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Standing up for Democracy in Toronto

Yesterday evening over 1000 people gathered for a rally at City Hall to push back against Ford’s abuse of power and undermining of democracy and to build the collective power we will need to win. 

Council organizers unfurled a giant copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with a letter calling on Attorney General Caroline Mulroney to stand up to Ford’s attempts to overrule the courts. Hundreds signed it in person and thousands more have signed it online. We will deliver all of these letters to Mulroney this week.

I spoke to the crowd about the concerning rise of fascist and neo-Nazi groups on Toronto’s streets and the undermining of democracy inside Queen’s Park.

Here are videos of what I said, as well as a transcript:

My name is Rachel Small and I work at the Council of Canadians – an organization with 60+ grassroots groups across the country fighting for social and environmental justice.

I’m going to get to Ford, but first I want to quickly talk about what happened here in Toronto this past Saturday, just before the court ruling on Bill 5.

On Saturday roughly 50 brave, loving people stared down a fascist neo-Nazi rally right here in downtown Toronto. I am a Jewish person whose family escaped Europe in the 30s and 40s so you can trust that I do not use those words loosely. Many of the people who gathered on Saturday wore overt Nazi symbols and the crowd included very well known self-proclaimed white-supremacists. Many also openly carried various weapons.

And what did the roughly 100 cops present do? They severely beat up a number of the anti-fascists in the counter demo, some of whom had to be brought to hospital. They not only came up behind protesters and beat people to allow the fascists to mobilize, they also went one giant step further in deciding to actively support the fascists so they could march through downtown Toronto. The police formed a large wedge formation in order to smash through the antifadcists and assault, beat up, and arrest anyone who thus impeded the fascist march from moving forward. Otherwise put, the police used extreme violence against Torontonians to ensure that Nazis were able to easily march through downtown toronto unimpeded.

Do we stand for this? If this doesn’t terrify us, then we are not paying enough attention. To history but also to what is happening right here, right now. I don’t know who you make promises to, but I have sworn to my 96 year old Bubby and my almost 2-year old who is in the audience here that I will do literally everything I can to stop the spread of fascism in this city, this province, this country.

And then this week began and we’re all at this point clear on what Ford is trying to do. Not only to just this one time override a court decision that ruled that his government’s conduct was unconstitutional, but to continue to do this as often as he feels necessary.

And so I think we need to talk seriously about what the threat of a slow slide towards fascism looks like. Because it doesn’t just look like fascists growing in strength and marching on the street, and being 100% upheld and supported by state police. It also looks like an elected government slowly undermining everything meant to keep it in check – an independent judiciary, an independent media, civil society. And I repeat – if this doesn’t terrify us, then we are not paying enough attention.

Four years of this regime is not just unacceptable, it is not tolerable.

And I think what became clear to many people this week is that Ford won’t be stopped by the courts and he won’t be stopped in the Legislature. We’ve got amazing allies in both of those places, many of whom spoke here today. We need to fight this all together, but we need to recognize that they will not save us. Who is going to stop Ford? I say we are.

This has been obvious for a very long time to the many who face the brunt of the racist, colonial, sexist violence bolstered by our court system every day. And by those people, especially the Indigenous people who have never been represented by the government on this stolen land.

So while people who have access to those systems should continue fighting inside the courts and the government, we know the rest of us – workers, activists, unions, students, parents, children, faith groups, community organizations, the big us – we have a lot of work to do out here. And I know you know it because that’s why you are here today.

My action item with the Council of Canadians is to get this petition to Mulroney this week. You can also sign it online. There are so many other groups that are bugging the cabinet ministers and Ford’s government every day and fighting back in a huge range of ways. So if you’re not in a group, join one.

I want to end by asking you:

Who’s going to fight fascism wherever it creeps up? We are!

Whose going to fight to shut ford down? We are!

Who’s going to bring justice to this city? We are!

Who’s going to protect democracy? We are!