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 — Physicians mobilizing in defense of health care for refugees

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Dr. Hasan Sheikh. He is a member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, a group of physicians that has been mobilizing in response to the Conservative government’s cruel 2012 cuts to health care for refugees.

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You don’t often hear about physicians, en masse, taking issues to the streets. As today’s guest himself identifies, it tends to be a fairly conservative profession. As well, for all that there are frameworks with roots within the medical establishment that allow for much more resolutely social ways of understanding health and wellbeing, the everyday practice of medicine tends to be quite focused on the individual, on helping this particular person with this particular problem.

Yet in the last few years, some physicians in Canada have been mobilizing. Their first action was a sit-in, and they have had a number of demonstrations, not to mention making regular strong statements in the media. This is perhaps explained by the fact that it’s an issue that is very relevant to the core activities of physicians, and that represents a particularly cruel and egregious example of a government decision denying residents of Canada access to health care. And the issue, of course, is the 2012 decision by the Conservative government to cut a federal program that had smoothly covered certain basic health care needs for refugees and refugee claimants for more than 50 years, and to replace it with a confusing, complicated patchwork that leaves many refugees in Canada with no way whatsoever to address certain urgent healthcare needs.

According to Sheik, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care began among some physicians who came together in Toronto in 2012, and now has members across the country. Along with annual demonstrations, they have also been integrally involved in a legal challenge to the cuts to refugee health care, have done education with physicians and with the general public about the issue, and have worked with provincial governments to find other ways to meet at least some of the needs left unmet by these cuts. Sheik talks with me about the awful impacts of the cuts on patients that he and his colleagues have seen, about the group, and about the struggle to restore access to basic health care for refugees in Canada.

To learn more about Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Reconciling queerness and faith at the Human RITES Conference

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kim Holmes-Younger and Pam Rocker about the Human RITES Conference, a recent event in Calgary which brought together people from a variety of denominations and faiths to discuss the histories of LGBTQ people being excluded from and marginalized within organized religions, and also the important work happening in many faith contexts to move towards a diffent, more inclusive future.

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In the last 20 years, dominant attitudes in Canada towards lesbian, gay, bi, and queer people have shifted significantly, and attitudes towards trans people have have also shifted, though nowhere nearly as much. Grassroots struggles by queer and trans people and allies have driven these shifts; and various kinds of expanded institutional and social space for queer and trans folk to live and thrive have been won as well (though access to this enhanced thriving has been quite unevenly distributed). Yet this shift has not been accompanied, for a significant part of even the more steadfastly supportive people who are straight and cisgender, with a substantive engagement with the diverse realities of queer and trans lives, and with the ways that sexuality, gender, and power work in our lives, institutions, and communities. And this means that for all the goodwill and support of a certain sort that’s out there, it can be a tricky thing to communicate to mainstream audiences that, yes, gay marriage is legal and, yes, certain kinds of gay visibility have increased dramatically, but there are still a lot of other kinds of barriers and struggles and challenges that permeate LGBTQ lives. And those, by the way, cannot just be reduced to the lingering presence of a handful of retrograde individual bigots; the need for major social and institutional change persists.

This plays out in lots of ways, in lots of contexts, but the one that is the focus of today’s show is religion. As today’s guests discuss, many LGBTQ people have experienced significant wounding through and by organized religion — through the institutions themselves, and through distributed attitudes and practices that are reproduced via the teachings of the institutions. Many people experience this as the imposition of an awful, impossible choice: remaining where they are and continuing to experience one kind of hurt, or leaving their faith behind and experiencing a different kind of loss and hurt. While many people navigate this dilemma by leaving their faith behind, many others do not, and continue to desire a spiritual journey in which they can be full participants.

The Human RITES Conference, an initiative that began in a handful of United Churches, brought together both clergy and lay people from a variety of denominations and faiths. It was meant as a space of learning and a space of healing. Kim Holmes-Younger has been working at Wild Rose United Church in Calgary in community engagement and youth ministry roles. Pam Rocker is a playwright and a spoken word poet, and works for Hillhurst United Church in Calgary specifically on engaging and celebrating LGBTQ communities. Both were centrally involved in the event, and they speak with me about queerness, faith, and the recent Human RITES Conference.

To learn more about the Human RITES Conference, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — To defeat austerity, we need solidarity

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kevin Skerrett. He is a trade unionist and a member of the local Ottawa-based anti-austerity formation Solidarity Against Austerity.

The language of “austerity” is not necessarily broadly understood in Canada, outside of a narrow segment of people who already identify with the left. Yet it is a concise way to name a cluster of political phenomena that are central to much of what is happening in this country and that are having profoundly harmful impacts on millions of lives — phenomena that a much more significant chunk of the population care about and oppose, however they name them, from cuts, to schemes to exploit migrants, to environmental deregulation, to privatization, to attacks on workers, to much more. And whatever language we use to name these attacks on ordinary people, it’s no secret that, outside of Quebec at least, we do not yet have the models and tools for action that might be able to successfully oppose the austerity agenda in its entirety. And — without completely dismissing them — it’s improtant to recognize that the conventional repertoire of actions by mainstream trade unions and parties that at least nominally aspire to social democracy, have not been effective in presenting meaningful alternatives to austerity and in fact at times have been actively complicit in reproducing narratives that claim that there is no alternative.

Solidarity Against Austerity emerged out of organizing that happened in Ottawa in 2012, after a loose network of activists planned a successful May Day demonstration. They all recognized the urgent need to be mobilizing against austerity, and also the limits in the existing possibilities for doing so. After repeating their success in getting people into the streets on May Day in 2013, they started to have serious conversations about what sustained, ongoing anti-austerity organizing, and the organizational form to support that, might look like. And they’ve been at it ever since — organizing educational events and forums, pulling together demonstrations, supporting strike actions, and much more. They recognize that what they’ve been able to do so far is small and limited compared to the scope of the problems that they name and oppose, but they see it as a starting point that they hope will be able to lead to at least one kind of genuinely effective, politically independent, non-sectarian response to the urgent conflux of crises impacting the lives of so many ordinary people under the banner, named or not, of austerity. Skerrett spoke with me about austerity, the origins of the group, the actions it has taken, and the ways it hopes to grow.

To learn more about Solidarity Against Austerity, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Building Indigenous unity through the Wild Salmon Caravan

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Eddie Gardner of the Stó:lõ Nation and Dawn Morrison of the Secwepemc Nation about the recent Wild Salmon Caravan. In mid-May, it travelled from Prince George to Vancouver, building unity, relationships and strength among the peoples whose territories it passed through, in defence of wild salmon, water and Indigenous sovereignty.

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Right now British Columbia, most of it not covered by any sort of treaty, is a hotbed of struggle between many Indigenous nations defending their land, water and sovereignty on the one side, and a range of colonial interests threatening all of those things on the other. On the ground, this looks like fighting pipelines, opposing mines, revitalizing culture, demanding justice for missing and murdered women, and much more. These struggles are happening in different places, rooted in different nations and cultures, and focused on different targets. There’s a lot going on, all of it matters, and those of us who are settlers in this land should be doing whatever we can in support of all of its manifestations.

Still, these many anti-colonial and decolonizing efforts aren’t always as connected as they could be. So last fall, a group of Indigenous people from several nations in what gets called “B.C.” got together at an event they called a Wild Salmon Convergence, to talk about the many threats to the wild salmon of the West Coast, and the many campaigns that, though they may seem to be about other things on the surface, are in significant part about protecting the salmon. Every mine, every pipeline, every fish farm, every development, every pollutant can have consequences for the wild salmon. And the wild salmon are absolutely central to ecosystems, to cultures, to Indigenous food systems and economies, and to the complex relational webs that in Indigenous worldviews encompass all of those things.

At that convergence, planning began for a Wild Salmon Caravan, to travel over four days in May from the headwaters to the sea, raising awareness about threats to the salmon, strengthening relationships between peoples, building coalitions, making plans, engaging in ceremony. The plan was to build unity across different nations, communities, struggles, and locations, through the shared commitment to protecting the salmon, the waters in which they live, and the strength and sovereignty of the nations for whom wild salmon are so central. Eddie Gardner has long been active in many different campaigns, including working against the damage done by fish farms to wild salmon. And Dawn Morrison is very active on issues of Indigenous food sovereignty. Both were central to the Wild Salmon Caravan, and they talk with me about what it involved, what it meant, and what they hope it helps to build.

To learn more about the Wild Salmon Caravan, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Another politics: Movement-building in the 21st century

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Chris Dixon. He is an author and a long-time activist. He speaks with me about his new book, Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements (UC Press, 2014), and about a new strand of radical politics emerging today in the midst of social movements and communities-in-struggle across North America.

Dixon currently lives in Ottawa, but he has been active in a range of movements, in a range of places across North America, since he was a teenager. And in the course of his organizing work, he developed a sense that there were certain practices and certain sensibilities that seemed to cluster together and that he was encountering in a lot of different places, movements, and contexts. He wanted to learn more about that. More importantly, he wanted to do it in a way that resulted in knowledge that might actually be useful for movements themselves. So he entered graduate school, but rather than taking up the usual tools used in universities to study movements, which tend to objectify them and result in knowledge that is really not very useful to people who are themselves engaged in struggle, he instead committed himself to learning from activists and organizers and with the knowledge that is produced by them in the course of struggle.

To do his research for the book, he went to cities around Canada and the United States and talked to organizers and activists whose work enacts these emerging politics — “another politics” he came to call them, borrowing the phrase from Mexico’s Zapatistas, and he came to characterize the loose and diverse political tendency that is enacting them as “anti-authoritarian” in a broad sense. He learned from and synthesized the reflections of these organizers on what they do, how they do it, and why they do it, and brought together this movement-produced and movement-useful knowledge about practices, strengths, challenges, and yet-to-be-answered questions into his new book. And in the last eight months, he has been travelling across the continent yet again, giving talks, leading workshops, and sparking conversations among activists and organizers about this emerging approach to movement politics, and about the questions its practitioners are currently wrestling with. We spoke about the research; about what he learned from the activists and organizers he spoke with; about the conversations he has had in his more recent travels; and about the ongoing struggle for social transformation on Turtle Island.

To learn more about Another Politics and about Dixon’s other work, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Opposing militarism outside Canada’s largest arms fair

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Ria Heynen, Jo Wood and Matthew Behrens. They are long-time peace and social justice activists in eastern Ontario, and they talk with me about an action taking place on May 27 in Ottawa to protest CANSEC, Canada’s largest trade show for weapons systems and technologies of repression.

As today’s guests discuss, there’s hardly a community in Canada that doesn’t benefit from making some sort of product that goes into the weapons and technology that enable military, policing and national security state institutions around the world to kill, repress and afflict. Every year, Canada’s biggest gathering of vendors of these products and technologies with the institutions that purchase them — and use them from Baltimore to Bahrain; from Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, to occupied Palestine — is the CANSEC arms fair in Ottawa. And since back when it was called ArmEx in the late 1980s, every time this event has been held, ordinary people have gathered — sometimes in their dozens, sometimes in their thousands — to show their opposition to the event and to the oppressive violence it helps to propagate, and to show their solidarity with those who ultimately bear its consequences.

This year’s action against the trade show is called “Ten Hours Against Terrorism,” which will be a festive gathering outside the gates of the arms fair. The intent is for people to share poems and songs and art and street theatre, as well as moments of solemnity, as they celebrate life in repudiation of the facilitation of death being carried out within. We spoke about the long history of organizing against arms fairs in Ottawa, the reasons to oppose CANSEC, this year’s organizing and action, and ways for people across the country to act as well.

To learn more about the organizing and the May 27 action, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Histories of women in the labour movement

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Joey Hartman, the president of the Vancouver and District Labour Council. She talks about the history of women in the labour movement and about the importance of people who are active in movements and communities learning, talking about, and doing grassroots historical work.

The history that most of us have a chance to learn in school and from the media mostly erases the role of struggle in shaping our world, and tells us tales that are supportive of an oppressive status quo and of elites. To quote Gary Kinsman, who has done important work on history-from-below around queer struggles and struggles related to national security in the Canadian context, we face the “social organization of forgetting,” and we must respond with the “resistance of remembering.” Not only that, it is important that we engage actively with history in our communities and movements, and that we learn and tell the stories of the struggles that have brought us to where we are today so we might better navigate the struggles that are currently shaping tomorrow.

When Hartman became president of the labour council in Vancouver, she was the first woman to hold that position in its 122-year history. In the early 1980s, she was a daycare worker and a union member who was swept into labour activism by a lengthy strike. After a chance encounter with labour history at a conference, she avidly began to learn more, and soon was regularly doing talks and presentations about labour history both within and beyond the movement. Importantly, her feminist commitments have led her to learn as much as she can about the rich but not always easy history of women in the labour movement and to a commitment to doing what she can to share that history with younger generations of workers, particularly young women workers. She talks with me about that work, and about the history of women in the labour movement in Vancouver and beyond.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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