There's a tomorrow, Wendy


Jean Hodgkinson
The Caribbean Camera, March 10th 2005

Woman was venerated only to the degree that man made himself the slave of his own fears, a party to his own powerlessness: it was in terror and not in love that he worshipped her. -Simone de Beauvoir

Tuesday past, March 8, was International Women's Day (IWD). This is an international celebration that predates World War One and, therefore, Remembrance Day as well. That's saying something… two things, in fact. One: historically men have regarded each other as entirely suitable targets for rifle, mortar and bombardier practice, live ammo or no. (Also, that any collective remorse voiced for this unfortunate habit is powerless to prevent us from indulging in it.) And two: on the whole, men have historically treated women even worse than they treat one other. At least wars end occasionally.

Last week's article concluded with the hope that the dispensation of justice by the Toronto police force might soon be less arbitrary than it has been in the past. Last weekend the sort of arbitrary dispensation, the sort we should all be resisting if we hope to spare future generations (or perhaps even our own) the prospect of living in a police state, was publicly flouted as if in direct opposition to this hope. In honour of International Women's Day, then, yours truly will respond with the following report.

On Saturday, March 5, a downtown rally and march in celebration of International Women's Day was planned. The march wound its way down from the OISE Auditorium near the St. George subway station to Ryerson University's Jorgensen Hall, near Dundas station. The march was energetic and peaceful and an Information Fair was set up in Ryerson's Jorgensen Hall: several tables were set up for the dissemination of information and refreshments. CKLN, Ryerson's on-campus community radio station, helped to organize the event and several of the station's volunteers were in attendance, including volunteer programmer and activist Wendy Maxwell. Some of us call her Queen Nzinga. She is well known down at the station. A volunteer programmer (as we all are), Wendy contributes to a pair of Sunday morning broadcasts with tenacious regularity: the Spanish-language Aqui Nuestra America and Radio Active Feminism (10:30 and 11:30 a.m. respectively). In fact, she is such a devoted contributor to Radio Active Feminism that she is CKLN's IWD coordinator for 2005.

Unfortunately, positive contributions to the community don't mean what they once did in this country. Amongst all the literature, pamphlets and subversive feminists, Wendy was minding her fundraising table when a gaggle of Toronto's finest sauntered in, arresting and shackling her, eventually depositing her in Milton's Vanier Centre for Women. Not one of the arresting officers dared look this "threatening black woman" in the face. She was selling cookies. As if getting arrested in front of a crowd of people wasn't bad enough, there's more to this story. The Toronto police don't normally take people into custody for such things because Immigration has their own people for that, so it must have been a slow day.

Wendy's Jamaican heritage doesn't help in her country of birth, Costa Rica, where the police are known for singling out black citizens for special treatment. She's been sexually assaulted by them and also denied their protection from a Costa Rican gang (both clearly a refusal to discharge the duties they were hired to perform). The crime for which Wendy was arrested consists of nothing more than living in Canada without immigration status. Her deportation could happen at any time and would put her safety in very serious jeopardy. She submitted her application for permanent resident status, incidentally, in February 2004, and has been living peacefully in this country for the last six years.

CKLN is mounting a campaign in support of our sister in her time of (wholly unnecessary) crisis. Being a community radio station, CKLN needs the help of the community: so here are some suggestions for the ordinary citizen wanting to combat this country's inherently racist and misogynistic institutions.

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe can be reached at (416) 781-5583, (613) 992-6361, or by emailing Minister@cic.gc.ca. Demand Wendy's IMMEDIATE release.

The goal is to legalize Wendy's status in Canada by obtaining a temporary Resident's Permit until her humanitarian and compassionate leave application is resolved.

You can sign an on-line petition at: http://users.resist.ca/~gidget/petition.shtml.

The station is also accepting donations to help out with legal expenses. An IWD event (that Wendy organized) is now being held in her honour. That's on Thursday, March 10, at B-Sweet Lounge, 1279 Queen St. W. Visit www.ckln.fm or phone the news office at 416-595-5068 if you need further info.

Dick Gregory once wrote: "We'll bust this thing and cut out this cancer." And we will. Come hell or high water.

Happy IWD, Nzinga. Peace and Love.


Jean Hodgkinson hosts CKLN's Rude Awakening every Wednesday from 6-7 a.m. This piece originally appeared in the Caribbean Camera, you can view it on their site at http://www.thecaribbeancamera.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=110

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