Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Week 4 Class Excercise: Toronto's "Women Against Poverty Collective", 3 June 2007 Women's Housing Action

Excercise instructions:
As I spoke to you all in class last week, at one point during the seminar on Sept. 27 (this Thursday) we're going to conduct a class debate. We're going to look at the lead up to and the consequences of the June 3, 2007 WAPC squat of an abandoned apartment building in downtown Toronto from the perspective of "reformers" and "social changers," as defined in the Fontan & Shragge reading from last week.

I will randomly divide the class into two groups, one group will be made up of "reformers" and the other, "social changers." You will then convene as a group for about 10 minutes and prepare a "reformist" or "social change" case for the social economy issues that the WAPC action brought to light: poverty, housing, women's rights, the plight of the marginalized, the role of the state in provisioning for our housing and safety needs, and perhaps other related issues that permeate urban Toronto and that were touched on by the WAPC action.

Each group will get 5 minutes to present their case and then each group will take turns rebutting or commenting on the other group's position. We will then have a respectful discussion interchanging ideas and try to arrive collectively at how the June 3 case study helps us understand a bit better the "tensions" with the social economy that Fontan & Shragge mention in their essay.

Here are some questions you might want to ponder from both sides of the social economy debate:

1) What specific issues did the WAPC's June 3 action bring to the surface?
2) How might "reformers" and "social changers" critique or support these issues? In other words, how would each side respond to the social issues that were brought to the surface as a consequence of the direct action tactics taken by the WAPC?
3) How, if at all, might each side support or be opposed to the tactics used by WAPC? (For eg: Would reformers agree with taking over private property in order to secure housing for homeless and battered women? If not, what might their solution be to the social issue? How would social changers respond to the tactics used?)
3) What institutions were affected and/or implicated in the June 3 action? How would each side react to the actions taken by the state (i.e., city hall, the courts, the police) during and after the June 3 squat?
4) How would each side address or seek to change these social institutions in light of the issues brought up by the June 3 action?
5) How might each side suggest we deal with homelessness, poverty, and the plight of the marginalized?

Brief background reading and viewing:

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