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For Prisoners Justice Day I am finally posting my Sentencing Statement from June 26, 2012

August 8, 2013 1 comment

I want to write about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign in Toronto. I want to write about how three different young Indigenous women have been apparently killed this summer in this city, and how like across the country such deaths are so often not taken seriously by the state. I want to write about the connection between these deaths and the murder of a Syrian teenager by Toronto police. I definitely want to recall their names: Cheyenne Fox, Terra Gardner and Bella Laboucan-McLean; Sammy Yatim. I want to write about the connection between the horrific phenomenon of missing and murdered Indigenous women in this country and the capitalist ethos of environmental destruction and how at a really deep level these patterns can be seen as part of one and the same.

But I still haven’t figured out how to write about that.

But it is almost Prisoners’ Justice Day and I figured that I should post something to this blog. After all, the problem of prisons in this system is also connected to the patterns and problems above.

So, below is something that I’d meant to have posted quite a while ago. It is the sentencing statement that I delivered to the court on June 26, 2012 before I went in to jail to serve time for my role in organizing the protests that took over the streets of Toronto during the G20 Summit in the summer of 2010.

Those protests were about a lot more than the G20 and the austerity agenda that was ushered in through those meetings. They were also about all that which I mentioned above, and about people uniting to resist intersecting and overlapping forms of oppression and violence.

Prisoners’ Justice Day is on August 10, this year and every year. While the statement below was my attempt to challenge the Crown and the Court’s processes of persecution that they exacted through the G20 Main Conspiracy Case like they do with all their prosecutions, I hope that people will take the 10th to think about, not only the people in prisons and the history of prisons, prison organizing and resistance, but also the way prisoners’ justice and resistance against prisons intersects with the fight for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, for the victims of police murder, and for all families and communities struggling against the ongoing racist legacies of colonialism and capitalism that continue to attack us everyday.

*************

ONTARIO COURT OF JUSTICE

HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN

against

ALEX HUNDERT

************

SENTENCING

BEFORE THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE L. BUDZINSKI

AT TORONTO, ONTARIO, ON JUNE 26, 2012

**********

APPEARANCES:

 J. Miller, Esq. Counsel for the Crown

J. Norris, Esq. Counsel for the accused

*************

THE ACCUSED: The first thing I want to address is the point that Mr. Norris finished on. It has been stated throughout these proceedings repeatedly by Mr. Miller, and by several J.P.s, and I think even by yourself, that this case isn’t about politics, and I want to suggest that that’s ridiculous. That everybody who has witnessed this case be it the defence lawyers, be it the media, be it non-politicized family members of the co-accused and community, this is so obviously about politics.

And given that we keep hearing this phrase about putting the reputation of the justice system into disrepute, or anything like that, or other variance of that we have heard, I think every single time, either someone behind the Bench, or the Crown Attorney suggests this isn’t political, it puts the justice system in disrepute.

I think the most concrete evidence of that is when we compare the sentences given to people who were caught breaking a couple windows during the G20, versus what has happened to people who were caught in Vancouver [during the Stanley Cup riot].

There was recently a young man who broke a half dozen windows, was involved in fist fights, smashed up a couple cop cars, he got 1 month. They are trying to give Kelly Pflug-Back, a G20 defendant, 18 to 24 for almost the same set of charges. So to suggest that this isn’t political is, I think, ridiculous.

Further, the way that the Crown, as Mr. Norris also eluded to, has demonized otherwise perfectly normal community groups, I mean, AWOL is a group that existed in Kitchener for almost a half dozen years, the way we were described by the Crown in this case, we were never, ever described by any political people in Kitchener, Waterloo, or by the police that way. This was a new invention that was part of politicizing this case. It is not an accurate description of who we were as a group. And, you know, pictures of me hugging the Mayor of Waterloo after one of our actions from years ago I think would attest to that. This is a fabrication of these OPP guys, and this Crown unit, that we are some kind of evil organization.

I also think –another thing that speaks to that is the tremendous focus that was put on hyperbolic rhetoric. Things that I accept that were clearly offensive and societally unacceptable ideas to put forward, some of the quotes that we heard over and over again [during our bail hearings and at the preliminary inquest], but trying to take quotes that were obviously jokes, and frame them as serious political discourse, and then say that is what makes us more guilty, that is a ploy, and it’s a political ploy. I think it is very clearly a political ploy meant to turn people against us, so that people won’t listen to what we actually have to say. And I think that’s really obvious, and I don’t think — I don’t think the media were duped, and I don’t think the public were duped, and I don’t understand why…  I understand why the Crown is insisting on it. I don’t understand why the courts are.

And that’s part of it, I think part of the reason it’s all happened is to put up a smoke screen and make it impossible for people to hear about the alternative ideas that we’re actually putting forward, or to have a reasonable discussion about tactics.

It can’t be illegal for us to talk about the possibility of actions, except the very premise of this case when it was still a conspiracy charge, was that merely being at meetings where people were talking about illegal actions may be part of a conspiracy to do those things, and I don’t know how we are supposed to have any kind of political discourse if we are not allowed to talk about ideas anymore.

I also think this case was really political because as we suspected from the beginning, as the disclosure has suggested through looking at the Intelligence Reports, and as through a number of F.O.I.s [Freedom of Information applications] into various issues, including the 2009 Aboriginal JIG [Joint Intelligence Group] Report will confirm a lot of what this case was about really clearly to people who have looked through it all; it was about targeting a growing network of radical activists.

There has been a burgeoning network over the last half dozen years in this country, of Indigenous Sovereigntists and their allies, migrant justice organizers, and anarchists. And we have seen time and time again in the evidence that those networks are explicitly what are being targeted by the Intelligence operations. We have seen it in who was selected for — to get brought into this case, as opposed to who wasn’t. And then when this JIG report came out, when someone dug it up, half of what they are talking about in that report those networks, anarchists, migrant justice organizers, — in the RCMP’s report  about policing aboriginal communities. And that is — they talk about it in the case as part of the goals, but I don’t know how much of the disclosure – you don’t have access to all of the disclosure until it comes before the court.

THE COURT: I want you to understand that your plea, your admission of the facts, constitutes all the information that I have to deal with this case.

THE ACCUSED: Right.

THE COURT: It would be inappropriate for me to read newspapers, and look at what you may have said or done outside, or prior issues that you may have raised before, or the history of anyone, I am isolated by the information I have in this courtroom and nothing more, do you understand that?

THE ACCUSED: I understand that, and I think that’s part of what is – it’s somewhat problematic about the system. I think that this whole process that we have been dragged through is really — has been all about the criminalization of dissent, and I think that if you want to take the position that you can only — that you are very bound by a certain set of parameters, then I would suggest the court is being used as a weapon by the Crown and the police to criminalize dissent. I would suggest, perhaps, the Court has been used in that way.

Dissent has very much been criminalized. It is very clear to most people that things like [the Crown] appealing our bail, given that we weren’t actually accused of anything violent, things like asking for two year sentences for what are essentially thought crimes, that these are about nothing more than intimidating the public to try to scare people from doing the types of things we were doing—like Mr. Miller just said, deterrence. But this is deterrence from thinking. This is deterrence from engaging in politic activity. This is deterrence from community organizing.

Deterrence from smashing windows is catching people smashing windows, and charging them appropriately, not giving them politically motivated sentences for doing so.

And I think it has specifically been about, not just criminalizing the idea that we are not allowed to talk about these things, but in the course of the way their case was put together, actual tactics and methods of political organizing have also been criminalized. The suggestion that merely being at a meeting where something illegal was talked about makes you part of a conspiracy, makes even the most peaceful soft forms of civil disobedience, conspiracies, because how can you plan them without talking about them.

And I think part of the reason why the Crown didn’t want us to go to trial was so that we couldn’t talk about those issues in court, so you couldn’t see all the disclosure, so that there wouldn’t be an actual public conversation on these things.

We were quite explicitly silenced. When I first got out of jail, the –

THE COURT: You are not suggesting your counsel in some way is part of the conspiracy, are you?

THE ACCUSED: No, I am not –I don’t believe in conspiracy.

THE COURT: You did have counsel, and counsel represented you.

THE ACCUSED: Counsel represented me, stuck by in the parameters of a system, and I will — and I am going to get to that a bit, but I think that the fact that we were very explicitly silenced, that I came out of jail and was told, “You’re not allowed to talk· to the media,”

THE COURT: Are you being silenced now?

THE ACCUSED: No. I had to fight. I had to refuse my bail conditions at one point, and then we –

THE COURT: Are you being silenced right now?

THE ACCUSED: Right now, no. But I think this process — there has been a tremendous amount of –

THE COURT: Let’s keep focused on what we are doing right now, that’s all –

THE ACCUSED: But right now is the culmination of four years. It’s not just the culmination of the trial, and since the arrest, it’s also the whole operation. And I think the court has to own some of what the police did. I think the court is much more responsible for what the police did than anyone else in the room, other than the police.

So you know, these lawsuits that are starting to come up, I think the court is somewhat complicit in those things that happened for not having stopped it.

I also think that the process was –was used tremendously to bully us into a deal. We were told –

THE COURT: What do you mean “a deal?”

THE ACCUSED: The plea deal. I totally accept –

THE COURT: Do you want to take a moment to speak to your counsel?

THE ACCUSED: No, I have talked to him about this. I totally accept that I definitely… I’m quite sure I did something illegal in this process. i’m quite sure that the nine months i’m about to serve is relatively appropriate for what I did. I think it’s unfortunate that none of us can tell anyone which parts of what we did are actually illegal.

The Crown approached… once the discussion for a deal was on the table, we were told “it’s all or nothing. Either there’s a group deal, or nobody is getting cut.” This is in a system where one of our co-accused was facing potential deportation if found convicted, where there were 19 year olds only peripherally involved –

THE COURT: Each of the parties were represented by counsel.

THE ACCUSED: Yeah.

THE COURT: The parties had a right to say no, and each of the parties had a right to go to trial. I clearly articulated to you that you do have a right to go to trial—

THE ACCUSED: Yeah.

THE COURT: –and that by entering a plea you are waiving that Constitutional right to have a trial –

THE ACCUSED: I have a right to a trial, but what the system doesn’t—

THE COURT: But hold on, let me –

THE ACCUSED: –afford me –

THE COURT: Let me finish. Let me finish, okay? You have all the freedom in the world to write about whatever you want to write about, or speak about whatever you want to speak about after today. You also have some rights to speak about relevant issues today in the case. But if you are saying in some way that you were coerced, or that you entered a plea against your will, that is a different matter.

THE ACCUSED: I’m not saying it was “against my will,” and I’m not sure quite what “coerced” means, because this whole process, the whole system is inherently coercive. If I don’t pay my taxes, I get in trouble. If I… we live in a coercive society. That is the nature of the authority in our society

THE COURT: And destruction of property is also coercive –

THE ACCUSED: Sure, that’s not what we are talking about.

THE COURT: Well, we are. That is exactly what we are talking about. We are talking—

THE ACCUSED: Okay, well I’ll get –

THE COURT: –about the freedom of speech that has been reduced to coercive acts of violence against property. That is –

THE ACCUSED: I think that —

THE COURT: That is no different than the coercion that you speak about.

THE ACCUSED: I think it is quite different. But to suggest that what we did was somehow more coercive than the way the police and the Crown have used the system that they possess against us —

THE COURT: In a free and democratic society, it is important that both the authorities and the public recognize that it is, I suppose, an issue of faith, and that people treat each other with dignity. Breaches of dignity or self-respect are wrong for either side to employ in any situation. One cannot—

THE ACCUSED: Okay, then

THE COURT: — justify their own use of breach of dignity or respect to other people by saying that the other person disrespected me first. There are revolutions throughout this world. There are panics in different parts of this country, not this country, but other countries right now, where one religious group fights another religious group I or and one particular political group fights another political group only because they are saying, “You did this to me, and I didn’t do this to you, so I’m going to do it back to you.” Unless we return to the fundamental issues of a democratic society, where everyone treats everyone with dignity, recognizing that there is mutual obligations both on the State and the individual, democratic societies will fail.

THE ACCUSED: Well, frankly, I would suggest that the direction this country is going in, and the very austerity agenda we were protesting, is the most violent thing that anyone did out of all of this, and to suggest that we have a wonderful democratic country that we need to protect with the rule of law, given what the austerity agenda they were putting into place that weekend, given what the police did, given what we can see happening in Montreal right now, I think it’s ridiculous. We have got a situation just across the Provincial border that is nearing the type of revolution you are talking about.

THE COURT: You are an intelligent man. I don’t want to engage in a lot of non-topic or non-relevant issues to what is happening here today. Like I say, you are free to pick up a pen, you are free to write, you are free to speak after today, after the sentence is imposed, in any way you wish.

THE ACCUSED: But I am not free to talk about the process right now?

THE COURT: Well, you have to keep it relevant. You have to keep –

THE ACCUSED: I’ve got –

THE COURT: We have got to keep it to how that sentence is relevant to you.

THE ACCUSED:  I think that talking about the fact that we were, I would agree probably within the confines of the law, bullied into a deal. I accept I did something wrong, I accept the terms —

THE COURT: I am going to take five minutes. You may want to speak to your lawyer because —

THE ACCUSED: I have talked to my lawyer.

THE COURT: No, no, no. I I want you to-take five minutes because to say that you are bullied into a dealt I think you need to —

THE ACCUSED: I am qualifying the term “bullied” but —

THE COURT: No, no, we are not playing linguistics here.

THE ACCUSED: We have been playing linguistics since the beginning.

THE COURT: No, I am going to —

THE ACCUSED: When he –when Mr. Miller dragged out the dictionary—

THE COURT: No, no

THE ACCUSED: –we started playing linguistics.

THE COURT: I am going to give you five minutes to speak to your lawyer, okay? You can have five minutes –

THE ACCUSED: Well, how about this, why don’t I fire my lawyer right now and you can talk to me. I don’t want the five minutes.

THE COURT: Just keep it to the point then.

THE ACCUSED: I am trying to keep it to the point. Talking about the process and the way this deal happened, how can that not be relevant to the sentencing hearing that is happening right now?

THE COURT: Mr., Miller, is there an issue here of concern by the Crown?

MR. MILLER: No.

THE COURT: I just —

MR. MILLER: No, I understand Mr. Hundert to be saying –he is explaining his motivation for entering a plea. I don’t take it to be somebody overcame —

THE ACCUSED: And that’s not what l’m trying to say either –

THE COURT: Wait a second. Wait a second. Mr Norris, you agree with the —

MR. NORRIS: Your Honour, I agree with Mr. Miller.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. NORRIS: I think Mr. Hundert has stated his —

THE COURT: Okay, that’s fine, thank you very much. Go ahead.

THE ACCUSED: So I don’t know where I was in all of this, but I think that that all –all of that, I think you have got a system that you preside over that is flawed. I think it is set up to allow the Crowns to bully defendants into plea deals.

I spent a lot of time in jail, not a lot of time, I spent a very small time in jail, but got to talk to some people who have spent half their lives in jail who talk about pleading over and over again to charges they didn’t’ commit because of the way the system’ operates. Bail is used as a coercive mechanism, and the process is used as a coercive mechanism. The process is used as a coercive mechanism to rack up’ convictions. I’m not saying I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m saying it’s a shame that because we –nobody wanted to go to trial — that nobody knows which things are actually illegal. We didn’t set any precedent in this case, and that’s unfortunate, and that doesn’t fulfill justice.

And all I’m saying is that if the Crown had let the people who obviously weren’t guilty, and should have been cut out of this case get cut, and let the people who wanted to go to trial to have a public discourse about all of this go, that that would have been serving everybody’s definition of justice much better.

And I would just caution the Court and the Crown, and everything else involved, to not let this stuff keep happening. If this system is allegedly about justice, avoiding the conversation is not useful.

I also think — I mean one of the things that has happened through these sentencing hearings… You chastised Peter Hopperton for mentioning the Arab Spring. And then Leah Henderson was maybe not chastised, but, you know, when her lawyer submitted the Time magazine cover of the Occupy “person of the year, protester” story, and I think that in the time that has gone… since then it has become clear that these things are connected.

To suggest that the austerity agenda that we were protesting at the G20, and what is happening in Quebec right now is unconnected would be ridiculous. It is clearly connected to austerity –

THE COURT: No, but just to keep it —

THE ACCUSED: No —

THE COURT: Just to keep it understood is that the comments I made were not against the issues. That is not for me to decide or be involved in. The comments I made were in the effectiveness of the method used. The Arab Spring was very much a social media concern –

THE ACCUSED: That’s not actually true.

THE COURT: Well, okay, I –

THE ACCUSED: That is inaccurate.

THE COURT: We can argue here for hours and —

THE ACCUSED: Yeah, but this is my turn to speak.

THE COURT: No, no. But we can’t argue that point because there is no resolution –

THE ACCUSED: There is. There is. You could actually do the research and go back and look at the footage. People were getting killed live on CNN in Cairo. There was — it was a tremendously violent movement. The spirit of the movement was peaceful, and people were supportive of it so they called it a peaceful movement. That’s part of what our global media does. Is when we support things, we call them peaceful. When we don’t support them, we call them violent. It’s part of the way the whole system works.

For example, it has been suggested that one of the really egregious things we did was to be willing to use violence to achieve political ends. I would suggest that almost everybody is willing to do that. You, yourself, are willing to do that. If I refuse to go to jail at the end of this hearing, what is going to happen? You guys in uniforms are going to physically drag me out of this room. That is a use of violence for political ends, and I only bring that up to suggest that the statement, “Using violence for political ends is always wrong,” is it’s a fallacy. It’s not the world we live in.

And I would also suggest that the tactics that were used on the street during the G20 are part of a global history, and a global reality of resistance, and it was one of the first times in recent memory that a street protest in Toronto actually looked like a protest in the rest of the world, and I think that’s part of why it happened. I think people are waking up in this country, that Canada is not some oasis in some messed up world. Canada is actually part of the problem, a big part. And I think since that G20, we have seen a lot more protests starting to look like that, and I think if the direction this country is heading in doesn’t change immediately, the future is going to be full of a lot more of them. And why the courts wouldn’t take that seriously, and recognize where we are actually at in the world, I don’t think it serves anybody any good.

The other thing we were told is that the riot that happened on the G20 stole the message of the protest, and I think that’s preposterous. There were five days of entirely peaceful protests before it. They got almost no attention. It’s not our fault — it’s not anybody’s fault who was on the street that nobody paid attention to the peaceful protests. That nobody remembers the messaging from five days of themed protest that saw more than 40,000 people on the street. That doesn’t get covered, that doesn’t get talked about.

Occupy didn’t get huge media until it started getting a little bit rowdy. The same with the Quebec stuff, and same with the Arab Spring. To suggest that somehow violence on the part of the protesters is what steals the message is ridiculous. The media can cover whatever they want, and people can remember and think about whatever they want.

And I have pretty much covered everything I really wanted to say. I would like to suggest again that with — having seen that OIPRD report now, you know, there is a specific line in the statement of facts that says that the only reason teaching people how to defend themselves against the police was illegal was because I didn’t specify that you can only resist arrest if you know it’s an unlawful arrest. People have a Constitutional right to defend themselves against unlawful arrest.

And I don’t think it’s fair to punish us because we knew what the cops were going do. We knew that most of the arrests that weekend were going be unlawful, and we prepared people to defend themselves against a brutal police Force.  And if that’s the thing I did that was illegal, so be it, but that’s a flawed system if that’s illegal. That’s it.

THE COURT:  Thank you.

**************

Prisoners’ Statement on Prisoners’ Justice Day

August 7, 2012 Leave a comment

On Prisoners’ Justice Day in every jail in Canada and in prisons around the world inmates will go on a 24-hour hunger strike. We do this to remember Eddy Nolan who died in Millhaven Penitentiary in Ontario on August 10th 1974 as a victim of the inhumane conditions in that prison at that time. We do this to remember all of the inmates who fought and the two who died in a four day riot in April of 1971 at Kingston Penitentiary. Both of those incidents led to major reforms in the Canadian prison system. We fast so that we ourselves remember. We strike to remind the institutions and the world that even behind bars we are still entitled to human rights and human dignity, and we can still fight for both.

This statement for Prisoners’ Justice Day 2012 was written by Alex Hundert, with input from more than a dozen inmates inside the Central North Correctional Complex in Penetanguishene Ontario, and Mandy Hiscocks at the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton Ontario. Both are provincial jails in Ontario, Canada. This statement has been signed so far by 56 inmates in Penetang and Vanier, which is 100% of all of those who had the opportunity to read it. Most of those at Penetang who provided input into the very first draft of the statement were unable to sign onto this final version as they were, for reasons unrelated to the drafting of this statement, either moved or are now in the hole (administrative segregation).

It is an outrage that the federal government is enacting the first measures of its Omnibus Crime Bill C-10, the so-called ‘Safe Streets and Communities Act’ on August 9th,  just one day before the annual Prisoners’ Justice Day. This bill will only serve to make prisons more crowded and will make our prison system even less about justice than it currently is. We want people to know how bad things already are before they get worse.

In provincial jails in Ontario we have no functional protections for our human rights the way that federal penitentiaries have had since the 1970’s when inmates fought and died for them. In provincial jails we are subject to arbitrary authority with no effective grievance process. Provincial prisons are significantly more overcrowded than federal penitentiaries. Close to 70% of inmates in Ontario provincial institutions have not actually been convicted, and are instead awaiting bail or trial or in many cases are awaiting deportation. With the loss of conditional sentences and instead new harsher measures (especially for youth) and mandatory minimums, there will be an even greater reliance on the prison system. We are concerned and angry that the federal laws are going to do nothing but aggravate an already unacceptable situation.

Rehabilitation programs have been decimated and jails have become little more than warehouses. For example, this year we will see a massive cut to the Drug Treatment Program by $42 million dollars and under Bill C-10 this money will now be directly transferred to investigations and prosecutions. Bill C-10 will cost Ontario an estimated $1billion dollars on new prison infrastructure, while social programs and jobs are gutted, further driving people in to poverty.  The Ontario government says that the average cost to keep someone in a provincial prison is $183/day in comparison to social housing which is $5-25/day – yet jails are being built in the place of housing.

If you want to genuinely make communities safer, the solution cannot be locking away more people for longer in jails where we only become more angry and disillusioned. We need to change the conditions under which people are locked away and we need strategies to make sure fewer people from our communities are locked up at all.  We need to focus on rehabilitation and not warehouses. We need to focus on the root causes of why people end up here in the first place so that when people get out there is something better to go back to. We need to uphold human dignity, not deprive people of it. We can do this by safeguarding people’s human rights, not by stripping them of all responsibility and opportunity. We need to foster community and interpersonal ties that are based on something deeper than the ‘us against them’ mentality that this system instills in us.

By moving towards a system that protects the rights of all people including prisoners we can move towards real justice for all.

Signed (*),

Alex Hundert

Ana Maria

Ana M. Charry

Bryan Sousa

Candis Beckford

Chad Mauthe

Chen ZL

Christine N

Clair Herrington

Costello

Cummings

Dan Mccue

Daphney Thompson

DB

DP

Debra Chrisjohn

Derrick Ochoa

Ed Mccrudden

Eduardo “Tito” Silver

Evelyn Breuer

Fay Schofield

FJ

Francis Joel Lerode

George Curtis

Gordon Gatt

H Johns

Isaac Nakoolak

Jacqlynn Hoshowatiuk

James

Joann Went

Julias Danchnor

Justyna Karas

Mandy Hiscocks

Marina T

Mark Smith

M Bermido

M Gardanzari

Mitchel Wheeler

MB

MM

Natasha Gomes-Le-yung

NM

OL

Paul Mitchel

PB

Plaudine Liette Bishop

Roger Langlois

Ronny Ann Agawu-Syrette

Shana Gregory

Serena Richards

Stephanie L

Tiana A

Tracy Knol

Wei Kong

+ 2 anonymous

(*) More signatures are being added.

Categories: prison writing

Déclaration de détenuEs à l’occasion de la Journée de la justice pour les prisonniers et prisonnières

August 7, 2012 Leave a comment

À l’occasion de la Journée de la justice pour les prisonniers et prisonnières, dans toutes les prisons du Canada et ailleurs dans le monde, des détenuEs entreprendront une grève de la faim de 24 heures. Nous dédions ce geste à la mémoire d’Eddy Nolan, qui est décédé au Pénitencier de Millhaven, en Ontario, le 10 août 1974, victime des conditions inhumaines qui prévalaient alors dans cette prison. Nous faisons ceci pour commémorer touTEs les détenuEs qui se sont battuEs et les deux qui ont perdu la vie lors d’une émeute de quatre jours en avril 1971 au Pénitencier de Kingston. Ces deux incidents ont entraîné des réformes majeures du système carcéral canadien. Nous jeûnons pour nous rappeler. Nous faisons la grève pour rappeler aux institutions et au monde que, même derrière les barreaux, nous avons des droits fondamentaux et conservons notre dignité humaine, et que nous pouvons encore nous battre pour les préserver.

Cette déclaration a été écrite par Alex Hundert, avec l’apport de plus d’une douzaine de détenus du Centre correctionnel du Nord, à Penetanguishene, Ontario, et par Mandy Hiscocks, présentement détenue au Centre Vanier pour les femmes, à Milton, Ontario. Ces deux établissements sont des prisons provinciales en Ontario, Canada. Cette déclaration a été signée par 56 détenuEs de Penetang et de Vanier, soit 100% de ceux et celles qui ont eu l’occasion de la lire. La plupart des détenus de Penetang qui ont contribué à la rédaction initiale de cette déclaration n’ont pas eu la chance de la signer car ils ont été, pour des raisons qui sont étrangères à cette initiative, soit déplacés, soit jetés au trou (isolement « préventif »).Il est scandaleux que le gouvernement fédéral choisisse de mettre en vigueur les premières mesures de sa loi omnibus C-10, la prétendue Loi sur la sécurité des rues et des communautés, le 9 août, soit la veille de la Journée de la justice pour les prisonniers et prisonnières. Cette loi ne servira qu’à remplir encore davantage les prisons et à faire en sorte que le système carcéral soit encore moins utile à la justice qu’il ne l’est déjà. Nous vouons que les gens comprennent à quel point les choses vont déjà mal avant qu’elles n’empirent encore.

Dans les prisons provinciales de l’Ontario, il n’existe aucune mesure fonctionnelle pour faire respecter nos droits fondamentaux, comme c’est le cas dans les pénitenciers fédéraux depuis les années 1970, lorsque les détenuEs se sont battuEs et que certainEs ont donné leur vie pour les obtenir. Dans les prisons provinciales, nous sommes assujettiEs à une autorité arbitraire, sans aucun processus de grief efficace. Les prisons provinciales sont considérablement plus surpeuplées que les pénitenciers fédéraux. Près de 70 % des détenuEs dans les prisons provinciales n’ont pas été condamnées et sont en fait en attente de leur remise en liberté sous caution ou de leur procès ou, dans de nombreux cas, sont en attente de déportation. Avec l’abandon des peines avec sursis et la mise en vigueur de mesures plus sévères (particulièrement contre les jeunes contrevenants) et de peines minimales obligatoires, l’on accordera encore plus d’importance au système carcéral. Nous constatons, avec colère et consternation, que les lois fédérales ne feront qu’aggraver une situation déjà inacceptable.

Les programmes de réhabilitation ont été dépouillés et les prisons transformées ni plus ni moins qu’en entrepôts. Par exemple, dans la prochaine année, le Programme de soutien au financement du traitement de la toxicomanie (PSFTT) sera l’objet de compressions massives, de l’ordre de 42 millions de dollars. En vertu des dispositions de l’omnibus C-10, cet argent sera transféré directement aux enquêtes et aux poursuites criminelles. C-10 coûtera à l’Ontario un milliard de dollars en nouvelles infrastructures carcérales, alors même que les programmes sociaux et les emplois sont éviscérés et que les pauvres gens sont poussés toujours plus loin dans la pauvreté. Le gouvernement de l’Ontario estime que le coût moyen de garder unE détenuE dans une prison provinciale est de 183 $ par jour ; par comparaison, le coût du logement social est de 5 à 25$ par jour. Pourtant, l’on construit des prisons plus volontiers que des logements sociaux.

Si l’on veut vraiment que nos communautés soit plus sûres, la solution n’est pas d’enfermer plus de personnes, plus longtemps, dans des prisons où leur colère et leur désabusement ne fait que s’approfondir et s’enraciner. Il faut changer les conditions dans lesquelles les gens sont incarcérés et il faut développer des stratégies pour faire en sorte qu’à la base, de moins en moins de membres de nos communautés soient enfermés. Il faut se concentrer sur la réhabilitation, pas sur les entrepôts. Il faut cerner les raisons premières pour lesquelles les gens se retrouvent ici afin qu’à leur sortie, ils aient de meilleures perspectives d’avenir. Il nous faut faire respecter la dignité humaine, et non pas l’arracher aux gens. On peut accomplir ceci en protégeant les droits fondamentaux des détenuEs, non pas en leur retirant toute responsabilité et toute chance de réhabilitation. Il nous faut bâtir des communautés saines et favoriser des liens interpersonnels fondés sur des principes plus riches et plus profonds que la logique « eux contre nous », la mentalité que ce système tente de nous inculquer.

C’est en évoluant vers un système qui protège les droits de tout le monde également, y compris ceux des prisonniers et prisonnières, que nous pourrons nous rapprocher d’une authentique justice pour tous et toutes.

Signé,

Alex Hundert

Ana Maria

Ana M. Charry

Bryan Sousa

Candis Beckford

Chad Mauthe

Chen ZL

Christine N

Clair Herrington

Costello

Cummings

Dan Mccue

Daphney Thompson

DB

DP

Debra Chrisjohn

Derrick Ochoa

Ed Mccrudden

Eduardo “Tito” Silver

Evelyn Breuer

Fay Schofield

FJ

Francis Joel Lerode

George Curtis

Gordon Gatt

H Johns

Isaac Nakoolak

Jacqlynn Hoshowatiuk

James

Joann Went

Julias Danchnor

Justyna Karas

Mandy Hiscocks

Marina T

Mark Smith

M Bermido

M Gardanzari

Mitchel Wheeler

MB

MM

Natasha Gomes-Le-yung

NM

OL

Paul Mitchel

PB

Plaudine Liette Bishop

Roger Langlois

Ronny Ann Agawu-Syrette

Shana Gregory

Serena Richards

Stephanie L

Tiana A

Tracy Knol

Wei Kong

+ 2 anonymous

Out of Jail

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Drafted in the Toronto West Detention Centre,  January 19

[Updated and Published on January 26, TMC, http://toronto.mediacoop.ca
Released from jail on January 24
]

After nearly five months in jail, I will finally be walking out of the Toronto West Detention Centre having taken a plea bargain with the Crown.

The deal required that I plead guilty to a single count of “breach recognisance” stemming from a single presentation amongst many presentations at the September 17 event at Ryerson University titled “Strengthening Our Resolve: Movement Building and Ongoing Resistance to the G20 Agenda”.

The plea was in exchange for having the breach of bail coming from an almost identical event at Wilfrid Laurier University dropped, along with two counts of breaching my probation (which is left over from an older charge in Cayuga resulting from a blockade in Cayuga) dropped. They have also stopped the proceedings to collect a hundred and twenty thousand dollars from my sureties. More importantly, I finally got a new bail, including being able to post to the internet, having no curfew, and being able to leave the house with designates. This allows me to once again be a contributing member of my community and to the movements I am a part of.

Some people will be quick to judge this as a “sell out,” as exchanging a platform to fight for a potentially meaningful victory in court for my personal freedom. That possibility has haunted me. But I do sincerely believe that position to be a hasty and narrow judgement.

As it stood, I found out that my trial date for the breach was moved from January 31 to March. Regardless of the outcome of the breach trial, I would still not be released until a separate bail hearing to be held in April at the earliest. At that point, I would have been in jail for over seven months with no reasonable prospects of even being released on bail given the pending allegations of “intimidation of a justice participant” and the original conspiracy charges.

To remain behind bars would have been the obvious choice, even if a hard decision. Previously in October, I had made the decision to refuse my bail which included a media gag and punitive non associations. Staying in jail this time around would also have been relatively easy because I had been doing just fine in there. But at the same time, I was a serious drain on those who have done such wonders in supporting me, helping me stay strong and to feel connected to community. Incarceration is a weapon designed to affect the communities that people are a part of; to suck resources, energy and emotion out of them and not just the individuals held in dungeons.

And while being willing to sacrifice oneself might be noble in theory and sometimes the only right decision to make, in this circumstance I feel it is far more important to be in my community, contributing, giving back, fulfilling my responsibilities. This is who I want to be in the movement right now—a participant, not a symbol.

And what would the point even have been, if I had sat in the cage until after we were able to get our victory in court? The truth is, the only point that can ever be proven in a court is that the courts are a legitimate source of authority in our lives. I would like to deny them that power.

We could have fought them, on their own battle ground, and tried to establish that the OPP’s and the Crown’s position that what took place on the Ryerson and WLU campuses did not constitute “public demonstrations.” I’ve had a long time to think about it, and I realised that I don’t really care how panel discussions are classified by the courts. What I care about is that we are able to defend the spaces in which those free discussions take place and that we do not depend on the state to provide them for us. That defence happens every day, with our unity in the streets, and in those spaces themselves, not in a courtroom.

And if we had won the trial it would merely have established that I had not breached my bail conditions on those particular days. It would not establish that the cops and the Crown would never be able to treat another campus-based discussion as a “public demonstration.”  The fight is not whether a panel discussion is a public demonstration, the fight is over the existence of such a bail condition itself and it will hopefully be found “unconstitutional” as a result of a challenge that has been put forward by one of my coaccused.

For those who do prioritise such legal victories, I actually think that we have come closer to establishing that such discussions are not to be legally defined as demonstrations than we would have by winning at trial. The charges for the Laurier event were dropped, and I only plead guilty for one part of the event at Ryerson as contravening my bail condition not to participate in a public demonstration.

In the statement of facts agreed upon at court during the plea hearing, what was specifically defined as constituting a breach was just a single presentation by three Indigenous women at Ryerson. They used props, and the opening line included the statement, “I am not here today as a panellist.” In such a twisted world that wants to hold people in jails and put on shows in courtrooms to argue over such semantics, I can accept that such a presentation, in a room full of nearly three hundred people, might need to constitute a “public demonstration.”  Nothing in my plea suggests that there was anything “unlawful” about that presentation, just that under this regime, it counts as a “public demonstration.”

I would like to add though, that I whole-heartedly support every word that those women had to say that night. The content was both poignant and necessary, and also perfectly in line with panel discussions. By no means in itself did the content of the presentation constitute a public demonstration. It was not the Indigenous language, nor the possession of traditional eagle feathers; it was merely the use of plastic handcuffs as props. These props served to demonstrate the ways in which Indigenous people’s participation in academic, activist, and broader society has been handcuffed by racist and colonial practices and structures. Also far too often, Indigenous people find themselves in literal handcuffs as a result of the patterns in this legal system, especially pre-trial incarcerations, over-prosecutions, and unjust convictions. I thank those women for making that presentation that night, and if it makes me “guilty,” again, so be it. Nyaweh, miigwetch to them.

I would like to write a new narrative, one other than the tired and damaging narrative of martyrdom whereby one isolated person sits in a jail cell becoming a symbol against injustice. We need to tell a new story—one that does not insist on suffering from those committed to our movements.  While this is often necessary, we also need a discourse that speaks to us about commitment as meaning that we are actually part of the daily struggles that strive to build communities and networks that can sustain our visions for better lives and for spaces where real freedom and safety are possible. This is the type of story that I want to be telling.

I don’t think that people should be any less outraged now that I am out of jail. The injustice of the system has been laid bare again like so many times before. It is the inherent functioning of an explicitly oppressive system that is designed to perpetuate power and propagate its own order, especially against targeted communities including Indigenous people, people of colour, poor people, queer and trans people. This system cannot be vindicated by courtroom victories. Be outraged and let’s struggle on our own terms.

Capitalism, Criminalization, and Resistance

January 4, 2011 2 comments

There is more violence in people’s lives on the street
and in the world than there is in our lives in our cells and on the ranges
There are more traps and there’s more being trapped
out there than there is here inside the cages
There’s more anger and hatred,
imprisonment in the world than there could ever be in prison
More drugs, more cops,
more beatings,
more rapes,
more traumatisation, victimisation, dehumanisation
and pain out there than there could ever be in here
Fortunately, out there, there is also lots of love.

I am one of eighteen organisers charged with “conspiracy” for the demonstrations that took over the streets of Toronto this past June. I have now spent more than four months in jail since then. Released on bail in July, and after beating the Ontario Crown Attorney’s office’s appeal of that release, I spent the rest of the summer on house arrest. But after speaking on discussion panels at Wilfrid Laurier University and then at Ryerson University, even though I was in the presence of my court-appointed surety, I was again arrested, before being released on bail after another month behind bars, under conditions that have been called “draconian” and rallied against by legal professionals, civil libertarians, journalists, academics, and activists alike. I had initially refused to sign those conditions which included a ban on talking to the media and sharing my political beliefs in public, as well as absurdly punitive non-association conditions designed as an attack on the communities and networks that I am a part of. For taking that stand, I was thrown in “the hole” at the Toronto East Detention Centre. I eventually capitulated and signed the bail conditions, getting released in mid-October. The decision to sign those papers haunts me still—I wish I’d taken a stronger stand.

Only eight days after getting out, after a court appearance to challenge some of those conditions, I was again re-arrested, this time charged with the preposterous allegation of “intimidating a justice participant”. The same crown attorneys who had failed repeatedly to get a “detention order” against me from the court have now themselves personally made an accusation that has resulted in my being charged with a new offence and jailed since October 23.

***

This past December, a member of the Toronto Police Service was finally charged for a small piece of the brutality that was enacted on the streets of this city in June. One cop has been charged and some people seem to feel somehow vindicated. But this is not justice. Even if each and every assault committed resulted in police and politicians being held somehow accountable, that would still be only a beginning. Unless their actions are acknowledged as having been part of the planned security operation; unless it is recognised that their attacks on people were meant to intimidate those who would resist, and to criminalise dissent; unless we recognise that brutality and targeted violence are standard operating procedures for police forces and state security; unless we start organising for change and start to name and confront the system that these thugs protect—unless all this begins to happen—we will never have justice.

When it was first decided that the G20 would be held in downtown Toronto, what happened was inevitable. It happens every time they decide to hold such meetings: resistance and repression. That’s why, while people prepared to take the streets with tens of thousands—working people and poor people, migrant and Indigenous peoples, queer people, disabled people, students, activists, and anarchists—while people began to organise, the state infiltrated our meetings and organisations as they sank hundreds of millions of dollars to “security” and prepared to criminalise dissent and to attack those who would stand for justice, for communities, for the people and for the land.

And what they were so malicious in protecting that weekend in Toronto is the same thing that they are so brutal in protecting every day; a system of exploitation and destruction in which the rich get richer while their mercenaries and subsidiaries subjugate and destroy targeted communities and the land, with their wage slavery and their assimilationist economics, with their clear-cut logging, their mountaintop removal mining, and their deep-sea oil drilling. But people will refuse to be destroyed, and we will protect the land. We will resist.

This newest stage of keeping their exploitative system in power entails cutting resources from the few places where most people have access to them—social services, education, health care—all to be sure that there will still be enough money to keep bailing out banks and corporations, to keep this system called capitalism afloat. But we don’t want this system, this “capitalism”. The people of the world are rejecting this destructive system of exploitation and violence. We are resisting.

And we have already had massive cuts to social services including to the special diet program and to immigrant services in Ontario. These cuts have targeted—as the system always does—poor people, people of colour, migrants, disabled people, and women. Meanwhile, corporations have been announcing massive expansion of plans for destructive resource extraction projects that will continue to devastate and poison the environment and the lands of Indigenous nations. And this state continues to pour billions of dollars into the prison industrial complex, which as always continues to target anyone who by virtue of their actions, or even their very existence, poses a challenge to this system of domination.

***

On January 31 I will be in provincial court to face trial for the charges arising from the two speakers panels that took place on university campuses this past September. These discussions are said to have violated the bail condition not to participate in public demonstrations, a condition that PEN Canada has called “unconstitutional”. The crown and the OPP claim that these discussions qualify as “demonstrations” because of the tone and content of the discourse that was put forward by myself and others.

But the university is supposed to be a place for learning, for the sharing of ideas. It is a space for challenging, controversial, and confrontational ideas. It is a space where dissenting ideas are supposed to be protected.

This specific battle is not simply a fight over freedom of speech. And it is definitely not just a fight over the absurd suggestion that I breached an already preposterous bail condition. This fight is not merely about legalities and rights; it is about spaces and responsibilities.

We have a responsibility to speak about justice, to refuse to let injustice be met with silence even when our speech comes into conflict with the state’s agenda, especially when we carry voices of dissention and are privileged enough to be able to bear the consequences of the state’s repression.

The university is a space for ideas and campuses are among our spaces where we are supposed to protect the idea and practice of dissent. This fight, for me, is about defending spaces where freedom is possible.

Press Release Dec 21, 2010 “Alex Hundert’s Breach Trial Set”. Link
http://g20.torontomobilize.org/node/679

Locked Up: Alex Hundert speaks on his case. Media Coop link
http://www.mediacoop.ca/story/locked/5354.

Rabble podcast link
http://www.rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/awl/2010/12/locked-jailhouse-intervi…

Write to Alex in jail and read other updates from his support committee “Alex Hundert: 30 days behind bars”. Link
http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/5244