, we won’t be fighting against a country, we’ll be fighting against pharmaceuticals and meds. These will dominate you. You belong to them. That’s the Third World War.”
“I Wish I Could Get Out Of Here..”
The intertwining problems of drug addiction, overdose deaths, crime, and police violence came up everywhere our caravan conducted social investigation, revealing a nexus of oppression that’s a scourge on those neither wanted nor needed by Canada’s colonial and capitalist-imperialist system. Among these castaways, we could see the contours of a vast segment of the working-class that capital can no longer profit from and which is rapidly succumbing to homelessness, drug addiction, and opioid overdose; a vast amount of Indigenous people who have not only been abandoned by Canada but worse, are persistently oppressed by it; and a large chunk of the working class that resides in the immediate vicinity of, and is profoundly affected by, the violence and chaos confronting the most dispossessed—who must appear to all those struggling to barely keep up as a downstream threat to be avoided by any means necessary. But not only a downstream threat, since the chaos affecting the most dispossessed also brings and legitimates a significant amount of violence and chaos into the lives of the rest of the working class as well, evoking feelings ranging from pity and empathy to fear and contempt.
In September 2021, some of the comrades in our caravan were passing out hot coffee in a Winnipeg park in exchange for some political conversations. Well, it worked.
Comrades talked to a Cree woman named Jessie, asking her what part of the city she was from and what sorts of problems she was facing. Jessie was from a southern area of the city, St. Norbert, and told us that “There’s a lot of uh, what do you call it, users… Like meth, alcohol that’s what you see on this side.” She didn’t empathize with or see the value of certain harm-reduction efforts in the city: “I don’t know why they provide those needles and that. They’re just helping them… just giving out needles and everything. They’re just encouraging them to do it more.” Comrades asked if she thought this maybe made things safer, but she scoffed “Safer? Oh, okay!”
But her outlook wasn’t contemptuous of the people themselves. “A lot of people [are] homeless… I wish they could be helped, I wish they could ask for help y’know. Cause it’s sad.” Jessie identified housing as a key concern: “Yeah, better housing, like for them to be indoors, especially with winter coming.”
When asked about other problems she had seen or experienced, she related the racism she experienced to the rampant issue of drug addiction and homelessness: “Like, a lot of people in town, they’re racists. Y’know, I was sitting down a while ago and I heard a couple of people saying, ‘Oh those people they’re bums, they’re dirty.’ Stuff like that.” Comrades clarified by “those people” she was referring to Indigenous people like herself. We asked if she had a sense of solutions to these problems, but she said no and the conversation ended there.
Another Indigenous woman who comrades talked to in Winnipeg, Sharon, shared a horrific account of violence and persecution that was committed against her 15-year-old daughter and which read to the writers of this report like trafficking and torture. Sharon was accompanied by her 6-year-old daughter and her story speaks to horrific colonial violence that occurs with impunity in Indigenous communities that have been abandoned to the drug trade and the other illicit trades that accompany it.
There’s a lot of crime around here. And it has a lot to do with the vendor that’s just right down there… And then you have people who… are transient, or even if they aren’t transient, they tend to sit around in the children’s park and just drink in there. And it’s scary. you can’t take your child there with a bunch of people sitting in a circle and drinking.
It would be nice if it was safer, but you know you see cops going up and down the block every day, all the time. And it doesn’t help anything [the crime] keeps going and going. You can’t even leave a bike outside for 2 minutes unchained or it’s gone.
Comrades asked, “Is there much of a problem with police violence?” Sharon answered, “In my experience they tend to be really really rude, really demanding, and almost threatening in a way,” but the story that followed revealed this to be a dramatic understatement.
My daughter’s been treated really roughly in the past, like really roughly. She was assaulted… [and] literally passed out. I thought she was supposed to be at a sleep-over with her friends, but she went to a hotel with a so-called friend of hers who was with an adult male who was supplying cocaine, drugs, [and] alcohol. I didn’t know because I thought she was at that sleepover. Then I get a call from her, and she’s begging me to come get her, and she’s trying to get help at the front desk. She kept asking, “Call me a cab, I wanna go home, I wanna go home.” She was beaten up. She had bruises all over her face from the people who she’d passed out with… in the hotel. She had gotten up after passing out trying to get her jacket, trying to get her shoes, and was getting mad, because it was a brand new jacket… [One of the men] beat the living daylights out of her. Then he said “Okay okay okay okay I’m sorry”… and that’s when she took a chance to run out with her shoes, but she didn’t have her jacket.
Finally she got home to me in a cab, then when she got home I called 911 because I wanted to let them know what happened, and I wanted him charged. A firetruck showed up first, [and the firefighters] told her that under no circumstances, no matter what she was doing, that what had happened shouldn’t have happened to her, like they pretty much had her side right? The next thing the ambulance showed up, so we went to the hospital, and the cops, the first thing the cops did was blame everything on her. “Well, what were you doing there? Well, why did this happen? Well, you made the choice to go there. Why did you drink alcohol?” And I’m sitting there listening to them and I go, “Okay, instead of taking her statement from being beaten up by an adult male who supplied her with alcohol and other minors in that hotel room, you’re blaming it on her? She’s the reason she got beaten up? She’s the reason she’s in this condition?” And the lady cop, I didn’t get her name, I really wish I did, she says, “Yes that’s exactly what I’m saying.” I say, “Well thank you for your help, but I don’t think we need any more of your kind of help.” Then we tried to go to the waiting room, and the cop followed us trying to give us her card. I said, “No, I don’t need your card. You just finished blaming my daughter for being assaulted by an adult male and now you’re trying to give me your card to get me to give you any more information if I come across it? No.”
Comrades asked Sharon why she thought the cops were so racist:
I mean they weren’t raised in the area, or any of the hoods, so they don’t understand any of the people. They’re coming from middle-class areas, so they don’t have to deal with any of that. They’re going by what they’re hearing through other people. They’re going by the stereotypes that are out there. All they see are the panhandlers, all they see are the alcoholics on the street. That’s all they see, what they know. So when they become police officers, then the stereotype is stuck in their head. Then they assume that we’re all like that.
Sharon’s daughter’s horrific treatment didn’t stop when she escaped her sadistic tormentors, but instead continued in the form of facing criminalization by the police:
Then [the police] come to my place a day or two later and tried to charge her for when she tried to get help at the front desk, and the front desk, the guy told her that instead of getting help that she should look after her own self and then she got angry. Of course she got angry because she felt the danger that she was in, so she went behind the desk and tried to hit him. She’s 15-years-old and he was a big man, and she was trying to use the phone so she tried to hit him y’know? Then what did the cops do? Instead of taking her statement like I originally wanted to they turn around and try to charge her with assault. And it could have been worse you know because I didn’t even notice until a day or two later, until she took a bath and realized that her foot really hurt. Those first guys were having fun with her feet: they had been sticking [lit] matches in there and she had burns, these big thick blisters. She still has scars.
Sharon’s story was cut-short by a comrade who asked a question that took the conversation in a different direction. Perhaps there was something about the context that necessitated that, or perhaps it was just a really painful conversation to continue. Sharon finished out the conversation by talking about how hard it was to find decent housing with all the racism against Indigenous people.
I wish I could get out of here, but I can’t afford anywhere else… Even just to downsize from a three bedroom to a two bedroom in a better area of town, it’s way, way over my budget. If I pay that kind of money for rent, I’ve got no money left for utilities, no money left for anything, just the rent. I wish I could get out of this place. I wish I could get [my daughter] out of the area, after all the gunshots we heard last night, and that’s not the first time. There have been other nights too. A guy just got killed two houses down a couple of years ago. Shot in the head…
She didn’t have complaints about her own particular landlord, but conveyed that the situation was dire for many people:
I’ve got family, relatives, cousins who have dealt with so many slum lords who aren’t doing anything. They’re not fixing things, they’re charging them too much rent for a place that’s not even worth it—it’s not clean, they’re not taking care of bug infestations or rodents… And there’s a lot of landlords like that in the area…
One of them tried to evict my mum who is disabled and bedridden for having too much company during the Covid crisis, but the thing is that she was abiding by the guidelines… She would get a call that somebody wanted to visit, and then would say to her company that somebody else wants to visit, so they would leave and the new visitors would come in—with their masks on. Very carefully. And these are people who are from out of town, so they’re already screened because before they go to any appointments, they go to the medical board where they’re screened and checked in. So my mum would only get visitors from [these out of towners].28 Just them.
She wasn’t the only one he got evicted: everyone who’s been evicted since [the hiring of this one particular building superintendent] has been Aboriginal. He literally aimed the hallway camera at her door cause he wanted her out so bad. She was gonna fight it until I told her she could come take over my lease because I was going to move to a smaller place anyways.
“People get killed out here for a 20-bag, it’s crazy.”
Other comrades in the caravan drove into North Central Regina—one of the largest and most notorious urban Native ghettos in Canada—to get more of a sense for how the drug crisis, petty crime, and the threat of violence were playing out in the lives of poor urban Native communities.
As comrades entered North Central, they reported walking through blocks upon blocks of residential areas where houses were boarded up. People were generally hesitant to talk. One comrade tried to start a conversation with this one couple with an opening that he probably felt a bit silly about a moment later, “What’s there to do around here, any bars or cafes to hangout at?” The couple laughed and said that they were in the wrong area. “There’s a lot of gang issues here, make sure you’re careful” the young Indigenous woman said. They were also warned not to talk to any young girls (the implication being that, if they tried, they’d be assumed to be looking to purchase sex).
A Native guy in his early 20s rode a BMX-style bike past a couple of other comrades, a long chain slung around his neck. One of the comrades hollered: “You got a minute bud?” He stopped, and the comrade continued: “This is gonna sound weird, but we’re out here talking to people about all the fucked up things going on in this country, you have a minute?”
They got to talking, and this guy told comrades that people called him “Stunna” in the streets and that he was Regina “born and raised.” He gave his real name to comrades too, but after the stories he shared, we didn’t find it safe to reveal even his first name for this report. Despite his nickname, Stunna was anything but trying to be a gangster in these streets: “People get killed out here for a 20-bag, it’s crazy.”
Comrades asked him about all the boarded up houses: “I know this girl who lives right here, and I was here last week. I’m pretty sure she paid her rent. But the house is boarded up right now.” Stunna goes on to tell us about one fateful day when he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got busted for something he had nothing to do with:
A couple years ago I was at my brother’s house getting a tattoo, and I’m sitting there waiting, and the cops bust through the front door and they charge us for trafficking methamphetamine. They even charged my 15-year-old niece who was there. Then they beat me, they knocked me out, I wasn’t even resisting or anything, I was laying on my stomach and shit, they handcuffed me, and then they started dropping their knee on the back of my head, they seemed to be trying to knock me out, and they couldn’t, so they start punching me in the side of the head—BOOM BOOM. I was there to get a tattoo and shit. Every time I see a cop now, it makes my heart fuckin’… you know…
The comrades asked Stunna what makes life so dangerous for Indigenous people in Regina: “It’s the drugs that makes this hood what it is. Meth is one of the biggest problems out here.” Stunna added that:
Fenty [fentnyl] is taking over, everyone is into that shit now. And that’s in every city. A lot of people overdosing. I even overdosed—not on fenty, it was on heroin. I tried killing myself at a real low time in my life. I tried smoking a whole point of heroin in one hoot, and I overdosed. They brought me back.
Ten minutes into the conversation, and Stunna had just told us he’d tried to take his own life. Comrades dug further into the conditions that led him to this point of despair, uncovering layer after later of colonial violence that Indigenous people face in the Prairies:
Sometimes cops take people out of the city in the winter, beat them up, leave them in their underwear in the cold. I remember my one bro, he was taken out there in his fucking boxers and he had to walk all the way back to the city in the winter time. This was just two years ago. My sister got a lickin’ from the cops too, then they left her in the downtown cells naked. She didn’t have no clothes on. Sometimes they don’t give you a mat or blanket or anything to sleep on, they just leave you on the concrete floor.
Anyone who knows anything about the colonial violence facing Indigenous peoples in Canada would have heard about the “starlight tours” that Stunna was describing, which refer to the widely reported practice of cops driving Native people out of the city and into the middle of nowhere in sub-zero temperatures, stripped down to their underwear, and left to freeze to death in the countryside.29 What shocked these comrades and the writers of this report, however, was the frequency with which we found these sorts of stories from such a small sample set of interviews.
We asked Stunna if he felt it possible to fight back against this kind of police violence, or the challenges in doing so. “Nah not really, my mom was telling me to go fight these cops in court like they did to me. [But] I know these cops personally now. When they see me, they get cheeky and try to ask me about that time, if I remember that time…,” and Stunna goes on to tell us about yet another unwarranted encounter with the police that threw his life upside down:
I was in the east end looking at these nice houses and stuff, just riding my bike, cuz that’s what my mom used to do with me. We’d drive around the city looking at nice houses and stuff… So I’m biking around… and all of a sudden a bunch of cop cars surround me and arrest me right there. They were trying to say I was going into people’s garages and shit, but I didn’t step on a single lawn. I noticed some people staring at me from their garages and shit, and one truck started following me for a while, and I was tryna bike away from it, and then all of a sudden a car pulled up in front of me, and this undercover gets out and comes to grab me, and I was about to swing one at him, then he pulls up his shirt and he’s got a gun and a badge right there. It was fucked up.
The lynch-mob mentality that enveloped Stunna when he passed through this propertied area is the same colonial violence that led to Colton Boushie being shot dead back in 2016 when he and his friends entered onto a farmer’s property after their car battery died. Boushie was shot point blank in the back of the head by Gerald Stanley, who was ultimately acquitted by an all-white jury. Stunna’s story revealed that this sort of danger was not exceptional.
To add further insult to injury, things hadn’t always been this way for Stunna. Caught between racist police violence and racist property owners, Stunna tells us of what his life was like as a working-class youth before catching those trumped up charges back at his brother’s place while he was getting a tattoo:
I used to work before those cops charged me with trafficking methamphetamine. I had a job as a railroad rebuilder, working on train tracks. Once I got that charge, my life went completely downhill from there. They ruined what I had going for myself. I used to drive a 2011 Camaro SS and now I’m riding this bike.
We asked where he was living now, “Pretty much wherever now, wherever I can. I don’t have any place to stay or anything. I used to have my own place when I was working.”
An Honest Case For Gentrification… A Passive Acceptance Of Genocide?
Back at the park in Winnipeg, comrades talked to some other people who lived adjacent to the interlacing chaos of illicit economies and colonial violence. Residents shared views that ranged from the empathetic to the contemptuous, with people’s sentiments reflecting how they perceived their own class interests.
Comrades talked to a 57-year-old white man who had lived in the neighbourhood of the park for 15 years. He agreed that poverty and the drugs were the main problems, but as for solutions, this resident couldn’t see beyond what aligned with his narrow class interests. He was, in essence, the voice of gentrification:
Honestly, the way things are going, change here isn’t going to be a quick fix. It’s going to be a slow economic development… Right now I feel pretty safe with my place. But a year ago there was a crash house and now it’s been bought by someone, it’s been fixed up, so, you know… Basically, I don’t see any big fix other than making it easier for people to buy houses. People who own their houses, they have respect for their yards and their neighbours. People that are renting don’t give a crap. I’m constantly picking up garbage around my yard and the back lane around other people’s houses, just ’cause I can’t stand looking at it. Y’know those people [not clear who he’s referring to here], it doesn’t bother them and there’s no answer to that. How do you tell people: Can you have some fucking respect for yourselves and your neighbourhood? I don’t see any instant solution… giving people economic support is the best thing because poverty is what causes the drug issue more than anything, and y’know it’s the cage rather than the disease.
This property owner didn’t seem entirely contemptuous of the people, but he really couldn’t imagine a solution beyond his own class interests. He seemed to think what was really needed was:
…lending institutions. Right now the mortgage rates are crazy low. Right now anyone in Winnipeg who’s working—other than if you’re making minimum wage—should be able to buy a house. Winnipeg’s property values compared to everywhere in the world are very reasonable right now. That is why I want to see people owning their own houses, not living on social assistance. Not that there’s any problems with that; it’s a necessary part of our social safety net.
The implication of what is to be done with minimum wage workers—not to mention the hundreds of thousands more living off the far more impoverishing income of social assistance, disability payments, or unemployment—was silently passed over.
A truck driver named Omar also stopped for a coffee in the Winnipeg park, and from his working-class vantage point, it became clear why this vision of everyone just buying a house was a fantasy based in something other than most people’s realities:
Because we live in a small city I think the employment rate is a little bit smaller compared to the other cities in the country… I know that a lot of young people who finish secondary school, they move away, because they get a part-time job or something like that. More people are moving to Edmonton, Toronto. I moved here from Toronto. There you can do anything, you can work part time, you can go to school or university, but here because of the crime community or the drug dealers, they have more chances to affect the young people.
Coupled with unemployment, Omar shared the view that the other “main problem is drugs. Everyone says so… The drugs cause crime, and the [gangs] focus on the drug selling in the streets… It’s causing the crime.”
Omar held a real concern for young people in all this: “They have to invest in the younger people, like supporting more education, more available jobs for them. Because if young people wake up and they’re not in school, they’ve got no job, what are they going to do? Just sell the drugs, and making the crimes.”
He Points At An Empty Office Building: “I Think We Can Occupy It”
While our social investigation conducted in the Prairie cities of Winnipeg and Regina revealed an urban poor almost completely composed of Indigenous people who’ve been victim to the colonial processes of dispossession internal to Canada, back in Montreal—Canada’s second largest city and a major destination for immigrants from all across the world—comrades talked to people who’d eventually found themselves living on the streets by the larger machinations of capitalism-imperialism. Comrades talked to people from Somalia, Algeria, Yugoslavia, and Syria, in addition to others displaced by the colonial machinations internal to Canada, from the Arctic to Africville, Nova Scotia.
Lewis, an Inuit man in his 60s, had been taking shelter under a porch when comrades approached him to talk. He was a storied man who told us how a Canadian state eager to stake its claims in the Arctic throughout the Cold War had displaced him, his family, and his people.
We asked how he ended up living under the porch of a small business in back-alley Montreal. Lewis said he’d been living in the city for about four years, and he went on to describe what life was like before moving to Montreal:
I was in Ottawa. I got kicked out by police… I was getting ganged up [on] so many times [in Ottawa], and the cops wanted to kick me out for that too… They thought I was stealing, because I was getting ganged up so many times. Three, I won. Five, I won. Three strong fucking guys, [and then] they fucking called the fucking police (laughs).
Lewis goes on to tell us how the cops beat him up in a garage: “That’s how I lost my front teeth.
Lewis reaches back for his chamber pot and goes about his business while the conversation continues, ranging from Trudeau and surviving the pandemic to the struggle to get a welfare cheque when you don’t have a fixed address. The topic eventually arrived at how and why he came south.
Lewis told comrades how he was raised in Iqaluit (the capital of the territory of Nunavut) until 1974, but “I was born in 1968… Where I was born it used to be called Broughton Island in English… It’s now Qikiqtarjuaq.” Qikiqtarjuaq is a town of approximately 600 people on a small island that lay on the west side of the Davis Straight, the body of water that that separates Nunavut from Greenland. “My father was at the mining area in Cape Dyer,” a town situated about 100km southeast down the shore from Qikiqtarjuaq. “He worked in heavy equipment. Even the military was there, because they had the radar.”
We asked what it was like to have that kind of military presence up there. “Fuck, they used to fucking party every day. After 5pm: no choice, right to the bar (laughs). We even had a theatre, and a cafeteria.”
We asked Lewis why they left Cape Dyer. “We went back to Broughton Island [Qikiqtarjuaq]. We had to go—[our place in Cape Dyer] looked like a shack house. It was like a one bedroom, we were too many. So my father wanted to go to Iqaluit… But there was no [rooms for rent]. It was a lot of people and not enough housing.” When Lewis finally left Iqaluit it was, because, in his words, “My head was hurting a lot. It got so hardened, goddamn hard, biting my own teeth too.” Comrades inquired into what he meant by this :“It was… stressful… stress and hardness on the brain… And it was bitter human beings, the people around.”
We asked Lewis if there are many Inuit in Montreal. “Yes, and there’s a lot of people from Nunavik too”30—which is the Inuit region that encompasses one-third of northern Quebec. “They’re mostly on Parc avenue.” Lewis says the weather drives a lot of people down south. We asked, “It gets cold here too, so how do you stay warm in the winter?” Lewis replied, “With three or four blankets. Four makes me feel like home, I can’t feel the cold. Until I gotta wake up and use the toilet, and then I think ‘I didn’t think it was gonna be this cold!’”
Comrades also talked to Janice, a middle-aged Inuit woman whose native language was Inuk and who spoke a heavily-accented English. We weren’t able to hold as long of a conversation with Janice, but we talked for a bit. We asked how she got by during Covid-19:
Oh I still live my life. See my friends. Drink with my friends and family. We’re all out here in the park right now!… There was the curfew in the winter, that was fucked up. People died from that! They said the homeless don’t have to follow it. Before I know, my friend, she got a ticket for that. How can she pay? (laughs)
Next, comrades talked to Ibrahim, an Algerian man in his 60s who’d been living on the streets and with whom these particular comrades were already acquainted. In a previous discussion, comrades relayed that Ibrahim had interjected during a conversation being had about fascism that “It’s good to be against fascism. But be against imperialism too!” The conversation passed over Covid-19, conspiracy theories about China, and imperialism. He was going on about the “lab-leak theory,”31 but what he seemed most incensed about were the two big elections playing out in Montreal, federal and municipal: “I think the elections are garbage. No one cares. Its all about the money. All of these politicians are corrupt, no one cares. Things are getting worse.” We asked what the source of all this corruption was, and Ibrahim said:
It’s about the money. It’s all about the money. The rich control the government. It’s corrupt. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but these people make too much! What is a 40-year-old doing with billions of dollars? Did they start investing while they were in their mother’s womb? Very bad! I don’t think it’s a bad thing to make money, I wish we could all make money, but not like this.
We asked if he viewed the municipal elections any differently. “More corruption. Same bullshit. Why don’t you present yourself? I would vote for you! You and your friends are very serious, very good. We need that.” It’s moments like these that comrades in our caravan wished they had a program for proletarian revolution, an alternative to the merry-go-round of bourgeois democracy that most people hate but aren’t sure what to do with.
Another man living on the streets who comrades were familiar with was Goran, an 85-year-old Yugoslav who once served in the Yugoslav People’s Army. Comrades had known Goran since 2015, as he was a frequent face at a popular weekly food service that certain comrades would see him at. The conversation with Goran passed from his cynicism in bourgeois politicians to imperialist encirclement of China: “Leave China alone. War is not good. China never hurt anybody.” But his deepest antipathies came out when discussing how Covid-19 had left him so socially-isolated:
It’s very sad. I don’t see as many friends [anymore]. All the venues are closed. I can’t go to listen to music, or to the food court. I am worried about the winter time. I hope more places open so I can listen to music.
The next person living on the streets who comrades talked to was Roger, a 70-year-old who immigrated from Syria in the 1970s. Roger complained about bourgeois politicians too, and when it came down to the housing crisis, Roger had a rather simple solution: “See over there,” as he points to the office building next to the Montreal Forum. “There’re a lot of empty offices [in that building.] A lot of space. Why not use it to house the homeless? Or refugees? No one else is using the space.” He points at the empty office building, “I think we can occupy it. With enough people. We are so many hundreds, thousands of homeless! I am getting older, but you all can help with [this] for sure!” When such plain-spoken ideas about expropriating the wealth of the super-rich flow so easily out of conversations like this, it makes any proletarian revolutionary wonder whether this old proletarian had once read Karl Marx, or was it rather that old Karl Marx had pulled his ideas right out of conversations like this one with Roger.
Next, comrades talked to Trevor, a 38-year-old homeless man whose mother was Black-Scotian and father was a “native from out west.” Trevor told comrades that he grew up on a rez in Manitoba, near Portage la Prairie, but he came over to Montreal to live with his mother as a teen. Both him and his mother were homeless at some point, but his mother now had some permanent shelter. Comrades asked him how he’d been surviving the pandemic, and Trevor expressed a real fear of dying:
I worry about my health. I drink a lot, but I quit crack. I haven’t done it for 8 months. I was in jail, got clean, but I stick to the liquor; I like it, I need it. Corona ain’t gonna fuck me up. I am getting older I can’t fuck around with that shit at all… I don’t want to die yet.
We asked him if he thought the ruling classes in Canada and the US were looking to stir up a conflict with China, and it was fascinating to see how fast Trevor, like so many others, pulled the conversation right back down to the war at home: “Oh, for sure, those motherfuckers want war everywhere! They do war at home! Cops everywhere here fucking up our shit. Genocide and slavery. They don’t give a fuck here. I’ve been to jail so many times, there are so many Black people, my Natives in there.” He ended this train of thought with a dose of revolutionary defeatism that would have put a smile on Lenin’s face: “China’s going to fuck them up real bad.”
“I Don’t Think About Getting Old… I Mostly Just Plan On Dying Relatively Young”
One worker in his mid-30s who we talked to was really struggling with how bleak the present and near future seemed to him and so many around him. Drew, originally from Victoria, British Columbia, was deeply worried about $40,000+ in student debt he had accumulated. He had just recently quit working as an ink presser and garment shipper. Comrades interviewed him in a small bookshop in another Montreal alley, opening up the conversation by telling him that our caravan had been talking to people across the country about the pandemic, the climate crisis, the housing crisis, and the danger of an inter-imperialist war. What really stood out in this conversation with Drew, however, was the bleak future within capitalism that many younger working-class people are facing:
I am affected by all of it, and I guess the compounding of all of it is something that people in my generation are dealing with in a sort of exhausted way. There’s just so much tragedy and destitution and hopelessness, that the sort of compound effect weighs heavily on the young people that I know, myself included. But I suppose the most pressing is the sort of day-to-day [fact] of being massively in debt with no hope for a well-paying job with which to ameliorate that debt situation, and with that no hope for any sort of long-term housing or owning or anything like that. It’s just not on the horizon. That is heavy day-to-day anxiety.
We asked him what he needed to address this deep sense of insecurity:
I think about that a lot. It would mean finding a decently paying job to pay off my student debts and then, I don’t know, find a piece of land somewhere or something to have some sort of security. Yeah. Security I think is a big issue.
In 2021, 1.7 million people in Canada were shouldering student debt, with the average debtor owing $26,000 to some combination of government and private lenders.32 Workers in Drew’s position have to look forward to years upon years of debt repayment, accompanied by the fear of whether long-term security will ever be achieved. While Drew dreams of “find[ing] a piece of land,” in digging into that aspiration a bit more, comrades brought out that the deeper yearning is for a basic sense of security:
I do talk to a fair amount of young people that sort of have a similar dream, I guess I could call it. Just getting enough money together to find some plot of land to which they could escape… Yeah, actually I’m not sure if it’s an escape or if that we’re just desiring some sort of security whatsoever and that idea of having a place, a little plot of land somewhere, is what we rely on mentally to get us through the toughness of day-to-day living.
That “what we rely on mentally” is, Drew admitted, an “escape,” an escape from the terrifying precarity of his situation and the loss in belief that he would ever make it into an older age:
These are precarious times and people like myself just live on a day-to-day basis. And with that day-to-day living comes like, no thought about long-term future, and that’s frightening, because we don’t know what we’re gonna do when we’re older—if we get to be old. I think previously people use to think about that a lot, and plan for their pension or like retirement. That’s not even on the horizon like… I can’t think about that, because I don’t have a job now, and I can’t see putting enough money away to retire when I’m old. So I have no idea what I’m gonna do when I’m old. I guess mostly I don’t think about getting old, which is a problem, because people who don’t do that, when they do get old, they haven’t planned adequately, so I think I mostly just plan on dying relatively young. I mean, I say that with an air of joking, but I think that that’s a common trope in young people now—that not caring about getting old and like, ‘live fast, die young’ kind of thing. That’s a common thing right now and it’s problematic.
Drew was mentally afflicted by the future that his precarity could put him into:
Confronting the destitution and the divide between people who have comfortable housing and the vast amounts of people who are living in the streets and drug addicted is sort of mentally taxing. In my neighbourhood, the Gay Village, the homeless community is massive. I have an apartment, but it’s weird because I have no job and vast amounts of debt and so I see how I could be homeless every single day. So I’m daily confronted with the reality of destitution, including myself and the people who actually live on the streets. And that is mentally fatiguing. It’s something [which] maybe people who live in the country don’t have to confront as much. It’s just not as big a part of their reality I guess, whereas for myself and people who live in Montreal, it’s a huge part of the reality.
Drew saw the homelessness crisis as a real offensive by capitalism:
A long time ago I was doing some research on tent communities and stuff in, I think it was Oregon, where land was provided and mobile, small houses were created and a sort of tent community cropped up. This one that I heard of was government-sanctioned, free land for these people to use and build little houses as they saw fit. I should try to find the name of that place and find out if it still exists. This was a big thing in the news in Victoria, where I’m from, maybe like 20 years ago. People used to be able to have little tent communities and stuff, but now that is completely out of the question. They would get shut down so fast. I think the movement of culture has become more conservative and I guess the natural propulsion of neoliberalism has snow-balled to the point where small outlets that were possible before, like tent communities, get squashed right away now…
Drew continued on in his commentary on the trajectory of capitalist society over the past couple decades:
Since 20 years ago, there’s been a sort of massive, global push in [the] direction of just greater divide between people with wealth and those without; and those without, being pushed further and further into the margins, and with that, greater intolerance on the part of people with wealth to confront that reality. It would be interesting to look into the actual processes of how that came about in certain areas. I’m sure you could do a sociological examination and find the reports from people in government and police outfits who were sent out to squash these things right away.
Comrades didn’t report whether they passed some kites onto Drew, but we certainly hope comrades got this guy’s number and plan to follow up with him to talk about the questions of dispossession, capitalist accumulation, and the regime of preventive counter-revolution, as these were all questions bound up in his condensed and sharp perceptions about Canadian society.
There were moments where Drew shared a bit of nostalgia for his student days, of having a lot of time to read without doing anything else, but underneath there seemed to be a much deeper desire for an understanding of the world:
There’s so much [going on] right now and no one has the sort of time to sit down and parse these things through— particularly people in the position of needing a job and needing to do all that stuff, look for a job. That’s one thing I miss about being a student: that I had all the time in the world to sit down and think things through. But I don’t have that anymore.
What Drew desired was the mental solace of at least understanding the enormous crises of the capitalist-imperialist system right now; and perhaps also a sense of being a part of what’s needed to be done to confront it:
I wish that I was more involved [in political struggle]… [Previously] I participated in creating Black Lives Matter stickers and buttons and disseminating those. [It was] a really small, minuscule effort and I wish that I had been more involved in some capacity. I wish that I was more involved now, because I loved seeing the momentum and it really seemed like there was positive change being affected. I think my perception now is that it sort of like maybe petered out a little bit, which is unfortunate. I’m not sure if that’s a fair assessment. But I remember hoping that the momentum would continue to build and that massive changes would come out of it.”
Drew expresses a bit of resignation at the loss of momentum from that period of popular struggle, but he also maintains a self-critical view that “I should’ve been more involved, rather than just hoping on the outside—you know what I mean?”
The bleakness in Drew’s outlook was opposed, however, by his hope in struggle. Drew had been part of a unionizing drive at the clothing manufacturer he worked for, and he retained some fond memories of collective struggle: “Now, I think a lot about my experience of working in a factory that became unionized while I was there… [having] took part in the unionizing movement has made me realize how important these movements are.”
Drew went on to describe the conditions of this workplace:
The type of owners and managers at this place where I worked were supremely exploitative and did a lot of illegal things, like withholding pay or instead of paying employees overtime, they would bank the hours. That’s tragic, illegal. [They’d] overwork people and micromanage… [it was] a toxic environment, both chemically and emotionally… And so after being in this movement to unionize my workplace (which we accomplished after two years of difficult work), I’ve seen how positive an effect it has on people’s lives. So I would like to be more involved in that effort at other places… But I couldn’t stay at this one place because it was too depressing, and the management was too exploitative.
The conversation later arrived at the problem of drugs and addiction alongside the unprecedentedly extreme inequalities in our society:
So I’m from Victoria, but I would go to Vancouver a lot, and Vancouver has one of the biggest heroin problems in the world. And Vancouver has a strange amalgamation of hyper rich—it’s one of the most expensive places to live in the world—but it also has one of the poorest postal codes in all of Canada, East Vancouver, which is rife with heroin addicts. I remember I used to walk around there at night, and it’s kind of like a zombie town where it’s just people shooting heroin everywhere, and tent cities, and massive destitution.
Drew interrupts his train of thought to remark, “There’s the fourth homeless person that’s walked by us,” and returns to the matter of the economic impoverishment behind it all:
I guess that’s what I wanted to touch on earlier, was that it’s mostly destitute people that I encounter in my immediate surroundings. The [Gay] Village is an interesting place to live because it was sort of founded on that principle of people who were marginalized coming together to form a community to protect themselves, and I think maybe that’s why a lot of drug addicts gravitate towards this neighbourhood. We’re probably eight blocks from my house and there’s like vast amounts of drug addiction. I guess it’s sort of a massive indication of a system gone awry when you’re confronted with that reality. Like, how did these people get to this situation, you know? It’s a systemic problem that isn’t being dealt with properly that creates people who become addicts. And once they become addicts the systems aren’t in place to help these people. There’s nowhere for these people to turn. Or there’s very few places.
We asked Drew if he had any idea how these problems could be solved—perhaps an unfair question to put to someone on the spot. What was interesting in his response is that instead of the common resignation in the face of enormous problems that we saw in some people, Drew expressed a humility to just figuring it out with others along the way. It was a refreshing attitude and orientation toward practice and problem-solving that we should all emulate and look for in the masses. People like this are looking for a revolutionary position. And he even expressed an idea that was identical to the mission of our social investigation project:
I would like to ask people with these problems, in the way that you’re doing, to come up with an understanding of subjective situations, what would help them, and work from there. Because I’m not sure.
And Drew had observed and believed that when people are pressed and oppressed, they eventually respond:
It might just be that I have a sort of pessimistic outlook generally, but I suppose I see things going in a worsening direction. It seems like the direction, and this happened throughout history, is like for shit to just get worse and worse and worse to a critical point where the people in the worst situation sort of can’t take it anymore and then some sort of action happens. And I guess that’s kind of what happened with movements last year [referring to the summer of protest and rebellion against police violence in 2020]. People were being killed by police. And that’s what it took to spark the sort of action of people not taking that shit anymore. And if I had to guess, I would assume that shit is going to get worse before it gets better.
Drew had no illusions about the devastation and threat of climate change magically bringing the rich to the rescue of the rest of humanity:
[The] greater divide between the wealthy and the poor as sea levels rise or whatever I think is already widely demonstrated.. I think the rich will continue to exploit that. I think things are going to get really really terrible. It’s really hard to imagine any sort of effort that would halt that process. It seems like that process is really sort of underway. And yeah, I really can’t think of anything short of a huge revolution that would take the [wealth back]… It’s impossible to imagine.
Ironically, what Drew thought was impossible to imagine, he’d just done—imagined that “a huge revolution that would take back the wealth back—he’d just said it.
* * *
Not all workers could empathize with the plight and precarity of younger workers. Comrades talked to an elderly lady in Winnipeg in her home as she was being assisted by a healthcare worker. This woman had worked as a minimum-wage worker at KFC for 42 years, and she had little sympathy for young people who didn’t want to work: “I think some people your age should be workin’… There are jobs out there. Everybody is calling out on the radio and TV. They all want workers and nobody is coming. So why is nobody coming? I think nobody wants to work for minimum wages but you know… I know everyone wants 20 or 30 dollars an hour, but you just can’t.”
It’s been widely reported in the Canadian press in recent
months that there’s upwards of 1 million job vacancies in Canada.33 However, what this worker probably also can’t relate to is how hard it’s become for young workers to piece together a monthly income to afford a lifestyle even one rung down form what a minimum-wage worker would have been able to afford 40 years ago, such as the prospect of home ownership.
Most of the workers we talked to who were still in the labour force expressed varying degrees of disillusionment with the declining situation for workers in Canada, and a basic class solidarity for younger workers facing worse prospects than themselves.
One group of comrades on the caravan spoke to striking mining workers at Vale’s giant mining complex in Sudbury who were on strike for over two months during the summer. While some might think that industrial workers these days are only content with just their own labour conditions and immediate demands, this particular group of United Steelworkers were deeply concerned about the future of those coming up in their industry. The striking workers were most concerned and reported to us that they were striking over Vale’s plans to strip new-hires of benefits.34 One worker told a comrade that health benefits “is the only thing keeping us alive after we retire from this industry.” Another worker told a group of comrades how after he’d been exposed to some toxic chemical at work (which no one happened to write down), and consequently, all the blood in his body needed to be flushed out.
The workers that comrades talked to on the picket line expressed a real sense of the need to fight for themselves, for their young co-workers, and even alongside workers across the world: “Look at Brazil: Vale killed almost 300 people; this is the kind of company we’re dealing with,” one worker added, referring to a Vale tailings dam burst in 2019, killing 270 people and causing extensive environmental destruction.35
Over in Hull, Quebec, another comrade interviewed a working-class Nicaraguan grandmother, and she expressed an even deeper sense of internationalism, explaining how the deterioration of conditions for workers in Canada had a lot to do with the loss of working-class power elsewhere in the world: “The situation is bad because of the absence of the Soviet Union… Rich countries used to have a motivation to provide a better safety net to their population while the Soviet Union was in existence… But this motivation no longer exists, and rich countries have since let their middle class disappear.”
Badianne, a Senegalese woman from Montreal, expressed an equal sense of solidarity for women, Indigenous people, and her compatriots back home, with a clear view of the circumstances of many struggling on the other side of Canada: “I don’t agree with the friendly Canadian myth… Canada isn’t some bastion of freedom and kindness,” but rather “was and is a colonial country… Westerners’ privileges [are] gained off the backs of colonized people.” Badianne shared her skepticism concerning “truth and reconciliation” and considered it to be little more than “basic politicking.” Badianne continued: “To change anything politically it’s going to take a popular revolution.” Soberly, she added, “We are unfortunately far from the conditions which would permit one.” Badianne mentioned that she believed that some African countries might be close to revolutions, but that, in any case, “you never know what can spark a revolutionary moment.”
Badianne, who lost her father during the pandemic, also named the specific plight borne onto working-class women during the pandemic: “They often had the added load of caring for the house and children added back onto their plate, while also having to work from home.” While talking about revolution, she mentioned to comrades “women might be ripe for a cultural revolution.”
Overall, the majority workers we talked to specify and were deeply concerned with not only the material problems in their lives but also those afflicting others around them (as opposed to obsessing over fears stoked by unscientific, unproven, often racist and pro-imperialist, and often downright foolish conspiracy theories). Most of the workers we talked to could name the class forces responsible for their plight, and they could mostly detect the trend that things were only getting worse. The only question they couldn’t answer with clarity was what needed to be done about it. Who could blame them, since, as we know, only a unifying organization of the proletariat-a revolutionary vanguard party of the class as a whole– could begin to work out the answers to these major problems of history.
Our SI caravan took to the people with the intent of finding out how ready the exploited and dispossessed felt themselves to be for revolutionary change. While we can’t honestly say most people could readily conceive of what a revolution would even mean (which, again, because of the dominance of bourgeois propaganda, was no surprise to us), but we can say with certainty that the majority were ready to be convinced that a revolutionary way forward could be found.
Summing-Up and Some Concluding Thoughts
All the people interviewed for this report were told by the comrades in our caravan that, in one way or another, our project aimed to understand what the masses were going through in these times of crises. We told people that we needed to hear directly from the people, and that we intended to synthesize all this back into a report that we could bring back to people, as a testimony to the suffering of the people, and perhaps a first step towards figuring out what needs to be done about all of it.
In order to do a good job of this—to be accurate in our reporting and to capture the essence of the stories people shared with us—we recorded most of our interviews, and in all of our recordings consent was achieved with those interviewed. As for those who weren’t recorded for one reason or another, we informed them that we were talking with them with the intent of producing such a report, and these interviews were reconstructed from memory immediately afterwards, and so the passages cited from these interviews were shorter and more fragmentary. In any case, this is all worth remarking upon for the general reader not only to assure that what we’ve produced here is accurate, but also because we want to highlight how much easier it is to have these sorts of conversations with people than the more prevalent and bourgeois cynical view of the masses would have us believe. Proletarians are ready to talk about job precarity, climate anxiety, work stress, drug addiction, suicide, or police violence because it is so rare to find the space to talk so sincerely about these oppressions anywhere else in bourgeois society! And the ease with which we could and did go among the people to carry out these conversations, and record most of them, reflects an element of faith that was and is shared by the comrades who made up this caravan. We’re conscious proletarian revolutionaries—which is to say, we are communists—and our conception of history and the world provides us with the only scientific perspective on why the world is the way it is as well scientific and historically tested ideas on how to change it. We communists are not “idealists” of any sort. When we say change it, this isn’t some naive wish or hope, but rather an active intention. We are dialectical materialists, which, suffice it to say for now, is the philosophical orientation of all real communist revolutionaries and the basis for all scientific thinking and practice, including the science and practice of revolutionary historical transformation. To change the world, we must know the world. This social investigation project was proof to ourselves—as well as to other would-be communists and anyone else who might be cynical about the world today—that the people are suffering en masse and are open to revolutionary ideas. That people seemed ready to hear about revolutionary organization or ready to hear more about a revolutionary program does not mean, however, that such a thing can be expected to be spontaneously forthcoming. Peoples’ assessments of reality are deeply confused and differentiated by the vast array of bourgeois propaganda that inundates them every day, and what we found is that this confusion serves as a hard braking force on the development of revolutionary consciousness—unless or until, that is, consolidated and elaborated revolutionary ideas are brought to the people to contend with, which some of the comrades in our caravan partially experimented with to some interesting ends. And now, with this report’s publication, it’s back to the masses for further discussions on what is to be done.
We, the writers of this report, would be remiss if we didn’t note that we were working with many more interview transcripts than we were able to integrate, as we sought to keep this report’s length reasonable enough that a comrade could hand it to the average proletarian and actually get them to commit to reading it. We also couldn’t delay the publication of this report any longer, despite wanting to integrate more of the content we gathered. But we extend our appreciation to all those others who gathered or shared stories with us from regions that aren’t mentioned in this report, namely: Thunder Bay, Saskatoon, Calgary, parts of southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area, and Ottawa. We hope that everyone else sees their own situations reflected in the words and experiences of the proletarians cited above, because our intention in this report was not to string together all the most “sensational” things we learned for shock factor, but rather to weave all the most lucid and generalizable experiences and observations that the masses shared with us into one, coherent account of the lives of the struggling and dispossessed masses today.
And to the extent that we succeeded in this task is entirely attributable to the focus that our investigation placed upon that growing section of Canadian society that is struggling to keep up or survive, in one way or another. Had we chosen to sample the entire population, by contrast, we would have sullied our report with the smug whinings, class chauvinism, unscientific conspiratorial nonsense, and overall bourgeois and colonial ideologies of the exploiting classes i.e. that narrowing set of class interests that somehow continues to accumulate wealth amidst the chaos and general decline of the rest. Instead, our caravan brought a focus onto the proliferating crises in our society and those most impacted by them. One may say that 80 or so people interviewed for this report do not constitute a sample set large enough to be able to draw any accurate quantitative conclusions about any given region of Canada or the country as a whole, which we wholly agree with. However, our social investigation was wide enough to be able to formulate some provisional conclusions with a certain degree of confidence. We interviewed some 80 random people from across the entire country and from vastly different parts of Canada, and what we found were strikingly common themes: popular disaffection with Canada or the Canadian state is running high amongst both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples; drug addiction is rampant and seems to be expanding across the working masses and the poor as a whole; and there is a generalized feeling and perception that things are getting worse and that the future seems to be even bleaker. There is a view that something needs change. We observed and have reported here a generalized opposition to the regime that rules in Canada, even as that generalized opposition consists of various ways of understanding the problem.
Our investigation certainly fell short in some ways too, as we could have gathered greater social investigation into the situations faced by proletarian women through the pandemic, as well as from more immigrant proletarians, youth, and industrial workers, especially those who kept critical infrastructure, production, and logistics going throughout the pandemic.36 Nonetheless, we achieved a sampling of the proletariat wide enough and deep enough to be able to report that an objectively growing class of people with little-to-no property and only their labour to sell as a means for their survival, is growing in demographic size and political discontent with every passing year. From what we can tell, there exists a revolutionary people dying to be born. The only missing factor is the subjective one: a clear program for proletarian revolution, which is an urgent subject that every reader and collaborator of this report should now turn to.
1. See “A Call for Communist Social Investigation a Year After the Summer of Rebellion” in kites #4.
2. There’s been years of disaffection with policing in Canada which a capable revolutionary movement, if it existed, could transform into sustained popular struggle. From the decades-long epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada or the ongoing scandal of unchecked sexual assault in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to the unlawful arrest of journalists in land defense struggles from Fairy Creek and Wet’suwet’en territory, to the violent clearance of homeless encampments in Toronto, the unlawful police enforcement of residential evictions, and a whole series of shocking police killings over the past few years (D’Andre Campbell, Ejaz Choudry, Chantel Moore, Regis Korchinski-Pacquet, Eisha Hudson, Rodney Levi, Jamal Francique, to name just a few of the most prominent cases), the masses in Canada have as much cause as the masses in the US to rebel against the repressive apparatus of police forces in Canada. For a comprehensive list of people murdered by police forces in Canada, see “2020 already a particularly deadly year for people killed in police encounters, CBC research shows,” from CBC (23 July 2020). Available at: https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/fatalpoliceencounters/.
3. Here’s a running list: The monument to John A. Macdonal in Montreal was torn down on 30 August 2020 during a “defund the police” protest; the statue of Egerton Ryerson (an architect of the residential school system), was toppled and beheaded by protesters in Toronto on 6 June 2021 at the site of the university named after him; statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II were toppled in Winnipeg by protesters during Canada Day protests on 1 July 2021; a statue of James Cook, the colonizing British Royal Navy captain, was toppled by protesters in Victoria, B.C. on 1 July 2021 and then dragged and tossed into a nearby harbour; and another John A. Macdonald statue was torn down by protesters in Hamilton, Ontario on 14 August 2021. Numerous other statues were pre-emptively placed into storage by government officials in Baden, Picton, and Kingston, Ontario; Regina and Lebret, Saskatchewan; and in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. What’s equally remarkable to this widespread destruction of the idols of the colonial bourgeoisie is how such acts which in years past would have been repressed swiftly were allowed to proceed with little-to-no harassment from the pigs. While nothing less than the dramatic destruction of these genocidal idols is entirely merited, we also need to interrogate whether or how this may assist the Trudeau government and the bourgeoisie as a whole by, first, giving the colonial regime of Canada the facelift it was so desperately looking for, and second, for letting a rebellious people stomp around and vent a bit.
4.The number of participants could have easily been double this, but we chose to mobilize comrades who weren’t actively involved in valuable and pressing political work. That, and we really didn’t want to produce hundreds of more pages of transcripts that would have made our project even more daunting.
5. Unfortunately, the two stretches of the country where our network was not able to conduct social investigation and which we consider to be vitally important to begin to get a sense of the overall picture of capitalist-imperialist and colonial Canada includes the majority-Indigenous North as well as the Maritime provinces—two significantly proletarian regions of the country.
6. The proletariat is that class which owns little-to-nothing except for its own labour, which it must sell in order to survive. Since the beginning of capitalism approximately two hundred years ago, and especially since the emergence of capitalist-imperialist world system about 130 years ago, this class has been steadily growing in size, through all manner of violence and dispossession, but its consciousness and political power has not been straight-forward moving, as these have waxed and waned; it has waged and won many a revolution that brought unprecedented gains to humanity, which must be upheld, reclaimed, repeated, and surpassed; and it has also suffered tremendous defeats and setbacks. But today this class makes up the vast majority of the human population, and as such it is the only class with the will and the power to completely abolish capitalist social relations once and liberate the entirety of humanity from oppression.
7. For one account of the genocide of Indigenous peoples across the Plains, see James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (University of Regina Press, 2013).
8. See Nathaniel Dove, “Much more needed for after Cowessess announcement,” Global News, July 6, 2021 (available at: globalnews.ca).
9. See redbearlodge.ca for more info.
10. See Ashifa Kassam, “Ratio of indigenous children in Canada welfare system is ‘humanitarian crisis’,” The Guardian, November 4, 2017 (available at: theguardian.com).
11. Cowessess First Nation is Treaty 4 (1874) territory, one of eleven Numbered Treaties that extend from northern Ontario all the way west to the Rockies and which were imposed by the Canadian state after colonial Confederation of 1867.
British Colombia, by contrast, is unceded territory, and the Canadian state has only in recent decades been trying to address this with modern treaties.
12. Bill C-92: An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.
13. See Footnote 11 for a brief explanation on the Numbered Treaties and the unceded territories that encompass B.C.
14. For a cinematic portrayal of this growing reality, see Nomadland, the 2020 film about an Amazon worker who loses her home in the Great Financial Crisis, and is forced into the swelling ranks of vehicle-dwelling nomads living in Walmart
parking lots and rest stops across the US.
15. The Gitxsan are an Indigenous people in northern British Colombia whose territory encompasses about 53,000 km² of land stretching from the basin of the upper Skeena River from about Legate Creek to the Skeena’s headwaters and its surrounding tributaries, just to the north of Wet’suwet’en.
16. One group of comrades failed to acquaint themselves properly with the equipment prior to their interviews and ended up losing their recordings with the white guys. As with the two reserve interviews above that weren’t recorded, comrades reconstructed fragments of the interview as best they could immediately afterwards. The interview with the Gitxsan girls, however, were fully recorded and transcribed.
17. The bourgeois media coverage on the fire in Gitwangak reflects the same account we gathered in this interview. See “5th church fire on B.C. First Nations reserve, say RCMP,” CTV News, June 27, 2021 (available at: bc.ctvnews.ca).
18. It’s worth noting here that in the case of the second coup d’etat against Aristide on 29 February 2004, the Canadian military’s Joint Task Force-2 played a leading role in his kidnapping. This information is readily available from
multiple sources with a quick Google search combining JTF-2 + Aristide + Haiti + Canada.
19. See Amy Judd, “Cause of Lytton, B.C., wildfire not yet known, resident saw train brake then smoke rise,” Global News, July 2, 2021 (available at: globalnews.ca).
20. See “National Wildland Fire Situation Report,” Natural Resources Canada, September 15, 2021 (available at: cwfis.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/report).
21. In trying to keep up with vast, cascading catastrophes like the ones experienced in B.C. over the past six months, Wikipedia entries can be a very useful resource. See the Wikipedia entry “2021 Western North America Heat Wave,” last accessed November 29, 2021 (available at: wikipedia.org).
22. See “Damage being tallied from summer drought across Prairies,” Canadian Underwriter, November 12, 2021 (available at: canadianunderwriter.ca).
23. See Jeff Berardelli, “Pacific Northwest bakes under once-in-a-millennium heat dome,” CBS News, June 29, 2021 (available at: cbsnews.com).
24. See José San Miguel’s “Theses on Capitalist Crisis and Class War” from kites #2 on the question of the relationship between today’s existential threats and capitalist accumulation; and also in that issue of kites, see Part 2 of Kenny Lake’s Spectre series, “Things done changed,” for an analysis concerning the extent to which the chaotic and predatory movements of capitalist accumulation bears
responsibility for the mounting crises in our world today.
25. In response to the global financial crisis in 2008–09 that was triggered by the implosion of the sub-prime mortgage sector in the US, the Canadian government quietly approved up to $275 billion in bailout money to Canada’s banking system. The first (and only media outlet for years) in Canada to report on this came from the people’s media organization in Toronto BASICS Community News Service. See Steve da Silva, “Canada’s Bailouts: A Whole New Round of Attacks on the Working Class,” April 16, 2009 (available at: basicsnewsletter.blogspot.com). Only three
years later in April 2012 was the conspiracy of silence surrounding the bailout finally broken when the social democratic think-tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published “Canada’s secret bank bailout revealed” (available at: policyalternatives.ca), wherein it was revealed that $114-billion worth of bailout money was ultimately handed over to Canada’s big banks from October 2008 to July 2010 by the Bank of Canada, the United States Federal Reserve, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
26. The popular discontent surrounding the September 2021 Federal election— an election that was being held in the middle of a pandemic, that cost $600 million, that no one wanted, and that was a complete sideshow from the sequence of catastrophes playing out across the country—was accentuated by the comical outcome that the composition of Parliament barely shifted.
27. Concerning immigrant detention centres in Canada: In 2017–18, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) reported that 6,609 people, including 151 children, were held in detention in Toronto, Laval, and Vancouver, up from 4,248 a year earlier. At the same time, there were another 1,831 detainees held in jails
around the country, compared to 971 in 2016–17. Detainees are subject to the same condition as inmates. See Emerald Bensadoun, “Five things to know about Canadian immigration detention centres,” The Canadian Press, July 8, 2019 (available at:nationalobserver.com).
28. For context, with Winnipeg being the biggest city-centre for Indigenous peoples across Manitoba and through much of northern Ontario, Indigenous people often have to trek in and out of the city for medical care and doctor appointments, and during such treks, often find themselves visiting a friend for reasons that amount to maintaining social bonds as much as fulfilling the need to find shelter for a few hours or days before or after visits to the city.
29. See Meagan Campbell, “New light on Saskatoon’s ‘starlight tours’,” Macleans, April 8, 2016 (available at: macleans.ca).
30. For context, “a lot” of Inuit amounts to about 900 according to the 2016 census, which is a very substantial number considering how many are living on the streets of Montreal.
31. The “lab leak theory” was widely disseminated and commented on by U.S. politicians and the corporate media, especially by Trump and Fox News. It blames (with no evidence) the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the source of Covid-19, rather than a zoonotic source which is presumed by scientists and is a scenario the conditions of globalized capitalist production have pretty much guaranteed to occur sooner or later. The origin of Covid-19 immediately became the subject of investigation by WHO, and the lab leak theory view has been
recycled within corporate media narratives many times over despite no credible evidence of it ever having been found. For an account of the evolution of this conspiracy, see “COVID-19: why lab-leak theory is back despite little new evidence,”
from 21 June 2021 in The Conversation (available at: https://theconversation.com).
32. See Marija Pandurov, “13 Worrying Student Debt in Canada Statistics for 2021,” Reviewlution, October 2021 (available at: reviewlution.ca).
33. See Shelly Hagan, “Canada’s job market blows past estimates quadrupling gains,” Al Jazeera, December 3, 2021 (available at: aljazeera.com).
34. See “Union leaders urging striking Vale workers to reject company’s latest offer,” CBC, June 14, 2021 (available at: cbc.ca).
35. See Gram Slattery and Marta Nogueira, “Brazil police recommend homicide, environmental charges in Vale dam disaster,” Reuters, Nothvember 27, 2021 (available at: msn.com).
36. Salute to the comrade reader of kites in the US who the initiative upon themselves to undertake such an investigation. See “Code Blue: The Living Nightmare of Healthcare Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic” in kites #5-6, the same volume in which this report appears.