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Canadian mining and extractive industries not only destroy space where nature once flourished, but they also disrupt areas where communities live. This dynamic is not exclusive to remote villages, it also extends to big cities. Last year Goldcorp announced that it donated $10 million dollars to Simon Fraser University's Downtown East Side campus in Vancouver. The SFU space, now called "the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts" is located within the controversial Woodward's complex. It is also used as a venue for performing arts, film and community and activist forums.
Resistance against the Goldcorp donation was immediate and strong. SFU students, Latin Americans and anti-poverty activists joined forces to sound the alarm about the company's destructive history in Latin America. Rallies, educational forums, and direct actions brought the issue of Goldcorp -- as well as of the increasing corporatization of the university -- to the fore. Almost a year after the donation was announced, the struggle against Goldcorp and destructive mining continues.
"It is time for Vancouver to wake up to the severity of violence we espouse in our acceptance of corporations with practices as horrifying as Goldcorp's," Sara Kendall from the Mining Justice Alliance told the Vancouver Media Co-op via email.
Mining Watch's Jennifer Moore commented that Goldcorp "…gets a boost to its reputation every time someone sees its name on the side of the shiny new School for Contemporary Arts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside."
But even with irrefutable evidence of Goldcorp's spotty human rights record, progressive organizations continue to hold events at the space. Last week Gen Why Media, a youth led production group, organized an event at the Goldcorp facility. Bring your Boomers featured talks by a multigenerational mix of activists and politicians, including Rabble's Judy Rebick and environmental journalist Emily Hunter.
I asked Ms. Hunter if she was aware about the controversy surrounding the SFU Contemporary Arts Centre. "I didn't realize that SFU Goldcorp centre for the arts had connections to Goldcorp. Thank you for making me aware of this. Of course, I do have a problem with this, as I would with speaking at an event at a building funded by Exxon," Hunter told the VMC via email.
The absence of uncompromised spaces for activists and others, to hold events and meetings may be a reason why some choose venues with dubious funding sources.
"There's no doubt that the lack of accessible, activist friendly and affordable spaces is a significant barrier to organizing and outreach in Vancouver," journalist Dawn Paley told the VMC via Skype from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. "Activists and people of conscience in this city will invariably use this space, which is part of a public university; but at minimum we can refuse the legitimacy of that name, while continuing to publicly acknowledge and organize against the ongoing destruction and devastation from which Goldcorp profits."
Paley is the primary author of Investing in Conflict, a telling report about Goldcorp's activities in Latin America. (link: http://www.rightsaction.org/Reports/Mining_Goldcorp_BW_042608.pdf), and was a supporter of the push to have SFU refuse Goldcorp's donation. "Though we were not able to prevent SFU from accepting $10 million from Goldcorp, we can control how we refer to this space, and the lens through which we choose to interpret this form of 'charity'," she said.
Media Democracy Day, a progressive media conference, is also holding part of it's weekend-long symposium at The Goldcorp Centre for the arts. I asked co-ordinator Gala Milne if her team was aware of Goldcorp's reputation. "It is unfortunate," she said. A few hours later, a statement was posted on their website, part of which reads: "Goldcorp’s record of environmental degradation and indigenous displacement is of course troubling to us, and has not gone unmarked throughout our coordination process." and "We acknowledge and denounce the destruction of indigenous communities at the hands of mining companies such as Goldcorp."
It is steps like these that the Mining Justice Alliance is pushing for as part of the "Vancouver Divests" campaign. The goal of the campaign is… "to inform any users of the space about the violence of Goldcorp, encourage them to choose another location and be public about that, or, if unwilling to move locations, to take another series of actions such as public denouncement to the SFU admin, denouncement at the Centre itself, and creative strategic resistance." said Sara Kendall.
Ifny LaChance, is the Finance and Development Director at Galley Gachet an artist run centre in the Downtown Eastside. She also host's at Co-op Radio's Pedal Revolutionary show. When asked about how she felt about groups utilizing the Goldcorp Centre, she reacted:
"That whole glittering block, including W2, is so filled with blood money, haunted by displacement, genocide, exploitation. And the more that people patronize these co-opted places, the more selling out is rewarded, the more it hurts cultures of community and resistance. People need to vote with their feet. We need to dialogue more, as activists and as communities, and we need to be able to articulate a response, and a strategy for resistance and resolution, and boundaries. They are relying on us to forget."
The need for safe spaces, free of corporate funding, for people to converse, debate, plot and socialize became more apparent this year with the closure of 12th and Clark, the Red Gate and underground venues like The Secret Location. "Restrictive parameters outlining what is allowed to exist within space in Vancouver denies our projects their potential. So, many spaces must operate outside of what is permitted if they are to realize their intentions," read a statement from the 12th and Clark Collective.
Wednesday November 16th, could see a court injunction that gives the mayor legal authority to evict Occupy Vancouver. If this is the case, activists, workers, hippies, anarchists, artists and the homeless could lose the largest autonomous space the city has seen in years. The question is, if they are evicted from the Vancouver Art Galley, will these folks continue to liberate spaces through the city, or will the ever reaching arm of global capitalism continue to dictate where we resist?
In the spirit of total resistance
An Independent Spaces Contingent will march tomorrow at noon during Saturday's housing march leaving from Occupy Vancouver.