Extending a helping hand

As the boatload of Tamil refugees approached this July, Amnesty International urged Canadians to “honour [our] international human rights obligations.” Given that Tamils “suspected, even if wrongly, of being LTTE [Tamil Tigers] supporters have been routinely imprisoned and tortured” by the Sri Lankan Government, Amnesty was concerned “to hear some public comments that seem to follow this lead by labeling Tamil asylum seekers as ‘terrorists.’”

The boat landed in British Columbia August 12, whereupon Public Safety Minister Vic Toews voiced his concern about “suspected human smugglers and terrorists” among the refugees, who intended to “abuse” our “very generous…refugee legal system.” Likewise, Prime Minister Harper derided the refugees for seeking asylum “not through any normal arrival channel,” while simultaneously threatening to “strengthen” laws to keep them out.

Harper is surely aware that the UN refugee convention states explicitly that “contracting states shall not impose penalties [on refugees] on account of their illegal entry” into the state party. He must also be aware that, as one distinguished Canadian refugee specialist points out, “there isn’t a legal way [for refugees] to come to Canada.”

Nevertheless, these comments affect public opinion — which likely prompted Amnesty’s warning. 63 per cent of Canadians believed the Tamil ship “should have been turned back” to float the seas in squalor; 48 per cent would “deport [them] to their country of origin.” Illustratively, Harper’s misinformed statements about imaginary arrival channels are directly influent; 83 per cent of Canadians think “the migrants are jumping the immigration queue and should apply like any other foreigner” – as all other foreigners, surely, are fleeing the horror of ethnic war.
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These are refugees, not migrants. After Colombo defeated the LTTE in 2009, it locked hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamils in :overcrowded and unsanitary, detention camps”, without “basic human rights or basic legal safeguards and, of course, without charges, for an indefinite period of time.” The internees faced constant “disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrest, and sexual violence,” according to an Amnesty report. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon reported after visiting the camps that, although he had “travelled around the world and visited similar places,” the conditions of the camps were “by far the most appalling [he had] ever seen.”

The Sri Lankan government has committed virtually all of the crimes for which the Tamil Tigers are rightly considered a terrorist organization, and many they have not. These include: political assassinations, hostage-taking, use of child soldiers, forced disappearances, executing international aid and relief workers, systematic rape, ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism, extermination, and genocide. In 2004, the government blocked tsunami relief aid to the country’s Tamil province. In a brazen act this past June, a government minister incited mobs to take UN staff hostage until Ban Ki Moon called off investigation of government war crimes.

Canada’s hands are hardly clean of Colombo’s crimes. In 2009 Canadian trade with Sri Lanka totaled $456 million, not including $52.37 million in development assistance. Trade continued as the government was bombing trapped civilians and letting them fester in the camps. The fact that massive trade is not done with the LTTE may help explain why Ottawa classifies only one of these groups as a terrorist organization.

Human smuggling is among the uglier aspects of the reality in Sri Lanka, and the Tigers, though fighting for a just cause, are as hideous in their methods as any terrorists. Concerns that transport fees could fund human-smugglers or the LTTE are justified and serious. That said, there is a simple way to prevent millions of dollars from being extorted from desperate refugees in exchange for passage to Canada: provide it for free. After the Vietnam War, Canada absorbed over 56,000 Vietnamese refugees and this had no impact on economic growth. Absorption of Tamil refugees would, furthermore, be supported by sponsorship from the highly-organized Canadian Tamil diaspora of around 200,000 (the Vietnamese diaspora in 1975 was only 1,500). Ottawa’s itinerary plan for 2010 plans for 265,000 immigrants, with only 9,000 spots for “Humanitarian and Compassionate/Public Policy” admittance. A significant number of Tamil refugees could be granted asylum simply by balancing this ratio slightly.The Harper government’s ideas for cracking down on human smuggling, however, are less than generous. How Canada treats the refugees that arrive on our shores will surely be an indicator of our humanity and respect for international law.

U of T beats number-two ranked football team in the country

It would be hard to pinpoint who was caught most off-guard by this one.

See, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, easily one of the most farcical football teams in the OUA these past few years, sent the media into a frenzy, their coaches into shock, and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees home in a state of embarrassment Saturday afternoon at Varsity Stadium.

No one expected the Blues, notorious for their appalling league record, to squash the second best team in Canada 40-35 in their second consecutive win of the season.

In fact, when the Gee-Gees came to town last year, they slammed the Blues and went home with a 35-15 win to their name and are 11-0 over the Blues since 1972.

But Toronto was riding the tides of a 24-19 victory that was secured over the York Lions on Sept. 18, and had fresh legs as they were off last week with a bye.

Apparently, the break in their game schedule served the Blues well, and Head Coach Greg DeLaval admitted that it was “the best week of practice in a long time.”

Someone should have given Gee-Gee’s Head Coach Jean-Philippe Asselin a heads-up.

In a pre-game statement Asselin said, “If Toronto is supposed to be a weaker team, I would like to remind the guys that they have blocked eight or nine punts since the beginning of the year in four games. Also, Guelph beat Queen’s easier than we did, and Guelph only beat Toronto by two points; so there is nothing to take for granted.”

Good advice, but unfortunately for Ottawa, it was lacking on follow-through. With the win, U of T scored their first victory against a nationally-ranked team since 1997, when they defeated the Waterloo Warriors 21-15.
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Although Gee-Gee’s receiver Matthew Bolduc opened the scoring with a touchdown just over a minute into the game, it only took Blues rookie running back Aaron Milton five minutes to get the home team on the board. Milton’s 105-yard touchdown run ties the U of T record set by Maurice Doyle at McMaster in 1979 and ranks fourth in the CIS for longest rush.

Quarterback Andrew Gills connected with sophomore receiver Paul de Pass on a 24-yard pass for the second Blues touchdown of the game and Toronto wrapped up the first frame in the lead.

Gee-Gees receiver Cyril Adjeitey responded early in the second quarter when he caught a 57-yard pass from quarterback Brad Sinopoli, and kicker Matthew Falvo converted his second extra point of the game.

Eager to hold on to the lead, Blues quarterback Jordan Scheltgen was brought off of the bench to score on one- and two-yard rushing touchdowns respectively. Despite a rouge from the Gee-Gees three minutes later, the Blues were up 27-15 at halftime.

As the Blues gathered out of the public eye to assess their tactics, “Rolli – one of our players – said, ‘Coach you don’t need to say anything,’” smiled DeLaval, who responded with a simple, “There’s nothing to say.”

Early in the third quarter, a seven play 73-yard driveand a one-yard run from Franck Ngandui led the Gee-Gees to their third touchdown of the game. The Blues remained one step ahead, however, and Gillis connected with receiver Michael Prempeh on a five-yard pass to put his team up comfortably by 12.

As the Gee-Gees coaching staff paced angrily up and down the sidelines talking furiously into their headsets, the Blues continued their climb up the scoreboard. Third-year kicker Andrew Lomasney scored 13- and 30- yard field goals respectively.

With just a minute left in the game, the Gee-Gees decided to show the home team why they are ranked second highest in the league and made a desperate final attempt to bring home the win.

An eight yard pass from Sinopoli to receiver Bogdan Raic brought the Gee-Gees up by a touchdown. With less than ten seconds to go, Steve Hughes connected on a three-yard reception for another one.

And as the Blues rejoiced emotionally on the sidelines to a final score of 40-35, it was clear that they couldn’t have cared less that Ottawa had come within five points of knocking them off their high horses.

“This is a big win for us,” said DeLaval. “We had a little bit of luck today.

“They gave us some things we could take advantage of. We made interceptions at critical times.”

Although DeLaval admitted that the team wasn’t under a lot of pressure going into the game – honestly, no one really expected them to win – Milton, who has quickly become one of the most impressive standout rookies in the league confessed he was a little nervous.

“But I knew what our team could do,” said Milton. “Most teams underestimate us. The plays we were calling right off the bat were plays we were comfortable with and it just carried over.”

But it was Gillis, who was named Player of the Game, that was the real story at Varsity Stadium. The fourth-year quarterback threw 28-for-45, recorded a career-high 343 yards and two touchdown passes.

“We had a game plan coming in,” said Gillis, always quick to credit his teammates. “We knew we were capable of doing something like this.”

“Andrew is probably one of the hardest working guys on the team,” said DeLaval of his star.

The Blues will be suiting up in Kingston next Saturday to take on the reigning national champions, the Queen’s Gaels.

To prepare for what Delaval described as a “tough game,” the team will be mixing up their practice tactics. The field at Richardson Stadium is actually grass, unlike the artificial turf at Varsity Stadium, so the Blues will be moving their training to the back field of Trinity College in order to further prepare for the game.

For now, the home team will be focused on celebrating their victory.

“We were due,” said DeLaval.

Record checks delay student placements

UTSC paramedical students in the joint program with Centennial College are at risk of delaying their field placements as regulatory changes in criminal record checks create setbacks.

Students are required to complete placements in areas including paramedicine, social work, and nursing. Working in these areas requires vulnerable sector verification to confirm that individuals are free of crimes such as sexual assault.

“Personally, I am at risk of losing or at least significantly delaying my field placement. I have yet to receive my record check back despite the Toronto Police Service stating I would have my form by last week,” said Justin Pears, a paramedicine student waiting for his clearance forms to arrive.

Pears said he applied for his record check at the beginning of July after calling [Toronto Police Service] to ask how long it would take to obtain the document. “The individual I spoke with told me it would be four to six weeks.”

Students were asked to have their records before September 9 but dated after August 1. This requirement, according to Pears, made things tricky. “Many of the students in my program are in the same boat and without the form, we can’t do any field work. This makes obtaining our hours required to complete the program far more difficult and strenuous.”

Previously, third-party agencies were permitted to do vulnerable sector checks; but following regulation change in March to make the procedure more rigorous, processing submissions has been restricted to the RCMP. Authorities were concerned that the old system created a loophole for pardoned sex offenders to get clear checks under a new name.

According to the RCMP’s website, vulnerable sector checks could take up to 120 days to obtain. Before processing submissions, criminal files must be updated, the nature of any outstanding changes probed, and accordance with the Criminal Records Act ensured.

Further delay occurs if an individual has the same gender and date of birth as an existing pardoned sex offender.

“Students are getting caught in between different organizations with their own issues with clearance checks,” said Walter Tavares, the paramedicine program supervisor at Centennial.

“The problem for paramedicine students at the moment is that there is a disconnect (intentional or not) between the service provider, Ministry of Education, and the placement agencies who are governed by the Ministry of Health.”

Students were notified about the delay in the new system and were advised to apply in July. But some students applied even earlier. “I haven’t really been affected by this change because I sent my police record check mid-June and got it back in eight weeks,” said another paramedicine student Sev Nampi.

The Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at St. George campus has also experienced some delays. Although students who applied in July probably have their results by now, dean of field education Eileen McKee said those who don’t yet have their records are meanwhile assigned practicums that don’t require vulnerable sector checks.

Students from outside of Toronto were not affected by the new regulation.

The new New Democrats

Without a doubt this has been a tough year for the federal New Democrats. Public frustration with the prorogation of Parliament was short-lived, as were the New Democrats’ efforts to limit the prime minister’s power to recommend that the Governor General prorogue Parliament. Their uncompromising position on how the government should disclose details of the transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities by the Canadian Forces, though principled, got them left out of the agreement eventually reached between the Conservatives, the Bloc, and the Liberals. Likewise, their outrage about the government’s abolition of the mandatory long-form census was necessary, but hardly distinguished them from the Liberals.

However, there have also been signs of change for the New Democrats in the past year. Alongside the Bloc, they negotiated an agreement with the Conservatives to address the backlog of refugee claims. Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship and immigration, introduced a bill based on this agreement shortly before parliament rose in the spring. Recently, New Democratic leader Jack Layton showed that he was not only capable of negotiating compromise with other parties, but also within his own. Facing a caucus divided by a private member’s bill supported by the government which would have abolished the long-gun registry, Layton worked hard to persuade a few of his rural MPs to switch their votes, which saved the registry. The prime minister has promised that he intends to attempt a repeal of the registry, which will once again call upon Layton’s skills as a coalition-builder, both within his party and outside of it.

The New Democrats now face what will undoubtedly be another tough year. They will be continually confronted with the difficult choice of whether to cooperate with the government or whether to protest its decisions on principle. Both entail tremendous risks, but inaction is impossible. The year could be made much harder if there is an election. New Democrats are eager to see the party break the 43 seat threshold set under Ed Broadbent in the 1988 election. Not only would this prove that the party has moved decidedly out of the political wilderness of the 1990s, but it would lay the groundwork for the party’s more long-term goal of replacing a much weakened Liberal party as the official opposition. The challenge is that gaining those seats is going to require the New Democrats to stretch beyond their political heartland: a mix of traditionally working-class urban ridings and resource-centric rural ridings.

They will not be able to do so by sticking to their traditional strategy. Instead, they should seek inspiration in provincial New Democratic governments in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, whose leaders attempt to strike a careful balance between fiscal responsibility and social programs. Doing so is easier said than done, but if the federal New Democrats could draw on the experience of provincial New Democratic parties, they might be able to craft a new kind of political position, one characterized by fiscal responsibility, not for its own sake, but for the sake of protecting the social safety net.

This kind of principled pragmatism has long defined the party, even when its policy documents were dominated more by the language of socialism than of social democracy. Federal New Democrats have long tried to use these kinds of arguments to respond to those who warn that an NDP government would be irresponsible, but they have never adopted it as a platform centre-piece. Every party preaches fiscal responsibility in one form or another, but what could differentiate the New Democrats from other parties is that their objection would be founded on principle rather than political opportunism.

Such a change in the New Democratic approach would hopefully take place as a part of a broader discussion about aspects of its policies which have long kept away voters in the kinds of ridings that New Democrats need to reach and exceed their 43-seat goal. These include the influence of trade unions on leadership selection and policy, and the party’s position on Quebec sovereignty and on environmental issues. Only then can it hope to move from a party of protest to a party ready to help govern Canada.

UTM prof curates Nuit Blanche

It takes a certain kind of man to pull an all-nighter that involves scurrying across Toronto’s downtown core for 12 hours, tweaking and critiquing art. And Christof Migone, soft-spoken but intense, is certainly the man to do it. He did do it, in fact, on Saturday night.

Migone, curator of the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Blackwood Gallery, is one of four curators selected to oversee this year’s Nuit Blanche, a free contemporary art exhibit in Toronto. Taking a quick break from teaching and attending rehearsals last week, Migone spoke to The Varsity about his exhibit, Should I Stay or Should I Go.

“It can be taken many ways, but the initial inspiration was very much Nuit Blanche-specific,” said Migone, a lecturer in UTM’s Department of Visual Studies. “When you’re at Nuit Blanche, you’re in the midst of throngs of people. Do you decide to stay or do you go? Do you line up? How long do you line up? But obviously you can extend that to musings about your career, your degree if you’re studying, your relationship. At any level, at any moment in time, as soon as you’re conscious and you’re an entity unto yourself, you’re always deciding whether you should stay or you should go.”

Between big crowds, long line-ups, lots of walking, scheduled performances, chilly winds, and all the pondering, the question to stay or go is a natural part of the Nuit Blanche experience. There has been some criticism in past years about the event being too crowded, too long, too big, and Migone decided to tap into those feelings and express them through his exhibit, making a negative into a positive.
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Should I Stay or Should I Go took place in the Financial District (along Yonge St. from Queen to Front Sts.), starting at sunset on October 2 and ending at sunrise the next day. It explored “concepts of movement, gridlock, and mobility; responding to daily urban life and to Nuit Blanche as a mass event,” Migone explained on the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto website. The exhibit consisted of 10 contemporary art projects commissioned by Migone.

The exhibit’s highlights included an installation at Commerce Court by French artist Davide Balula involving a choreographed clock with 60 performance artists representing each second; Wait Until You See This, an installation where people lined up to see what was behind a curtain to discover it was just an alley; and The Task, which required Toronto photographer Chris Shepherd to repeatedly stack and unstack 15 tonnes of concrete blocks.

Migone, who claims he tends to gravitate towards a mix of different art forms, has curated a variety of events over the past decade including stuttermouthface (2002), Disquiet (2005), START (2007), and STOP (2008). His installations have been exhibited at the Banff Centre, Rotterdam Film Festival, Gallery 101, Art Lab, eyelevel gallery, Forest City Gallery, Studio 5 Beekman, Mercer Union, and CCS Bard. He credits his past curating experience and current work at the Blackwood Gallery for his preparedness throughout Nuit Blanche.

“The Blackwood Gallery is a much smaller team and I have to be involved in a lot more aspects of what it takes to put out an exhibition,” he explained, peering through his silver-rimmed glasses. “So not only do I curate, but I figure out the financing and the technical stuff sometimes. But in this case, I could just really concentrate on curating and didn’t really have to deal with stuff like where the objector was going to come from and how much it would cost. Also, the city has a great team and this is the fifth year so they know what they’re up against.”

In his role as director and curator, Migone manages the gallery’s staff, balances the books, and works to ensure the gallery’s mandate to offer a contemporary art presence at UTM is fulfilled.

Recognizing Migone’s multidisciplinary talents, the City of Toronto invited him to submit a proposal for Nuit Blanche 2010, which was quickly accepted.

“I’m the first curator from the University of Toronto to do Nuit Blanche,” Migone mentioned modestly. “It is a very strange event because you’re planning for over a year, you only get to set up the night before in most places since most of them are in the business district and you can’t really do it Monday to Friday 9 to 5, and you only have 12 hours to make it happen. There’s not really any room for mistakes. If a projector fails, you have to have a backup so it requires provisions for worst-case scenarios.”

Although he attended rehearsals throughout the week leading up to the exhibit, Migone was aware of the possibility for things to not go smoothly.

“A worst case scenario would be torrential rain, of course,” he laughed, optimistically adding that provisions were taken in preparation for any and all possible interruptions. There were some chilly winds but all installations were able to operate as planned.

In order to perform his job as curator at the event, Migone needed to stay alert overnight. While sitting in his office with a tea kettle steaming in the corner, he told The Varsity he planned to stay up all night by “trying to get a couple of naps in here and there” and consuming plenty of caffeine.

His all-nighter not only helped to ensure the installations were carried out as envisioned, it inspired an assignment for students in his Introduction to Curatorial Practice course, requiring them to do a critical portrait of Nuit Blanche by recording their observations of the exhibit.

Not only an artist, professor, and curator, Migone is an academic writer who has extensively researched language, voice, bodies, performance, intimacy, complicity, and endurance. He is the co-editor of CD Writing Aloud: The Sonics of Language and has been published in several journals including Aural Cultures, S:ON, Experimental Sound & Radio, Musicworks, Radio Rethink, Semiotext(e), Angelaki, Esse, and Inter. He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1996 and earned a PhD from the Department of Performance Studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2007.

Nuit Blanche, aptly meaning “sleepless night” in French, was first held in 2002 in Paris. The exhibit’s mandate, no matter what city it is held in, is to make contemporary art accessible to large audiences, encouraging dialogue, engagement, and celebration within the community. Toronto was the first North American city to replicate the exhibit five years ago, and now Nuit Blanche is hosted in many cities across the globe including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Halifax, Madrid, Montreal, New York City, and Tokyo.

New book criticizes U of T fundraising

In 2007, a group of U of T professors wanted to name the health studies program after Tommy Douglas, commonly referred to as the father of Canada’s public health care program. Administration told them to raise $2 million.

The Trouble with Billionaires is a 250-page book published last month and written by Toronto Star columnist Linda McQuaig and Osgoode Hall tax law professor Neil Brooks.

Their main idea: creative tax restructuring can replace a culture of gluttony. McQuaig and Brooks argue that public funding has eroded in the past three decades, leading to a profit-driven society where some are massively rich while others have no power.

Seven pages of the book focus on U of T, which were summarized in an abridged excerpt in the Star and discussed in a Wall Street Journal blog. Using U of T as an example, the two argue that universities and other public institutions, under-funded by governments, are forced to seek private sector funding, resulting in influence and praise for the rich.

The co-authors cite an increasing number of buildings being named after donors as opposed to intellectuals. Their prime example involves the new Munk School of Global Affairs.

Earlier this year, businessman Peter Munk, the founder of mining company Barrick Gold, announced a $35 million donation enabling U of T to open the school. But his donation will only be $19 million or less after tax deductions, allowing for a school to be named after him despite only funding less than a third of its $66 million cost.

In multiple interviews, U of T administrators have stressed that academic freedom will not be compromised by such donations. But the co-authors insist future donors will be discouraged if research unfavourable to contributors is pursued.

McQuaig spoke with The Varsity about her concerns, claiming she saw a copy of the agreement between Munk and U of T after the book was sent to print.

“[It] indicated pretty clearly that Munk will, if he wants to, have some influence over the [School of Global Affairs],” alleged McQuaig. “In the agreement, it shows that the director has to report to the Munk ward every year, and kind of account for what’s going on.

“A very significant [quantity] of the money that Munk is giving is going to be given down the road; U of T doesn’t get it all right away. So that gives Munk a great deal of potential leeway because he has the right to withhold that payment if the school doesn’t meet his standards.”

David Palmer, VP advancement, the office that manages donations, wrote a rebuttal to the book’s excerpt in the Star, criticizing its “utter disregard for the fact that philanthropy has been a cornerstone of public institutions” while ignoring the “lives and opportunities [being] transformed as a result of the selfless generosity of others.

“Every donor agreement includes this clause in its preamble: ‘Whereas the parties affirm their mutual commitment to the University’s Statement of Institutional Purpose, which includes a commitment to foster an academic community in which the learning and scholarship of every member may flourish, with vigilant protection for the rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom and freedom of research.’”
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Last Tuesday, McQuaig and Brooks presented their arguments and responded to questions at an event held at Ryerson University.

“I did suggest the event to U of T as well, but they did not express interest,” said Barbara Bower, the book’s publicist. “Perhaps it was a clash of ideologies.”

The university’s spokesperson declined to respond to Bower’s comment.

Biology professor Paul Hamel is quoted in the book as one of the organizers of the 2007 Tommy Douglas renaming campaign. The group was told they need $2 million in pledged donations in order for a renaming to be approved. Hamel lamented that U of T used to name its buildings after prominent intellectuals, “but now universities know that they have to reserve those places in order to help the funding.”

Hamel said his department wanted to name itself after Douglas to convey its social justice focus. He said donors with altruistic intentions should mimic Hal Jackman, a former U of T chancellor and continuous donor who has never had a building or program named after him.

Hamel admitted that universities are not receiving enough government funding. “I don’t agree with their approach, but I understand it,” he said.

Viva la revolución?

When I went on a two-week backpacking trip to Cuba this past summer, the friend who accompanied me kept reminding me that this would be one of the last chances to visit the old Cuba. That is, Cuba before an imminent, inevitable, and fundamental shift of control and policies within the government and economy takes place. Cuba is rapidly changing, my friend believes, and had we decided to make our trip the next summer instead of this year, we might have stepped into a country very different from the one that has existed for the past 50 years.

Cuba is at a crossroads. Within the next few months, it will undergo sweeping economic reforms that will undermine all that has defined the Cuban system ever since the Revolution in 1958. A centrally-planned economy with public ownership of the means of production, and highly subsidized (and sometimes free) goods and services available to the entire population, have defined life in the Cuban Republic for the past 50 years. It seems that this economic system may gradually be replaced by a system much more adaptable to capitalism and much more open to the world market and foreign investments.

Less than a month ago, Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, published a statement announcing the new measures that will be taken as a means of dealing with the serious economic crisis facing the country. 500,000 public sector workers are going to lose their jobs in the next six months as part of government’s plan to cut one million public sector jobs. In a country where the public sector makes up more than 85 per cent of the workforce and the total number of public sector employees adds up to 5 million, this could be devastating.

The 500,000 public workers who are going to be fired by April 2011 are expected to find jobs in the private sector. The private sector in Cuba is presently very small, with only 170,000 self-employed people having licenses for their work. The government, moreover, is planning to reduce social spending and subsidies, relax restrictions on foreign investment, and expand self-employment licenses.

So, is Cuba becoming capitalist? Is this the last we will see of the welfare state system that provided all Cubans with subsidized goods, housing, transportation, health care, and education? If so, what will the results be?

Let us be clear: Cuba is not China. Cuba cannot go the ‘China Way.’ It does not have the vast resources, the enormous territory, nor the labour pool found in China. Cuba is a small island with a small population and even fewer resources. If Cuba were to abandon the planned economy, allow foreign investment in all sectors, and let the world market penetrate the roots of its economy, it would inevitably suffer neo-colonial domination and consequent humiliation, much like it did prior to the revolution. Massive social injustices would follow, and all that was accomplished through decades of collective struggle and sacrifice on the part of the Cuban people against the brutal embargo of the United States after will simply be destroyed.

But is quite evident that Cuba cannot continue as before either. The corruption and mismanagement existing at all levels of government, which go back to the existence of heavily bureaucratic elements in the party as well as various state positions, are the main factors causing the degradation of the Cuban Revolution. The current system in Cuba, labelled by some (more jokingly than seriously) as ‘tropical Stalinism,’ lacks a genuine workers democracy and, despite the socialist elements that exist, the most important goal in socialism — workers’ control of production — has not been fully realized. This, coupled with a corrupt bureaucracy, diminishing standards of living, and the shrinking purchasing power of wages, undermines the morale of the Cuban people and their faith in their government.

During my two-week trip in Cuba, I met and talked to many Cubans of the younger generation, and I was intrigued to find that most regarded Castro as a genius and were deeply proud of what their small island has been able to achieve despite the demoralizing and crushing effects of the embargo. Though none of the Cuban students I met claimed their system is perfect — they were painfully aware of its shortcomings and were not afraid to talk about them — none wanted to do away with it altogether.

With such conflicting and contradictory elements present in its economic structure, Cuba will sooner or later have to swing one way or the other. The only viable solution that would ensure the Cuban people’s social and economic prosperity is a complete break with the corrupt bureaucracy and the implementation of a genuine workers’ democracy in which all Cubans can participate in the management of the state and economy, and no one has to sacrifice more than the others. The realization of this will be closely tied to the fate of the rest of the continent. As Cuba itself has shown us, it is impossible to build socialism in one country alone. Only the success of revolutionary movements throughout Latin America, including those in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela (from which Cuba has already drawn great benefit) will be able to guarantee the survival and advancement of the Cuban Revolution.

U of T helps with Wellesley fire

U of T hosted tenants after a six-alarm fire at 200 Wellesley St. rendered 1,200 Toronto residents temporarily homeless on September 24.

U of T’s exam centre at 255 McCaul St. was used to shelter some residents, as well as the Wellesley Community Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital, and a Toronto Community Housing seniors building on Christie St.

The decision to lend the exam centre to the victims of the Wellesley fire incident came from Paul Young, Vice President of Research, who was the on-call executive at the time the fire broke out.

“U of T has a plan for eventualities like this,” said Young, referring to the Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Management Plan released in May 2009.

According to the plan, the role of on-call executive requires a senior representative of the university to be available at all times in the event that an emergency situation arises. The position rotates between university executives on a weekly basis. If the incident is non-life threatening and does not require the attention of the campus police, the on-call executive often handles it.

The Wellesley fire proved to be such an incident for Young; he was contacted by Toronto Community Housing for help.

“We didn’t take very long to respond as the people involved were the most vulnerable,” he said. “It was our civic duty and the decision was easily made. We were delighted we could help.”

Students who had exams scheduled at 255 McCaul on Saturday, Sept. 25 were relocated to the Sanford Fleming Building.

“I went down there on Saturday morning and met with several people. The Red Cross and Social Services were there and had the beds set up. The children were sleeping and the parents were awake. Donuts and coffee were in supply,” he said. “There was some rearranging of things because of the exam scheduled there, but the students were great and agreed to move.”

The 100 or so residents were moved from the exam centre on Wednesday to alternative locations.

Firefighters have described the incident as one the worst apartment fires they have seen. Fourteen people were hospitalized including three children after the fire broke out at 5:00 p.m.

The apartment building, which consists of 711 living units is located in the centre of St. James Town, Canada’s most densely populated community.

According to a Toronto Star report, the fire is believed to have started in unit 2424, belonging to tenant Stephen Vassilev.

Vassilev, who said his apartment was full of law books and legal papers pertaining to a dispute over 18 townhouses he once owned in Elliot Lake, suggested the fire was a result of arson.

As of Friday, Oct. 1, tenants were allowed back to their homes in groups. The first groups comprised of 200 tenants. It is expected that the second group scheduled will include 140 tenants.