In the middle of the new year's activist ferment, we honour some of those who make our city a more just and earth-friendly place
STANDING UP FOR THE NEW GENERATION
Radical resum: Head of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, City Hall finagler, campaigner against user fees for Parks and Rec programs, the energy behind the "Save the Pools" movement, organizer of youth voter drives.
Calling: "I'm no special guy. I was into my music, I liked to play basketball -- that was it. After a few minutes of the Youth Cabinet meetings, I knew politics was something I could definitely be down with. People in low-income areas think you have to be some special, gifted genius. I want anyone -- Christian or thug, poet or basketball player -- to know they can do this."
Insight: "In politics you have to know who will help you, and always watch your back. I've never been the type to march in the street -- I'm probably just too lazy to get my ass out and hold a wooden stick. But decisions aren't even made at meetings -- they're made between meetings, before meetings."
Upcoming: City Hall budget Working with police. "We're not going to get exploited here. What we want in return is a youth advisory board that sits beside the police services board."
FOR AN ANTICORPORATE WORLD
Radical resum: Organizer of the Common Front on the World Trade Organization; anti-APEC protestor; anti-MAI campaigner; co-producer of By By World, The Battle Of Seattle; facilitator at post-9/11 racial profiling meeting.
Calling: "Some people in the political realm hurt themselves and others by working very dogmatically. I'm not a Marxist. I've never adhered to one ideology, probably because I grew up between cultures. I was born in Iran -- my father's Muslim and my mother's Christian -- so I had to to navigate different realities."
Insight: "Trade is the root cause of social ills. It's the expression of extreme capitalism, and the World Trade Organization is the most powerful institution in the world."
Upcoming: The G-8 meeting in Kananaskis. "The death of an activist in Genoa (at the G8 summit in July) and September 11 knocked the wind out of my sails. Now the Common Front needs to take a look at what's ahead."
KEEPING SPIRITS HIGH
KIM FRY, SIMONE ARSENAULT-MAY
Radical resum: Radical Cheerleaders devoted to the banishment of "Hey, hey, ho, ho"; mood-lifters at anti-globalization demos, OCAP marches and picket lines; members of CUPE 3903; York U enviro studies grad students.
Calling: Fry: "I wanted to be a cheerleader when I was young, but my mom, a typical liberal feminist, wouldn't let me. I admired them -- they were so perky, and I was, like, a hippy and goth girl."
Insight: Fry: "Cheerleading is a form of political de-escalation, like in Quebec when the tear gas was flying. We channel energy and make things less angry. It's like (witch) Starhawk's Living River, working with energy to heal and calm protests.'
Arsenault-May: "There's a need for positive emotions like love and happiness because they motivate people to stay on-board with the movement. If it's always depressing you burn out pretty quickly."
Upcoming: A funder on Friday, January 18, at Clinton's to send them to the World Social Forum in Puerto Allegra, Brazil.
SUBDUING THE SECURITY BILL
Radical resum: Executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation; campaigner against racial profiling and invasive post-9/11 security laws; activist in the Coalition to End the War; won an apology from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation after it threatened to revoke his licence plate, which reads JEHAD -- his name.
Calling: "The new security laws are something that we feel as a community will adversely affect us more than others. I'm not saying they are directly targeting us. But I think people with Arabic-sounding names and features are going to be affected.'
Insight: "Many of us come from countries where they do actually have on the books human rights and elaborate charters. But they've told their citizens, these leaders we call dictators, that in the interest of public safety and security we're suspending those freedoms and liberties. What is happening in Canada is not unlike that."
Upcoming: Charter challenge of the security bill. "Toronto since September 11 is one of the busiest places in North America in terms of bringing awareness about the war. We should be proud of the revived activist culture."
FINDING LOST TORONTO
Radical resum: Local preservationist with Citizens of the Old Town; pushed the city to conduct a dig that uncovered the remains of Ontario's first parliament buildings at Front and Parliament, now a car wash; insisted three levels of government form a committee to preserve the site.
Calling: "How come Parks Canada has 26 sites in Quebec City and funds not one in Toronto? Fort York is a national historic site, but no federal money goes into it. Quickly, name me one park south of Queen, east of Yonge."
Insight: "A century ago we had parks in the downtown between Fort York and the Don River in excess of what they have in New York in Central Park. And here we are with Robert Fung all these years later trying to get back on track, in a sense, with a continuous shoreline park belt. We had the damn thing and let it slip."
Upcoming: Taking public ownership of Toronto's legacy.
KEEPING US WILD
Radical resum: Urban wilderness campaigner with Earthroots, community radio show host, co-director of the Treehouse Players theatre company.
Calling: "I made my debut speech to protect Temagami at Queen's Park when I was in grade eight. But in the GTA, the Oak Ridges Moraine was and still is the most pressing issue. We believed we could get somewhere because we felt the public wanted something done about it."
Insight: "I've had more meetings with members of the government and the opposition parties than with my own family. I don't believe the government had any genuine interest in protecting the moraine. The only reason they showed any interest was as a political tactic to persuade the 905 that they're environment heroes."
Upcoming: Monitoring the Tories' "smart growth" initiatives. "I don't believe the legislation adequately protects the moraine, but it's amazing how far we've come.'
WITNESSING MIDEAST PEACE
Radical resum: Member of Jewish Women Against the Occupation, who stand in front of the Israeli consulate every other Friday at 5 pm wearing black; art and photography teacher.
Calling: "Jews are doing to others in the Occupied Territories what's been done to us for 2,000 years. We as Jews need to free ourselves from the curse of dominating other people. The only way Israel can survive is if it makes peace with Palestinians."
Insight: "We're telling other Jews, "Don't be silenced by the charge that if you're critical of Israel, you're anti-Jewish. It's OK. Be critical.'"
Upcoming: Alternate Friday's at 5 pm, in front of the Israeli consulate at 180 Bloor East.
SAVED FROM OLYMPIC MADNESS
Radical resum: OISE professor; author of Inside The Olympic Industry: Power, Politics And Activism, the bible of Bread Not Circuses in its efforts to kill T.O.'s 2001 Olympic bid.
Calling: "We wanted to work with anti-poverty groups, and we didn't want to be disconnected from the real people whose lives were going to be affected."
Insight: "The bid people did such a polished public relations job, with top-notch spin doctors. They put a good face on it that this was a bid by the people for the people. It was pretty tough countering all the myth-making."
Upcoming: Her new book, The Best Olympics Ever: Social Impacts Of Sydney 2000, is due out this summer.