DA Toronto Leadership:
On July 12, about 100 people, including members of Democrats Abroad (DA), gathered near the U.S. Consulate in Toronto to protest the detention of thousands of migrant children in overcrowded settings in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere in the U.S.
A lawyer who visited one of these facilities has reported that a large majority of the children have U.S. based family members who could take care of them. Instead, they are sleeping on mats and cement floors, and they are not being adequately nourished. Fruit and vegetables are not provided.
Reporters for the Miami Herald, who visited a facility in Homestead, Florida, said that children are identified by a number rather than a name and have very regimented schedules, including five-minute showers and two 10-minute calls a week to family members.
As protestors gathered in Toronto, gatherings were happening at detention centres across the U.S. and in other countries, including Germany and Ireland. The Toronto gathering included participants in the YWCA Settlement Program, the Canadian Association of Refugee lawyers, members of the Honduran community, and other groups, as well as DA members.
A number of speakers talked about urgent need to close these prison-like facilities:
Irit Printz, the rabbi of B’nai Shalom v’Tivah synagogue, said that “This is not a moral gray area. Children should not be held in detention in conditions that are worse than the conditions in which people can keep animals. Parents should not be torn away from their children. Providing people with basic necessities and a safe place to stay should be obvious, not a matter of debate.”
Karin Lippert, DA Toronto chapter Vice-chair, stated later that “Our message at the Lights for Liberty was: Close the Camps. Americans and people around the world are horrified by the images of children in cages, sleeping on the floor in their own feces, without adequate food and water. This is not reflective of American and Canadian values and must not continue. Close the Camps was both a solemn demonstration and a sacred space. Several speakers reminded us of the decades of exploitation of Central America by American corporations – supported by the U.S. government – and the general disregard there has been for the PEOPLE of Central America.”
Ed Ungar, DA Canada Vice-chair, stressed that action is required: “If you do not provide the basics of life (toothbrushes, showers, and so on) for children in your custody, that’s child abuse – child neglect. Society removes those children from custody. This is just as society must remove children from the Trump administration’s custody.”
The gathering concluded with candle lighting, song, and words of encouragement for the journey forward. Julie Buchanan, DA Canada Executive Vice-Chair recalled that “after moving stories and inspirational speakers, we sang John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’”: Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one. ”True, I may be a dreamer but clearly I was not the only one there that day. There is always hope,” said Ms. Buchanan.
In her statement, Rabbi Printz noted the meaning of candle lighting: She said that Jews light candles on Hannukah “because of the principle that light should always be increased in the world, that the world is dark enough without removing what light there is. I am so proud to stand with you today as we add our light to the world with the hope that we can make the world a little brighter, a little more caring, perhaps even a little more just.”
For DA members, the July 12 protest pointed the way toward action that is needed in 2020. Karin Lippert said that the gathering was a powerful reminder of our shared humanity. “ Going forward, the activism of Democrats Abroad living in Canada and around the world, and also our voter turnout in 2020 will be an affirmation of our values and an expression of the collective power of every vote.”
Authored by Virginia Smith
The DA Toronto Women's Caucus brings members together on a key issue
A group of about 20 Democrats Abroad Toronto members, all women except for one, gathered over a June 9 potluck dinner to discuss strategies for resistance to the anti-choice laws that have been recently enacted in Alabama and elsewhere. The Alabama law, which is the most restrictive in the nation, would outlaw nearly all abortions and make performing an abortion a felony. Legislators in a number of other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio have also recently passed bills limiting women’s right to terminate a pregnancy. It has become evident that the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is not an adequate protection of American women’s ability to control their own bodies.
The pro-choice potluck dinner was graciously hosted by Toronto Board Secretary Mari Rutka at her home. The comfortable atmosphere enabled people to talk about their own lives. Toronto Women’s Caucus Chair Karin Lippert noted that “bringing women together, especially at a potluck in someone’s home, just like a quilting bee or a consciousness-raising group, gives women an opportunity to talk about their personal experiences. The story telling builds solidarity. It leads to unity, determination, and action.”
Jennie Toby, one of the participants in the dinner and discussion, talked about her stance on women’s right to choose this way: “I believe it is incredibly important that women have the right to choose what is best for them. The nuances and considerations that get factored in when making such an important decision, such as to continue or terminate a pregnancy, rest solely within the realm of the woman and her day to day life. No one can possibly know what that woman’s life is like, what her situation is, or what she should do. I do not and cannot support any laws that remove that choice from a woman. To do so is to remove any faith and trust in a woman’s capacity to make an informed choice about her life and future.”
Much of the discussion at the potluck focused on ways to make the case for women’s right to choose. We know that we have made the case many times before, but laws related to choice never seem to get finally settled. Therefore, it is vital to keep showing why protection of the freedom to choose is the only fair and just way to proceed. We agreed that we might be able to change people’s minds about choice, not by making theoretical arguments, but by telling stories and asking questions. We can ask: what would you do in this impossibly difficult situation? We can tell stories about why women make the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy. We concluded our discussion by writing postcards to our Congressional representatives, urging them to uphold the right to choice.
*Thanks to Toronto Board Member Virginia Smith for writing this post.