On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Jackie McVicar. She is a member of the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN), which brings together groups and individuals from across the Maritimes who are interested in working in solidarity with the peoples of Latin and Central America.
“Solidarity” is a word you hear a lot in the context of struggles for social justice. At it’s most basic, it just means that a group of people — a group of co-workers, a group of neighbours — have each other’s back, that they recognize they’ll all end up farther ahead if they stick together. Whatever the context, solidarity is something that takes work. You can’t just assume it; you have to create it and enact it. There are some contexts, though, that make enacting meaningful solidarity in politically appropriate ways even trickier. For instance, differences in experience and differences in power among those attempting to create solidarity can be a real barrier. Physical distance can also make creating solidarity more challenging, because if you are far away it can be very difficult even to know about struggles you wish to support, let alone act to support them in meaningful ways.
When it comes to activists in rich countries like Canada acting in solidarity with people in the Global South, both of those complications can be at work. It’s tempting, therefore, to not bother — to say, well, yes, the struggles going on in Guatemala or Honduras or Brazil are important and we wish people in those countries well, but we’ve got our own struggles going on here and we’re just going to focus on those. What that stance fails to reckon with, however, is that political responsibility doesn’t stop at borders. The fact is, we are already connected to struggles in many parts of the Global South because of active participation by the Canadian state and Canadian corporations in the very things that popular movements in those countries are trying to change. One major component of this is the extensive involvement by Canadian corporations in mining and other kinds of resource extraction projects that are harming communities around the world, and that popular movements are working hard to oppose.
Though the issues are immense and their capacity is more limited than they would like, the organizations and activists in the ARSN network do what they can to support struggles by the peoples of these regions for self-determination, and to act to create change in the Canadian context that will be beneficial to those struggles. Founded in the heydey of Latin American solidarity organizing in the 1980s, the network includes both representatives of funded organizations — McVicar herself works for an international NGO called Breaking the Silence — as well as grassroots groups and individual activists.
McVicar talks with me about ARSN, about Canadian complicity in global injustice (particularly when it comes to extractive industries), and about the challenges of international solidarity.
To learn more about the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.