Re-framing the G20 weekend


How would any of us have judged the events that unfolded in downtown Toronto on the last weekend of June if they had been reported to a greater extent in the following manner?

‘An estimated 30,000 men, women and children turned out under sunny skies on June 26, during the weekend of the G20 Summit in Toronto to be a collective voice for issues that they wanted world leaders to make a priority. The rally, dubbed “People First”, aimed to draw attention to human rights and justice as well as to voice concern about ongoing damage to the natural environment, among other issues. Under the watchful eyes of thousands of police officers clad in black riot gear, people of all ages and stages joined the march to stand up for justice.

‘Dozens of organizations including environmental, indigenous and immigrant groups, labour unions, and groups advocating for the disabled participated in the peaceful rally calling for better rights for all. Among the groups marching for justice and human rights, the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization participated in order to bring attention to concerns over being marginalized by the lack of a universal childcare program in Canada.

‘About the rally, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) Sid Ryan said: “Our message was clear. We told world leaders – including our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper – to put the needs of human beings and the environment ahead of all other considerations as they deliberated over the weekend.”

‘During Saturday’s rally in the spirit of the event, a group of participants created a grass sculpture with flowers and ferns on the street along the route spelling out “NO G20″.

Of course no such event would have been complete without music to march to and placards. They included such signs as “Workers’ Action Centre, organizing for fair employment”, “Grandmothers of the world unite”, Amnesty International’s “Human rights = less poverty” and “A better world is possible”.

‘Despite the passion of those who came to make their voices and their concerns heard, world leaders did not conclude their G20 meeting with much advancement on agreements that would affect climate change, or the pressing environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. And, along those lines Alberta’s tar sands development is still an important plank in Prime Minister Harper’s economic policy. This is a matter that is troubling, especially to indigenous communities in proximity to the tar sands.

‘Apart from the failure of the world leaders to take any meaningful stand on the issues brought forth by ordinary citizens during the rally, another, lesser, disappointment was the disruption created by a small number of people who, like the police, were dressed entirely in black. Unfortunately, because of their violent theatrics, the greater significance of the People First rally was hijacked when news media turned their full attention on the activities of this much smaller, organized group. Despite this unwelcome distraction, the People First rally continued along the planned route maintaining the peaceful march in hopes that the many messages brought to the event would resonate with leaders and others.’

Compare the above retelling of the June 26-27 weekend to the following:

‘Against the background of blazing police cars set on fire by masked troublemakers, black-clad youth smashed the windows of storefronts and generally created havoc during the weekend of the G20 summit here in Toronto. In response to two days of rioting, security forces used teargas to control the unruly mobs, while close to 1,000 were eventually rounded up by police during a heavy downpour of rain and detained, some for more than 24 hours.’

It may be ‘sexy’ but this latter angle obscures the larger reality of the events of that weekend, even as it still resonates.

A fanciful note on the facts of life in the 21st Century…

These days if a child asks where babies come from, the parents might explain thus: When a mommy and a daddy meet at university and find out that they really, truly love each other, and after the mommy has her law degree and the daddy gets his MBA, and after they have gotten married, paid off their student loans, bought their first home then traded up to a family-size home and, provided their income is secure enough that they can afford to pay a nanny and their retirement savings is well underway, they have a baby.


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