2 min

Queer social justice activism gets a boost at Toronto’s G20 summit

'It's natural that we will resist the oppression of others,' says queer activist

Beyond the billion dollar price tag, a convergence of the world’s leaders should concern the queer community in ways that extend beyond traffic concerns and cell-phone jamming in the downtown core.

The G8 leaders will meet in Huntsville on June 25 and 26, then the meetings continue in Toronto on June 26 and 27 with the rest of the G20.

On the other side of the wall — and beyond that 10-foot fence — thousands of people will protest: activists, grassroots organizations and NGOs, marginalized people, women, people of colour, indigenous peoples, the poor, the working class, disabled, non-status, queer and trans. And they will be met by 15,000 armed police officers and security guards, dogs, police horses and sound cannons — the largest security operation in Canadian history.

“It’s our opportunity to say what you’ve been doing has not been working. It’s time for you to hear us,” says Anna Willats.

A long-time queer and women’s activist, Willats is heading up the gender justice action with the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, which will coordinate the various groups and their direct actions during the summit and over the preceding week.

“People need to inform themselves! There are issues of indigenous sovereignty, migrant justice, disability rights, gender justice, queer justice,” says Willats. 

AJ Withers represents the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. For months, Withers has been preparing for the G20, touring Ontario and educating groups on the impacts of these meetings. Withers explains that the decisions made at the meetings are guided by a specific economic model.

“This isn’t only about solidarity. We are the people directly affected by these economic policies.”

“In Canada these policies take the form of privatization and cost-cutting: limiting access to education, healthcare, social services, even citizenship. The impacts are devastating.”

Ro Valesquez has been organizing creative queer-specific actions through Queer Liberation and the Toronto Community Mobilization Network. The young York University activist agrees with Willats and Withers.

“By the very definition, queer-identified bodies challenge the norm; they challenge the rules and regulations society has created in terms of what our bodies look like and what they should be. The G20 is a revision of the rules: really rich men who support unsustainable, environmentally exploitative and oppressive structures. As queers, we have resisted the rules and norms imposed on our bodies and our bedrooms; it’s natural that we will resist the oppression of others. “

With the voices of queer activists ringing fiercely through the mayhem of the G20 protests, their argument is clear — the politics behind the G20 remind us that being queer is about resisting oppression.