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If You Don't Stand for Something....

... you'll fall for anything.

Okay, so not all of these posts are going to be short and non-controversial.

I shot this photo last year ago at the Trans March on Church Street during Toronto Pride. I first saw the term "Israeli Apartheid" during TIFF 2 years ago, and it made me angry. I could not express my anger properly so I let it stew for a while. My main thought was "why are you using an Afrikaans word for an Israeli issue?". At the time, I researched the group and found their website severely lacking in information - especially their understanding of what "apartheid" meant and what their mandate was. If I was to drop the word "Holocaust" into my group name, I'd be pretty damn sure of the implications of using such a word before I used it.

I've gone to hear the group talk a few times over the past few months - mostly because I could not figure out what they were all about. What they stood for. Why they had been branded as a "hate group". I'm not generally a stupid person and am usually up to date with current socio-political events. I found it absurd that I could not easily figure out what they were about.

The biggest event I attended was a BENT panel at the Gladstone on which a QuAIA representation sat beside several reps from Pride Toronto and the Toronto queer community. The QuAIA rep was surprisingly well-spoken - but incredibly vague about what the group stood for. The moderator tried to get her to just state their mandate -to no avail. The moderator (and audience) grew increasingly frustrated by the vague answers - even attempting to paraphrase what was being said in order to give the frustrated audience something tangible.

The QuAIA contingent in the crowd was hostile and shouted at panel members. If they'd been able to intelligently and calmly state their position - they could have left that evening with some new supporters - or at least fewer opponents. Instead they left a sour impression on all of us. But I still could not figure out what they were about. I could not understand if the vagueness was due to them not knowing what they were about or not wanting to express it because they would ostracize too many people.

After more research I finally concluded that they were for Palestinian rights. Anti-oppression. Okay, that's cool. I can support that - but why does your group name not say anything about what your group is about? Why is your website so vague? Why could a reasonably intelligent person not figure that out right away?

I support free speech. I do not support discriminatory speech. Period.

In such a public venue and within such a huge event - you'd better damn well make sure your speech is clear and intelligent - if you want support. Otherwise why do it?

The group had refused to remove the "apartheid" word from their group name in order to get into the Pride parade this year. The City had threatened to withdraw funding for Pride if QuAIA was let in with it's current name - because their politics and speech had been deemed discriminatory. Judging by the way they handled themselves at that panel - I can see how they'd be interpreted that way. They were mostly shouting kids who would not let people talk - let alone listen to anyone else. They did not seem to think that Free Speech applies to anyone except them.

While I think it was absolutely crappy for the City of Toronto to force Pride Toronto's hand by making them choose between losing funding or banning the phrase "Israeli Apartheid" - I still don't understand why QuAIA refuse to remove Apartheid from their name when their name says nothing about what they're about - unless they're simply putting that word in there to get attention. Pride Toronto are not a bunch of idiots who don't care about the event - they do what they do and put in all the hours they do because they care. They were just trying to save pride. All those award-returners should be returning awards from the City of Toronto, not those received from Pride.

June Farrow, the first selected Pride Marshall for this year and many others turned down her awards as a protest against QuAIA being excluded under their current name. People have said that the words used to frame an argument are not as important as the argument. I'm sorry - the words are important. Poor language is what got QuAIA into this whole mess in the first place. It is what got them branded as a hate group. Their poor wording has left them open to anti-QuAIA protests from the other Queer Israeli group in Toronto - who are going on about what a great place Israel is for Queers.

But that has never been QuAIA's mandate (as best as I can figure out). They are anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian rights. They are not about Gay rights. Repeat - they are Not about Gay Rights. They have adopted the words "Queer" and "Apartheid" for no other reason than to get publicity and hijack events.

They could have marched any other time they want, Toronto is good like that. They protest outside the Israeli Consulate and tie up traffic outside the ROM on a regular basis. But contrary to their shouting - the group had not been banned from Pride - they had been banned from expressing hateful, discriminatory messages during a public event.

Queers for the Tamil Tigers, God Hates Fags, Queers for China's occupation of Tibet. Would groups with these names get the support of the Free Speech Award Returners? While I don't think they are a hate group - I do think that the words they use and the people in the group are full of hate and anger.

The words matter.

If you are supporting their right for free speech simply for the sake of free speech -and have not yet gone to hear them talk or talked to them one on one - do that first. Then make up your own mind on what to support and what not to. You can still support free speech while not supporting hate speech.

They have since been allowed back in the Parade on July 4th with their current name after Pride secured a vital $130K in funding from the City. While they are hiding their hatred under the protective veil of "free speech" and seem to have amassed a wealth of supporters - I doubt many of those supporters actually know what QuAIA stands for. I doubt many in QuAIA know what they stand for. Letting them in and making all groups sign an "anti-discriminatory" contract puts everyone on even ground with equal consequences - it also takes all the steam out of QuAIA.

I'm looking forward to seeing them in the parade and seeing if they change their message and tactics for the event. But whatever they decide to scream - I just hope they at least try to make some sense.


I'm not the only one who feels this way..

Anarchists and Fred Phelps


When I was volunteering at an event a few weeks ago I was paired up with a young girl and we worked together for about an hour moving stuff around. We got to talking about politics and society. She said that she hates all government. I was intrigued - so I started asking questions.

I told her who I work for and that I technically work for the government - so I asked her why the hatred? What did she stand for? She proudly informed me that she was an Anarchist (my capitalization, not hers).

I waited a moment, then said "That's not good enough. Why do you hate the government?". She said that she hates all forms of government because of their oppressiveness. Okay, fine - but I need more than that.

So I asked her if she paid her taxes.

She said yes, but not much because she doesn't make much.

I asked her why she paid taxes - and was met with silence and a blank face.

She didn't get the irony in her statement.

She didn't understand the big picture.

Either you are opposed to the government and oppression and live your life that way - or you don't. But you at least understand what it is that you are fighting for and what you claim to believe in. I am certain that the vast majority of the Anarchist Black Bloc tactic people who wrecked Toronto this weekend have no idea what they were fighting for - they were a bunch of impressionable angry young people with possbly violent tendencies - looking to belong to something. They are living and acting with blinders and are not aware of, or care about the implications of their words or actions.

Like my co-volunteer - they do not understand the bigger picture.

I stopped asking questions at that point because I was sensing a wall coming - of her understanding and my amusement (which would soon lead to my frustration).

This is probably the only time in my life that you will find me agreeing with anything that Fred Phelps has ever said. I completely disagree with what Fred stood for and his tactics - but his daughter was on a radio talk show recently and she said that her father didn't care what other people believed and believed in - as long as they could defend their stance. Get behind something and defend it.

Who knows if this statement or belief was true or not - but I have a similar viewpoint.

If you want to call yourself an anarchist - then stand behind that and live that life. Educate yourself on what that means and don't hide behind the title - like that explains everything. Be proud of what you believe in. Don't cowardly hide behind masks and amongst innocent peaceful protesters. Don't whine when you're forcibly pulled out of that crowd and thrown in jail and maybe hit with a baton or fist or ten - then go running to the media you oppose or go get help from that government run medical system you so violently oppose.

And please do not confuse what a few hundred people did with what 25,000 people tried to do this weekend. The latter were informed, peaceful protesters who were trying to make the world a better place for other people - most of whom don't have a voice on the world stage.

The former were a bunch of cowardly, violent idiots who wanted nothing more than media attention and to wreck things - and who's agenda was all about themselves.

They were not protesters - they were asses.

And really - if this had happened in any other city in any other country - destroyed buildings, torched police cars, mounted police knocked off their horses, police yelled at, taunted and things thrown at them - there would not have been bruised and bloody people pulled out of crowds and thrown in jail.

There would have been dead people.

I am amazed that the police were able to maintain their restraint as long as they did. I wanted to gas those idiots - and I was just watching it on TV.


A couple articles from Christopher Bird at Torontoist:
About SaturdayAbout Sunday
Video of what the media missed this weekend because of these self-serving asses:

Little Brothers

It's my little brother's birthday today.
He and his wife Brenda have 2 kids - an older daughter, Quinn and a younger son - Ronin.

So another little brother with an older sister are coming up through the ranks.



Hopefully older sister Quinn will continue to put her little brother Ronin in his place and continue to be amused at the whacky stuff he does - but at least my brother will be able to help Ronin cope with having an older sister.

Those top photos - first is the requisite "brother in a dress" photo. The middle one is me on lookout as he attempts, at the age of one - to steal my dad's truck in South Africa. The last one is us hanging out on the floor, as all kids do. I think he's wearing the same top I was wearing in the previous photo.

But hopefully Ronin will not speed through his highschool credits for no good reason and end up in the same OAC math class as his older sister.

And hopefully they will both go through their education with their proper birthdates on their official records. Not some date that their parents made up so they could start school early and get out of the house.

I swear I thought that every kid had two birthdays until about grade 6 - one birthday for 'real life' and one for School. My parents only moved mine up one month - from January to the prior December. But they moved my brother's up a full 6 months - from June to the prior December. When he started school my parents just told the teachers that he "was small". Well, yeah - he was really upto 18 months younger than all the other kids! He already knew his alphabet from being left home alone in front of sesame street at the age of 3 for hours at a tme (it was the 70's, okay? No seatbelts, kids left home alone, I remember rolling around in the back of the Gremlin while driving up Yonge street).

The teachers believed it all. Never mind that he probably also knew how to count to ten in Spanish thanks to the Buffalo TV stations we received.

I changed my birthday back to the proper one in grade 11 with no problem. We got our official records and were told to correct any wrong information - so I just told the teacher that my birthday was wrong. Don't know how that happened. Weird.

No problem. They believed me.

I told my brother that it worked for me. No need to continue living the lie.
So he tried to change his, as well.

He was called into the Principal's office.

Guess we had different reputations at school, he and I.

Happy Birthday Mills.


Father's Day 2010


These are photos of my niece Quinn and my nephew Ronin.

Ronin is 18 months going on 12. He's cute and he knows it. He regularly gets in trouble at daycare - if he's not biting another kid, he's biting himself. He likes to walk up slides without using the ladder and is fascinated by wheels. He has the best dinner table lighting I have ever seen - he can do no wrong in that night. He will do anything for food.

Quinn is 3 years, 3 months old. She humours her little brother, does not understand why he refuses to use the staircase attached to the ladder - and knows she will probably always be taller than her brother. She can not be bought with food. She can be bought with any John Mayer video.

The Other LEAF

LEAF Annual Celebration-4-2
LEAF Annual Celebration-9
LEAF Annual Celebration-7-2LEAF Annual Celebration-6
LEAF Annual Celebration-2
LEAF Annual Celebration-3

I have several Lawyer Friends. Most are human rights and labour lawyers. We have some good conversations - but the discussions have had to change recently because of my current place of employment and the fact that one of them works for the firm that represents the union where I work.

I am not part of the union. Part of my job is to audit the union. Massive conflicts there. Change of topic required. Like who we each do volunteer work for - we both volunteer with Toronto oranizations who use the acronym "LEAF".

I volunteer with Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests. They volunteer with the Womens Legal Education & Action Fund.

You can imagine our initial confusion when we were each going to events the other did not know about. I now refer to the one I volunteer with as "the other LEAF", since there are several of them and just one of me.

I've been volunteering with my LEAF for almost 2 years. I do mostly photography, but pretty much anything else they ask that I have time and interest to do - anything from writing on popsicle sticks, to community outreach to working on documents, selling stuff at merch tables, setting up photo exhibits and recently appearing in their promo video.

They are a passionate group of tree-lovers. No matter what time of day or night I drop by the office - there is always someone there working.

Their 4th Annual celebration was this past Friday at the Artscape Wychwood Barns (photos in this post). I was shocked when, while helping to set up the event (which involved turning the Wychwood Barn space into an indoor urban forest) on the afternoon of, I was informed that I was going to receive one of two "volunteer of the year" awards later that night. (holy comma splice, I know)

I talked to the other award recipient, Christine before we both went up to receive our awards - we were both equally shocked. We really had no idea that people say "no" to things that LEAF asks them to do and we'd both never been asked to do something we didn't actually want to do. We both really didn't think we did that much. After some discussion we realized that we'd only met once before at the video shoot (we also realized why we'd been asked to be in this year's video). We do completely opposite things for LEAF, we both have cars, are both "older" (in comparison to the average LEAF volunteer) - and we usually say "yes". If you were to draw a venn diagram of what we do there would be minimal overlap, hence never before meeting.

Of all the organizations I've done and do volunteer work with (a lot), LEAF is definitely filled with the most passionate people. Perhaps it is the youth of the organization, perhaps it is the type of work they do and the people that work attracts - but that combination of people, goals and work has built a caring, hard-working, team of genuinely nice people.

... and they say "thank you" a lot.

Thanks LEAF.


You can see some of the other photos I've done for LEAF here

Or in full-screen slide show form - here

New Blog. Big Photos. Little Thoughts.

On June 3rd each year, for the past 25 years, I've tried to do something interesting in my life. Something different. Shake things up a bit. Sometimes intentionally, often not.

This year, on this date, besides taking my cat to the vet in a sort of emergency situation - I decided to discontinue my old blog. Perhaps it will be a hiatus until next June 3rd? Who knows.

I'm still going to write - but much shorter (hopefully) bits with an attempt at promoting things/people/causes that I believe in - as well as centering more on my photography.

Big Photos. Big Thoughts. Few Words.

So I've started this photoblog. I'm populating it back in time, bit by bit - I plan to take it back a couple years. I am including some weddings and some of my best stuff over that time.

I'll still write about my opinions on various things - as many of you have told me how much you "like the way" I think or "how my brain" works (or not). So I will still attempt to "edutain" y'all with the weird/interesting stuff I come across. But perhaps with fewer words.

You can use the keywords at the bottom of the blog to navigate related posts/photography.

I totally look cross-eyed in that photo. I know.

I think I'm also going to take some of these earrings out my ears. I'm too old for this many holes in my head.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . click on any photo to view it on flickr

..all content and images copyright kanchan maharaj inHerEye photography. stealing is bad. very bad..