2013: Year in Review

I’ve caught flack in the past for writing out personal “year in review” posts. What a lot of people don’t understand is that I am very much someone who “lives in their head.” Holidays, birthdays, end of year – that intense period of reflection that people get, that’s my every day normal. So much of my “process” is constantly approaching my health and focus as “maintenance” – something which will not simply keep equilibrium by itself. To do lists are a necessity, as are plans. Looking back and looking forward keep me grounded in the present.

This year was a tough one for me personally. For those close to me, they will know that I was put in a lot of no-win situations this year (I am letting this one go down as the Kobayashi Maru Test year). That said, I still had a lot of great moments and a lot of great memories to reflect on when life in 2014 just does not seem to be going as planned.

To everyone, I hope you find peace as you look back on the year that was. Whether you write it out, think it out, or discard it altogether – it happened.

In no particular order:

Tyler Shipley’s cover of Sun Kil Moon’s “Gentle Moon” at my legal defense benefit in Toronto. Ty has played a handful of fundraisers for me over the years – after our first chance meeting as I interviewed his band The Consumer Goods for CFBU 103.7. We’ve always stayed in touch and he’s been a sweet rock supporting just about any organizing that I’ve done. The venue for the night was small and the place was tight and intimate. It was perfect, I started crying – I saw other folks crying – and to top it all of I know of no video copy of it. This whole year has sucked when it comes to legal issues, but this moment was perfect and I will hold onto it for a long time.

– 1,000 demonstration at Marineland for Opening Day 2013. While still on the topic of Marineland (they are suing me for $1.5 Million in damages – hence the legal benefit) I was extremely proud to be part of the organizing team for the 2013 Opening Day Demonstration. We’d closed off 2012 700+ demonstration that actually saw hundreds of people jump the turnstiles and shut down the final dolphin show of the year. In between that off season Marineland responded with it’s full legal capacity and brought in ex Premier Dalton McGuinty’s PR consultant to try and team up to crush opposition to the park. To be able to respond with an even greater show of people was amazing – especially in the context of this being the second largest animal advocacy demonstration in Canadian history and the largest since 1984! There were a lot of great moments for the M.A.D. campaign this year – but this was tops.

– World’s Cutest Niece Population Doubles. Jan 26 2013 saw the birth of my second niece – June Eliza Arrow Hillier. Joining Erin, June brought a lot of light to my world in 2013. These two are a great constant reminder to fight for a better world.

– Giant Two Row Takes Downtown St. Catharines During Snow Storm. Another proud organizing/community moment from 2013 was the Giant Two Row March in February. Myself and others were really fucking pissed about how the AR community – and the settler community and their corporate media – were spinning treaty issues so we did something about it. St. Catharines has a long history of great radical community organizing – but it’s rare these days to get a big mass of people out for an issue willing to claim the downtown core and send a message.

– #ElsipogtogSolidarity. I was supposed to be on vacation. I’d followed the opposition to fracking on the East Coast pretty intently since it began. My partner’s mother and step father live in Clifton Royal (outside St. John) and each time we’d visit (more on that), I’d try and get a feel for how folks were dealing with the issue. This was good because when the news broke of the RCMP pre-dawn raid on Oct 17th I already knew that opposition to fracking was a majority and coalition position in New Brunswick and also knew that the communities effected – especially the Mi’kmaq community in Elsipogtog – were willing to use any means necessary to peacefully oppose this industry and protect themselves. I woke up, saw the news, hoped in a car and drove three hours straight to Elsipogtog. I spent 8 hours at the front RCMP line and then another 2 back in the community after that line went down. Of everything I saw that day I really want to stress just how beautiful it was in the community that night. People were laughing, crying, hugging and the mood was electric. You could tell that people in that community were unified and empowered. Fear, the greatest weapon of SWN and the RCMP, couldn’t touch them in that moment.

– Westover Blockade/#SwampLine9. Originally I only intended to drop off water. I ended up staying for days. There has been quite a bit written about the Westover Blockade and the imperfections and faults. It’s all true and important. That said, this was one of the best things that happened this year as far as any kind of opposition to environmental destruction in Ontario goes. I made some new friends, was solid in my room as camp dog walker/babysitter, and even some how managed to be one of the lucky few who did not get arrested (*they ran out of cuffs). Westover is a reminder to me that although it is important to be critical, it’s better to act and reflect than it is to do nothing.

– The East Coast.  I end the year on the East Coast. Of everything this whole year nothing centered and focused me like my time out here. Nothing has also brought me so close to moving out here. Some of my best times and moments came 1600+ km from “home” and I’ve been depressed all day thinking about heading back to Ontario tomorrow.

– TVA Stands Firm. I had some good speaking events this year, but the most important of all of them was more memorable not because of the content or the talk, but because of a huge battle that was fought this year in the Ontario/Toronto AR community. This year 15 women come forward demanding accountability from a male activist who had a history of predatory behaviour that spanned a decade. He refused to listen to their demands, so they self organized and publicized those demands. The blowback against those women and the people and organizations that supported them was intense at times – but people didn’t budge. If the Toronto Vegetarian Association was not entirely aware of this situation before hand – they became aware as threats were made on the event and the board was told of my “divisive” and “cult-like” behaviour in the AR community because of my support of those women and my resolve to not allow this activist into any space I organize in. The TVA – who had reached out to me to speak at this years Food Fair – stood by their decision to keep me involved and I gave two workshops on one intersectional advocacy and another on youth activism. The protests threatened never materialized, those who tried to turn this event into a condemnation of that accountability process had failed.

– Remembrance Day Flag Arrest Goes Viral. Remembrance Day is such a headache for me personally as every year I get pissed by the left/anti war narrative that just gets completely drown out by people shouting – “support the troops!” That this shit somehow passes every year blows my mind. Are we really that completely ignorant of how veterans are treated by the State? When Davyn was arrested at this years Remembrance Day ceremony in Toronto – for simply publicly displaying traditional flags – I really wanted to give the story legs. This was a story about the vets who don’t fit – the troops that people completely ignore as if they don’t exist. The response of the crowd – simply watching the arrest without offering any support or resistance – was partially made up for by a massive online backlash that both Toronto Police Services and the City of Toronto had to answer to. Davyn himself was one of the most targeted activists this year in Toronto and the exposure from the story will hopefully make TPS think twice about continuing that practice. As it stands now the story has been viewed over 60,000 times and the video of the incident over 70,000 times.

– Annual Toronto Fur Friday March. Sleeper hit of the year, this demo was important in the context of Toronto animal advocates getting back to their roots. There is a TON of history as far as radical and effective organizing goes for other animals in that urban center and unfortunately it’s been buried of late in favor of tactical dogmatism. This demo wasn’t big – but it was the first demo animal advocacy demo in years that took the streets without a permit and which pushed the envelope as far as holding those who actually profit off of the industry accountable (many owners shut down and ran from their stores). Other towns had issues with people criticizing tactics at the demo (in favor of quiet sign holding) or used the demonstration as a symbolic love fest with police – I am really glad that the folks in Toronto showed that there is another way.

*Hyperlinks and photos coming tomorrow when I have stable internet.

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