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 — Nurses standing up for patient care

Sandi Mowat has been a registered nurse for thirty-five years, and she is the president of the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU). The current government in the province is committed to transforming the delivery of healthcare, but the experiences of MNU members show that the changes to the system so far have not been good for patients, have not been good for nurses, and have not been good for the quality of patient care. In response, nurses in Manitoba are taking a number of approaches to stand up for patient care and to oppose the cuts. Scott Neigh interviews Sandi about the MNU, about the current political moment and what it means for healthcare in Manitoba, and about what nurses are doing in response – including the rally they will be holding outside the provincial legislature in Winnipeg on May 2.

When the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Pallister was elected in Manitoba in 2016 after more than a decade and a half of NDP rule, it was no surprise that their agenda included a number of different kinds of neoliberal austerity measures – budget cuts, privatization, and so on. This has included plans to significantly transform how health care is delivered. The changes so far have particularly targeted Winnipeg, with the closure of emergency rooms, staffing cuts of various sorts, and a range of other elements of the system that have been closed, amalgamated, and reorganized. A second phase of the transformation is expected later this year or next year. As well, as is true in many jurisdictions across the country, there has been ongoing creeping privatization via incrementally de-listing services that were previously covered.

The government rhetoric accompanying changes in healthcare delivery has generally claimed that they will both save money and improve care. The MNU represents 97% of nurses in Manitoba, and has a total of more than 12,000 members. Sandi says that the changes, amalgamations, and cuts in the healthcare system may be saving money, but the experience of these members who actually do the work to deliver frontline services is that they most definitely are not improving the quality of patient care. The impacts vary from worksite to worksite, but overall they mean that nurses are being continually asked to do more with less. In some places, where health care aids have been cut, they are having to add non-nursing duties to their workload, and in other places there just aren’t enough nurses. Since January, according to Mowat, workloads are up, overtime is up, sick time is up, and morale is decisively down.

Defending high quality public services is a tough mission in this neolibera era, but the MNU can look to some impressive struggles in its history – most notably a three-week strike in 1991 that won, among other things, a mechanism for frontline nurses to have input into the details of patient care that is still an important component of their collective agreements to this day. That strike was an early landmark in Sandi’s involvement in the union, and it is still the longest strike by nurses in Canadian history.

In the current moment, the union is speaking up in defense of patient care in a number of ways. The union has been critical of the inadequate communication from the government and the employer about the changes, so a central part of their response is doing everything they can to keep nurses informed about what’s happening and what the impacts are. Though all unions are having a harder time than might have been true in earlier decades getting members to meetings, the nurses union is finding social media to be an effective way of keeping members informed and engaged, and they have also developed their own smartphone app for communicating directly with nurses across the province. They are also in the middle of a comprehensive program to build skills related to member engagement among local union leadership in every worksite in the province.

Part of the goal in doing this communication and engagement with members is making sure that members have the tools to speak out on issues that matter to them. Starting last June, the union has encouraged members to wear white to work every Wednesday as a visible sign in the workplace of their opposition to cuts and support for top-notch patient care, in part with the idea that this visibility will create opportunities to talk about the issues with other people. They have made use of petition-like tools in a few different ways, including their Put Patients First website and campaign, to make it as easy as possible for both overworked nurses themselves and busy Manitobans from all walks of life to express their opposition to the cuts. And the next item on their agenda is a rally at the provincial legislature in Winnipeg on May 2. They expect more than 500 nurses will be there, and they welcome anyone else who wants to send the government a message that they must change their agenda, stop the cuts, and start to truly put patients first.

Image: Modified from an image that is used with the permission of the Manitoba Nurses Union.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving 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 them 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.

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Radio — Seeking justice in Saskatchewan in the wake of the Gerald Stanley verdict

Prescott Demas is a Dakota man, originally from Chanupa Wakpa and currently living in Regina. He was one of a number of Indigenous people and allies who, in the wake of the acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier in February, set up the Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp in a park across from the Saskatchewan legislature. Scott Neigh interviews him about the verdicts, about the camp, and about what needs to happen for us to truly begin moving towards justice.

Back in February, verdicts were delivered in two trials that painfully demonstrated the unhealed wounds and ongoing violence and oppression that lie beneath the mainstream rhetoric of reconciliation in Canada. For many observers, it was perhaps not a surprise when white farmer Gerald Stanley was acquitted on all charges after shooting Cree man Colton Boushie at point blank range, nor when white man Raymond Cormier was acquitted in the death of Anishinaabe youth Tina Fontaine. As many pointed out at the time, this was not a sign that the settler state’s legal system was broken, but rather that it was working exactly as it always had in terms of who it protects and who it makes vulnerable. At the same time, even if the outcomes were not a surprise, they were still profoundly painful, not only for the families and communities of Boushie and Fontaine but also for the many other people across the country who themselves face racism and state violence on a daily basis. As well, the verdicts contributed to a rising tide of increasingly overt anti-Indigenous racism and reinforced all of the tired colonial narratives through which Indigenous people are portrayed as being somehow to blame for their own violent deaths.

In communities across the country, Indigenous people and their allies responded to these verdicts in a range of ways. A lot of it took all of those ordinary forms of taking care of each other that make community community. Much of it involved ceremony. Some involved public expressions of mourning, of solidarity with the families, and of a desire for justice, like a vigil or a rally. And in some places the public side of the response took on a more enduring form.

In Regina, they call it the Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp. At the time of the interview, the camp had been going strong for 41 days and showed no signs of fading. The camp was originally proposed by Richelle Dubois. Her fourteen year-old son Haven Dubois died under suspicious circumstances in May 2015, and the family has been deeply unsatisfied with the official investigation and with its conclusion that his death was accidental. Indigenous activists and their allies in Regina happen to have plenty of experience with the camp as a form of political action after the four-month Colonialism No More camp outside of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (or INAC) offices in the city in 2016, so it was easy to pull together what they needed for this new camp back at the end of February.

Though the camp was initially inspired by the Stanley and Cormier verdicts, Prescott says that the issues raised by those cases are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many forms of injustice that take such a heavy toll on young Indigenous lives. Some injustices that get treated as historical by mainstream commentators continue to have major downstream impacts today, and many others – the rhetoric of reconciliation notwithstanding – are no less urgently present than they have ever been.

He says that any path to justice will require talking about residential schools; the Sixties Scoop; contemporary child welfare policies executed by organizations like Child and Family Serivces; racial profiling by police and other ways in which Indigenous people are criminalized by the so-called justice system; the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; all of the forms of oppressive regulation of Indigenous peoples by the Indian Act over the last 150 years; and of course the underlying issues of the theft of the land and Canada’s refusal to honour the treaties.

Prescott says, however, that the camp is not making demands, and he does not feel that it is his place to try and change any other person’s mind. He doesn’t necessarily use these terms, but it sounds like the camp is more like an act of witness, perhaps an accusation, and certainly an invitation. The invitation is to dialogue: Prescott is quite clear that, at least so far, governments in Canada have shown no real interest in reconciliation. Yet despite this, and despite the upsurge in overt racism in the wake of the verdicts, he does see hopeful signs among ordinary settler Canadians. So in large part, the camp is meant as an invitation to other residents of Regina to come, to spend time, and to talk. Prescott hopes that through this dialogue, more Canadians can be inspired to listen, to read, to learn, and to change their own minds away from “this fairy tale version of how Canada came to be” that our governments and media teach us, and towards the kinds of understanding that will be necessary to make true progress towards justice.

Image: Modified from an image that is used with the permission of Colonialism No More.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving 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 them 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.

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Radio — Queering space, both online and off

Lucas LaRochelle is a designer based in Montreal and the initiator of Queering the Map, an online project that is attempting to explore what queer space means and what queering space can look like. Scott Neigh interviews them about the site, about the recent instance of it being hacked by a Trump supporter, and about the radical queer vision that underlies the project.

The spaces through which we move every day are more than just physical, but rather have social shape and meaning. For instance, the one we call “home” has a certain feel, certain rules, certain boundaries, certain meaning, while the one we call “work” is very different, and so on. And it is the people who exist in and move through different spaces whose presence, relationships, and activities shape them and give them meaning.

How this happens is not a simple thing, however – what gets experienced, perceived, and remembered about a given place often has a lot to do with power. This is perhaps most clearly evident in the foundational struggle over control and meaning of space on Turtle Island, that of settler colonialism and Indigenous resistance – five centuries of settler violence aimed at ending any vestiges of Indigenous nations’ control of the land (including the diverse Indigenous meanings and shapes and names for that land), and the Indigenous survival and resistance to all of those things that continues to this day.

Though colonization and resistance underlies everything else, there are other ways that power shapes how space is experienced and remembered as well. What might it mean, for instance, to understand particular places as queer? Maybe once, that would most immediately have pointed towards that relatively small number of neighbourhoods in major metropolitan centres that were explicitly coded as “gay” or “queer,” but the role of such neighbourhoods in collective queer life in North America is much less than it used to be, and was maybe never as all-encompassing as is sometimes imagined. So what might it look like, what might it feel like, to collectively notice and remember the queer moments, the queer stories, the queer lives, the queer histories that are part of constituting everything around us, all of the time, but that are so often erased, silenced, and forced out of public visibility in a society that remains – notwithstanding the important gains made by LGBTQ movements in recent decades – oppressively heteronormative and cisnormative?

Queering the Map allows anyone to describe some moment of queer significance – from the fleeting and private, to the collective and public – and to associate it with the place that it happened. It is built on the technology of Google Maps. It has Google Maps’ capacity to show any place on earth, at any scale, and when you load it, you will see clusters of little black pins marking specific sites. When you hover your cursor over one of the pins, you will see the text – the moment, the memory, the history – associated with that place.

Lucas wrote on the site, “The intent of the Queering the Map project is to collectively document the spaces that hold queer memory, from park benches to parking garages, to mark moments of queerness wherever they occur. There are no guidelines to what constitutes an act of queering space. If it counts to you, then it counts for Queering the Map. Anything from direct action activism to a conversation expressing preferred pronouns, from flirtatious glances to weekend long sex parties; all are part of the project of queering space. … Through mapping these ephemeral moments, Queering the Map aims to create a living archive of queer experience that reveals the ways in which we are intimately connected.”

At the time of the interview, the site was actually offline. It had been hacked and, as a result, was down for a couple of months. But Lucas made a callout for support and a team of people with a range of coding skills came together and the site is now back online with improved stability and security.

Image: Modified from an image that is used with the permission of Queering the Map.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving 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 them 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.

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Radio — Building community resilience in the face of climate change

Sheila Murray, Beatrice Ekoko, Lidia Ferreira, and Michelle Sullivan all work in some capacity with an initiative called the Lighthouse Project, a pilot that aims to develop new approaches for building resilience in a number of Ontario communities in the face of the growing spectrum of threats presented by climate change. Scott Neigh interviews them about those threats, about what exactly resilience might look like, and about the different approaches they are using to get there.

“Resilience” is a contested and, some might argue, somewhat slippery term. At its most basic, it means all of those capacities and characteristics that enable a person or a community to bounce back in the face of adversity – which, at least at first glance, sounds pretty positive. However, critics have pointed out that its growing prominence in various approaches to understanding and intervening in the world in the last couple of decades correspond rather well with the rise of neoliberalism – that is, the erosion of collective assurances of wellbeing managed through the welfare state in favour of budget cuts, privatization, deregulation, austerity, and increasingly precarious work and lives for ordinary people. In this context, those critics maintain, a focus on resilience can distract from efforts to challenge the sources of harm under neoliberalism, through an emphasis on valuing those capacities that allow people and communities to absorb said harms and still, somehow, keep on keeping on.

But, really, even granting that concern, who could argue with cultivating the capacities necessary to navigate and survive adversity? Whether you think about the existing ways that marginalized communities already bear the brunt of systemic harms, or you think about the context of climate change – with its increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events already happening and slated to get worse, and with marginalized people facing the worst of not only that but also the other forms of harm that climate change will bring – harm reduction seems like a reasonable place to start.

And when you look at what it means in practice to build resilience in communities, a central component is inevitably the building of connections and relationships among people and organizations in the community. Those relationships mean they are better able to respond to harms in the moment, whether those are chronic and systemic harms or whether they are some kind of acute disaster. And it is precisely relationships among people facing some kind of threat or harm that, under the right circumstances, turn into collective efforts not just to mitigate the symptoms but to begin addressing root causes of harm. That is, just because neoliberal politicians can sometimes use resilience for their own ends, doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t also be interested in cultivating it in our communities and movements.

The Lighthouse Project is an Ontario Trillium Foundation-funded pilot project working to build resilience in several Ontario communities. Though its roots lie in a recognition of the need to build resilience in the face of climate change and increasing extreme weather, it also seeks to explore resilience far beyond that.

The lead organization on the project is a group called Faith and the Common Good, a national interfaith network devoted to protecting ecosystems and building healthy communities. A key focus for the project has been involving faith groups in the process, both as participants in community networks and in some cases as physical resilience hubs that can be part of community responses to disasters.

Sheila is the manager of the Lighthouse Project, and she comes to it from the Toronto group Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (or CREW). The communities involved in the Lighthouse Project approach it using two quite different models. Some are driven by a municipal emergency management office and take a top-down approach. Michelle, for example, coordinates the project in Brampton, Ontario, where she works for the municipal government. In these communities, the focus tends to be quite directly on building community infrastructure to be better able to respond to extreme weather, such as the major ice storm Brampton faced in 2013.

Other communities are using a bottom-up model. Lidia coordinates the project in the St. Jamestown neighbourhood in Toronto, while Beatrice – who works for Faith and the Common Good as well as for a local environmental organization called Environment Hamilton – coordinates it in the Beasley neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario. In St. Jamestown and Beasley, both of which are quite low-income neighbourhoods, the focus is on building community networks with strong participation from faith institutions, and facilitating the communities defining for themselves what resilience should look like. In these instances, the hope is that the project will go beyond a focus on extreme weather events to catalyzing the kinds of relationship networks that are necessary for building resilience in its broadest sense and for taking action as a community, in the face of not just extreme weather but also the everyday harms of poverty, food insecurity, lack of affordable housing, and all the rest.

Image: Used with permission of The Lighthouse Project.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving 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 them 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.

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Radio — Bringing stalking into the #MeToo conversations about gendered violence

Julie Lalonde is a long-time women’s rights advocate and public educator whose work focuses on sexual and gendered violence. Two years ago, when a man she had been in a relationship with for a couple of years more than a decade before unexpectedly passed away, she was finally able to reveal that he had been stalking her that entire time. Scott Neigh interviews her about her work since then to bring stalking into broader conversations about gendered violence, in part through incorporating it more fully into her public education work, and in part through founding a new project specifically focused on stalking called Outside of the Shadows.

We are in a period of almost unprecedented mainstream discussion of gendered harassment and violence. Even before the new (and perhaps still-fragile) space opened by the #MeToo movement for at least some women to name their abusers, feminists in Canada had been building on the media firestorm in the wake of numerous women sharing their experiences with former CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi to create space for a relatively sophisticated and sustained public conversation about gendered power and the violence that mostly-men do to mostly women and trans people. And yet, for all of that attention and for all of that sophistication, today’s guest argues that we have still had relatively little opportunity to talk about stalking.

Stalking captures a range of behaviours in which someone surveils, repeatedly contacts, and often intimidates or threatens someone else. In Canada, this behaviour gets read into the legal category of “criminal harassment,” though as with so many other kinds of gendered violence, legal mechanisms do not have a great track record of keeping people safe. Though stalking can occur in many different contexts, most often it is done by men and targets women, who are most often former partners.

In the decade between the end of their relationship and when he passed away, Julie’s abuser did pretty much everything that fits under the banner of stalking. He surveilled and harassed her, both online and offline. He followed her, he threatened her – he filled her life with fear. Her attempt to use the peace bond process to get the legal system to protect her was a disaster. She felt unable to tell even many people close to her about what was going on. And she found that even in the context of the feminist anti-violence movement, there really wasn’t a lot of space to talk about stalking, nor many resources to help her deal with it.

Now, along with the difficult personal work of healing, she has decided to put that lived experience to work in her professional and political activities. The initial phase of Outside of the Shadows is a short animated film that you can find on YouTube. Julie tells the story of her own experience, and offers practical tips both for people who are being stalked and for those who love and support them. It was funded by 87 individual donations, and was animated by Montreal artist Ambivalently Yours.

In light of the very positive response that the video has received, Julie has a number of next steps in mind. She and Ambivalently Yours are working on having the movie translated, producing shorter video clips about specific aspects of the topic, and making posters. They also hope to jointly do a workshop that combines their respective skills to provide a way for victims and survivors to process their experiences through art. And Julie is committed to opening up conversation about the root causes of stalking – from how aspects of dominant masculinity feed into stalking behaviours, to the ways that popular culture often normalizes and even romanticizes it, and much more. Ultimately, she dreams of founding an organization devoted to promoting the social, political, and legislative changes necessary to end stalking.

Image: Modified from an image from Pexels, under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving 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 them 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.

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Radio — Mi’kmaq water protectors blocking fossil fuel infrastructure in Nova Scotia

Dorene Bernard is a Mi’kmaq woman of the Otter Clan from Sipekne’katik and a residential school survivor, and she describes herself as a grassroots grandmother, a water walker, and a water protector. Rebecca Moore is a Mi’kmaq woman from Pictou Landing First Nation and a water protector. Scott Neigh interviews them about the treaty camp and other grassroots Mi’kmaq resistance that is blocking the Alton Natural Gas Storage project, a key piece of fossil fuel infrastructure in Nova Scotia that would help pave the way for the re-introduction of fracking in the province.

The Mi’kmaq people who live in Sipekne’katik First Nation in central Nova Scotia first encountered signs of the project when they noticed a new clearcut by the side of the highway. After some investigation, they discovered that Alton Gas, a subsidiary of giant Calgary-based energy corporation Alta Gas, intends to use large natural salt caverns that are around one kilometer under ground to store natural gas. To do this, they need to remove the salt from the caverns. They have been building a pipeline to take water from the Shubenacadie River, transport it about 12 kilometers, run it through the caverns to dissolve the salt, and then transport the salty water, or brine, and dump it back in the Shubenacadie River. The current stage of the project involves doing this to two caverns, though in the longer term it may involve as many as twenty.

The fact that grassroots people in the closest First Nation had never heard of this project when the work was already underway shows that it had received nothing even close to the free, prior, and informed consent required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The provincial government claimed it had fulfilled its legal duty to consult – a much lower standard even when done right – when it obtained the approval of the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative, an organization that represents the elected band council leadership of many of the Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia, though not the Mi’kmaq Nation’s traditional leadership and not even the band leadership of Sipekne’katik.

This lack of consent is central to the objections of many Mi’kmaq people who oppose the project, but it’s far from their only concern. They and their many allies are also very concerned about the risks of storing large volumes of natural gas in this way, and about the impact that dumping large amounts of salt water will have on the Shubenacadie River and the fish and other creatures that call it home. Though there was a provincial environmental assessment, it did not consult local and/or Indigenous knowledge holders, and opponents have identified numerous flaws in its findings and conclusions.

Moreover, it has become clear that Nova Scotia currently doesn’t produce anywhere near enough natural gas to require a storage facility like the salt caverns. The project only makes sense if understood as a piece of infrasture preparing the province for large-scale use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. This controversial unconventional extraction process involves the high-pressure injection of a soup of chemicals into rock formations to fracture them and force out natural gas that would previously have been unobtainable. There has been grassroots mobilization against it in jurisdictions around the world, and there is currently a moratorium on the practice in Nova Scotia (won after extensive advocacy in earlier years), but opponents of the Alton Gas facility have seen indications that suggest the province intends to end that moratorium – once again taking resources that still belong to the Mi’kmaq people without their consent, and engaging in environmentally destructive practices.

The opposition to the Alton Gas project has taken various forms. One was a legal challenge heard in 2016, which resulted in a ruling that the province had not been procedurally fair in relation to the environmental assessment and appeals of its decisions, but which did not address the question of the government’s duty to consult with First Nations.

As well, grassroots Mi’kmaq people and their allies have maintained a treaty camp for purposes of land and water defense at the Alton Gas site on the Shubenacadie River since Labour Day weekend of 2016. Dorene and Rebecca are both participants in the treaty camp. Over the course of the occupation, the water protectors have erected a treaty truck house, engaged in treaty-protected activities like fishing, and regularly conducted ceremony on the site. In 2017, allies from across the province convened on the site to build a straw-bale home for those staying at the camp, which is now located on the Alton Gas site itself. Community members have also been engaged in grassroots scientific activities related to assessing the state of the river, to be better able to intervene in future environmental assessment processes.

Public statements by the company indicate that they intend to proceed with the project this year, and the water protectors expect renewed threats to the treaty camp in the spring. They aren’t going anywhere, though, and they ask supporters to inform themselves and each other about the issue, and to listen closely for future call-outs for support.

Image: The image modified for use in this post belongs to the Council of Canadians and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving 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 them 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.

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Radio — Thirty-five years of peace activism in Calgary

Trudy Govier first became involved in peace issues in the early 1980s. She was one of the founders in 1982 of the peace group currently known as the Ploughshares Calgary Society, and today she is still involved. Scott Neigh talks with her about how the world and peace activism have changed in the last three and a half decades, and about the ways in which the Ploughshares Calgary Society is still patiently and persistently working towards a more just and peaceful world.

In some ways, when it comes to questions of war and peace, the world is a very different place than it was thirty-five years ago. In that era, the world was dominated by two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. After a detente period that lasted much of the 1970s, Cold War tensions were once again high in the early 1980s and the risk of nuclear annihilation felt sufficiently imminent to mobilize hundreds of thousands into the streets in peace marches in Canada in that decade, and millions more in the rest of the world.

In 2018, the world is quite a different place. The geopolitical map has changed a great deal. For decades, now, the conflicts that have raged around the world have mostly been more localized in character, though of course that hasn’t stopped them from causing immense death and destruction. They have prominently included warfare organized along subnational and inter-ethnic lines, as well as more numerous open instances than during the Cold War of the West, led by the United States and generally supported by Canada, using military force as a means of exerting power in other parts of the world. As for nuclear weapons, they are generally much lower on people’s list of concerns these days. And since the many millions around the world that took to the streets in 2003 to oppose the pending U.S.-led invasion and recolonization of Iraq, peace movements – and perhaps even moreso in Canada than in other places – have had difficulty mobilizing people in large numbers.

So, yes, there are differences. But at heart, a lot remains the same. War continues to happen, in ways that our own country continues to be complicit in. The need to push for other ways of resolving conflict, from the global level on down to the local, is no less pressing. As the existence of social movements of different kinds continues to show, the structural violences of inequality and injustice continue to be fundamental to how our society is organized. And nuclear arsenals that could destroy humanity many times over still exist – with the particularly unpredictable character of the current leadership in the United States bringing that danger increasingly back into mainstream consciousness.

Over the years, Trudy’s work for peace has taken many forms. She has organized and spoken on panels. She has written letters and lobbied. She has produced leaflets and marched. Her work as a scholar and teacher of philosophy has been greatly informed by her paritipation in the peace movement. More than three and a half decades after she helped to found it, she currently chairs the board of the Ploughshares Calgary Society – which was formerly Project Ploughshares Calgary, but it disaffiliated from the national Project Ploughshares organization a couple of years ago at the insistence of the Canada Revenue Agency, and was re-organized and re-named to become an independent non-profit.

Each year, the Ploughshares Calgary Society holds a peace fair. In recent years, they have organized a solemn commemoration of the destruction of the Japanese city of Hiroshima by a nuclear bomb dropped by the United States. They also hold numerous public education events of various sorts, including a community conference on peace issues coming up in May. They are one of the longest continually operating peace groups in Canada, and they even have a staff person and office space. The group continues to explore new projects, and Trudy is keen to find ways to expand their work in the coming years in the face of a world that, sadly, is in no less dire need of grassroots work for peace than was true three and a half decades ago.

Image: The image modified for use in this post is used with permission of the Ploughshares Calgary Society.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving 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 them 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.

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