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 new grassroots student organization emerging from solidarity with striking faculty

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh interviews James Fauvelle and Mohammad Ali Aumeer. They are both students at community colleges in Ontario. During the five-week strike by college faculty in late 2017, they got involved in organizing student solidarity with the strikers. And from that work they and other students have founded a new grassroots organization that aims to mobilize students for equitable, accessible education and more demoratic and accountable campuses: Ontario Students United.

On October 16, 2017, the 12,000 members of the Ontario Public Service Employee’s Union (OPSEU) who work as faculty, librarians, and counsellors in the province’s 24 community colleges went out on strike. The key unresolved issues for striking faculty were the dramatic increase in precarious part-time work in the college system in recent decades and questions of academic freedom. Fully two-thirds of faculty at Ontario’s colleges are part-time contract workers who make considerably less money than full-time faculty and have little or no job security. The union was asking to bring the ratio of part-time to full-time up to 50:50 and to enhance job security measures for part-time faculty. And in terms of academic freedom, they wanted greater faculty involvement in academic decision-making and greater classroom autonomy, analogous to what is seen in the university system.

James Fauvelle is a student in the social service worker program at Centennial College in Toronto. Mohammad Ali Aumeer is a student in the community worker program at George Brown College, also in Toronto. Like a lot of other students, as it became clear that the strike would not be a short one, they were concerned. They were concerned about the disruption of their semester, of course, but they were concerned about a lot more than that.

It was pretty clear to them from the start that the issues that the faculty were striking over were tightly tied to improving the overall quality of education for students – that is, that precarious work and lack of academic freedom are not just bad for faculty, they are bad for students. Moreover, both James and Mohammad have had plenty of experience themselves with precarious work, and will likely face more when they graduate and seek employment in their fields, so they see fighting back against the growth of precarious work as important for all current and future workers. And to top off their list of concerns was the fact that most existing formal student organizations seemed unwilling to speak out in ways that reflected these understandings of the possibilities for and importance of solidarity between faculty and students in the fight to improve the college system in Ontario.

So James, Mohammad, and other students like them on a range of campuses started acting in solidarity with faculty. At the beginning, they did this as individuals. They would keep their eyes open for rallies organized by the faculty on their campuses, and then would attend them. They would participate in online conversations and speak in support of the union’s demands and of faculty/student solidarity.

As the strike continued, they began to find each other online, message each other, compare notes about their respective campuses. A couple of weeks into the strike, there was a big rally outside the provincial legislature at Queen’s Park that drew people from across the province, and that was where many of the students from different colleges first connected in person. A couple of weeks after that, they organized the first major student-led rally in solidarity with faculty. And over the course of this, they were consistently and pleasantly surprised by the level of support they found among their fellow students for the faculty, and for the idea that Ontario’s colleges need some major changes.

Five weeks in, after faculty voted overwhelmingly to reject an offer from the College Employer Council, Ontario’s Liberal government legislated the faculty back to work and sent the outstanding issues to binding arbitration. The strike was over.

Mohammad, James, and the other students who had come together during the strike decided that they needed to keep their momentum building. So they founded Ontario Students United as a progressive student voice at Ontario colleges. They are seeking greater accountability and democracy in colleges, with a greater role for both students and faculty in decision-making, and are committed to fighting in grassroots ways for accessible, equitable, high-quality education. They held a day of action in December, with participation at five or six colleges. They are engaged in a speaking tour in January, hoping to catalyze the formation of Ontario Students United chapters at even more colleges, and to build towards the province-wide day of action called by the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario for February 6.

Image: Modified from an image used with the permission of Ontario Students United.

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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 — Tenant organizing in Canada’s most expensive city

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh interviews Kell Gerlings and Neil Vokey about the work of the Vancouver Tenants Union. Kell is an organizer with an anti-poverty group called Raise the Rates and is a member of the steering committee of the Vancouver Tenants Union, while Neil is an independent filmmaker and one of the founding members of the group. They talk about the harsh realities facing tenants in Vancouver and about what the tenants union is doing to fight back.

It’s true in lots of places: Housing is getting more and more expensive, and finding a place that is decent and affordable, and where the landlord isn’t awful, is getting harder and harder. Yet as true as this is in communities from coast to coast, nowhere are tenants facing a tighter squeeze than in the cities of Toronto and – of particular relevance to this episode – Vancouver.

Last spring, a broad cross-section of activists and organizers in Vancouver started talking about what they could do about this. They wanted to find ways to bridge the gap between the amazing organizing by low-income people happening in the city’s Downtown East Side with grassroots efforts in the rest of the city. They wanted to find ways to help tenants fight back in their day-to-day struggles around repairs, discrimination, bed bugs, rent increases, evictions, and so on. And they wanted to find a way to build political power among tenants across Vancouver that was strong enough that the city administration and the provincial government would have to stop ignoring them, and begin taking action in the form of immediate reforms to make conditions more liveable for tenants and in the form of long-term investments in social housing that would start to get at the roots of the housing crisis.

After many conversations among those who first came together, and with people involved in similar organizing in other cities across the continent, they decided that the best organizational model for Vancouver would be a tenants union.

Today’s guests are very clear that they see the roots of today’s housing crisis in the forced dislocation of Indigenous peoples from their homelands in what is now called British Columbia and across Turtle Island, in the commodification of land and housing that puts profits before people, and in the histories of gentrification and displacement of poor, working-class, and racialized communities in Vancouver and in cities across the continent.

Even though they see the Vancouver Tenants Union’s work as being very much in its early stages, and clearly identify that they are still learning a great deal even as they do that work, the union has already accomplished a lot. They have already been part of a couple of major collective fights by tenants at the level of specific buildings. They have been very involved in working with individual tenants, both through various kinds of tenant education work to help people know what their rights are and how to get their rights enforced, and also through working with individuals facing eviction or other sorts of conflict with landlords. They have estalished a high enough profile in the community, in fact, that they regularly receive phone calls and emails from tenants looking for support, and between last May and the end of 2017, they have signed up over 800 members.

As well, they have also been very carefully guiding the group through a process to figure out those kinds of boring but vital details that are necessary to establish the union as a formal organization. In November, they had a founding AGM at which they passed a constitution and by-laws that had been developed collectively over the course of the previous six months, and they also hosted workshops by tenant organizers from across North America to build capacity and skills in the group.

What exactly the organization will look like on the ground in another year will depend on what the members want moving forward, but Kell and Neil are clear that their vision includes building the group’s capacity to engage in more bread-and-butter fights at the level of individual buildings, mobilizing the membership to put pressure on city hall and on the provincial legislature to enact reforms, and ultimately laying the groundwork for the more audacious kinds of direct action interventions that have been so powerful for tenants in other jursidictions in recent years, whether that is the major rent strike won by tenants in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto in 2017, or the use of direct action to block evictions in various cities in the United States.

Image: Modified from an image used with permission of the Vancouver Tenants 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 — Decolonizing the arts in Canada

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh interviews Clayton Windatt. He is, in his own words, a “Metis non-status Indian,” and he lives in Sturgeon Falls in northern Ontario. He is the executive director of an organization called the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (ACC). Their members are Indigenous curators and artists – generally those whose focus is contemporary art – from across Canada, and to an extent in the United States, and their mandate is both to support Indigenous curators and artists and to advocate for decolonial change within institutions and in the broader policy environment in the arts sector.

One of the many ways that settler colonialism has shaped life on this continent is by shaping how we are able to see and understand the world. Settler institutions have historically denied Indigenous people the power to push mainstream stories, images, art, and cultural production more broadly to reflect Indigenous understandings of themselves and of the world, while simultaneously working very hard to deny Indigenous people the space for making and circulating their own stories, images, art, and so on. This power over knowledge and narrative is part of how settler colonialism justifies and sustains itself, and challenging that power is crucial to broader efforts seeking decolonization. One way to think of the work of the ACC, therefore, is that it helps to create space for art created and curated by Indigenous people and therefore for the understandings of the world that such art carries.

In the dominant usage, curators are people who manage or oversee a collection or exhibition of art, often in the context of a museum or a gallery. Clayton understands the term more loosely, to also include people who initiate and facilitate a wide range of artistic and cultural endeavours, including those that are very community-based.

The ACC was founded in 2005 in response to a longstanding recognition that there are many mainstream institutions in Canada that have large collections of Indigenous artifacts and art, but that have no Indigenous people on their governing bodies, no Indigenous staff, and inadequate policies and practices in place to ensure that they work with those collections in ways that respect the protocols of the nation on whose land they sit and that reflect Indigenous understandings of the artifacts and art in question.

The collective was originally an entirely volunteer enterprise, but currently has three staff people. There are a number of different facet to their work. They facilitate community processes within Indigenous arts contexts. They have a training program for emerging Indigenous curators. They do one-on-one work with mainstream arts institutions – sometimes at the request of those institutions, sometimes in response to an incident or crisis. Their focus is pushing those institutions to involve more Indigenous people in governance or as staff, to build respectful relationships with local Indigenous communities, and to develop appropriate policies around curating Indigenous art. And they also intervene in the broader arts policy context in the country, both behind the scenes as part of consultative processes and in more public ways, to build space for Indigenous artists and curators, and thereby for Indigenous ways of seeing and knowing and representing the world.

Image: Used with permission of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective.

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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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REBROADCAST: Unsettling Canada 150 on Parliament Hill

This week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio ends the year with an episode originally broadcast in July 2017. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at the bold Reoccupation that went to the very heart of the Canadian settler colonial project — Parliament Hill itself — and used ceremony to challenge and unsettle Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Freddy Stoneypoint, Summer-Harmony Twenish, Trycia Bazinet, Hamda Deria, and Elsa Hoover were among the organizers of and participants in the Reoccupation ceremony, and they talk about their experiences on the Hill and their understanding of the ongoing work of unsettling Canada.

The Canadian state spent half a billion dollars to fixate the attention of Canadians on various forms of celebration and self-congratulation to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Yet in the lead-up and on Canada Day itself there were plenty of people in grassroots contexts across the country speaking back to this forgetful feel-good nationalism and offering instead much more critical but also much more grounded accounts of the actual past and present of the northern half of Turtle Island. These activities took a variety of forms, from quiet reflection to vocal denunciation, and they came from a variety of political places, most importantly from a range of Indigenous stances calling out the unrelenting and ongoing settler colonial violence that is the basis for not just Canada 150 but for Canada itself, and asserting the ongoing and resurgent reality of Indigenous dignity and Indigenous nationhood in the face of it. This included a call by Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, issued in honour of the late Arthur Manuel, for a National Day of Action to Unsettle 150 “in support of Indigenous self-determination over land, territories, and resources.”

Perhaps the most visible action taken to answer that call was the Reoccupation ceremony that occurred on Parliament Hill. The Reoccupation was a collaboration between the Bawating Water Protectors from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and a collective of youth based in Ottawa (who were supported by two Cree elders). In the face of opposition from police and security forces as well as hostility from many ordinary settler Canadians, the ceremony succeeded in holding space and engaging in ceremony on the Hill from June 28th through Canada Day itself. Even at the heart of nationalist celebration, Indigenous lives and voices and resistance asserted their ongoing presence and their jurisdiction over the land.

Though they did not get the support they had hoped for from certain people with positions in academic and other institutions before they took action, it was countless gifts of grassroots resources and support that made it possible for them to stay on the Hill. Despite minimal resources, it was an incredibly successful action. In fact, they see this approach as a model that can be taken up in community contexts across country — indeed, they hope their actions inspire others to do exactly that. In this model, the fact that it is not protest but ceremony is absolutely central, though it is ceremony combined with what you might describe as a direct action ethic. They see this kind of ceremonial intervention as being particularly promising as a way of reclaiming and asserting Indigenous jursidiction over urban spaces.

This interview was done on July 2nd, the day after the Reoccupation ended, by Greg Macdougall — a grassroots media-maker and community organizer in Ottawa who has also written about the Reoccupation — and then edited, narrated, and produced by Talking Radical’s Scott Neigh. The participants in the interview include four of the members of the Ottawa-based side of the core organizing collective of the Reoccupation — so, not the folks from Sault Ste. Marie. Freddy Stoneypoint is an Ojibwe youth from Sagamok Anishinawbek First Nation. Summer-Harmony Twenish is an Algonquin Anishabekwe from Kitigan Zibi First Nation. Trycia Bazinet is a white settler woman from northern Quebec. And Hamda Deria is a Somali-Canadian Muslim woman. All four of them are students at Carleton University in Ottawa. Also participating in the interview is Elsa Hoover, an Anishnaabe woman who lives in New York and is active with New York City Stands with Standing Rock — she was not a core organizer but was an active participant in the Reoccupation.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

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

The image modified for use in this post was taken by Susie Shapiro and is used with permission.

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Radio — Challenging injustice in Canada’s no-fly list

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh interviews Karen Ahmed and Zamir Khan. Each of them has a child whose name is identical to a name that appears on Canada’s no-fly list, and who therefore face hassles and stigmatizing scrutiny every time they fly. Karen and Zamir are also core members of the group No Fly List Kids, which is pushing the government to make the changes necessary to stop the no-fly list system from unjustly interfering in so many lives.

Imagine that you have a new baby. Imagine you are flying to another part of the country when he is six weeks old so he can meet his grandparents. You buy your tickets, and at the appropriate juncture you try to check-in for your flight online. You get a message saying you can’t, so you have to check in at the desk, in person. It takes awhile, and the rationale they give for why you have to do so doesn’t really make much sense, but you don’t think much of it. Except every time you fly with your son over the next year and a half, there is a different and equally dubious reason given for why you haven’t been allowed to check-in online. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is no accident, but it is only when an airline employee lets slip that your son – your eighteen month-old son – is flagged by the Government of Canada’s no-fly list that it becomes clear why you have unexpected problems every time you travel. This is what happened to Zamir Khan and his family.

Or imagine that you have a teenage son. You were vaguely aware of having additional hassles at the airport every time you travel with him, but you only realize how serious things are when you are at the end of a family trip to India, ready to board the plane home to Canada, and the airline tells you that you will not be permitted to do so. After several panicked hours you are eventually able to clarify the situation and begin the trip back to your jobs and lives in Canada, but it’s a sign that this could easily up-end your lives without warning in the future. You, too, eventually find out that your son’s name is on the no-fly list, and that any time he travels, he could face such arbitrary impediments. This is what happened to Karen Ahmed and her family.

The no-fly list has been around since shortly after 9/11. It is meant as a security measure, but few countries outside of the US and Canada have such a thing, and it has long been a focus of skepticism and concern for many. Exactly how names are added to that list, and on what basis, is shrouded in secrecy, and not everyone is satisfied with the idea that we should just trust the process. This is, after all, in the context of significant evidence of the Canadian national security state targeting Muslim individuals and Muslim communities in multiple ways – as documented, for instance, by activist writers like Matthew Behrens and scholars like Sherene Razack, among others. And it is also in the context of this month’s official state apology to victims of the anti-LGBTQ purge campaigns conducted in earlier decades by the federal government, which show the long history of the national security apparatus in Canada causing harm to marginalized groups under secretive security rationales that do not hold up to rigorous, justice-based scrutiny.

The specific problem that the group No Fly List Kids has come together to address is that when a name is added to the no-fly list, the list then targets everyone who shares that name. Originally, many parents of children affected by this problem thought they were the only ones, and it was only when one case hit the media that they began to realize how widespread the problem is and to find each other. Parents of kids whose names appear on the list – certainly some of whom are Muslim, but who are from many different backgrounds – began talking on the phone, getting to know each other, comparing notes. Soon enough they had a website and Facebook group, and they are now a loose but sizeable network, with a core of families that have gone public, but many more who have chosen not to do so. And the network now includes not only families of children who are targeted, but also adults who are targeted by the list as well.

They are demanding a change in the no-fly list system that would allow those who are targeted to go through a one-time vetting to get a unique identifying number that would allow airlines and border officials to quickly and easily identify them as being allowed to fly. The US has had such a system for years. As well, they think other changes to how the no-fly list works – for instance, using more than just a name to match individuals – could help avoid the broad targeting of people in the first place.

The group started off with the families talking to their own MPs. Gradually, they enlisted their extended families and personal networks to do likewise. They are now at the point where they have had a petition that has been widely circulated and they have formal letters of support from many, many Members of Parliament, including a lot of members of the governing Liberal Party. Part of the frustration that they face is that almost all of the politicians and officials they talk to about the issue are sympathetic at an individual level, but there are still no signs of any action whatsoever from the federal government. They have been willing to work with the government on the issue, but their patience is wearing thin, and if there is once again no funding to start solving the problem in the next federal budget, they may begin actively considering other options, including launching a lawsuit.

Image: The image modified for use in this post was taken by Can Pac Swire and is used under the Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license from Creative Commons.

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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 social movement priorities into party politics

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh interviews Samantha (who withheld her surname) from the organization Courage. In recent years, the combining of movement and party politics have had a profound impact on the electoral landscapes in the US and the UK, and Courage is working to similarly push mainstream party politics to the left in Canada.

Samantha is a woman of colour of Azorean and Filipino background. She comes from an activist family. Much of her own political work has revolved around the intersection of race and gender. She has worked with queer and trans youth living in poverty, and she is very involved in work related to racial equity in the workplace, particularly in the tech sector. She is an active member of Couarge, and she speaks about the organization, its work, and why it gives her hope in these politically depressing times.

In social movements and communities-in-struggle, there is often an ongoing debate about how to relate to political parties, which party or parties to relate to, and in fact whether to put energy into relating to political parties at all. And among left-leaning people involved in nominally social democratic political parties that have been swept to the political centre by the decades-long tidal swell that goes under the banner of “neoliberalism,” there is another debate, this one about how to move their parties back to the left.

These debates often feature a wide range of passionately held and wildly diverging opinions, and it seems unlikely that either will reach a consensus in the forseeable future. However, there is one strand of politics that has grown substantially in popularity in recent years that attempts to answer both questions at once. In the United States and the United Kingdom in the last few years, initiatives that combine movement-building with party politics have managed to introduce anti-neoliberal grassroots demands into electoral politics in a way that has not been true in decades, and have pushed the parties in question a little and quite a bit to the left, respectively.

In Canada, the NDP has seen no comparable movement-ish insurgency pushing it leftwards. Of course there is a history of such efforts here, just as there are in other countries – the Waffle in the 1970s, the New Politics Initiative in the early 2000s, various ongoing projects by socialist grouplets of various stripes – but even in the context of this past year’s leadership contest in the federal party, nothing coalesced that was comparable to Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the US or Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in the UK.

Just because it hasn’t reached a critical mass yet, though, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people working on it. Courage is an independent political organization comprised mostly of people whose primary political identification is with grassroots work of one kind or another who are also mostly either current or former members of the NDP. The group originally formed to try and push the Leap Manifesto within the federal NDP. It participated in the organizing that defeated Tom Mulcair’s effort in 2016 to retain the party leadership. And since then they have been working on building their organization, formulating policy, and figuring out an approach to working both inside and outside the party, in relation with the movements in which many Courage members are active participants, to bring movement priorities around economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, and solidarity with Indigenous struggles – all understood in ways that go beyond the striaghtjacket of neoliberalism – into the NDP and therefore onto the mainstream political map. They envision pulling the NDP away from the centre and in a more genuinely progressive direction.

Image: Modified from an image used with permission of Courage.

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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 a student movement to end campus sexual violence

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh interviews Jade Cooligan Pang. She is an undergraduate student taking Political Science and Human Rights at Carleton University in Ottawa, and she is one of the central organizers of Our Turn, a new national student-based initiative to work against sexual violence on college and university campuses.

There has been no shortage, in recent years, of stories from post-secondary institutions across the continent that make it clear to anyone willing to listen that sexual violence is a major problem on campuses. These stories make equally clear that a lot of universities do a pretty rotten job of preventing sexual violence and of responding to it when it happens. Students on a number of different Canadian campuses recgonized this problem and formed Our Turn to take action themselves.

Back in 2015, with the passage of Bill 132 by the Ontario government, universities and colleges in the province were mandated for the first time to develop standalone policies dealing with sexual violence, and were required to consult with students as they did so. Jade was one of the people involved in drafting the campus Human Rights Society’s comments on Carleton University’s draft policy. Some of their suggestions were adopted by the university, but they still had some significant concerns with the final version of the policy. When they approached the university administration to work on further strengthening it, they were informed that there were no immediate plans to re-open it.

So at first, their only reason for researching the sexual violence policies at other institutions in Ontario and then across Canada was to strengthen their arguments while putting pressure on their own administration. Pretty soon, though, they realized that there were problems common to the sexual violence policies of many different colleges and universities, and they decided to connect with other students on campuses across the country to push post-secondary institutions to do better.

The national Our Turn committee reviewed the policies from more than 60 schools. They developed standards for what an ideal sexual violence policy would contain. Then they reached out to student unions and offered them the opportunity to collaborate in doing an evaluation of the sexual violence policies at their respective institutions using Our Turn’s framework. A total of 14 student unions participated, and Our Turn published a report card and action plan in October.

The grades in the report card ranged from Toronto’s Ryerson University, which was given an A-, to half a dozen schools which scored in the D range. The students found numerous problems common to many of the institutions. For instance, some policies do not adequately define consent. Some universities in provinces that do not mandate that post-secondary institutions have a standalone sexual violence policy deal with sexual violence using much the same process as they would to deal with, say, plagiarism, or via some other mechanism that is simply not adequate to deal with the serious realities of sexual assault. Some do not cover all situations within campus life where sexual violence can be an issue. Some do not do enough to centre the safety and wellbeing of survivors in the complaint process they create. Some do not go far enough in accommodating the needs of survivors in terms of academics or student housing. Some do not do enough to recognize the ways in which other aspects of identity intersect with gender to shape experiences around sexual violence. Some allow senior administrators the discretion to unilaterally override the process. Many do not go far enough in requiring that students be taught about things like consent and bystander intervention. And these are just a few of the problems they discovered.

As part of the Our Turn action plan, the student unions that signed on each agreed to create a local Our Turn committee on their campus that will do work around prevention, support, and advocacy related to sexual violence. This will include things like running their own trainings related to bystander intervention to prevent sexual assault, passing a motion acknowledging that rape culture exists on campus and commtting student unions to working towards consent culture, and engaging in advocacy on the issue on their campus, in their community, and with their provincial government. And the national Our Turn committee is continuing to work to get other student unions to sign onto the action plan, and intends to continue pressuring provincial governments to strengthen their requirements and their oversight for university and college sexual violence policies.

Image: The image modified for use in this post is used with the permission of Our Turn.

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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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