One Hundred and Forty Demonstrators Arrive at Queens Park

At 1:15 p.m. on Mothers Day, marchers gathered in front of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. Meanwhile, the rest of the protesters were setting up in front of Queens Park (provincial legislature). Those at the legislature waited with bated breath, knowing that our marchers would be chanting antishock slogans as they proceeded proudly toward us, with Don Weitz on the bullhorn, Mel Starkman, the head marshal.

At approximately 5 minutes before 2:00, there they were. A long line of marchers, banners waving in the air, at the front, these magnificent 10-foot puppets known as Women of the World. The approaching parade was so long and so alive with drama and pageantry that it was hard to believe that this was really our own marchers. And so the began the CAPA demo “Stop Shocking Our Mothers and Grandmothers”.

This was an enormously exciting demo–the first international Mothers Day Protest against Electroshock in history, and all of it strongly framed in feminist terms. Bonnie Burstow (I) began by contextualizing the day, remembering and honouring the various women shock survivors who have courageously given testimony in Toronto decade after decade but who could not be with us here on this day. She discussed what makes ECT a feminist issue, how women are electroshocked two to three times as often as men, also how it has been conclusively proven that women are more braindamaged by the “treatment.” She also read the anti-shock proclamation, which voices our vow “To return, return and return again until this abomination is no more.” Don Weitz discussed the international resistance to ECT. Then the centre of the demo–the testimonies–began.

All of the testimonies were moving, gripping, and important, and everyone could feel it. Who among us will ever forget the courageous and stirring testimony of shock survivor Pavi Laine and then of her daughter Liisa! Paivi spoke not only of memory loss but of once being able to experience life with passion and of what it means to be robbed of that passion. Like everyone else who gave testimony, moreover, she clarified that she was never remotely told the truth about this damaging treatment. Liisa made it clear that brain damage is not what women need. She also spoke of how proud she and her brother were of her mother for coming forward like this and bearing testimony. Additional testimonials and letters of support from were read by various CAPA members.

Close to the end of the testimony was a skit which dramatized the violence inherent in electroshock. After the testimonies, Roger Ellis sang protest songs, including one shock song which again hit home the point that this appalling treatment is mainly given to women. Bonnie ended the demo by reminding everyone that we had a appointment together in this same place next year.

Here was an event with an incredible sense of community, as people listened respectfully to each other, as people spoke of horrors, as everyone raised their voices in song together, as some danced to the music, as we ate from the ample food table that was placed in the front, thereby turning Queens Park into the people’s picnic area, as children romped in the grass, as people strained to understand this brutal treatment. That everyone would understand accordingly to their own capacity and that this was good was driven home to this writer by a very young child, whose understanding was that the government was not properly protecting mommies (Stop Shocking Our Mothers and Grandmothers) and that we had the stop the “sharks” (what she picked up when she heard the phase: Stop Shock Now) What added to the sense of community, besides that there were many mother-daughter and sister-sister teams, people from all generations attended, from two years old to eighty.

This was a remarkable beginning. A hundred and forty people were in attendance–twice the number that has ever before turned up for an anti-shock demo in Toronto. It was inspiring being there knowing that similar protests were happening in both Montreal and Cork Ireland. It was an honour being there at the birth of a new Mothers Day tradition. In 1870, women on Mothers Day stood up again war. On May 13, on Mothers Day, Toronto protesters–sisters, and brothers, mothers and daughters, the very young, the old and every age in between–stood up against ECT. On Mothers Day 1870, the protesters stood up against the killing of human beings. On Mothers Day 2007, Toronto protesters stood up against menticide–the killing of the mind.

May the time come when this tradition is no longer needed because doctors are no longer permitted to so damage people! In the meanwhile, may the tradition continue to spread!…

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