Hamilton Book Launch

Date: November 8
Time: 7pm
Location: Room 1010, Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning (MDCL), McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario

Join author and activist Scott Neigh for a talk and book signing as he launches two new books published by Fernwood Publishing: Gender and Sexuality: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists and Resisting the State: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists. Hear about some of the many struggles that have shaped the Canada of today, and talk about new ways of relating to the past as we struggle for a transformed tomorrow.

To learn more about the books and the project of which they are a part, and to read and hear excerpts from the interviews around which the books are organized, visit here. To find out about ways to purchase the books if you can’t make it to the launch, click here.

From the book jackets:

We usually learn our history from the perspective of our rulers — from the top down. In these books we learn about our history from the perspectives of ordinary people — from the bottom up. Whatever liberty and justice that communities, workplaces and individuals in Canada enjoy are due to the many struggles and social movements in our country’s history. Yet the stories and histories of those movements to overcome racism, sexism, and poverty, for example, remain largely untold, thanks to the single, simplistic national story taught to us in school. Deftly combining history with accounts from participants in social movements, Neigh introduces us to the untold histories of activists, histories that encourage all of us to engage in struggles that will shape our shared tomorrow.

Gender and Sexuality unearths a diverse spectrum of struggle through the accounts of longstanding social movement participants. From indigenous women working against colonization and Christian women trying to end sexism and homophobia in their churches, to gay men opposing sexual oppression and women fighting against hostile employers and violence, this book reveals the ways that oppressions based on gender and sexuality — and the struggles against them — have shaped our society.

In Resisting the State, Neigh details the histories of a broad range of social movements and provides readers with a richer understanding of the Canadian state and why so many people — including military draftees, welfare recipients, workers, indigenous people, psychiatric survivors, immigrants and refugees — have struggled, and continue to struggle, for equality and justice for all members of society.

What people are saying about Gender and Sexuality and Resisting the State:

“Never doubt that a few committed people can change Canada (and the world) for the better. Scott Neigh’s oral histories show not only the power of committed idealism, but also how the history of our whole country has been shaped by brave Canadians who refuse to accept the misery and injustice that surrounds us. Read these books to learn how the history of social change organizing is indeed the history of Canada — and then go out and start making your own history.” — Jim Stanford, union economist and peace activist

“This work is a treasure that provides a portal to Canadian history, bringing it alive and urgent through the voices and profound insights of veteran social justice activists, an indispensable guide for present and future generations to carry on these struggles.” — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, veteran activist and author

And even more.

Scott Neigh is a writer, parent, and activist currently based in Sudbury, Ontario. He lived in Hamilton, Ontario, from 1993 until 2004, where he was active in student, anti-poverty, anti-racism, environmental, and other social justice organizing, including as a board member of OPIRG McMaster. He blogs regularly on political topics at A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land. You can learn more about these books and the project of which they are a part at the Talking Radical site, and more about Scott here.

This event is sponsored by OPIRG McMaster, Bryan Prince Bookseller, and Fernwood Publishing.

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Radio — Radical Desi: A monthly grassroots magazine out of Vancouver

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Gurpreet Singh. He puts out a magazine called Radical Desi, a monthly alternative print publication based in Vancouver.

Making grassroots media can be a precarious business. There are lots of exciting initiatives in the Canadian context, varying in age from months to decades, and covering a range of different organizational and financial models, but none have an easy time keeping on keeping on. And in terms of print media, even mainstream publications that have commercial publishing models, mass circulations, and obedient politics are finding it harder and harder to stay afloat.

This is the environment in which Singh — an independent journalist with many years of experience in India and in Canada — launched Radical Desi in April 2014. It’s an ambitious project. The print version is distributed largely in the greater Vancouver area, and to subscribers further afield, and you can also find it online. It comes out monthly, and is a rich combination of feature articles, editorial analysis, and news coverage; of little-known history and under-reported current events; and of integrated attention to a field of political concern that spans South Asia and Turtle Island. Singh tells me about the founding of the magazine, about the ground it has covered so far, and about some of the challenges of making radical media in an inhospitable environment.

To learn more about Radical Desi, 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 Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Lynn Gehl: Centring Indigenous knowledge

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Lynn Gehl.

Gehl is an Algonquin Anishnabe woman who has roots in the Ottawa River valley, though she lives in Peterborough, Ontario. She has, over the years, been involved in various kinds of things related to struggles for survival and for social change. One way of thinking about what brings together those diverse elements for her is that they flow from the act of centring Indigenous ways of knowing, and acting accordingly.

Indigenous ways of knowing, among much else, emphasize that we know the world in embodied, situated ways – that is, both what we know and how we know it depend on who we are, on our circumstances, and on our experiences. So among the many horrible and complex ways that 500 years of colonization and genocide have impacted Indigenous peoples, and the many ingenious and resilient ways in which Indigenous peoples have responded, there are two issues in particular that she has focused on, based on centring her own experiences. One is a response to the Canadian state’s ongoing use of the Indian Act legislation to separate people, particularly women, from their nations and communities — in her case, it is through a policy that, when paternity is not known or not stated, assumes that the father of a given child does not fit the legal category of “status Indian,” which has implications for descendants’ ability to access that status. The other is the land claims process in which the Algonquin people are engaged. It is the only way in which the Canadian state has shown any willingness at all to recognize even a fragment of what are, for the Algonquins, unsurrendered and unextinguished rights to the land, and Gehl argues that rather than being a path towards a good future, it is yet another colonial process that will end up doing little more than reinforcing her peoples’ dispossession.

Over the years, Gehl has pursued a lengthy court battle, she has done research, she has written scholarly articles, and she has engaged with a wide range of people in the community in a wide range of ways. (Including, as you will hear about in the interview, by publishing several books.) She wants her work to contribute to anti-colonial struggle, to a revitalization and resurgence of her own peoples’ culture, and to teaching hard truths to Canadians about our past and present. She talks with me about the issues she has worked on, about the different approaches she has taken, and about Indigenous knowledge.

To learn more about Gehl and her work, 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 Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Unjustly extradited, still fighting: Justice for Hassan Diab

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Donald Pratt and Peter Gose. They are members of Justice for Hassan Diab, the support committee that has been working to defend a wrongfully accused Ottawa academic who has been struggling against a Kafkaesque legal nightmare since 2008. Diab was extradited to France in November, but he and his support committee continue to fight.

From colonial violence, to slavery, to camps, to apartheid, Western states have always found ways to inflict unjust suffering and violence on those marked in some way as “Other” while claiming a cloak of “fairness” and “rules followed.” The form and focus of such infliction of harms shifts over time, so even though it didn’t start then, the targeting of Muslims and of people read to be Muslim in the West increased dramatically after September 11, 2001. Though nominally done under a banner of “fighting terrorism,” the amped-up racist marginalization of entire communities rapidly reached a point that one prominent Canadian scholar, Sherene Razack, has described as “the eviction of Muslims from Western law and politics.”

There are many ways this has played out, but one is in the targeting of specific individuals by national security state measures based on fitting a profile or on some tenuous chain of connections rather than anything resembling concrete, publicly shared evidence. One such case is that of Ottawa academic Hassan Diab. At the request of French authorities, he was arrested in Canada in 2008 under suspicion of involvement in a bombing that happened in 1980 in Paris. He denied the charges and he and his support committee, Justice for Hassan Diab, fought efforts to extradite him to France. In the course of doing so it became ever more clear that the case against him was so flimsy and contradictory that it would not stand up even under the imperfect scrutiny and standards of a Canadian criminal trial. But the combination of a national security infrastructure that is allowed within the rules of the system to do all sort of horrific things with little transparency or due process, and a Canadian extradition system that has incredibly low standards of evidence and process — much lower than a criminal trial — culminated in Diab’s extradition to France this past November. There, he faces anti-terror laws, courts, and practices that are well-known for questionable due process, deference to state interests, valuing secrecy over justice, and violations of rights that many of us assume we can take for granted.

Pratt and Gose are friends of Diab’s, and they have been centrally involved in his support committee. They talk with me about this injustice, the details of the shoddy process and highly dubious case Diab has been facing, their work to support his struggle, and the new phase of that work now that Diab sits in a French jail.

To learn more about Justice for Hassan Diab, 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 Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — The world’s first union for harm reduction workers

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Zoë Dodd and Peter Leslie, who are harm reduction workers and active members of the world’s first union specifically for such workers: the Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union.

“Harm reduction” is an approach to responding to addiction that focuses on meeting people where they are at in terms of substance use and working with them to reduce negative health outcomes. There is considerable evidence that a harm reduction approach has better health outcomes overall than approaches which insist that people completely cease using substances before they are eligible for supports. Of course, the programs and practices of harm reduction don’t just happen on their own but are enacted by people — that is, by workers. And one key element in most harm reduction work is to employ workers who have lived experience of whatever is the focus. And what this means is that, though harm reduction work and harm reduction workers are often incredibly effective, both their overall experience of social marginalization and, crucially, organizational practices in their workplaces generally mean they have a very different experiences of those workplaces than the professionalized health and social service workers that tend to comprise the balance of their colleagues.

At a forum for harm reduction workers in Toronto in April 2014, the word “union” was on many participants’ lips. There was a lot of real talk about the issues they shared with each other but not with the other folks at their employing organizations. After some preliminary organizing and consulting, a core group of about 30 harm reduction workers held the founding convention for the Toronto Harm Reudction Workers Union in July, as a local of the Industrial Workers of the World (also called the Wobblies), a grassroots union with a long history of being democratic and rabble-rousing. They went public in the fall, and launched a crowdfunding campaign via the GoFundMe platform, and they are busily building their organization. Dodd and Leslie talk with me about harm reduction work, about the union, and about their organizing in defense of harm reduction and harm reduction workers in a hostile political climate.

To learn more about the Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union, click here. To donate to their GoFundMe campaign, 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 Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Transformation through theatre in British Columbia

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with David Diamond and David Ng of Theatre for Living about using theatre as a tool for change.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of what we encounter doesn’t do this and doesn’t really try, the arts and theatre are quite capable of being transformative in a sense relevant to struggles for social change. Vancouver’s Theatre for Living — known from its founding until the last year or two as Headlines Theatre — aims to do exactly that, though its model for doing so has shifted quite a bit over the years. It has evolved from its beginnings in the early 1980s among an ad hoc group of actors doing very agitprop-style pieces, to work firmly in the tradition of Augusto Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed,” and into a more politically flexible and nunaced adaptation of that approach that company co-founder Diamond calls “theatre for living.” Its current work includes a range of workshops as well as major productions — the latter category most recently including a piece called Maladjusted, which incorporates forum theatre and focuses on people’s struggles with the mental health system. It is set to tour in British Columbia and Alberta starting in late January 2015. Diamond, who is currently the company’s artistic and managing director, and Ng, who is its outreach coordinator, talk with me about the company’s history, its philosophy, and its unique approach to developing and mounting transformational productions.

To learn more about Theatre for Living, 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 Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Inside the #BlackLivesMatter organizing in Toronto

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with organizer Yolen Bollo-Kamara about her experience in Toronto with the wave of organizing that has been sweeping North America in opposition to police violence and anti-Black racism.

It should be entirely uncontroversial to assert that, in fact, Black lives matter. But there are 500 years of globally dominant societies behaving as if they do not matter. And notwithstanding what many white people in contemporary Canada might claim, it’s not a problem that can be dismissed as “of the past” or “just the US” — it’s a problem here, a problem now.

On August 9, 2014, a white police officer killed unarmed Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Misouri. It’s a tragically common occurence, happening once every 28 hours in the United States according to an oft cited statistic. But thanks to the tireless dedication of mostly young Black organizers in Ferguson, this time non-Black North America has been unable to forget and ignore. And in late November when a grand jury decided not to indict Brown’s killer, protests erupted across the continent and around the world. Though these protests certainly seek the kind of accountability that would show that Brown’s life mattered in that specific case, they have also set their sights much more broadly or ending racist police violence in their cities and creating all of the other the kinds of change that flow from an insistence that Black lives matter.

Yolen Bollo-Kamara is a member of the collective of organizers that that came together in Toronto under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.” A student activist and president of the undergraduate student union at University of Toronto, she is very clear that the actions they have organized are not just a response to events in the United States but to the very similar realities that comprise Black experience in Canada. She talks with me about the organizing, the broader context, and the kinds of changes that need to happen in Toronto, in Canada, and globally. And please note that we spoke the day before the most recent major Black Lives Matter action in Toronto.

To learn more about the Black Lives Matter collective in Toronto, you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

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 Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Building solidarity between migrant and Canadian workers

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Chris Ramsaroop and Melisa LaRue about a collaboration between Justicia for Migrant Workers and the Windsor Workers Education Centre. They are in the early stages of bringing migrant workers and Canadian workers together to talk about their commonalities and their differences, and to build solidarity in the face of shared experiences of predatory employers and precarious work.

Migrant workers are workers mostly from the Global South who are admitted to Canada purely to fill a role in the labour market, on what for most is an explicitly temporary basis, under highly restrictive legal conditions that are far harsher than those faced by even the worst-off segment of workers who are slotted into the legal category of “Canadian citizen.” They’ve been in the news a lot in the last few years, and it hasn’t been pretty. Truly awful commentary has come not only from those in coffee shops and cable news networks who revel in their xenophobia, or from the broad mainstream who clothe it in claims to common sense and national interest, but also from a significant proportion of those who understand themselves as “progressive” or “left,” who often frame it as “defending workers” even as they reproduce (sometimes overtly, sometimes in cloaked ways) nationalism and, frequently, racism.

In the face of this, migrant justice groups, anti-racist organizers, and many worker organizers inside and outside of the formal labour movement have vigorously put forward different narratives — narratives that seek to identify root causes and to build solidarity. And it is in its very earliest stages, but some are translating this into action.

Ramsaroop is an organizer with Justicia, a grassroots group which organizes migrant workers in Ontario and British Columbia, particularly in the agricultural sector. Melisa LaRue is the volunteer and outreach coordinator with the Windsor Workers’ Education Centre, a community organization that organizes with low-wage and precarious workers in Windsor, Ontario, to help improve their lives and working conditions. The groups have collaborated before, and after yet another panic — this one in Windsor in the summer of 2014 — about migrant workers supposedly stealing the jobs of Canadian workers at a local employer, they decided they needed to do something. In the months since, they have taken a number of steps to build solidarity between migrant workers and Canadian workers, and to challenge the divisive, nationalist rhetoric that dominates in the mainstream and in many so-called “progressive” contexts as well. They talk with me about the issues, the organizing, and the huge amount that remains to be done on this issue across the country.

To learn more about Justicia, click here. To learn more about the Windsor Workers Education Centre, click here. To read the Our Times article by Ramsaroop, LaRue, and Claire Mumme that inspired this episode, 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 Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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