OCCUPY EDMONTON: The reason we occupy and what we want.
Dear Ralph Young,
We regret that you have chosen not to accept our offer of mediation and that you are no longer open to dialogue. Instead you are choosing to push us towards a forceful eviction and are threatening to personally sue individuals for costs.
We wanted to take this moment to explain to you, and everyone watching, some of the reasons why we began this Occupation in the first place, and what actions we would like to see take place so that it can come to a voluntarily end.
We began the Occupation on October 15th because the call that was and is being heard around the world resonated with us — a call not just for minor tweaks, but a call big enough to fill our hearts and dreams. This call was born from the inequities of systems that continue to benefit the richest few at the expense of the rest of us.
The crimes occurring against regular people weren’t just happening in New York or across America, but in countries and cities all over the world, including Edmonton. The themes of corporate control of political institutions and growing inequity and environment destruction, rang true here, just as they do in New York. Corporations have taken over our world, but by supporting each other and working in cities across the planet, we are hoping to take it back.
The Occupy movement is not just another protest, or stunt — it is a process to push for a new, more just world, that prioritizes the health of people and environments over profits and a desire for infinite growth. The Occupation itself is part of it. It is a light of hope to many here in Edmonton, and all over the world. The Occupation is also a constant reminder of the systemic imbalances we face, of the inequities and injustices caused by systems that increase the gap between the rich and poor, disenfranchising more and more voices and are pushing us closer to environmental collapse.
That is why it is difficult for us to simply end the occupation: to do so would signal that things are okay, and they most certainly aren’t. In fact they aren’t even close. That is why we need to continue.We will peacefully resist this latest eviction attempt because we need to be that reminder and we must continue pushing for the world that we — and people all over the world — want and need.
We hope you know that being out in -25 degree weather isn’t fun. We aren’t doing this because we are bored, or because we just like to complain; we are doing it because we believe the world can and must get better.
It’s clear that you want us to leave on our own, voluntarily. We are prepared to do that but first we need to see a few things happen. Below is a brief though not a complete list. We know that you aren’t able to enact these things yourself but you could help. It’s safe to say that if these things were to change, the occupation could come to a peaceful and voluntary end. We would happily pack up our bags, go back to our homes, and jobs, and continue on with our lives, because we would know that the changes we need had begun.
8 things we need to see in order for us to leave willingly:
1. We want to see our government officials actually come and participate in general assemblies and the occupation. We want to see them interact with our movement rather than try to ignore, disregard or actively try to undermine it.
2. If the City of Edmonton can give over $100 million in subsidies to a billionaire conglomerate, we should also be able to invest in City services, not cut them. We would like to see the $10.5 million in City service cuts eliminated and the property-tax hike apply not only to Edmontonians, but to the Katz group as well.
3. We want to see an end to the corporate influence over our democratic process. In Alberta this means ending the cozy relationship the government has with the oil industry. We want independent monitoring, a fair royalty regime, and an end to the open-door policy that the government has with oil representatives. We want a government, not a public relations firm.
4. We want to see wages, pensions, employment insurance, social assistance, workers compensation, AISH and disability benefits at minimum indexed to the average increases in salary and bonuses for the top ten CEOs in this country. We also want to see the gap between the richest 100 Canadian CEO salaries ($6.6 million in 2009) and the minimum wage decrease.
5. We want to see fully funded public health care and pharmacare programs.
6. We want to see free post-secondary education. Education is a right and anyone that has the desire to better themselves by going to college or University should be able to do so regardless of income and without being saddled with a huge student debt.
7. We want to see all Free Trade agreements adhere to the country with the most stringent environmental and labour laws, not the worst. (For example, NAFTA's Chapter 11, giving corporations in one country the right to sue a foreign government over 'potential loss of profits', regardless of the environmental consequences, should be abolished.)
8. Canada signed the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; now we want our government to implement it by giving our First Peoples all the rights contained within it, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent on all energy developments on Indigenous Territory.
This is not a comprehensive list of what we want, or what we need, but it is a start. It is a few steps further along the road we need to travel.
When you look at this list you may think we are idealists. That may be so, but we think that maybe the world needs a little more idealism, not a little less.
In your correspondence to us, you frequently mention, "respect for private property." We would agree that had we chosen to camp on a front lawn of someone's house, this might be disrespectful. Regardless of what Melcor Park's ownership status is, in practice and social norms it operates like a public space. The question is, should a rigid "respect" for the status of a tiny patch of land override and silence voices at a time when we have so many social and environmental crises to deal with?
One of the local concerns expressed by many occupiers is the ineffectualness of our economy in developing the downtown core in a way that builds community and is fair and equitable to taxpayers.Land stands empty, either creating foreboding spaces at night, or which must be developed with huge public subsidies to developers. As noted recently by at least one journalist, Melcor park at this time of year is "usually just an eyesore".
We ask you to look at our occupation through this lens and again consider the possibility that rather than making Melcor Park more dangerous we have made it safer, more lively, and community-oriented in a way that it is not when the park stands empty. We do not deny that there are difficulties with the public transformation of a space undertaken by citizens. Yet is it also undeniable that we are building the infrastructure needed to make the park a safe place to raise concerns, while harming no one.
Between an empty space and a safe, lively, community space in the downtown core, we think Edmontonians would prefer the latter.
If you do choose to forcibly remove us we hope that rather than throwing away the food that's been donated by the warm Edmonton community, you will give it to local homeless shelters.
We hope that rather than trying to extinguish the light, and forcibly removing peaceful people pushing only for a better world for all of us, that you’d join us; we ask that you add your voice to ours, because together we are stronger, we are wiser and we could realize our dreams a little faster.
The choice is yours Ralph.