We the North and we’re making history

It is a very exciting time to be in Toronto, for the first time in franchise history the Toronto Raptors are in the NBA finals and it’s a surreal feeling for many long-time fans. Every corner of our city is beaming with pride to have the only Canadian team in the NBA going up against the Golden State Warriors- who have won 6 championships including the last two.

The Raptors are clearly the underdog in this series and they have an entire country rooting for them.

This is a significant moment in Canadian sports history. It indicates a shift in our city and the way in which Toronto is perceived in the NBA. Historically, Canada has been known for its dominance in hockey but now basketball is also becoming another outlet to showcase our Canadian pride and our multiculturalism.

As one area fan points out, “this signifies a shift in thinking. No longer would we be looked at as ‘that Canadian team’ but we will be looked at as THE championship Canadian team in the NBA. It would bring a different thought process to all those that just think ‘Canada = Hockey.’”

Dale Mahabir is a lifelong Raptors fan and Downsview local. He describes his excitement over this milestone for the team and what it means to him, “having the Raptors in the finals means everything as a lifelong fan. Since the beginning, we as Raptors fans have been too accepting of consolation prizes: celebrating things like a regular season win over the 72-10 Chicago Bulls in the 90s to celebrating other consolation prizes like having a winning season, making it to the playoffs, winning a round, or getting to the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF). To have them in the ‘final dance’ is surreal. To be able to witness not only a city, but an entire country (since the departure of the Grizzles to Memphis) band together and simultaneously cheer the Raptors on can only be described as a surreal feeling.”

Dale, his brother and their friends have been watching the games at different pubs in the area and describes it as “ A tremendous feeling to know that we are all there together rooting for the same team and hoping for the same outcome, it’s quite the bonding experience. When the Raptors won the final game against the Milwaukee Bucks we were all hugging and cheering, everyone at the pub- even people we had just met.”

The Milwaukee series was one of overcoming adversity for the Raptors. They were down 2-0 to Milwaukee at the beginning but did this not discourage the team nor the fans, and eventually they became one of only six teams in NBA history to win a conference final after losing their first two games. Winning this series against the Bucks truly set the tone for the Championships and created an atmosphere of enthusiasm and passion that is felt all throughout the city.  

How incredible to have our beloved Raptors finally taking centre stage and making us proud of our city and our country.  We the North!

Action Keele: Organizing the community for better public services

Action Keele, a local community group, has been organizing to improve service on one of the worst bus routes in the city—the 41 Keele route. The group maintains that this situation is not the drivers’ fault and instead, that working class and immigrant neighbourhoods, like those served by the 41, tend to be ignored by City Hall.

After months of research, planning, collecting over 100 surveys of 41 Keele riders, and doing a ride-along with a supportive 41 bus driver, Action Keele officially launched its campaign on December 12, 2018. Since then, the group has collected over 700 signatures on its petition, which has the following as their main demand: Put the 41 Keele bus on the 10-minute network.

“This will mean more reliable service, less overcrowding, and less stress for drivers and passengers on the buses that workers depend on every day,” says Jordan Haus, co-chair of Action Keele. The bus drivers union, ATU local 113, seems to agree. In April, the union formally endorsed Action Keele’s campaign and its demand.

When they reach 1000 signatures on their petition, Action Keele will deliver the petition to the Mayor’s Office and the TTC Board, and pressure them to make the much-needed changes to the 41 route.

As they continue to push for better public transit, Action Keele is gearing up to connect with the over two-dozen public schools along the bus route. In light of the recent funding cuts to education made by the Doug Ford government, members of the group fear that these already-underfunded schools will see even further deterioration.

“There are at least seven schools on the Keele route, by our count, which the Toronto District School Board considers to be under-capacity. With the cuts imposed by Ford, many of these schools are at risk of being sold off to private developers. We can’t let that happen,” warns Umair Muhammad, member of Action Keele.

Whether it is a local bus or a neighbourhood school, there are countless families on and around Keele street whose daily lives are impacted by the condition of public transit and of public education. Action Keele is organizing to bring those families together to collectively build better public services for us all.

If you would like to find out more about Action Keele, or get involved in their transit and education-related organizing, you can email them at actionkeele@socialistproject.ca.

Intercultural Cafe

On March 12, 2019, just days before yet another round of violence in our world, a bit of peace happened at York University. It happened because people of four different faith groups decided that unfamiliarity and separation can lead to fear and further isolation. This gathering of people believed there had to be a better way.

So on a cold but sunny late afternoon, folks with different belief systems and different cultural experiences gathered at the et. al. Cafe at York University.  The evening was planned by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute, Hillel at York, Hindu Students at York, and Logos Christian Community. It started with plenty of food and opportunity for conversation. There was a little mingling of the groups, but people tended to stay with people they knew.

The program for the evening had each group presenting some music that was representative, in some way, of their culture. Windows of understanding were slowly being opened.  People were encouraged to continue eating and drinking coffee and tea. The atmosphere was relaxed and inviting.

Then came the time for discussion, each person present was invited to a table with people they did not know. Fear may have gripped a few at that moment, but organizers quickly helped people find a spot and get to know some new friends. There were envelopes with questions on the tables to spark discussion and that spark was all that was needed. Soon everyone was engaged in free flowing conversation.

Some of the questions were simple. They helped everyone understand each other better. People were surprised by the similarities and respectful of the differences. Participants were also allowed to ask difficult questions; things that they may have wondered but never had the opportunity to ask. There was laughter; there was appreciation; there was understanding. Peace happened.

In the end, there was an acknowledgement that all of us could very well have been in this cafe on this day or any other day, and we would never have said a word to each other.  There was a recognition that we inhabit the same spaces at York on a regular basis. But we also were aware of the fact that for the most part we stay separate. It took initiative to get to the cafe. Desire to experience something different was needed.

Participants were glad that they came. Instead of the fear and isolation that grips much of the world, people experienced peace and friendship. In fact, they had to be encouraged to leave, so the cafe could close. There was agreement that this kind of thing takes effort, but it seemed that the effort was well worth the time and energy.