Upcoming talk on Canadian student uprising

This Sunday hip hop artist and political activist Darius Mirshahi will be speaking in Auckland about the political situation in Canada and how the left are organising to resist Neo-Liberalism.

A few days ago I went along to a house party featuring a “Revolutionary Hip Hop Artist” called “Test Their Logik”, whilst the music was great (similar to Dead Prez) it was talking to the artist Darius which was the highlight of the evening. Darius easily answered my questions about the recent student uprising in Quebec and quickly outlined how the left was organized in Canada.

Darius Mirshahi is half of the canadian hip hop group “Test their logik”, an act well known for their radical political views and scathing lyrics. It was the radical political nature of their act which lead to both members of the group being arrested on conspiracy charges in the lead up to the 2010 G20 meeting in Canada. The duo had produced a video “Crash the Meeting” which encouraged viewers to storm the upcoming G20 conference. In a disturbing move the two were arrested (using secret evidence) because they had been identified as protest leaders, the charges which were eventually dropped prevented the duo from working together and participating in radical organizing against the meeting.

As well as performing Darius has been active in the recent resurgence of indigenous activism in Turtle Island (North America). In response to the ecological devastation wrought by the Tar Sands industry, Native nations have been blocking the construction of pipelines necessary to move oil down the continent into the United States. At a recent talk about the Canadian tar sands, Darius described how this industry has despoiled an area the size of the UK. Extracting oil from the tar sands requires removing all vegetation and using vast amounts of energy, water and chemicals to strip oil out of the sand and gravel it is mixed into. In its wake the industry leaves an train of broken land and vast tailings lakes. Aside from its environmental impact, this industry has lead to labor reforms that allow foreign workers to be brought in from overseas without any chance of gaining residency or the protections that domestic workers have.

Darius has also been active within in the Quebec student strikes that began as a result of proposed tuition fee hikes. The protests grew to become the largest student strikes in Canadian history and in the words of one writer came to pose “the most powerful threat to neoliberalism on the continent”. In response to the strikes the government passed “bill 78” limiting the right of student unions to strike and imposing hefty fines on those who broke this law. Condemned as a breach of constitutional rights, the law was widely flouted in nightly pot banging sessions across Quebec. Thus what began as a relatively moderate protest against fee increases grew to become a “struggle to re-appropriate the commons against the dictates of neoliberalism”.

Undaunted by mass opposition to student reforms, the current government is seeking to pass legislation that would dramatically weaken environmental protection laws. This and ongoing breaches of indigenous treaty rights has has sparked the Idle No More Movement which in the past few days has blocked dozens of border crossings between Canada and the US and sparked international solidarity protests across the globe.

Clearly there is much New Zealand can learn from the struggle against Neo-Liberalism in Canada. Like Canada, we have seen protest led by Maori against Fracking and deep sea drilling as well as student protests against tuition fee hikes. It is clear that any effective resistance to Neo-Liberalism will require collaboration across all sectors of the left.

Darius will be talking in Auckland this Sunday about the ongoing mobilizations in Canada and what the left can learn from them:

When: 3pm Sunday 13 January
Where: 6a Western Springs Road (Unite Union).
Entry: Free!

Darius will also be performing in Auckland this Sunday as part of “Test Their Logik”:

When: 8pm Sunday 13 January
Where: 163K Road (The Wine Cellar)
Entry: $5

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