Toronto activists gather to ramp up campaign against TPP

BY BRADLEY NORTHCOTE

A group of community activists and advocates in Toronto is calling for a stop to the
controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, which they say is an unfair and undemocratic trade deal harmful to creators and consumers of digital content.

The diverse group held a “TPP Teach-In” at the United Steelworkers Hall in Toronto on Saturday,  to educate new activists about ways to speak out and take action. This is the latest of a series of events leading up to MPs returning to Ottawa for the first week of parliament’s fall session. The USW Hall is in the riding of federal trade minister Chrystia Freeland, and the union has been active in the campaign.

Activists-in-training take part in discussion group led by the Council of Canadians. Various groups set up stations around the hall in a "World Café style" event.
Organizers and activists take part in discussion group led by the Council of Canadians. Various groups set up stations around the hall in a “World Café style” event. (Photography by Bradley Northcote/The Sheridan Sun)

Aspiring activists moved between workshops ranging from Future Health Canada’s “TPP Spreads Hep C” to the People’s Climate Movement’s “Hold Your MP Accountable: 12 Questions Your MP Needs to Answer on the TPP.”

OpenMedia, which runs campaigns for the rights of internet users, is the lead organizer for this event and one of several groups partnered in a campaign to pressure the Trudeau Liberals not to ratify the TPP. Meghan Sali, OpenMedia’s Digital Rights Campaign Coordinator, called on young activists to get involved.

Meghan Sali, OpenMedia Digital Rights Campaign Coordinator. She is encouraging Canadians across the country to take advantage of public consultations on the TPP.
Meghan Sali, OpenMedia Digital Rights campaign coordinator. She is encouraging Canadians to take advantage of public consultations on the TPP.

Her advice for doing so is to find a group with a cause you care about, and head on out.

“Once you start attending, you’ll want to go to more,” said Sali.

Justin Trudeau’s 2015 victory was in no small part the result of young voters turning out in large numbers to vote Liberal. Brittany Smith, LeadNow’s Online Campaigner, says this shows students’ engagement will make a difference.

Rock Against the TPP

Among the event’s speakers was Pittsburgh native Justin Cathal Geever, better known by his stage name “Justin Sane”, lead guitarist and singer-songwriter for the American punk rock band Anti-Flag. After playing at a “Rock Against the TPP” concert, organized by OpenMedia in Toronto the previous night, he took the opportunity to mingle with fans.

“Art should be for everyone,” said Geever.  He says while artists deserve to be able to support themselves, their art should be as widely available as possible, especially to those who are struggling financially.

A controversial part of the TPP would require countries which sign the deal to ban the breaking of digital locks, which prevent people from making copies of copyrighted material. This means students looking for free copies of textbooks online, or copying songs from CDs, could face stricter laws or enforcement against their actions.

Postering Action

As the workshops ended, activists of all ages lined up for posters calling on Canadians to inform themselves about the TPP. Despite the pouring rain, they rushed out in pairs to put them up around the neighbourhood.

Alex Gendil, a civil engineer from Mississauga and an amateur activist, puts up a poster near the event on Cecil Street, in the riding of federal trade minister Chrystia Freeland.
Alex Gendil, a civil engineer from Mississauga and an amateur activist, puts up a poster near the event on Cecil Street, in the riding of federal trade minister Chrystia Freeland.

Alex Gendil, a civil engineer from Mississauga, said the event challenged the cynicism he and his friends shared as students, and he hopes to keep up with future campaigns.

“I used to be cynical. I used to think ‘What can I do? I’m just one person,’ but you can’t think like that.”

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