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Tooker tape

Friends and colleagues host a video tribute to late environmental activist

“We have a right, and a duty, to protest when horrible things are
being done by our governments,” wrote Tooker Gomberg on his last
campaign here in Alberta to raise awareness about the Kyoto accord. It would
prove to be the last thing he wrote before his death this past March, and
surely little else could so aptly sum up his passion for and dedication to
social change in an unequal and self-destructive society.

To some, Tooker (who undoubtedly would have preferred to be called by his
first name), was known as the eccentric Edmonton city councilor who once
stated he would rather have people skate to work on ice-covered streets than
drive their cars (a flippant suggestion the Edmonton Sun took as being
fanatically serious). But to those who worked with Tooker and knew him well,
he will be remembered as an intelligent and joyful teacher, a politician,
journalist, activist and friend.

“He was incredibly influential for me just by watching his struggles
and successes with the media work he did,” says Barb Allard, a friend
and colleague of Tooker’s, who, along with other media activists from
Toronto’s Boiling Frog, Edmonton Small Press Association, Independent
Media Productions and Rainbow Bridge Communications, is presenting The Tooker
Gomberg Video Memorial: A Call to Action tonight (Thursday) at Metro Cinema.
“I want to do this for all the people that worked with Tooker, loved
him, were friends with him and miss him,” she explains. “I
thought it would be a crime to just leave these vids on the shelf.”

The evening will feature over an hour and a half of films involving
Tooker, including Playing with Democracy, an independent film in which Tooker
colourfully presents progressive solutions to urban problems in his 2000
mayoral campaign against Mel Lastman in Toronto. “Tooker seemed to have
endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm, and I found it near impossible to
keep up with him,” says Kelly Reinhardt, who filmed the race.

“He caused a lot of people to question their own commitments when
they saw him constantly campaigning on so many issues,” Reinhardt
continues. “He really pushed the envelope.”

After traveling across Asia with his wife Angela (an environmental
fact-finding crusade documented in the CTV-produced film Kyoto: Winds of
Change), Tooker’s dedication to the Kyoto debate brought him back to
Edmonton. Local environmentalist Brian Johnston worked with Tooker in
December 2002 on the Kyoto or Bust campaign that tried to bring public
attention to what Tooker referred to as the “Lost Document,”
formally named by Alberta Energy in 1990 as “A Discussion Paper on the
Potential for Reducing CO2 Emissions in Alberta.”

“The report actually said we could make money with Kyoto and leave
the petroleum in the ground,” Johnston explains. “So Tooker was
really keen on bringing this to the attention of Klein. Tooker handed over
his camera to fellow media activists and we went over to the Leg, but the
premier wouldn’t come down.” At the screening, a compilation of
news shorts on the campaign follows Tooker from the steps of the Alberta
Legislature to Klein’s office in Calgary, where he locks himself inside
Klein’s vault in an attempt to get the premier to recognize the
document.

Even though Klein never addressed the document, Reinhardt believes Tooker
had an effect on politicians. “He had no problem making the causes
known to these people, forcing them to react one way or another,” he
says. “Although it was very unfortunate that he was regulated to the
funny pages.”

In order to get coverage on legitimate issues and presentations, Reinhardt
feels the media would only cover Tooker when he was pulling a publicity
stunt. “I’m sure Tooker would have been more than happy to have
not gotten continually beaten up, arrested and had jail time and multiple
court cases hanging over his head,” he says, “but he inspired
people by his actions and the fun he had.”

Tonight’s event is a tribute to Tooker’s ingenuity and the
change he facilitated around the world. “We’re not going to find
the inspiration we need to solve problems without a love of life and for this
earth,” Allard says. “That’s what I feel when I think about
Tooker.” V

The Tooker Gomberg Video Memorial Zeidler Hall, The Citadel • Thu,
Apr 22 (9pm) • Metro Cinema • 425-9212

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