As right-wing hate groups and white supremacist organizers become bolder and gather with more regularity across the country, using the cover of “free speech” to spread their racism and genocidal propaganda; the left continues to resist Nazis and fascists as they have done in decades past, as they have been doing so since, and as they will continue to do so for a long time to come.
It was to resist this increase in fascist, Islamophobic, racist and white supremacist forces at work in Canada that, on October 30th, around 50 people gathered at the Centre for Socialist Education (CSE) to attend the founding meeting of the Vancouver chapter of Toronto-based coalition Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere. Among the gathered were students, academics, union representatives, representatives from city-wide and Canada-wide activist organizations, and solo activists, a diverse group united for a single purpose.
Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere, or SAFE, was founded under the name Organizing Committee Against Islamophobia (OCAI) by, among others, veteran organizer Sarah Ali. OCAI was founded as a broad-based coalition intended to work towards forming a mass movement to combat the growing forces of Islamophobia, white supremacy, and fascism. From its beginnings, SAFE has been strongly supported by the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and the Young Communist League (YCL).
Together with the continued strong support of a wide range of political, labour, religious, and community organizations, SAFE grew exponentially, continuing to enjoy great successes with organizing the Toronto community against fascists and white supremacists. Organizing massive rallies, counter-protests, and even block parties to prevent fascists from marching in the streets of Toronto, SAFE has begun making more permanent in-roads with the communities in Toronto and changed its name to reflect its commitment to fighting fascism in all its manifestations, including but not limited to colonialism, imperialism, and foreign interventions.
As SAFE grows, it has begun to move to establish itself as a Pan-Canadian coalition and has begun establishing sister chapters in cities across Canada. It was with this aim that the aforementioned range of individuals and organizations met at the CSE on Monday night.
At a meeting organized with the help and funds of the University of British Columbia based student-led Social Justice Centre (UBC SJC) and with catering from Tamam Fine Palestinian Cuisine, SAFE co-founder and CPC member Sarah Ali Skyped in with a number of representatives from the Toronto chapter of SAFE to guide Vancouver activists in establishing a branch of the coalition in the city. Alongside facilitators from the UBC SJC, the CPC and the YCL; members of labour unions, the East Indian Defence Committee, Salaam Queer Mosque, International League of People’s Struggle, Kagawasan Liberation Campaign, the University of British Columbia Women’s Centre, Critical Muslim Voices, Coalition Against Bigotry, Stand Up Against Racism, International Socialists and countless others listened to Sarah and her comrades speak of the history of SAFE, the organization’s structure and their experiences organizing, as well as answer any questions and concerns the crowd at the CSE had.
After the conversation with Sarah, the assembly viewed SAFE-Toronto’s statement of unity and a lively discussion on the coalition’s points of unity ensued. Participants discussed the importance of building a mass movement that incorporates more than just the most radical elements of society to prevent fascism from taking root in the community. To members of the CPC and YCL, for example, it was self-evident that it would take a mass movement to prevent fascists from feeling comfortable enough to march and organize in Vancouver, and that it would take more than just a handful of revolutionaries to keep the marginalized and targeted com- munities of Vancouver safe from far-right violence – it would take thousands.
Due to the late hour, formulating a basis of unity appropriate to Vancouver was tabled for a future meeting; despite the long and intense meeting, the gathered crowd remained enthusiastic about meeting again and continuing to work on organizing the SAFE coalition. The crowd’s willingness and desire to continue organizing regardless of the diversity of political and communal backgrounds serves as an important indication of the desire for anti-fascist organizing present in the city and the commitment the Vancouver community has to prevent the city from becoming a place the far right feels safe enough to march in. The city’s activists and communities remain united in their determination to combat the far right and it is about time the far right begins to take this unyielding resistance into account.
By all accounts, the founding meeting was a massive success and the next step, building a plan of action and agreeing on a statement of unity, appears to be on the path to being an even greater success. As CPC-YCL member and labour organizer Brent Jantzen put it, “… The organizers who started this movement out in Toronto spoke so well, helped us lay a great foundation to what we need to organize against, and what to expect while organizing this kind of coalition. Honestly seeing this collaboration coast to coast, not only built around a frame work of fighting these fascist forces, but fighting the settler colonial government of Canada and the policies they are bringing in to further this process of colonization warms my heart… From cook to poet we are all resisting and fighting this fighting this fight. There has never been a struggle we fought for in society won by a single person, it was the collective around them that got it there. I’m really excited to see the change we push for become a reality.”