Police unleash water cannons at protestors in freezing temperatures


As time passes, we’ve all been increasingly astounded at the battle taking place on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

We are used to seeing protests flare up in North America. In fact, it’s something that is cherished as a fundamental civil right. But at what point does the clash between activists and police morph into something more serious?

“At what point does the clash between activists and police morph into something more serious?”

We all watch as the trauma escalates. What I have felt increasingly as new footage surfaces is this is not your average protest. This is a war.

And I should know. I’ve worked in war-torn countries for several years, documenting political injustices. I’ve spent time with torture survivors, have been chased by military and have been present when schoolchildren were being abducted on a daily basis.

I can confidently say I know what war is. I have seen the faces of those affected, and it is not something that ever leaves you.

When I read about the shooting of horses at Standing Rock, I was not surprised. This is a standard tactic used by military to deflect media attention being poured upon injured victims. Recently, police started attacking and arresting medics on the front lines.

It is another oft-seen method used by military in developing nations. In many war zones, medics are refused entry or the hospitals bombed. It is an easy way for the military to diminish the morale of the opposition. I have witnessed it before.

To take away much needed resources during this immense time of trauma is under-handed at best, but it also infringes greatly upon basic human rights. Taking away our right to protest safely and fairly is illegal. It is also a symptomatic issue that often arises during times of conflict.

The fight for access to basic human rights is a consistent battle in the developing world. In Sri Lanka, many zones were cut off from water and electricity for years during the conflict. In the last days of the war, hospital tents were bombed and doctors were arrested — some of which were still detained over a year after the war had finished.

In Cambodia, hospitals and rural areas still struggle with the effects of the Khmer Rouge, who decimated valued resources during their reign of terror.

It’s important to recognize that what is happening at Standing Rock is something that could easily happen anywhere, anytime in America. It’s not just indigenous peoples against corporate greed.

The larger issue is that all of our rights have the potential to be stripped away, if we don’t stop to fight for them. There are people from all walks of life attending this protest. Battles such as this have been happening around North America for some time now. Whether it be Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street, we have been consistently fighting for years to safeguard our access to dignity and fundamental rights.

It has been said that several small battles make a war. In recent years, I have watched America change to what I think of as a police state. What was once thought of as ‘The Land of the Free” is now slowly but surely becoming the land of the oppressed.

“What was once thought of as ‘The Land of the Free’ is now slowly becoming the land of the oppressed.” It mimics the fallacies of so many other war zones: the destruction, snide strategies and flagrant disregard for human rights.

This begs one question: What defines a war zone? For me, the definition is resistance, opposition and the stripping of human dignity. When protestors are shot at, limbs are broken and are rights oppressed, this equates to a loss of liberty. North America is supposed to be safe.

We sit and watch other countries fall apart (I’m not proud of this), sheltered by the fact that we live in a free state. But do we? One look at what is happening at Standing Rock tells a different story.

When people rise up against injustices and are met with great resistance, it is more than a protest. It is a fight for what is right, and there will be casualties.

This is a war, plain and simple. The only difference is people are not being killed. And with tensions mounting, it is only a matter of time before a great loss is incurred.

What’s Happening At Standing Rock Is Starting To Mimic A Warzone

Riding With Rollo honoured with two awards

Riding with Rollo, a short film directed by Maya Bastian in collaboration with Taylor Hazell Architects, has been honoured with a Media Award from the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario as well as a Heritage Education Award from the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals.

The film presents an engaging look into the world of living with accessibility challenges in Toronto. Advocating for open, universal access to the places that define our communities, this video aims to give its audience a rooted understanding of the day to day challenges of those faced with mobility issues.

The film was also nominated by Heritage Toronto for their Media Award. What a run!

‘Air Show’, a new short film in progress

Written and directed by Maya Bastian, ‘Air Show’ is a short narrative film that interrogates the experience of newly-arrived Toronto refugees who experience the Canadian Air Show for the first time. 

Amongst cheers of glee and exhilaration from it’s viewers, the Canadian Air Show has been tormenting Parkdale citizens for nearly 50 years. The Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale is a diverse area which owes it’s vibrancy to the scores of immigrants and refugees that influence it’s streets.

Nearly 20,000 displaced persons call Parkdale home, many of whom have experienced war and aerial bombing first-hand. What happens when they arrive traumatized by conflict, only to have an extravagant show of Canadian military strength in their front yard? Do the fighter jets above their heads, the deafening noises and the windows rattling elicit a distinct response? This film poses these questions through the eyes of a newly widowed father and his young daughter. The pair arrive as refugees from the 30-year civil conflict in Sri Lanka. They are adjusting to a new, impoverished life when the Canadian Air Show interrupts their dysphoria.

‘Air Show’ aims to explore the intersection of Canadian culture and tradition with our ever-evolving climate of diversity and acceptance. The result is an intimate look at the trauma of conflict, the remnants of which are oft carried over into daily life. 

In an experimental fashion, the film was shot during the 2016 Canadian Air Show. All of our professional actors are also victims of war who have experienced air raids. While filming, the actors had the opportunity to react in real-time to the noise and disruption of the fighter jets flying above.

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