Well it’s that time of the year when retrospectives flood our collective media-addled brains and we look back at the highs and lows of 2011. Here’s my photographic breakdown of Toronto’s top ten news making events of the past year.
It’s hard to deny that Toronto’s number one newsmaker of the year was, in his very own words, ‘Rob Fucking Ford, mayor of this city.’ From misguided 911 calls to false campaign promises, our mayor’s popularity is sliding faster than a crazy carpet at Christie Pits. Transit City was cancelled to be replaced by a subway to nowhere. Deputants lined up for an all night gong show at City Hall to talk to the mayor and his executive council, who listened but didn’t really hear. Now in the middle of a nightmare budget process, we’re slowly seeing our city services stripped before our eyes as fees for those services rise. Rob Ford needs to take his campaign mantra of ‘Respect for Taxpayers’ and make it his New Year’s resolution to have ‘Respect for Everyone’.
The first and original SlutWalk in Toronto prompted an international uprising of sluts taking back the streets from Seattle to Singapore. It all started right here at a York University safety forum on January 24th 2011. On that fateful day Constable Michael Sanguinetti told an auditorium of mostly law students that ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.’ In the audience that day were Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis. Tired of the victim blaming, the two feminist activists decided to reclaim the term ‘slut’ and on Sunday, April 3rd, SlutWalk was born. Since then the idea of SlutWalk has rapidly spread to major cities across the globe.
G20 Redux: Fundamental Freedoms Festival
One year after the G20 summit in downtown Toronto and the mental scars still remain for many who experienced the Black Bloc havoc and police brutality. On Saturday, June 25th, the G20 Redux: Fundamental Freedoms Festival sought to remind those in power that we haven’t forgotten the power they exerted on us. A rally was held at Queen’s Park before marchers led a contingent to the intersection of Queen St West and Spadina Ave. There they had a sit-in to reclaim the corner where during G20 hundreds of innocent bystanders were kettled by the police and made to stand, hands restrained, in the rain for hours.
The faded and torn posters promoting the first Stonewall TO can still be seen along Wellesley St just west of Yonge. Held on the last weekend of June to commemorate the Stonewall riots, the first Stonewall TO sought to recapture the political spirit of the original Pride days. Armed with signs that read ‘An Army Of Lovers Will Never Be Defeated’ the crowd of nearly one thousand danced and chanted their way to the 519 Community Centre on Church St where they partied in the park like it was 1969.
Rob Ford’s Pride Snub
While Pride Toronto has gone on to be more spectator sport than rally, this year proved to have its share of political controversy when Mayor Rob Ford refused to attend the Sunday parade or any Pride Week related event for that matter. The mayor could have sought to mend old wounds with the gay community, but chose instead to shirk any mayoral responsibility even going so far as to send City Council Speaker Frances Nunziata to the Pride Flag raising in his stead. His excuse of having a previous family engagement that weekend at his cottage was just that, an excuse. Consequently there was no shortage of Rob Ford effigies and mocking of the absent mayor during this year’s Pride parade.
The death of Jack Layton
This year the death of Jack Layton, leader of the NDP and Parliament’s official opposition, sent a country into mourning. For the citizens of the City of Toronto we knew we had lost an ally, fellow cyclist, former city councillor and friend. The outpouring of grief materialized as a massive shrine in chalk at Nathan Phillips Square, began by one woman quoting Jack’s last words that ‘Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.’
NDP Victory in Davenport
Earlier this year, the New Democratic Party under the leadership of Jack Layton made great strides in the federal election. The NDP continued their winning streak in Ontario by winning 7 more seats than the previous election. In the downtown Toronto riding of Davenport, NDP candidate Andrew Cash won a victory on the federal level over Davenport’s incumbent, Liberal MP Mario Silva. Then during the provincial election, NDP candidate Jonah Schein took the same riding with a victory over Liberal MP hopeful Christina Martins. Davenport riding had previously been a Liberal stronghold on the provincial level since 1999 and on the federal level since 1962.
Nearly 30,000 people trekked into a remote wooded area in Melancthon Township north of Toronto for Foodstock, a benefit to support local farmers in their fight against the proposed mega quarry. The event featured 100 top chefs cooking up gourmet nibbles and a concert featuring Jim Cuddy, Ron Sexsmith and Sarah Harmer.
When Vancouver based magazine Adbusters created the Twitter hash tag #OCCUPYWALLSTREET, little did they know what kind of worldwide revolution they’d spark. The protests that started in New York to take action against corporate greed and the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, went international on October 15th for World Revolution Day and Toronto was no exception. Thousands rallied on Bay St. in the heart of the financial district in solidarity with the south of the border movement. Then began the month and a half long occupation of St. James Park inciting conversation, anger and a heated debate over constitutional rights versus bylaw infringements. In the end the police moved in to evict and the protesters left as peacefully as they came.
Mourning Jenna Morrison
On November 7th Jenna Morrison, a pregnant yoga teacher, was on her way to pick up her 5-year-old son when she was struck and killed by a large cube truck. Both Jenna and the vehicle were making a right hand turn at the notoriously dangerous intersection of Dundas St West and Stirling Rd. Her tragic death shocked Torontonians and the cycling community who held a bike rally in her honour and with permission from her family, placed a ‘ghost bike’ where the accident occurred.