This event is organized by the Abolition Collective, publishers of Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics in collaboration with community groups in Toronto. The collective members belong to grassroots anti-oppression movements across the U.S. and Canada. Following three “mini-conferences” at the Western Political Science Association Conference, Abolition chose to reject the traditional academic conference format, opting instead for an independent event that brings together activists, educators, and community members, with the explicit purpose of fighting against the ways in which educational institutions hoard resources for learning. The 2020 Toronto Convergence builds on the relationships formed during the 2017 Convergence in Minneapolis.
We are approaching decolonization as a process of telling the truth about, resisting and undoing the impacts of colonialism in all areas of our lives. It is also a process of Indigenous Nations resurging and thriving based on Indigenous ways of being; knowledges; languages; land-based and water-based cultural practices; and political, economic and justice systems. Decolonization means the return of traditional territories to Indigenous Nations, renewed respect for the leadership of Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA people, and an end to the ongoing genocide. Decolonization needs to happen in people’s minds to refuse colonial ideas that deny Indigenous Peoples’ humanity. Violent actions based on these ideas are the reason there are so many murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. And decolonization needs to happen in society to dismantle settler colonialism and ensure that non-Indigenous people respect the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations.
We understand abolition as an undoing of borders, prisons, police, settler states, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, colonialism and imperialism and all other forms of authority that ar tangled together to produce the era we live in. Abolition is a broad concept, rooted in the drive to build alternatives to these violent state structures which define our societies. Individuals and movements throughout history have employed abolitionist tactics to resist and dismantle oppressive systems and replace them with practices that support the empowerment and liberation of all our communities.
What are Decolonial and Abolitionist Future(s)?
Our futures are a continuation of the past and the present: the wisdom derived from our ancestors and Elders continues to ground present day liberation struggles. Just like the way the mushroom draws on its millennial of knowledge to take shape and form in relationship with other living beings, often underground, the actions we take today on the streets, on the land, in community centers, in the workplace, in shelters, in our schools and at home are the very foundation for the world we wish to build for future generations.
Abolition is happening now, all around us. From Tent City to migrant justice or sex worker organizing, abolition by necessity involves a diversity of strategies and approaches. Anti-colonial Indigenous movements have long refused the imposition of settler law onto their sovereign territories and continue to fight for jurisdiction over, and protect, their lands, waters, families, governments and social institutions – from Mik’maq grandmothers on the frontlines against Alton Gas in the east to the Wet’su’wet’en Strong movement against Coastal Gaslink in the north west. Sometimes there are tensions between different anti-colonial and abolitionist struggles. During the convergence, we hope to create space for multiple perspectives and for working across difference.
Abolition can take the form of actions big and small, such as supporting safe injection sites in your neighbourhood, counter protesting against white supremacists, joining a care team for a friend in need, setting up community food banks, acting within or in solidarity with Indigenous movements, or planting a community garden. In truth, the possibilities for abolition strategies are endless, and these forms of “fugitive organizing” are critical for the broader abolitionist project we hope to co-create. During the three day convergence, we aim to draw upon the everyday organizing of the people around us, to take our imaginations to the limit, to actively build hope and to implement strategies within, against and beyond existing systems.