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 — The history of radical HIV/AIDS organizing in Canada

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Alexis Shotwell and Gary Kinsman. They are involved in the AIDS Activist History Project, an initiative that is recovering the stories of the radical organizing that happened in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s in response to the AIDS crisis.

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One of today’s guests, Gary Kinsman, has written about how we are constantly subjected to systematic social forces that want us to forget the centrality of past struggles by movements and communities to shaping the world of today — “the social organization of forgetting,” he calls it. This constant erasure of collective struggle must be tackled head on with what he calls “the resistance of remembering,” a term that points to a range of kinds of efforts to recover that history of struggle, that can in turn feed into our collective efforts to struggle for justice and liberation today.

One movement that did crucial work in decades past but that is largely forgotten now was the collective struggle that resulted when governmental and medical authorities refused to take the actions so urgently needed by those who were infected and at risk in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. To the extent that this struggle is remembered, it is often through the lens of the absolutely crucial work done by the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, or ACT UP, in New York City. Yet as crucial as the organizing in New York was, this was a struggle that happened in important ways in cities big and small across North America, including across Canada.

Shotwell and Kinsman are scholars as well as activists who have been involved in queer, anti-capitalist, and other struggles. The idea to do a major research project on histories of AIDS-related organizing in the Canadian context was Shotwell’s. She broached the idea with Kinsman, who was himself active in the AIDS movement in that era, and the AIDS Activist History Project was born. In the last few years, they have done oral history interviews with many activists who were involved in the AIDS movement in the 1980s and 1990s in cities across the country, and they have collected important archival documents and other materials as well. Their goal is not to produce the usual sort of output that you might expect from an academic research project — a definitive scholarly book, for instance — but rather to use a range of online and in-person approaches to collectively engage in that “resistance of remembering” with people not just within but far beyond the academy.

Shotwell and Kinsman speak with me about the AIDS Activist History Project, about the important work done by the AIDS movement in the Canadian context, and about what we can learn from this important piece of history to inform the many struggles that we face today.

To learn more about the AIDS Activist History Project, 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 — Fighting poverty and more in northwest Toronto

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Dwight Gordon. He is a member of Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, a group based in northwest Toronto that is active on anti-poverty issues and much more.

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In Toronto, the neighbourhood in the city’s northwest around the intersection of Jane Street and Finch Avenue has what might be described as a “bad reputation.” While there has been the occasional instance of high profile crime in the area over the decades, in fact, as today’s guest argues, it is really just a regular neighbourhood with regular people going about their lives. However, it is a neighbourhood where lots of Black people live and where there is lots of poverty — so the “bad reputation” the community has among the city’s more well-to-do residents is really more about old fashioned scorn for poor people and about anti-Black racism.

Dwight Gordon is a member of Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, an active group comprised of a diverse cross-section of residents of the Jane and Finch community. Founded in 2008 after a local rally on the International Day for the Elimination of Poverty, they currently meet twice a month, formerly in the local community health centre and now in a college’s space in a mall at the Jane/Finch intersection.

The name of the group includes the word “poverty,”and indeed that is one important element of their focus. But perhaps what is most striking about the group is the way that it functions as a vibrant, multi-issue hub, allowing active residents of the neighbourhood to connect with a wide range of campaigns, initiatives and struggles. They are involved in issues spanning everything from social assistance, minimum wage, transit, racism, to healthy food and the tar sands pipeline that runs nearby.

Their actions include street corner protests in the neighbourhood, speaking on panels, flyering, participation as a group in larger actions in Toronto’s downtown, meeting with officials, getting petitions signed and more. Gordon speaks with me about the community, about Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and about the many issues in which the group and its members are involved.

To learn more about Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, 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 — Using film to challenge the dubious economics of tar sands and fracking

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with producer and director David Lavallee about his new documentary film, To the Ends of the Earth, which explores the impacts of unconventional fossil fuels.

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It is easy to overestimate the extent to which circulating information can, in and of itself, create social change — collective material interventions by movements of whatever sort, from the meekest of petitions to the most militant of direct actions, is invariably necessary to push change forward, and it takes more than “did you know…” to catalyze such things. But even so, even if change is not driven by information on its own, nonetheless the circulation of knowledge and stories is still one key element within the overall context of how movements happen.

David Lavallee divides his life into two parts: before he saw the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and after. He had been working as a hiking guide in the Rockies, but he knew then that he needed to start doing his bit to fight climate change. And given the profound impact it had on him, he decided — despite never having done anything of the sort before — that “his bit” would take the form of filmmaking.

To the Ends of the Earth is Lavallee’s second film. It deals with the increasing investment in and dependence on what the industry describes as “unconventional” sources of fossil fuels, but that he describes as “extreme energy.” That means things like the tar sands, fracking, and oil shale. What these diverse source have in common is that they require far larger energy inputs than conventional oil for the same energy output. In the film, Lavallee talks to people living with the impacts of these highly destructive forms of resource extraction, to activists who are mobilizing against them, as well as to world-renowned energy economists. Folks in that last category argue that along with extreme energy’s appalling environmental impact, the energy inputs required to produce extreme energy make it unsustainable even in purely economic terms — that the amount of return per unit of energy invested in the sources that are increasingly coming to dominate our supply is simply not sufficient to sustain industrialized society as we understand it.

Lavallee talks about his filmmaking process, about the challenges and opportunities offered by filmmaking as a medium for addressing complex social issues, and about the threat posed by extreme energy sources like the tar sands and fracking. We spoke while he was in Toronto for the Canadian festival premier screening of To the Ends of the Earth at the Planet in Focus Film Festival.

To learn more about To the Ends of the Earth or to find out how to organize a screening in your community, 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 — Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Helen Hudson and Sara Falconer. They are members of the collective that produces the Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar. The interview also includes supplmental audio material from Herman Bell, a former member of the Black Panther Party, a currently incarcerated political prisoner, and also a member of the Certain Days collective.

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The Certain Days calendar is a unique political collaboration that has been going on for at least a decade and a half. The project began in part because of a quirk of geography. A number of the key prisons in New York State happen to be significantly closer to Montreal than they are to New York City. This made it practical, years ago, for a handful of radical folks in Montreal who were engaged in activism and organizing on a range of issues to develop relationships of support and solidarity with a number of the long-term political prisoners being held in those prisons. At a certain point, one of these prisoners — Herman Bell — suggested that a way for all of them, both those in prison and those on the outside, to collaborate on a shared political project would be to produce a calendar. Everyone else thought this was a great idea, and Certain Days was born.

On one level, the calendar is a conventional wall calendar — the sort of object you can use to keep track of your dentist appointment and that parent/teacher interview you have next week. Yet along with allowing you to track the days, each month also incoporates a full-colour image above, and a short article before or after. Many of these images and articles are produced by current or former political prisoners, and all of them are connected in one way or another to important social justice issues. The images and articles reflect the theme of that year’s calendar, which in 2017 is “sustaining movements.” As well, along with the sort of marking of public holidays and the like that you would find in most calendars, this one also notes many little-known but important dates from histories of struggle for justice and liberation.

In addition to being a calendar, therefore, it is a visually striking and densely informative publication that works to raise awareness about a range of social jusitce issues, certainly including but going far beyond issues of political prisoners and prisoner justice. And the sale of it works in a number of different ways as a fundraiser for groups engaged on the ground in activism and organizing of various sorts.

Hudson and Falconer are two of the current members of the calendar collective on the outside, and the members who are currently in prison include Bell, David Gilbert and Robert Seth Hayes. Hudson and Falconer talk with me about political prisoners and prisoner justice issues, about the nuts and bolts of making the calendar each year, and about all of the great stuff that can be found in the 2017 edition. Also included in the episode is a short clip of Bell setting some of the historical context for political prisoners in the United States and for the rise of mass incarceration, as part of a larger statement from October 2016 for The Freedom Archives to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party.

To learn more about the Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar or to find out how to get a copy of the 2017 edition, 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 — LGBTQ+ organizing against racism and pinkwashing in Nova Scotia

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Ardath Whynacht and Dee Morse. Both are on the board of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP), the only province-wide group fighting for queer and trans rights in Nova Scotia.

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They talk about fighting marginalization within queer, trans, and two-spirit communities, and about their recent support for efforts to oppose pinkwashing in the context of Halifax Pride.

In contrast with the disdain of yesteryear, today it is not uncommon for mainstream politicians, corporations, organizations and even nation-states to go out of their way to associate themselves with LGBTQ+ communities. For many, this serves as both a means to market themselves to those communities and as a way to establish a certain kind of progressive cachet to external observers.

Which may sound harmless, or even positive, but often it is far from it. Far too often, the people and institutions that are being symbollically supportive of queer, trans, and two-spirit people are simultaneously doing few or none of the things that are well within their power that might substantively improve the lives of those very same people. Sometimes, they even use such symbollic gestures of support as a way to distract from the substantive harm they are doing to queer and trans people and/or to other marginalized people. “Pinkwashing,” it is sometimes called.

So, for instance, there are places where police make a show of being supportive of LGBTQ Pride events in a way that makes them look progressive despite their refusal to meaningfully address their enactment of systemic violence against Black and Indigenous people (including Black and Indigenous people who are queer, trans, or two-spirit). Or you might see a politician who marches in a Pride parade and says generally positive things about LGBTQ people but who cuts welfare, and who is therefore benefiting from that association with the community while doing harm to those queer and trans people who depend on social assistance.

In the last couple of years, NSRAP has been working to more thoroughly ground its work in the experiences and struggles of the most marginalized queer, trans, and two-spirit people — that is, those who fall outside the white, middle-class, cisgender and otherwise normative default that is the centre of gay and lesbian politics in some other contexts. This has led to activity in a number of areas, but lately the most contentious and visible component has been organizing around the question of pinkwashing in the LGBTQ+ community.

Earlier this year, a group called Queer Arabs of Halifax drafted a letter seeking community support to oppose the presence of a table at the annual Halifax Pride community fair at which the Israeli state has in recent years distributed material promoting a queer-positive image of itself in ways that pinkwash the Israeli state’s ongoing brutal colonial occupation of Palestine and violence against Palestinians, both queer and straight.

NSRAP decided to support Queer Arabs of Halifax, in the context of encouraging broader discussion of both racism in queer communities and pinkwashing, while Halifax Pride refused to act on their concerns. A long series of activites, events, and conversations followed, including an escalating pattern of abuse faced online by activists who vocally took anti-racist and anti-pinkwashing positions.

This culminated in the recent Halifax Pride Annual General Meeting at which Queer Arabs of Halifax brought forward a motion opposing the participation of the Israeli state in queer community events, and NSRAP brought forward a motion to develop guidelines for what politicians, corporations, and anyone else from outside of the community would have to do in terms of demonstrating actual material support for queer and trans people if they want to take a public role in Pride. The meeting was stacked, however, by a conservative religious organization that supports the state of Israel, and they packed the meeting with mostly non-queer, non-trans people who voted down both motions. That is, policy for LGBTQ Pride in Halifax was being decided mostly by conservative straight people, and queer anti-racist and anti-pinkwashing activists (particularly Black, Indigenous and people of colour) faced intense hostility in what is supposedly their own community organization.

Whynacht and Morse talk with me about NSRAP’s work, about pinkwashing in general and the fight against it in Halifax in particular, and about how NSRAP hopes to move forward from here with its commitment to political work centred on practical wins for the most marginal queer, trans, and two-spirit people in Nova Scotia.

To learn more about the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, 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 — Building union power by getting rowdy on the shop floor

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Basia Sokal and Arlyn Doran.

They are letter carriers and activists in the Winnipeg local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), and they talk about how they mobilized with other rank-and-file workers over the last year to act up and speak out at the depot where they work, as their union engaged in a very tough round of negotiations with Canada Post at the national level.

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In 21st century North America, it’s very easy to develop a sense of unions — even if you regard them positively — as being at a bit of a remove from what actually happens on on a daily basis in workplaces.

There’s an extent to which this is an image defined by the enemies of unions, whether that is the perennial lie of “outside interference” told by employers whenever workers are acting together to stick up for themselves, or whether it is told by mainstream media that rarely has any interest in portraying the struggles of working people accurately or sympathetically.

But there’s also an extent to which the labour relations regime that developed after the Second World War and the forms taken and choices made by at least some major unions over the decades that have contributed to this image as well.

However solemnly and strategically they engage in collective bargaining, however enthusiastically they might take up workplace issues during the life of the contract and however willing they might be, when necessary, to invoke the last resort that is the collective withdrawal of their labour power — the combination of the labour relations framework and the orientation of many unions tends to focus on legal processes and on service-oriented ways of supporting their members.

These can, indeed, accomplish some useful things, and can bring certain kinds of improvements to the lives of workers. But they are not the only way to operate — some unions, in some places, continue to function at least partially on the premise that it is organizing by members on the work floor that must be the basis of whatever strength a union brings to improving conditions for workers.

Most Canadians who have heard about this year’s negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have likely done so via the national media — they have heard about the moves and counter-moves at the national level, the strong strike vote and the multiple moments where the employer almost locked out the workers, and the tentative agreement reached earlier this fall.

Those paying closer attention might have caught wind of the continued rule of Canada Post by Conservative appointees, the ambivalence of the new Liberal government to calls for a vigorous new commitment to public services, and the looming spectre of privatization that lurks in the background.

What even the keenest of observers were likely unable to detect is that whatever ability the union had to reach an acceptable tentative agreement was due not only to choices made nationally, but also to vibrant, boisterous, and sometimes disruptive workplace organizing by rank-and-file workers in some crucial work sites across the country — including the depot where Sokal and Doran both work. They speak with me about this inspiring example of workers exerting collective grassroots power in their workplace, including the nuts and bolts of making it happen and the vision of unionism it enacts.

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 — Grassroots Indigenous organizing against the Site C dam

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Helen Knott. She is a member of Prophet River First Nation, a mother, a writer, and a social worker, and she has been deeply involved at the grassroots level in the opposition to the Site C hydroelectric dam project.

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One of the sharpest faultlines in this country today is between Indigenous peoples protecting their homelands and the one-two punch of corporations and the Canadian state trying to push forward a wide range of projects that are both colonial and environmentally destructive. Many of these are connected to the Alberta tar sands, either directly or indirectly, but many others are not. In other words, this violence in the service of profit and the Indigenous resistance to it are not a product of one megaproject but, as has been true for a long time, are central to the workings of colonial capitalism on this continent.

The Site C dam project was originally proposed more than four decades ago, and opponents have thought more than once in that time that it was stopped for good. The project was revived once more at some point in the last decade, however, and if the current incarnation of the dam is completed, it will flood an 83-kilometre stretch of the Peace River Valley, destroying territory of the Dane Zaa and Cree peoples in the area.

Though the project has been greenlit and construction has begun, after a consultation process that many local residents felt was designed from the outset to be completely marginal to official decision-making, two First Nations in the area have launched a lawsuit to stop the dam. Along with this legal action from the official community leadership, residents have also been mobilizing at the grassroots level. This has included an annual “Paddle for the Peace” along the river, various efforts to be present on and honour the land of the valley that is threatened with flooding, and much more. When Knott moved back to the territory, she first got involved by attending events that others had organized, and then started getting involved in the organizing herself, with such things as a highly successful community fundraiser.

Knott was a central organizer of and participant in the Rocky Mountain Fort land defence camp that blocked construction of the dam for 63 days earlier this year, until it was ended by a colonial court injunction. Most recently, she was involved in organizing the Treaty 8 Justice for the Peace Caravan that brought people from the affected territory to communities across the country, with the aim of raising awareness about the resistance to the Site C project, and also to make sure that people who lived on that land were present when the lawsuit against the project was heard in a Montreal courtroom. A judgment is still likely months away, but in the aftermath of the highly successful caravan, grassroots resolve to oppose the project has only strengthened.

Knott speaks with me about the Site C dam project, the land and people that it will harm, and the resistance that has taken place so far.

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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