Posted By Sandra Alland

It was divine to see old friends and family, but Toronto had a certain emptiness about it. Mainly because of recent major losses both personal and public (and also because of the incessant gentrification of some of Toronto's best communities):

Selected Losses:

1. Tracy Wright... I flew in two days after this friend's memorial and flew out two days before her new film, Trigger, opened -- bad timing that intensified the lack of her that keeps slapping me in the face. I wandered around Kensington Market, past the place we lived together, and just could not believe that one of the nicest souls and best actors on the planet had died. She was only 51.

2. This Ain't the Rosedale Library... One of Toronto's best and oldest bookstores was forced out of its Kensington Market home by a greedy landlord this summer. I worked at This Ain't for three glorious years, and am still reeling at its passing (after that of Pages and many other long-standing independents). This loss is compounded by the fact that independent bookstores are closing all over the world (a trend that started in the 90s but has been receiving extra nails in its coffin in the past few years, especially now that Amazon has moved into Canada and its Kindle e-books are becoming the rage everywhere). There are many losses here, like lack of choice and lack of promotion for independent and activist writers and presses (This Ain't used to hand-sell the books of many writers). Indigo only keeps most books for a maximum of six months, and This Ain't was one of the only places to keep me and other Canadian poets and small-press/avant-garde/queer/lefty/of-colour writers in stock (even though this often meant the store suffered a loss in income). Who will fill this gap, and how will the remaining small presses survive?

3. Will Munro... I didn't know Will personally but attended many of his events, and the one time I met him was struck by his sweetness. Will was my age and died of a brain tumour... Toronto lost one of its best artists and upstarts when Will checked out. On an up-note (because we definitely need one by now, dear friends), there *is* a feeling that Will's legacy is being carried on by many of his friends and peers.

4. A General Feeling of Dread Around G20 Fallout and Community Organizing in General... I attended a panel discussion at Ryerson University, called Strengthening Our Resolve, which was at times brilliantly inspiring, especially the appearances by a trio of First Nations women and Harsha Walia. Yet there was a palpable fear in the air. It was not paranoia, it was a well-founded reaction to the status quo after police brutaliy at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and this summer's G20, and other out-of-control and illegal crackdowns on communities of resistance. One of the speakers, Alex Hundert, was followed to his home that night and re-arrested on the bogus claim that he had violated the "no demonstration" part of his bail (he is charged with various counts of "conspiracy" and other such ridiculousness). The criminalization of dissent in Canada is horrifying. The next day at a small protest against The 519 Community Centre's collusion with police (including their recent decision to allow recruitment in this LGBT centre without dialogue or notification of the community) there were police everywhere, too. I applaud the amazing community organizers in Toronto and elsewhere who struggle every day to retain what rights we have left, and to gain rights for their communities.

More positivity next post...

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