Monika Sidhu: Evolving Solidarity Demonstrations Across Canada Keeps The Farmers’ Protest Strong
From sleep-outs in British Columbia to community clean-ups in Ontario, organizers are finding ways to keep the energy alive and the movement strong
April 6, 2021 | 5 min. Read
The Farmers’ Protest in India has been ongoing for over 130 days now. In that time, supporters from cities all around the world have been coming together to show support through protests, marches, and rallies.
From sleep-outs in British Columbia to community clean-ups in Ontario, organizers are finding ways to keep the energy alive and the movement strong.
Over the last three Saturdays, KisaanUnion.TO, the Sikh Student Association, Panjab Sewadar, United We Stand, and the Kisaan Rally Brampton have been gathering with the help of volunteers to clean up areas across Toronto and Brampton.
“It’s just a great feeling knowing that you’re doing something good for the community and at the same time for the farmers that are back home and still trying to protest for the same cause from the past four months,” says organizer Remedie Brar.
She says the idea originated from work that the farmers have been doing at the Delhi border, such as daily langar preparation and cleaning up their surroundings.
“Farmers took it upon themselves and started cleaning those areas because technically that’s their home for God knows how long. We can’t attend the protest but somehow we can maybe do similar things,” she added.
Brar says they have had many students and families come out to volunteer and help clear litter.
“you might find some areas in certain cities that are really untouched by people and you’ll be surprised by how many garbage bags you can fill.”
While doing an act of service for the community, Brar says she also hopes people who are passing by feel encouraged to stop and ask questions to organizers and volunteers about what they are doing. She says they have made signs indicating that they are supporting farmers and that many people do stop and inquire.
Brar says the turnout and the operation of the cleanups have only gotten better since their first event three weeks ago.
“I find more and more people are reaching out because they see the initiative and then we post before and after pictures and videos and they see that it is actually making a difference somehow and they just want to reach out and come out and attend these events with us.”
While this Saturday the group headed to Toronto’s Lakeshore, they hope to continue doing clean-ups like these for weeks to come.
The GTA is not the only region where Farmers’ Protest supporters continue to show their solidarity through ways other than protests and rallies. Organizing groups coming out of British Columbia have also been doing a lot of events to show that their support is not wavering.
The group Kisaan Sleep Out organized exactly what their name implies, a sleep-out. The group planned an event in Vancouver to show solidarity with the protest.
“We got to put ourselves in the shoes of the farmers and labourers who are living on the streets outside of Delhi and got to offer that opportunity to other members of our community,” said the organizers in a joint comment to Baaz.
The organizing group is made up of students Navjot Mannan, Jennifer Multani, and Robby Chatta. They say they got the idea for the sleep-out from Multani, who works closely with homeless youth and has planned sleep-out events in the past.
The organizers say they knew this might be a difficult task for them to handle seeing as how they are all full-time students however they give credit to highly driven volunteers and community support that helped them run a smooth event. They even had a lot of community members reaching out to donate supplies as well as food for the participants.
The first sleep-out was held at the end of February and the success of the event got them ready to keep going. They held a second sleep-out on March 26.
“We plan to do a sleep-out every month until the agricultural bills are repealed,” say the organizers.
“We have a lot of goals we still want to accomplish, the main one being to encourage Canada’s political leaders to intervene against the human rights violations the protestors in India are facing.”
The Kisaan Sleep Out was not the only event happening in B.C. to support farmers.
The Basmowave Challenge has also been an ongoing effort since February. Originating as a car convoy, the group traveled across Canada from Surrey to Ottawa and protested in front of legislative buildings in the provinces along the way. “BASMO” is actually an acronym for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.
But even after the group made it to Ottawa, they chose to keep the momentum going in their home province of British Columbia hitting the different municipalities within. The group was even able to adjust their acronym to BASMODI to honour this new shift in their protest: Burnaby, Abbotsford, Surrey, Mission, Outdoor day, Delta, and International Sleep-Out.
While the Basmowave movement started as a rally and protest, the organizers have also created a display to really drive impact: more than 200 shoes on display to commemorate the lives lost during the protests occurring in India.
Volunteer with Basmowave, Sahiba Bains, says that she felt very connected to the display of shoes:
“To me, it’s near to my heart because 200 shoes represent the people who have given their life already. Since November 2020 they have been working so hard for gathering attention from international media but the government has just been ignoring them so it’s really sad when I hear the news coming that one more person gave their life just trying hard and not giving up. It really is symbolism for their hard work. So it’s a really good idea to present those shoes there because it’s not just the shoes it’s the efforts attached to them.”
Living in Victoria, Bains is quite obviously far from home in Punjab, but she hopes to fight for her roots and her lineage of farming. She knows that raising her voice and participating here will help keep the movement going in India.
“If you look back, there have been many injustices which took place just because it was all happening in the dark and international media wasn’t aware about it and the national media of that country was already sold out to the government. So this wave is really important and is making a huge impact because when the protest is taken to an international level, people definitely become more passionate about it so no further injustice takes place,” says Bains.
Similar to Brar and the organizers of the Kisaan Sleep Out, Bains is happy to be part of a form of raising awareness that is different yet still allows the opportunity to fight injustice.
“There are different ways which are so powerful.”
Monika Sidhu is a journalist based out of Brampton. She covers topics of arts, culture, and social justice. More recently, she graduated with a Master of Media in Journalism and Communication from Western University. You can find her on Twitter at @MonikaSidhuu.
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