Every year, right around springtime, Barrick Gold holds its Annual General Meeting at the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. With this event comes the inevitable confrontation; Barrick has been targeted by professional protesters for years. The protests are rarely peaceful, and involve protesters forcefully stopping traffic, pushing into police lines, making false accusations of police misconduct, and sometimes getting arrested.
When one imagines their child being sent on a school field trip, the last thing they’d think is that they’d be communing with convicted criminals, abusing the police, and risking arrest. But, for students of one Toronto District School Board institution, this is now a distinct possibility. At 11am on Wednesday, April 30th pupils at the Student School will be at the front-line of the fight against Barrick Gold- led by an American anarchist whose activities are closely monitored by a host of US and Canadian enforcement organizations.
What Is The Student School?
The Student School is an alternative secondary school that offers courses for students in grades 11 and 12. The school has a definite slant towards the far left, promoting ideals of “Social justice, equity, acceptance, respect, and participatory democracy”. There’s no equivalent school in Toronto for people with right-leaning politics.
Like many on the radical left, the Student School has taken a strong position against the Israeli state. They’ve aligned themselves with the controversial (some say anti-Semitic) group Students Against Israeli Apartheid, and High School Students Against Israeli Apartheid. The school’s position on Israel is so intense, there’s been at least one incident where an Israeli student felt unsafe and compelled to leave.
Each week the school’s students gather for a “General Council” meeting (that sounds a lot like the General Assemblies of the Occupy movement). At these meetings, students “vote and discuss school issues, students’ issues, activity motions, motions of solidarity, boycott proposals and much more”. From the above screenshot, it appears that they’ve recently voted ‘unanimously’ to attend this years protest against Barrick Gold.
Who’s Running The Protest?
Efforts against Barrick Gold are led by Sakura Saunders, an American anarchist who recently moved from Toronto to Ottawa. Saunders is a hardcore anti-capitalist who associates herself with some of the Canada’s leading promoters of political violence. Her husband is an anarchist rapper who promotes Black Bloc culture, and “smashing shit up”.
Saunders has been protesting Barrick AGMs since at least 1997. It was that year when she was arrested for trespassing on the conference centre’s property and refusing to listen to the police when they asked her to leave. As demonstrated in the above video, she resisted arrest when she was being taken into custody- struggling and screaming while the police were trying to get her under control.
While generally quiet about her support for people who use violent tactics, Saunders occasionally lets it slip- like last year, when she openly praised people who sabotaged natural gas pipelines. As a result of this behaviour, Saunders has become a person of interest for law enforcement agencies including Toronto Police, Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI- organizations whose staff have read many of the articles about her posted on this website.
To put things in most simple terms, Sakura Saunders is the exact opposite of the type of person who should be presented as a leader and/or role model for Toronto’s students. If the Student School’s faculty are aware of Saunder’s background (it’s assumed they are, as they’re active in the protester community) and are allowing students to attend this event- it calls to question their suitability as teachers.
But, How Bad Could It Really Get?
We’ve already seen the example of what happened at Saunder’s anti-Barrick protest in 2007, and her Oscar class performance (she’s well trained at getting arrested) as she fought against the police. But, while it’s not normal that someone gets arrested every year, there’s no shortage of bad people and bad behaviour.
Saunders learned in 2007 (the hard way) that all but the last 18 inches of the sidewalk in front of the convention centre is private property- police are always given permission to remove protesters from this area. But this doesn’t stop the protesters from trying to push themselves across the line- in fact, it’s become part of the protest’s tradition.
It goes like this. Everyone first gathers on the sidewalk on the other side of Front St. The protesters hold up their banners, some make speeches, and (inevitably) Saunder’s husband Darius Mirshahi will damage fellow protester’s eardrums with some of the worst anti-capitalist (c)rap one could imagine having to endure (it makes Vogon poetry sound tame).
Next, Saunders will begin to lead people to start blocking Front St- pushing themselves in front of moving traffic in a manner that’s surely not covered by the TDSB’s insurance carrier. If the protesters are lucky enough not to be hit by a car or attacked by an angry driver (luckily it hasn’t happened yet), they will then make their way to the private property in front of the convention centre. The police then round them off of the sidewalk, and leave the group standing on the street (with moving traffic behind them) and they’ll start yelling at the cops (most of who are nice people just trying to do their jobs).
Last year’s protest got interesting when Dee Shangar (the guy who runs the racist and violence promoting Occupy Toronto Livestream) accused one of the police officers of ‘assaulting’ him by gently pushing him off of the private property he was trespassing on. Protesters later began plastering the Internet with accusations naming the cop. Fortunately, it was all caught on video- and there was zero evidence of the protester being assaulted (quite the opposite).
Why Protest Barrick Gold?
The protests against Barrick Gold aren’t entirely for environmental reasons. Barrick’s chairman and founder (who has announced he’ll retire this year) Peter Munk is also a supporter of the Jewish National Fund, an organization that provides strong backing for the state of Israel. JNF events are often the target of protests- curiously, they’re attended by the same people you’ll find at an anti-Barrick Gold protest.
Saunders is a strong supporter of anti-Israel protests; and associates with racists who have made public, unabashed anti-Semitic statements. Many people accuse far left anti-Israel fanatics of anti-Semitism. Examining the Student School’s history, it appears that the administration has a definite bias.
Parents, Your Kids Aren’t Safe At The Student School:
It’s beyond Your Humble Narrator’s imagination how the Student School’s administration could be so irresponsible as to send their students to this event. If teachers are trying to teach their students the democratic values of protest, this is the exact wrong place to do it- they’ll be accompanied by convicted criminals, cop baiters, and people who promote the use of political violence.
Reading through TDSB regulations, it’s very clear that schools are obligated to examine political issues by looking into both sides of the conflict- it doesn’t appear that the Student School is adhering to these rules. Saunder’s organization ProtestBarrick provides such a manipulated view on their rival that Barrick has successfully got a court order telling them to cease and deist distributing their distorted information.
The school board needs to take notice of what’s happening and engage in remedies to make sure this doesn’t occur in the future. The purpose of our public school system isn’t to indoctrinate students in radical ideologies- it’s to teach them how to assess the world around them using logic and truth. Sakura Saunder’s work is anything but- she presents a distorted view on reality, and is the worst role model imaginable.
If the Student School can’t figure this out, it’s time for the TDSB to shut them down…