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 — Colonialism No More

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Su Deranger and Robyn Pitawanakwat about the Colonialism No More camp taking place outside of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) building in Regina, Saskatchewan.

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On April 9, the band council of Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario declared a state of emergency because of a wave of suicide attempts in the community — around 100 since the previous September. This brought a surge of attention from mainstream media and from prominent politicians. It also sparked some Indigenous activists in Toronto and their allies (including from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter) to occupy the local offices of INAC in solidarity. Similar actions followed in other cities, including Winnipeg and Vancouver.

People also decided to act in solidarity in Regina. They began with a lunch-hour demonstration on Friday, April 15th. When they discovered that the INAC office had locked its doors, they decided to show up again early Monday morning to be there and present their concerns to the staff as soon as the doors opened. Except the doors didn’t open that day. So the activists began the process of setting up a tent city outside of the INAC building in Regina under the banner of Colonialism No More. Though the solidarity occupations of INAC offices in other cities have ended, the Colonialism No More camp is still there and going strong.

Colonialism No More wants to support the youth of Attawapiskat, but they also want to draw attention to similar crises in Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada. They want INAC to share whatever information they have about the current situations of Indigenous communities in Saksatchewan, and they want to hear what INAC intends to do in response. They want to emphasize that communities know what they need, know what their problems are, know how to address them, they just need the resources to do it. And they want to be perfectly clear that underlying the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat and in so many other Indigenous communities, and underlying the other intelocking problems that many Indigenous communities face across the country, is colonialism.

Robyn Pitawanakwat is a member of Whitefish River First Nation and she grew up in Regina. She is the child of a long-time Indigenous community activist, and she has become active herself in recent years, initially around questions of racist policing in the city. Su Deranger is a member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She has been involved in Indigenous struggles and in a wide range of other social movements since the early 1970s, and she is overjoyed by the Colonialism No More camp, which she takes to be the start of a genuine “autonomous people’s social movement.” Pitawanakwat and Deranger speak with me about colonialism in Canada and the Colonialism No More camp in Regina.

To learn more about Colonialism No More, 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 Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — The Urban Worker Project: A new organization for new forms of work

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Andrew Cash. He was a member of Parliament from 2011 to 2015, and he is a co-founder of the Urban Worker Project.

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It should not be news to anybody that work, jobs, and the economy have changed a lot over the last few decades. Lots of people were excluded from them even then, but during the post-Second World War economic boom, many people could at least aspire to the new and unprecedented layer of secure, regular, well-paying jobs with good benefits and a pension. Today, however, fewer and fewer such jobs exist. In the 21st century, jobs that fail to give access to security and prosperity are increasingly becoming the norm (though even within that, there is a broad range of kinds of work, kinds of jobs, and intensities of marginalization and exploitation).

Before Andrew Cash was an MP, he spent more than 25 years cobbling together a living in one corner of the broad umbrella that is precarious work, in his case in the arts and culture sector. In fact, it was an interest in getting meaningful government action around the needs of what he has come to think of as “urban workers” that initially inspired him to enter electoral politics. By that category, he means contract, freelance and micro-self-employed workers, often in areas like arts, culture and knowledge work (which includes things like freelance journalism, precarious academic labour, and much contract work in the not-for-profit sector). Though workers in these areas are often assumed to be middle-class, the picture tends to be much more complex than the image of easy and stable economic well-being that we still often associate with that label. Even if wages and conditions for some of them are often better than in more marginal forms of precarious work, urban workers still generally have no job security, no benefits, no access to sick days, no pension, no access to the protection of employment standards, and not even particularly good access to social programs should a crisis hit them or their family.

As an MP, Cash tabled and worked to generate considerable community support for a multi-faceted private member’s bill that, had it passed, would have started the federal government down the path of addressing these issues. After losing his seat in the election last October, Cash decided that he couldn’t just let these issues drop, and he and a small group of other urban workers launched the Urban Worker Project in March of 2016. It aims to animate and frame public conversations around the struggles of freelance, contract and self-employed workers; to build community and a cohesive constituency of such workers, both online and through in-person events across the country; and to mobilize people in support of specific campaigns and demands.

Cash talks with me about his own experiences of precarious work in the arts and culture sector, about the importance of doing more to protect and support workers in a radically changed world of work, and about the Urban Worker Project.

To learn more about the Urban Worker Project, 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.

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Radio — Solidarity from Atlantic Canada to Latin and Central America

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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.

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“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.

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Radio — #WeBelieveSurvivors: Challenging rape culture after the Ghomeshi case

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Erin Crickett, the public education coordinator at the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area (SACHA). She devised the #IBelieveSurvivors and #WeBelieveSurvivors hashtag campaign that took off across Canada on the day of the verdict from the first trial of Jian Ghomeshi, and she talks with me about supporting survivors and challenging rape culture.

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Sexual assault and gendered violence are tragically common. Victories won by feminist organizers since at least the 1970s have done a great deal to undo the silence that once completely surrounded things like sexual assault, rape culture, and gender oppression in the mainstream. However, the biggest opening in popular consciousness in Canada in recent years for having important discussions about these issues came as a result of the high-profile media storm after at least eight women alleged that musician and radio personality Jian Ghomeshi had subjected them to violence, harassment or sexual assault.

None of the resulting conversation has been easy, however. The staunchest deniers of the existence of gender oppression and rape culture have very often proved the ongoing relevance of these phenomena with their every sexist tweet, misogynist comment, and hostile remark. Frequently, elements of rape culture combined with language misappropriated from the legal system (around things like “due process” and “presumption of innocence”) to produce narratives about the case that were blatantly dismissive of the women’s accounts of their own experiences, in ways that would happen in few, if any, other situations. For so many survivors of sexual assault from across Canada, this was like a public replaying of whatever hostility and skepticism they had faced when they chose to share their experiences of sexual assault. And for others, it was a reminder of why it is quite understandable that they have so far chosen to disclose their experience of sexual violence minimally or not at all.

All of this intensified during Ghomeshi’s first trial, which happened in March. Both existing legal processes and most media reports and public commentators reflected many harmful myths about sexual assault and about gendered power, including a disregard for what is well known about the range of ways that survivors navigate their experiences and about how trauma impacts people. And for all that the judgment was itself quite clear that a finding of “not guilty” was not at all the same as a determination that no violence had occurred, it also reproduced rape culture myths in its reasoning to a degree that surprised even many experienced observers.

SACHA provides support to adults of any gender who are survivors of sexual assault. Beyond the crucial one-on-one and collective support work that is central to that mission, the organization also does what it can to foster cultural, institutional, policy and social change that will end sexual assault.

Crickett recognized both the importance of the discussions being catalyzed by the Ghomeshi case, and also the impact it was having on survivors. She collaborated with colleagues in Toronto to combine the #IBelieveSurvivors and #WeBelieveSurvivors hashtag campaign with a number of other initiatives on that day to create a publicly visible response that, yes, might provide opportunities to critique the verdict and the system that produced it, but that was primarily focused on supporting and affirming survivors in all parts of the country through that difficult moment, and on fostering cultural change. While Cricket certainly believes that changes are necessary to how the legal system deals with sexual assault cases, one lesson she takes from the fact that more than 90 per cent of instances of sexual assault are never even reported to the police (and that some observers might also relate to the troubling role played by the police and other state institutions in perpetrating gendered violence, particularly against colonized and racialized people) is that truly addressing sexual assault requires something far beyond legal reforms. She believes we need wide-ranging and deep-reaching cultural change, moving us from a rape culture to a consent culture, as well as corresponding shifts in the policies and practices of a wide range of institutions.

Crickett talks with me about the work of SACHA, the Ghomeshi case, the #IBelieveSurvivors and #WeBelieveSurvivors social media campaign, and the kinds of broad-based social change that will be necessary to end sexual assault.

To learn more about SACHA, click here (and to access their handy reference of facts related to sexual violence, 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.

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Radio — Migrant agricultural workers dreaming a better future

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Evelyn Encalada of Justice for Migrant Workers and multiple award-winning filmmaker Min Sook Lee. They talk about the experiences and struggles of migrant agricultural workers in Canada, and about the new feature-length documentary Migrant Dreams.

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Every year, hundreds of thousands of people — mostly working-class people of colour from the Global South — come to Canada as “migrant workers” to do various sorts of hard, low paying, low-status work. There are a number of different programs through which this is organized, from the 50 year-old Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which has mushroomed in the last 15 years. Across the board, however, migrant workers face intense restrictions on basic rights that would be unimagineable for workers with Canadian citizenship, and this restriction of their rights by the Canadian state makes them highly vulnerable to and exploitable by employers.

Evelyn Encalada is a co-founder of and organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers, a group that has organized with migrant workers in the agricultural sector for more than a decade and a half. Their work runs the gamut from provinding acute support to individual workers in moments of crisis; to the long, quiet process of building the relationships that are the basis for exerting collective power; to mobilizing migrant workers and the broader public in visible efforts to push for change.

Min Sook Lee is a long-time activist and filmmaker. Her past films include My Toxic Baby; Tiger Spirit; Hogtown: The Politics of Policing; The Real Inglorious Bastards; and many more, and the awards at the Mayworks Festival — Canada’s oldest labour arts festival — are named in her honour.

Lee’s first documentary about the struggles of migrant workers, the Gemini-nominated El Contrato, was made in collaboration with Justice for Migrant Workers and was released in 2003. In 2013, she approached Encalada again, this time with an interest in making a feature-length documentary about the lives of women working in Canada as migrant agricultural workers — the film soon to be released as Migrant Dreams. It follows the struggles of a group of Indonesian migrant workers living in southern Ontario and fighting back against the lies, coercion, and exploitation they face at the hands of recruiters and employers. It shows the deplorable conditions faced by migrant workers, and it shows both the determination and the complexity of these workers as they take a range of actions to survive and to resist. The world premiere of Migrant Dreams is on May 1, 2016 at the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto. Encalada and Lee speak with me about organizing with migrant workers, filmmaking, and the relationship between the two; and about Migrant Dreams.

To learn more about Justice for Migrant Workers’ latest campaign, called Harvesting Freedom, click here. To learn more about Migrant Dreams, 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.

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Radio — A community challenging racial profiling in stores

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Ann Divine and Pastor Lennett Anderson about the racial profiling that Black people and other racialized people often experience in stores — both in general, and about the specific case of Andrella David — and what one community is doing to try to make things different.

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In 2009, Andrella David stopped in a Sobey’s grocery store near where she lives in Nova Scotia to buy some ice cream to take home for her daughter. She was waiting in line to pay when she heard someone shouting — something about “stealing” and “video” and “you people” — and she realized the yelling was at her. Publicly and vocally, a store official accused her of shoplifting and said a number of derogatory and disrespectful things, and then claimed they had her on tape. Knowing full well she had done nothing of the kind, she demanded to see the tape. And other than the fact both she and the woman on the video were Black, they looked nothing alike.

David took Sobey’s to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and after a lengthy process — which involved a great deal of stress and many days of lost work to participate in the process — she received a ruling in her favour from a Board of Inquiry in 2015. In response, Sobey’s expressed concerns about the fairness of the process, and exercised its right to appeal, naming not just the Human Rights Commission but also Andrella David in that appeal, which guarantees she will face yet more stress, yet more time in the public eye, and yet more days of lost work — all because she was a target of racial profiling and decided to stand up for herself.

Ann Divine, one of today’s guests, is a management consultant, and in earlier years she worked as the manager for race relations, equity, and inclusion at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She and her colleagues at the commission published a ground-breaking study on consumer racial profiling in Nova Scotia in 2013. The study demonstrated what many Black (and other racialized) folks in the province (and, indeed, across the continent) already know: racial profiling in stores is widespread, and is quite traumatic for those profiled. It can include being followed by store personnel, being served slowly or not or not all, being harassed by other customers or by staff, being accused of theft, or a range of other experiences.

Pastor Lennett Anderson is the senior minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Upper Hammonds Plains, a historic African Nova Scotian community. Andrella David attends his church. Recently, the church community organized a rally at the Sobey’s store in question to tell the store that if it felt that it must appeal (rather than simply abiding by the ruling and instituting policies to prevent future racial profiling), it should at least remove Andrella David’s name from the suit and spare her more years of hardship. Sobey’s has so far refused. And beyond supporting a specific individual, the community is keen to draw broader attention to the issue in hopes that stores and policymakers will begin to make the changes that might make racist humiliation while shopping a thing of the past.

Divine and Anderson speak with me about the realities of racial profiling in consumer contexts, about Andrella David’s case in particular, and about efforts both to support her and to bring attention to the issue more broadly.

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.

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Radio — The World Social Forum is coming to Montreal

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Sarah Sultani and Katia Stuart-Gagnon. They are members of the organizing collective that is bringing the World Social Forum – the largest gathering of civil society and social movements on the planet – to Montreal from August 9 to 14, 2016.

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The World Social Forum has been taking place on an almost annual basis since 2001. With roots in the Latin American social movement tradition of encuentro, or encounter, it began as a deliberate counter-event to the annual World Economic Forum, a meeting of political and business elites held in Davos, Switzerland. The World Social Forum was first held in the city of Porto Allegre, Brazil, and over the last decade and a half has been held in a range of cities across the Global South.

The organizers of this year’s forum are expecting between 50,000 and 80,000 people to make their way to Montreal this August. These attendees will be able to participate in 1500 separate self-managed activities, from conferences to workshops, from debates to cultural events. Representatives of more than 5000 organizations from around Quebec and around the world will be involved in helping make the event happen.

There are a number of features that make this iteration of the WSF unique. It is, for one thing, the first to be held in a country of the Global North. As well, the Montreal forum is experimenting with a number of new approaches. Unlike all of its predecessors, the organizing is not being driven by one or a group of large, funded non-governmental organizations, but rather by a grassroots collective comprised of individual activists that is doing its best to be exhaustively transparent in its processes, budgeting, and decisions. Rather than orienting the event towards producing some sort of final overall statement, the organizers are concentrating on using both the event and the process of organizing it to bring people and groups together in ways that they hope will go farther than ever before to implement what has long been a core principal of the social forum process: supporting existing local struggles and catalyzing new initiatives on the ground.

Sarah Sultani is an environmental educator, and her role in the organizing collective for the WSF in Montreal is as the co-facilitator of the mobilization and international relations working-group, and the facilitator of the environment committee. Katia Stuart-Gagnon has been involved in the logistics working-group and is now the communications officer for the forum. They speak with me about the World Social Forum and about the process of bringing it to Montreal.

For more information about this year’s World Social Forum, to find out how you can get involved in the organizing, or to register to attend from August 9 to 14, 2016, 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.

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