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 — Bringing questions of social justice into school classrooms

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Beth Alexander and Michelle Munk. They are teachers who are committed to raising questions of social justice, equity, and activism in their classrooms, and they speak about doing that hard work and about the Teaching for Justice Conference that they organized earlier in April.

Beth Alexander teaches science, technolgoy, engineering, and math-related subjects at an independent school in Toronto. Michelle Munk teaches geography, history, math, and music to grade 7 and 8 students at an alternative school that is part of the Toronto District School Board.

Though both Alexander and Munk have a longstanding commitment to incorporating questions of social justice into their classroom teaching practice, this is not necessarily easy work to do. Figuring out ways to do it that capture student imagination, that empower students, that foster critical dialogue, and that recognize that students bring a wide range of histories and experiences and family contexts to their learning is difficult enough. Add the fact that, while there are more now than their used to be, it can still be hard to find resources that incorporate concern for equity and justice, so teachers often have to devise their own. And of course there is always the possibility of resistance from parents and administrators — Alexander and Munk teach in schools that are relatively open to such things, but more conventional schools may not be. So while there do seem to be more teachers than ever before interested in incorporating such concerns into their classrooms, many don’t know quite how to get started doing it, while others are plunging into the work on their own but don’t really have connections with any like-minded colleagues to share ideas and support.

A few years ago, Alexander and Munk attended a conference for progressive educators in the United States, where they had been invited to talk about an article they had written. They thought it was an incredible event, and it inspired them to begin the process of organizing a conference themselves in the Candian context. And after much hard work, it finally happened in early April: the Teaching for Justice Conference. It brought together teachers from public, Catholic, and private schools for a day of talks, workshops, and conversations. The opening plenary featured Cree educator Donna Ashamock. The workshops covered everything from Indigenous education, to math and social justice, to confronting militarism in schools, to storytelling as a means of change, to supporting Latinx students, and much more. And the closing panel centred the voices of students — it brought together a number of student activists to talk about their experiences of social justice in the classroom. The goal was to give teachers interested in this work a chance to learn from each other about different ways of doing it, and perhaps more importantly to create a space in which teachers spread across different schools and different jurisdictions could begin to build relationships that might end up being a basis for ongoing dialoguge, learning, and activity.

Alexander and Munk speak with me about the conference — and it is important to be clear that the interview took place just before the conference, so you will get to hear all of the details of the organizing and the plan for the event, but not the outcome — and about some of the key broader issues around including concerns for social justice and equity in the classroom.

You can learn more about the Teaching for Justice Conference 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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.

The image modified for this post was taken from the Teaching for Justice Conference website and used with permission.

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Radio — Organizing tenants, building solidarity

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Tammy and Alex about the work of the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network. Over the last year and a half, they have been bringing tenants together to fight for better living conditions in their buildings, and their goal is to build a movement of tenants that spans the entire city of Hamilton, Ontario — including through the conference and tenants assembly they are holding later in April.

In the last while, mainstream media have oscillated between giddiness and concern about Canada’s booming housing market, which is driven at least in part by skyrocketing prices in cities like Vancouver and Toronto. The concern end of that spectrum has become impossible to avoid, even for generally unsympathetic commentators, as the negative impacts of these rising housing costs have taken a toll on more and more people. Living in the central urban areas of Vancouver and Toronto has become completely unaffordable for an increasing number of ordinary people, including many who used to live there but now find themselves displaced.

The impacts of these rising housing prices are being felt far beyond Canada’s most metropolitan downtowns, however. Take, for instance, Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton is a city of over half a million people just around the end of Lake Ontario from Toronto. It has historically been known for its steel mills and associated industries, and for its vibrant working-class culture, but the erosion of manufacturing in Ontario over the last few decades has hit the city hard. In the last few years, what had been a trickle of arrivals from Toronto seeking housing they could afford became a flood. And, while the arrival of people just looking for a place to live is understandable, what has been much more troubling has been the influx of money — sources ranging from individual investors and small businesses up to some of the most massive property development and management companies in the country have been treating this as an exciting new opportunity to make a buck. Which, of course, has consequences: just as in Toronto, neighbourhoods have started rapidly changing, rents have been shooting upwards, and people are getting displaced from their homes and communities.

The crisis for tenants in Hamilton had started to hit hard by 2015, and it was at that point that some experienced organizers who were directly impacted by these issues started to get together and talk about what could be done in response. These conversations grew and broadened, and drew in a larger pool of people, and eventually the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network took shape.

The network consists of tenants supporting each other as they work together to build collective power within their buildings, in order to make concrete improvements in their living conditions. Often, the first step in organizing a building is to bring as many tenants as possible together to talk about the issues they face. Issues of concern to tenants so far have included rent levels, bed bugs, lack of accessibility ramps, poor condition of the units, harassment from landlords, and more. Along the way, it is also important to challenge head-on any divisions that already exist among tenants, along lines of racism and sexism and homophobia, which landlords often deliberately enflame. Then, it’s a matter of figuring out what demands to make and how to make them.

Sometimes taking action might mean going to the Landlord and Tenant Board or to other government bodies, and the network has a strong working relationship with the local community legal clinic that facilitates doing so. But a key goal of organizers within the network is to make sure everyone is aware of other possibilities for taking action together as well — acting collectively, confrontationally, and publically in a way that builds solidarity among tenants and that doesn’t depend for its results on hoping that an often reluctant and biased bureaucracy will act to support tenants. From collectively and publically presenting demands to landlords, to phone zaps, to pickets, and on up to rent strikes, it is from these sorts of experiences of tenants taking action for themselves that the network ultimately hopes to build not only committees or associations in individual buildings, but a fighting tenants’ movement at the level of neighbourhoods and of the entire city.

Tammy and Alex are both tenants who live in Hamilton. They talk with me about gentrification and the other pressures on tenants in the city, about what the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network is doing to fight back, and about the conference and tenants’ assembly they have planned for the end of April.

You can learn more about the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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.

The image modified for this post was originally taken by Nhl4hamilton and is in the public domain.

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Radio — Against the global harms caused by Canadian mining

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Jamie Kneen. He is the communications coordinator with MiningWatch Canada, an organization that supports communities in struggles, does research, and works to change policies and laws, all with the aim of challenging, reducing, and preventing the many harms caused around the world by the Canadian mining industry.

Canada may be a pretty big place in geographical terms, but the country’s population and its role in the global economy are quite a bit more modest. Well, that’s mostly true. One major exception to this is Canada’s mining industry, which even after the purchase of some of the largest Canadian mining companies by corporations based elsewhere in the last 15 years still accounts for something like 60-70% of the total number of mining companies and the total number of mining projects in the world.

Mining, of course, has a much greater impact on the world than simply adding to the bottom line of a company, an industry, or a country. It also frequently causes immense harm — to ecosystems, to communities, and to human health. The people who live on the land where mining takes place — who, not infrequently, are that land’s rightful Indigenous owners and custodians as well — and who drink the water and breath the air that are at risk of contamination, quite often object to the mining taking place at all, or insist on greatly strengthened measures to reduce the risk. Yet this concern with life and wellbeing often points in very different directions than the drive for profit that motivates mining companies and the governments that support them. Again and again, all over the world, mining companies and governments run roughshod over local communities and their concerns, and proceed with mining projects that cause a great deal of harm to ecosystems and to people. Canadian mining companies have earned an awful reputation the world over for disrespecting human rights and the earth.

In this context, a little less than two decades ago, two series of convesrations converged. One was among large and small environmental groups, and a couple of Indigenous groups, in the Canadian context about some recent struggles against mining projects in different parts of the country, and the lack of infrastructure for preserving and sharing lessons, resources, and strategies from those struggles. The other was among international NGOs based in Canada and working primarily in the Americas but also in Asia and West Africa, who regularly encountered communities with concerns about proposed or existing Canadian mining projects in their countries. These NGOs had little expertise in mining issues, but wanted to be able to support communities, or at least point them towards resources. Out of these conversations, stakeholders from environmental, social justice, Indigenous, and labour groups in Canada came together to form a new organization: MiningWatch Canada.

For the last 18 years, MiningWatch Canada has worked with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communites to “addresses the urgent need for a co-ordinated public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world.” This has involved working with communities fighting to prevent, mitigate, or remdiate specific mining projects, particularly in helping them acquire resources and information, and build relationships with other communities engaged in similar struggles. It has involved doing research in a whole host of mining-related issues in a way that centres the wellbeing of communities. And it has involved working for changes to laws, regulations, and policies that govern mining practices and that shape what companies can get away with.

Jamie Kneen speaks with me about the Canadian mining industry, its impacts on the world, and the work of MiningWatch Canada. You can learn more about MiningWatch Canada 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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.

The image modified for this post was originally taken by Martin Roell and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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Radio — Exposing and challenging migrant detention in Canada

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Tings Chak. She is a migrant justice organizer, an artist, and a writer with training in architectural design. She talks about the graphic novel-style book Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention, which she wrote and illustrated.

How we experience spaces and places is just as wrapped up in power and resistance as everything else in life. At the level of the nation, for instance, the power invested in borders keeps some people out and lets others in, and in a wide range of ways marks those who are admitted for different levels and kinds of harm and vulnerability and violence. At the scale of our everyday lives, buildings and landscapes are shaped by and can help to enact social relations — to name a few examples, the form of houses in communities across North America reflect dominant assumptions about what makes a family; churches and mosques often embody principals of the faiths to which they are sacred; modern cityscapes are organized by and around the political dominance of fossil fuel industries and the private automobile; and solitary confinement units in prisons are a cruel crystallization of the violence of the carceral state.

Canada’s immigration system — notwithstanding all of the Liberal hype about its supposed gentle virtues — embodies both of these things. It excludes broadly, and it does various things that marginalize many of those who manage to enter, thereby organizing violence into many lives. And it makes use of power translated into built form to realize some of its least savoury outcomes.

Take, for instance, people who are undocumented. In Canada, that mostly doesn’t mean people who entered the country without documents, though that situation has been in the news lately with refugee claimants fleeing the Trump regime in the United States. Rather, most of the estimated half a million people in the country without status arrived with some sort of temporary status, built lives and families and communities here, and were subsequently prevented by the system from regularizing that status — they were pushed by the system into being undocumented, and into all of the risk and fear that comes with that. For many undocumented people, any interaction with an official or a service provider, including the most basic of services that the rest of us use without a second thought, is an opportunity for their lack of documents to be discovered and reported to federal authorities. This can result in detention and deportation, up-ending lives and causing incredible hardship. And when deportation is not possible, that detention can drag on for years and years: Despite an international standard that calls for immigration detention to be for no more than 90 days, Canada detains migrants indefinitely without charge or trial. And this coercive power over the lives of migrants is in part enabled by the built form of the facilities in which they are detained, both specialized immigration detention centres and maximum security prisons.

Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention is a graphic novel-style account that draws on both the author’s research and her experience in working with undocumented people and migrant detainees during her time as a member of No One Is Illegal – Toronto and the End Immigration Detention Network. The book both “documents the banality and the violence of the architecture” and works to highlite “the stories of daily resistance among immigration detainees.” Originally produced as a zine and then as a limited print-run book, it will be re-released with additional content in the next couple of months by a new publisher — the Ottawa-based Ad Astra Comix. A recently completed and highly successful crowdfunding campaign has financed the re-publication, and all royalties from the book are being donated to the End Immigration Detention Network. Chak talks with me about undocumented people and immigration detention in Canada, about the politics of migrant justice and prison abolition, and about Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention. You can learn more about the book 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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.

The image modified for this post is used with permission of Tings Chak.<

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Radio — Building solidarity between teachers and parents

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Drew Moore and Tina Roberts-Jeffers. Moore is a teacher in Nova Scotia. Roberts-Jeffers is a mother of three small children. They talk about the unprecedent activity and engagement by both teachers and parents over the last couple of years in the face of an austerity-minded provincial government and in defence of a strong public education system.

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Across North America in the last few decades, it has been hard to find any governments in any jurisdictions that don’t fall somewhere on the spectrum between quietly undermining and fanatically attacking public services. When it is public education in particular that is in their sights, a popular government tactic has often been to target teachers and to sow divisions between teachers and parents. Some of the most important resistance, on the other hand, has been when teachers and parents have begun from a shared interest in an education system that is strong, well-funded, and public to build relationships, solidarity, and collaborative action.

Until quite recently, Nova Scotia has seen relative peace between its teachers and its provincial government — in fact, never in its history had the Nova Scotia Teachers Union engaged in any kind of province-wide job action. When the latest round of negotiations began for the teachers in mid 2015, though there were signs that the province had some rather ambitious goals in terms of containing spending, nobody among the teachers or the general public expected much to be different.

By the time the provincial government imposed a contract through legislation in late February 2017, however, everything had changed. The government’s actions and public statements throughout this period were much more negative and combative than they had ever been before. Much of what the government sought in bargaining, teachers identified as detrimental to their working conditions and to students’ learning conditions. According to Moore, as a result of all of this, his rank and file colleagues were much more engaged with the negotiating process than he had ever seen them. In particular, more and more of them were insistent that certain key workplace issues related to class sizes, to the pressure for teachers to do ever-increasing amounts of administrative work with no additional time to do it, and to other classroom-related concerns must be addressed. Teachers voted on three separate occasions to reject tentative agreements, and overwhelmingly passed a strike vote. Towards the end, the union engaged in a province-wide work-to-rule campaign that involved continuing to teach but withdrawing auxiliary services not explicitly required in their collective agreement.

And it wasn’t only teachers that were more engaged and politicized than ever before over the course of this process — so were parents. Tina Roberts-Jeffers has always been a firm believer in the importance of a strong public education system, though she also has her share of criticisms of the specific challenges and barriers that the system puts in the way of African Nova Scotian students. As the conflict between teachers and the government developed, she became increasingly convinced that the government’s actions would not only be detrimental to teachers but would harm students, and therefore communities. It was some time last year when she heard about a small meeting in which a handful of parents were getting together to figure out ways to express their support for the teachers, and she knew she had to get involved. Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers grew quickly, engaged in multiple public and media events, and developed a Facebook presence with more than 19,000 members.

The combined efforts of teachers, parents, and also students managed to mobilize some impressive expressions of public support for teachers during the period preceding the provincial government’s passage of legislation last month. This included what some have identified as the largest demonstration at Nova Scotia’s provincial legislature in history. Alas, this was not enough to stop the government from imposing a contract.

For the moment, the struggle to defend public education in Nova Scotia has entered a quieter phase. There are a lot of conversations going on in a lot of different contexts about the events of the past year and about how to move forward. Despite the recent set-back, many parents and teachers can identify some hopeful signs as well. Teachers and parents have a new track record of collaboration and new relationships that were built in the course of struggle. Moreover, the public conversation about education in the province has become more lively, enthusiastic, and informed, and includes plenty of voices calling for it to be well funded, equitable and accessible, and treated as a public good. It’s not clear what form this attention and energy might take in the new moment, but circumstances are ripe for solid organizing that is capable of building towards future gains.

Moore and Roberts-Jeffers speak with me about public education, about the recent struggles surrounding it in Nova Scotia, and about the importance of solidarity between teachers, parents, and students. We spoke by skype-to-phone from Nova Scotia.

You can learn more about this struggle via two of the organizations involved, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers.

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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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.

The image modified for use in this post is in the public domain.

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Radio — Students fighting to raise the minimum wage

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Jessica Chen and Jermaul Newell. They are students at York University in Toronto and are active with the campus chapter of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, which is working to raise the minimum wage, improve basic employment standards, and build solidarity between students and workers.
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The extensive mobilizing by low-wage workers pushing to raise the minimum wage has been one of the most widespread and energetic movements of recent years. It has taken different forms in different jurisdictions, but across North America these campaigns have come together under the common banner of the Fight for $15, which encapsulates the core demand of a raise in the minimum wage to $15/hr. Though the outcomes of these campaigns have also varied from place to place, they have won at least some level of increase in minimum wages in a lot of jursidictions, and they have won commitments to phase in the full $15/hr amount in more than few.

Though bringing the minimum wage up to more liveable levels is the most visible demand in pretty much all of these campaigns, on some level they are also about more than dollars and cents. Whether it is present mainly in the details of the many stories that low-wage workers tell about their lives, or whether it finds expression in concrete demands, all of these campaigns convey a more expansive vision of dignity and a message of solidarity. They are about all of the many ways that low-wage workers get ground down because of how employers are allowed to treat them, and about their growing determination to stand together and get that changed.

Ontario is one of the jurisdictions where demands beyond the minimum wage level have been most clearly articulated, in part because the provincial government has been undertaking its first exhaustive review of the rules around basic employment standards in two decades. In Ontario, the campaign is called the Fight for $15 and Fairness.

Along with regular actions in communities across the province — often anchored by workers centres, labour councils, anti-poverty groups, and other kinds of organizations — the Fight for $15 and Fairness has also included plenty of campus-based organizing. This is really not surprising: Years ago, when it came to grassroots politics, the categories of “student” and “worker” were treated as separate, and the political work done by activists in their respective millieus was often quite distinct. Increasingly today, however, students have no choice but to be waged workers as well. Tuition in Ontario is among the highest in Canada and lots of students can only afford to pay for school, rent, food, and all the rest by working one, two, or even more jobs. And most jobs available to youth pay the minimum wage or only slightly more.

Jessica Chen is a third-year student at York University in Toronto. She works two minimum wage jobs in the service industry, so she has a very personal stake in raising the minimum wage and in improving basic employment standards. Jermaul Newell is a seond-year student at York. He also works for a wage, but in his case it’s in a unionized position in the auto sector. This means the issues of the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign don’t impact him directly, but he participates because he believes that solidarity among workers in different situations is crucial to making advances for all working people.

Chen and Newell tell me about the broader Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign and about how it is playing out at York University. In particular, they illustrate very clearly how the campaign as it is happening at York may have begun from the strong hook of the $15/hr wage demand, but has quickly built to a broader vision of better lives for low-wage workers. Yes, like most Fight for $15 and Fairness groups across the province, they are mobilizing to put pressure on the provincial government as we draw closer to the expected summer release of the final report from the employment standards review. But the York group goes even farther: They are part of broader efforts to build alliances between students and workers on the campus. They played a role in supporting the recent strike by food service workers on campus employed by private-sector giant Aramark, who demanded and won a raise to $15/hr. And they see it as essential to talk about how racial justice and economic justice are tied together, and to name and challenge racism as an integral part of building the solidarity necessary to win dignity and better lives for all workers.

You can learn more about the provincial Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign and about the chapter at York University.

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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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.

The image modified for use in this post is used by permission of Fight for $15 and Fairness – York University.

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Radio — Defending Indigenous land in the far north

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Bobbi Rose Koe and Chris Rider about the long collaboration between Indigenous nations and conservation groups to protect the Yukon’s Peel watershed from industrial development. Along with a lengthy public information and advocacy campaign, in recent years Protect the Peel has also involved a court battle that will reach the Supreme Court of Canada on March 22.

The watershed of the Peel River encompasses an area in the northereastern Yukon that is larger than the province of Nova Scotia. It is one of the largest unroaded natural areas in the world, and is the territory of four First Nations.

The use of land in the Yukon is currently governed by agreements finalized in the 1990s among most of the First Nations in the territory, the Yukon government, and the government of Canada. These agreements include substantial requirements for consultation with and input from those nations whose territories will be impacted by land use decisions. When the land use planning process was begun for the Peel watershed in the early 2000s, all of the First Nations in the area plus the conservation groups with which they were working took the position that 100% of the watershed must be protected from industrial development. The process was extensive, lasting seven years, and resulted in a compromise that the First Nations and the conservation groups were not thrilled about but that they accepted: 80% of the watershed would be protected, even from the building of roads, while 20% would be opened for development.

Around the same time as the final report of the land-use planning process was released, however, the territorial government released it’s own report saying that rather than abide by the seven years of good-faith consultation and negotiation, they had unilaterally decided that they would protect only 30% of the watershed and open the rest up to industry.

Already by this point, for many years Protect the Peel had been a highly effective public education and public pressure campaign. It had succeeded in raising public conscioussness in the Yukon about the importance of preserving the watershed and had also made significant strides in connecting with people far beyond the territory. With the government announcement that it intended to open up the majority of the watershed to industry, the First Nations leadership and the conservation organizations decided they had no choice but to build on this public campaign with a robust legal challenge as well.

In 2014, the Yukon Supreme Court delivered a stinging rebuke to the territorial government, which was ordered to abide by the outcome of the land-use planning process with no option for introducing changes that would protect any less than the 80% figure in the original compromise. In 2015, the Yukon government appealed this ruling. While the Yukon Court of Appeal agreed with much of the earlier decision’s criticism of the Yukon government’s actions, it granted permission to re-boot the land-use planning process to a much earlier stage that would end up allowing the government to force through a major reduction in the percentage of land ultimately protected.

On March 22 of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada will be hearing an appeal by the First Nations and the conservation groups. Though the new Yukon government elected in late 2016 takes a much more pro-conservation stance than its predecessor, the case is continuing, and the court will decide whether or not the government will be bound by the earlier process to fully protect 80% of the watershed. All through the legal process, the public education and advocacy component of Protect the Peel has been contninuing, and there will be a series of public events in March in both Whitehorse and Ottawa.

Bobbi Rose Koe is a member of the Tetlit Gwich’in nation who lives in Fort McPherson. She is active in Protect the Peel and is one of the leaders of Youth of the Peel, a group of Indigenous people committed to reconnecting other Indigenous youth with the watershed and teaching them skills. Chris Rider is the executive director of the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, or CPAWS, one of the conservation groups active in defending the Peel watershed. They speak with me about the land, about the long public campaign to protect it, and about the legal process that will culminate in the Supreme Court of Canada later this month.

To learn more about the Protect the Peel campaign and the legal battle, 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 check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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.

The image modified for use in this post was taken by Peter Mather for Protect the Peel. Used by permission of Protect the Peel.

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