Chronicling community action, revolutionary and revealing thought

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Even the Parkdale Liberty's joining in with giving Sylvia Watson flak.

"Sylvia Watson may be entering the only election of her life where her opponents are cheering for her."
"...Now Watson – who has recently been taking a lashing from residents’ groups over her handling of waterfront issues –"

And I can't defend her or even rebutt. If anything I can add fuel to the fire.

Last year Chris Wykes, who was on the Board of Directors for a halfway house, where people of Sri Lankan descent are being helped to re-integrate into society after being through the mental health system, invited me to a community meeting regarding the issue of them being in Parkdale, with Sylvia Watson moderating.

Anyone aware of or involved with gentrification issues only has to hear the word "Homeowner" from here on, but for those who are confused, I'll say this much:- 1) They don't like their property values going down and 2)NIMBYing. If #2 confuses you, I invite you to read on and all will become clear.

Owen Leach showed up as well, and I got a kick out of watching the homeowners snap their necks doing double-takes when the black man with grey hair started talking on the same side of the room where they'd set up shop, rousing in his denouncement of their NIMBYing and how they (the other homeowners) don't speak for him, and that he supports the halfway house. Before that, they were ignoring him. I noticed it. Owen knew it. He himself mentioned it afterwards.

There's that other aspect of the property owners; the undercurrent of racism. And I'll leave it at that. At the same time, I'm not saying they're all white; there was one Asian woman among them at the meeting that I can recall. You're also confronted face-on with classism, and just how much of a behemoth the disenfranchised have to combat, in regards to what they face from the rest of society. They all live in Parkdale.

When Owen starts speaking, you always start feeling like you should be bringing him a pulpit, or wondering who took away the beam of sunlight that's supposed to spotlight on him from the clouds. And I am not exaggerating. The last time I saw him speak, he stole the show from some panelists at the Marxism conference in Ryerson University. He brought the house down; the entire auditorium went mad, on their feet, cheering, chanting his name if they knew him. At one point the entire place started chanting "Sol-sol-sol! Solidarite!". The one thing the auditorium definitely wasn't, was quiet or still. And the man had arrived LATE.

Back to the community meeting.

Sylvia Watson displayed no bias during the meeting, but the same can't be said for the homeowners. There was one who was going on about when you look into their (psychiatric patients') eyes, you don't know what's going on in there, and they walk around with their pants around their ankles, yes she saw one doing that... I spoke up and said she had no idea what she was talking about. She got mad and would have continued shouting at me if it were not for the fact that I had prime examples of people who were active, contributing members to the community, who had mental health issues. She literally went "Hrmph!" and waved a hand dissmissively at me, but she couldn't really say anything; by then staff members who were present had started to clap. One middle-aged white female was actually wiggling her head slightly at one point during the meeting. Another Board member, of Sri Lankan descent, had noticed her do that as well, so it wasn't my imagination. This middle-aged woman was quite adamant about people entertaining tricks, and having to avert kids from a random discardecd condom or some needle. Them's be hookers you're talking 'bout, miss. These here are psychiatric survivors. Try and at least stay on topic, will you?

It was pointed out that they not only have a right to be there, they *belong* there, and they themselves are members of the community; there ARE Sri Lankans living in Parkdale, you know. If the concern truly was eradicating problems like those in the community, you had to address the underlying CAUSE for people being disenfranchised; if you didn't care and simply wanted no nuisances or eyesores, then you just sweep them up off the streets like the cops did in downtown Toronto. But you know the answer to that already; Not In My Back Yard. They want a cosmetic cover-up of the symptom. They don't want to see them.

Never mind the halfway house's residents were not raving lunatics; Bart himself had talked at some PTA meetings about the time he went to take a look at the place, and what he saw of those living there. When you looked in their eyes, they were so drugged up, they were "like zombies".

( cue mental image of someone stumbling around stiff legged, arms outstretched before them, saying "Weeeee willll walllk arrrooound with oooouuur pantssss around our annn-klessss..." )

So now you should have an idea of what we have to put up with, at meetings at least.

Then there was the issue of the zoning snafus the halfway house was entangled in. By this point in time it's general knowledge, but suffice it to say that at one point they had gone to Sylvia Watson. Not only was she in a position to advise and point them in the right direction, in some instances she was the head of committees (or involved with) who oversaw things they'd have to negotiate. The general consensus was that they were deliberately misled.

So whatever else people in Parkdale are saying about her, whether she did this thing or that, at the very least I know about this one thing.

The link