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 — A broad coalition against austerity in Newfoundland

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Mary Shortall, Jim Dinn, and Sara Langer. They are all members of Common Front NL, a broad coalition that has formed to oppose the drastic austerity measures being implemented by the provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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According to today’s guests, there isn’t a lot of precedent, at least in recent decades, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador rising up in significant numbers to oppose the policies of their provincial government. But late last year, a provincial Conservative government that had been in power for many years was decisively defeated, and a large Liberal majority swept into office. Though their platform did not call for cuts and privatization — that is, for austerity — the introduction of their first budget in the context of a major economic downturn made decisive moves in that direction, with the possibility of even more drastic cuts in a second budget slated for late in 2016. The cut that made the news most widely outside of Newfoundland would’ve resulted in the closure of many, many public libraries, and that has (at least for the moment) been rescinded, but as today’s guests discuss, the vast majority of cuts are still happening, and people’s lives are being impacted in a wide range of ways.

Mary Shortall is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. Jim Dinn is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association. And Sara Langer is the treasurer of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Federation of Students. The Common Front NL brings together unions, student groups, women’s organizations, social justice groups, faith groups, and other sorts of community organizations, as well as concerned individuals. While some of the component member organizations have already been mobilizing people into the streets, the common front as a whole has so far focused on using roundtables and town halls to talk with Newfoundlanders in a way that they say the government has not. They are talking with people about their lives, about the impacts of austerity, and about developing a more hopeful vision for a fair and prosperous Newfoundland that makes sure everyone’s needs are met. Though actual reversals of proposed austerity measures have so far been minimal, the engagement by ordinary Newfoundlanders is unprecedented — not just via the common front but in lots of other independent initiatives as well — and the popularity of the ruling Liberals has tanked despite being in office for well under a year. Though they see a long road ahead, the common front also sees a real possibility for turning back the austerity agenda in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Shortall, Dinn, and Langer talk with me about the impacts that austerity is having and will increasingly have on people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and about what the Common Front NL and its member organizations are doing to fight back.

For more information on the work of the Common Front NL, 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.

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Radio — Prison abolitionism in Canada’s prison capital

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Rachel and Eric. They are members of End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC), a group organizing in Kingston, Ontario — the city with the highest density of federal correctional facilities of any community in Canada — for the abolition of prisons.

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Prison abolitionism is a strand of radical anti-authoritarian politics that dreams of a world without prisons, and organizes to make it so. Exactly what that world might look like and what change might be required to reach it is an open question — certainly it would require transformative social change that would reverberate far beyond prisons themselves. Though it has a longer history in this country than many realize, it is still a relatively small element of the itself-small radical left in Canada. But it is perhaps not surprising that one city that has a group that focuses its work on abolishing prisons is none other than Kingston, a city of about 120,000 people on the north shore of Lake Ontario, mid way between Toronto and Montreal.

EPIC began in 2010. Radicals in Kingston had already been discussing for awhile the possibility of starting a group focused on prisons. A couple of other things happened that year that led them to finally make it happen. On the one hand at the national level, you had radicals organizing against the Olympics in Vancouver and against the G20 summit in Toronto who were facing intense repression from police — including the threat and then (for some) the reality of jail time. On the other hand at the local level, there was opposition developing in Kingston (both among prisoners themselves and among a politically diverse cross-section of residents) to the Harper government’s plan to close the two farms used as work sites for prisoners and associated with prisons in the city. It seemed like the right time for radicals in Kingston to come together around prison issues, and to add a specifically prison abolitionist perspective to that broader campaign.

Over the years, EPIC’s work has evolved. After the defeat of the campaign to save the prison farms, they mobilized for several years — this time mostly on their own, rather than in coalition — to oppose various prison expansion projects in Kingston. And since that campaign has receded, they have focused more attention on building relationships with individual inmates and inmate committees, and have done things like publish a regular newsletter that is mostly by and for prisoners, as well as supporting however they can acts of resistance by prisoners on the inside, all the while working hard to continue articulating their anarchist prison abolitionist perspective.

Rachel and Eric talk about prison abolitionist politics, about the very particular political context of Kingston, and about EPIC’s work in the service of a world without prisons or any other institutions of domination and control.

To learn more about End the Prison Industrial Complex, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Fighting marginalization in the community radio and television sectors

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Laith Marouf and Kristiana Clemens. They are involved with the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC), a new organization focused on advocacy in and for the community radio and television sectors, particularly with respect to access and equity for marginalized communities.

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It is easy to fall into assuming that something which is positioned as somehow outside the mainstream — an organization, a project, a political tendency, a media outlet, or whatever — is therefore automatically different from and better than the dominant default in all respects. Of course those of us who have been involved for any length of time in efforts labelled “grassroots” or “community” or “progressive” or “radical” in whatever sphere know that such spaces are best understood as opportunities to push against the harms and marginalizations that are woven through our social world and as works in progress, not as final victories already won.

Laith Marouf is staff with CMAC and Kristiana Clemens as the organization’s president. They and the other people involved in CMAC all have long-term experience working in grassroots broadcast media — predominantly in the community radio sector, but some relevant to the community television sector as well — both in a range of local stations and in national organizations that represent these sectors. Marouf and Clemens are deeply committed to community media, but their experience has shown that racism, settler colonialism, misogyny, homophobia, and other axes of oppression that shape the broader society are also at work in most community media spaces and organizations. One manifestation of this is that while community radio stations in the larger urban centres in Canada often make space on-air for Indigenous, racialized, ethnic, and linguistic minorities, that is seldom reflected in the staff or governing boards of even these stations, while stations in smaller centres often significantly underrepresent marginalized communities at every level. As a consequence, the national organizations are similarly unrepresentative. As well, when Marouf, Clemens, and others have, in the past, pushed stations and national sectoral groups to take issues of equity and access seriuosly, the response has often been hostility and resistance. And, finally, the federal regulatory framework that governs broadcast media as a whole is implemented such that it, too, systematically furthers the marginalization of already-marginalized voices, stories, communities, and struggles.

The impetus for the founding of CMAC in 2015 was a desire to push for progress on issues of equity and access for marginalized communities in the community media sector, without having to navigate the constant resistance from within existing local and sectoral organizations. The group’s focus so far has been pushing for changes at the policy level around issues of access and equity with the federal regulatory body responsible for broadcast media, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC); offering support to Indigenous communities and to ethnic, racialized, and linguistic minority communities in navigating the liscencing process; and doing educational and capacity-building work related to community media with those communities.

Marouf and Clemens talk with me about the importance of challenging settler colonialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of marginalization in community media contexts; about the value of intervening in policy processes; and about CMAC’s work.

To learn more about the Community Media Advocacy Centre, click here.

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

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

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Radio: Settler solidarity against colonial urban development

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with William Felepchuk and Brian McDougall. They are members of Stop Windmill: Student and Labour Allies for Akikodjiwan, a group that aims to bring predominantly non-Indigenous people together in support of Algonquin demands that a sacred site in the Ottawa river be protected from a proposed condominium development and returned to Algonquin ownership and stewardship.

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The Chaudiere Falls and its environs, also sometimes called Akikodjiwan in the Algonquin language, has long been a sacred place and an important place of gathering and ceremony for the Algonquin people. It sits in what we know today as the Ottawa River, just a couple of kilometers west of Parliament Hill. Until relatively recently, a significant proportion of the relevant territory was used by a lumber company for industrial purposes. However, it had long been widely understood that once this company’s facility closed, the land would be used to realize a vision brought forward over many years by respected Algonquin elder William Commanda and by one of Canada’s most famous architects, Douglas Cardinal, that would have turned ownership and stewardship of the land back to the Algonquin Nation and used it to create a space of reconciliation and healing. However, a couple of years before the Harper Conservatives lost federal power, things changed rather abruptly. Much of the land was turned over to a private developer called Windmill Developments, who intend to build condos on the site.

In 2015, nine out of ten Algonquin chiefs declared their opposition to this commercial development on sacred land. To complement the ongoing organizing against the project by Algonquin people themselves, the chiefs called for non-Algonquin people to act in support of their demands. In response, Stop Windmill was founded in October 2015. The group aims not just to bring individual activists together but to draw organizations and institutions into a broad coalition. Despite efforts by the developer to confuse the issue by claiming to be particularly environmentally friendly and, most outrageously, by claiming that building condos on a sacred site is somehow an act of “reconciliation,” Stop Windmill has been very successful in drawing unions, student groups, and other predominantly non-Algonquin organizations in Ottawa into support of the demands from the nine Algonquin chiefs.

More recently, the group has begun to mobilize this broad local opposition to the project in more publically visible ways. The goal is to begin putting escalating pressure on the Liberal government, particularly through Liberal MPs in Ottawa-area ridings. This includes environment minister Catherine McKenna, who represents the riding in which the site is located. In this way, the group hopes to convince the Liberals that meeting the demands of the Algonquin chiefs is one way that the Trudeau government can begin putting some substance into its thus-far largely symbolic rhetoric of support for Indigenous peoples. And in the longer term, Felepchuk and McDougall hope that this organizing can be part of building a broad, robust, anti-colonial movement among non-Indigenous people in the Ottawa region. They speak with me about the Akikodjiwan site, about the development plans, and about the work of Stop Windmill to act in solidarity with the Algonquin demands to return this sacred place to Algonquin ownership and stewardship.

To learn more about Stop Windmill: Student and Labour Allies for Akikodjiwan, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Oilsands workers supporting renewable energy

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Adam Cormier and Lliam Hildebrand. They are co-founders of Iron and Earth, an organization of and for workers in the Alberta oilsands who are pushing for greater support for the development of renewable energy resources and for a sustainable energy future for Canada.

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Mainstream media outlets are not always known for their attention to complexity and nuance in the stories that they tell. Nor are they known for centering the voices of workers. It is not surprising, therefore, that for all the attention that media have given to the oilsands in Alberta in recent years, there has been relatively little recognition that robust government support for the transition to renewable energy sources is in fact in the interest of many oilsands workers. Don’t believe that? Listen to what workers themselves have to say.

Lliam Hildebrand and Adam Cormier are skilled tradespeople who have worked primarily in the oilsands and other extractive industries. Hildebrand is a boilermaker and Cormier is an electrician. Both have been concerned about the environment in a broad sense for many years, and both became actively focused on the dangers of climate change in ways similar to millions of other people in North America — Hildebrand through seeing Al Gore’s documentary film An Inconvenient Truth and Cormier through reading Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything. And like millions of other people in North America, they want both good jobs for themselves and a habitable, healthy world for their children. They also happen to know very well that these things are not mutually inconsistent — but only if we take action at all levels to jumpstart a just transition to renewable energy sources. An important piece of understanding how practical it really would be to make such a transition is recognizing that most jobs in the oilsands are in fact construction jobs, both for those in the trades and for labourers. Many of the skills that are required to build, maintain, and run oilsands facilities are very similar to those required to build, maintain, and run energy production facilities based in renewable technologies, from solar to geothermal to biofuels and beyond.

According to Hildebrand, he was on a job in an oilsands plant in early 2015, when oil prices were in free fall, and lunchroom conversation among many of the 600 workers — many of whom are fully aware that climate change is a serious problem — turned more actively than ever before to questions of alternatives, renewables, and the future of their work. Out of that experience, Hildebrand and a few others (soon including Cormier) started Iron and Earth. Though they are quite firm that they are not opposed to the oilsands, their main focus is on advocating for investment in renewable alternatives and on making sure that oilsands workers are equipped to make the transition to working with such alternatives. Their first major initiatives include developing a model program for training tradespeople to work in solar energy projects and consulting with oilsands workers to develop a Workers’ Climate Plan.

Cormier and Hildebrand talk with me about working in the oil and gas sector, about climate change, about the work of Iron and Earth, and about why they and many other oilsands workers are beginning to push for a just transition to a sustainable energy economy.

To learn more about the work of Iron and Earth, click here. To learn more about the Workers Climate Plan, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Radicalizing body positivity politics

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Tameera Mohamed. Last year, she and some of her friends became frustrated with the narrow and limited scope of mainstream (including mainstream feminist) politics focused on the body. In response, they founded the collective Our Resilient Bodies to bring a radical, intersectional, feminist lens to bear and to expand the range of conversations and actions happening related to body positivity (broadly understood) in the Halifax community.

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“Body positivity” is, if not exactly a movement, then an idea and a politics rooted in an important feminist insight but with reach far beyond. The idea that putting people down because their body doesn’t meet a certain ideal resonates with a lot of different kinds of experiences, and not only is it an initial point of political engagement for many young feminists, but it has become a piece of commonsense among many otherwise apolitical people and even a theme in more than a few corporate advertising campaigns.

While in some ways this is an encouraging sign of ongoing feminist capacity to nudge the broader culture in positive directions, the problem is that both the more broadly distributed version of body positivity and indeed the most common feminist understandings of it tend to focus on a relatively narrow and privileged range of bodies and issues — white cisgender straight women whose bodies deviate from the dominant ideal, but not too much, and solutions organized around individualized notions of self-love and self-care.

Tameera Mohamed is a 22 year-old cisgender queer woman of colour who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She and the other people in Our Resilient Bodies certainly agree that the ways that certain bodies get shamed or marginalized or denigrated or excluded can be a powerful starting point for people to engage politically with their own experiences and with the world. But they see so much more to such politics than is conventionally allowed — they see radical, anti-racist, queer-and-trans, intersectional potential, and they’re determined to act on that.

Their main path to action has been collective educational tools: They began with an intense, week-long series of workshops late last year, along with a zine. They got a great response and at that point decided to become an ongoing collective. Since then, they’ve put on many more events and workshops on an wide range of body-related themes. The events have included topics like decolonizing desireability, fatphobia, mainstream Pride celebrations and colonialism, menstruation, a number on various aspects of eating disorders, femme-phobia in queer communities, life drawing of marginalized bodies, a queer feminist porn screening, and lots more. They aim to create spaces where people can talk about their experiences, develop critical insights and more radical and nuanced politics, and build supportive community with those who have both similar and different experiences of marginalization. They want to ask, “How do racism, colorism, ableism, cissexism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism inform our understandings of beauty, desirability, and our lived experiences within our own bodies?” One of their major focuses in coming months will be extending their reach and doing outreach and events in various parts of rural Nova Scotia. I speak with Mohamed about Our Resilient Bodies, about their work so far, and about bringing a radical, intersectional, anti-oppressive lens to body positivity.

To learn more about Our Resilient Bodies, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Challenging the marginalization of African refugees

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kimbra Yohannes and Daniel Tseghay. They are members of We Welcome African Refugees, a new organization working to challenge the marginalization of refugees from African countries in public conversation and public policy in Canada, and to implement a new model of community organizing.

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In the last year, the issues of refugees have been part of the dominant public conversation in Canada like never before. Everyone has heard at least some version of the the situation in Syria and the experiences of those who have fled, and despite a certain amount of racism and resistance, efforts to modestly increase and accelerate the admission of Syrian refugees to Canada have been quite broadly embraced by many Canadians.

Over this time, though, Yohannes, Tseghay, and many other people who are part of communities in Canada with roots in various African countries, have noticed something odd about both the public conversation and about the measures enacted by the Canadian government to respond to the refugee crisis. Yohannes and Tseghay are emphatically supportive of Syrian refugees, and in fact argue that Canada should be admitting many, many more Syrians and giving them much better support when they arrive. But they wonder why Africans, who comprise a significant part of global flows of refugees, are so absent from public attention, and at times even get scant attention within some migrant justice contexts. Furthermore, they note that Africans have been pointedly excluded from the modest government efforts to increase and ease admissions to Canada, and that even the government processing of requests for private sponsorships of African refugees remains uncertain and often extremely slow. This exclusion is happening despite the fact that Canada and other Western countries are often very complicit in the circumstances in many African countries that people are fleeing. Both Yohannes and Tseghay are Eritrean, for instance, and Canadian mining companies are very much complicit in (that is, are profiting from) the repressive regime that upwards of 5000 Eritreans per month are risking their lives to escape. The ongoing marginalization faced by refugees from African countries is yet another expression of the anti-Black racism that causes such harm in Canada and globally.

We Welcome African Refugees aims to make African refugees part of the public conversation in Canada, and to push the responses of the Canadian public and the Canadian state to the global refugee crisis to include measures that centre African refugees. But that is not all the group is attempting to do: They are working to create a new organizing model that is rooted in the communities in question in robust grassroots ways. They are currently fundraising to hire part-time organizers in Vancouver, Toronto, and either Edmonton or Calgary, who will do the slow but vital work of connecting with and bringing together people from diverse African communities, who in turn will take leadership of the process and advance a set of priorities and actions that will truly address the needs their people face.

Yohannes and Tseghay speak with me about the experiences of refugees from Eritrea and other African countries, about the marginalization of African refugees within popular discourse and government policy in Canada, and about the new grassroots model that We Welcome African Refugees is using to challenge this marginalization.

To learn more about We Welcome African Refugees, check out their page on Facebook. To donate to their current fundraising campaign, go to their page on GoFundMe.

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

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

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