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 — HandyDART Riders’ Alliance: Vancouver’s paratransit riders get organized

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Craig Langston and Tim Louis about the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, a two year-old organization that is mobilizing the riders of Vancouver’s paratransit service in the face of declining service levels that are leaving more and more people stuck in their homes.

If a government in North America were to suddenly start doing things that forced some random cross-section of the general population to be confined to their homes part of the time, there would likely be a vigorous popular response. Or at least I hope there would be. Yet in many places on this continent, a governmental refusal to provide appropriate infrastructure and services is currently doing exactly that — and, in this age of the elite valorization of austerity and consequent budget cuts, in at least some places such infrastructure is becoming less and less adequate, and more and more people are being confined to their homes more and more of the time.

I’m talking, of course, about people with disabilities, particularly those who require a specialized transit service to be able to get around their communities. (And, by the way, I want to parenthetically note that I do recognize that different political strands within disability justice organizing use different naming conventions — I’m following the lead of the group at the centre of today’s episode in using the language of “people with disabilities.”) In the Metro Vancouver area, the relevant transit system is called HandyDART. In recent years, total HandyDART service was, according to a 2013 report, cut by 15,000 hours and then frozen. Yet demand has not decreased, and in fact continues to increase as the population of the Metro Vancouver area both grows and ages. According to the HandDART Riders’ Alliance, the number of trip denials — people who attempt to book a trip on the system but are told there is no capacity for them to do so in a given instance — has increased by more than 600% in a relatively few years. It was this phenomenon that led to the founding of the Riders’ Alliance.

Craig Langston and Tim Louis are both long-time disability activists in British Columbia and are on the steering committee of the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance. To combat what Louis has described as “the virtual house arrest the service freeze has created,” the Alliance has been organizing users, lobbying politicians and staff, and holding regular public forums in different communities that HandyDART serves, and they are set to support an upcoming transit funding referendum that, if it passes, would not completely solve the problem but would certainly be a move in the right direction. They speak with me about the origins of the group, their activities so far to organize HandyDART riders and allies, and their vision for a liveable Vancouver.

To learn more about the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, click here.

 

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

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

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Radio — UPop Montréal: A free, grassroots ‘université populaire’

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Étienne Lepage about UPop Montreal, a “popular university” that aims to create community-based spaces for ordinary people to engage in critical learning and dialogue about the world.

It might initially seem to be a bit puzzling to suggest that there is much that’s very interesting about a project focused on popularizing knowledge. After all, many of us these days have the opportunity to go to some kind of formal post-secondary educational institution. And many of us in North America today have at our fingertips access to quantities of knowledge that are unprecedented in human history, via our computers and tablets and phones. But the landscape of that knowledge and access to it are highly uneven, highly divided, and highly oriented towards reinforcing the dominance of knowledge that is either already dominant or is intensely non-threatening to the status quo. We have relatively few opportunities to come together in a deliberately social way to collaboratively develop critical tools for thinking about the world and to encounter knowledge that is in one sense or another marginalized or excluded or insurgent.

Étienne Lepage is an organizer with UPop Montreal, a “université populaire”, or a sort of grassroots, free “popular university” that aims to create exactly that kind of space, and to do so outside of restricted and often-inaccessible formal academic contexts. Its founders were, at the time, mostly but not only students at the University of Quebec at Montreal, or UQAM, who built on two earlier experiments with similar but smaller scale ventures to launch UPop about five years ago. And today, they are continuing to offer free courses in community-based contexts featuring a wide range of teachers and facilitators on a wide range of themes, ranging from things like feminism and critical understandings of the economy, to more specialized topics like the functioning of the brain or experiences of aging and dying in Montreal. They emphasize marginalized voices and perspectives, critical thinking, and broad accessibility. Lepage talks with me about the origins of the project, about the challenges they face, and about the importance of fostering critical learning and dialogue outside of formal university settings.

To learn more about UPop Montreal, click here.

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

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

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Radio — The fight for a legal right to housing in Canada

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Helen Luu and Ann Fitzpatrick about the Right to Housing Coalition and its combined legal and community strategy to win a positive right to housing in the Canadian context.

There’s a growing school of thought that one way to help ensure that people have the basic necessities that all of us need to live — for instance, housing — is to recognize those things as legal rights. In 2009, a group of advocates, service providers, and social justice-focused lawyers began to meet in Toronto with the goal of forging a strategy to secure the recognition of a legal right to housing in the Canadian context. They formed what has come to be known as the Right to Housing Coalition, a network that has expanded significantly and has partners across the country, but is still rooted in Toronto. In 2010, they launched a dual-pronged strategy: A combination of public outreach, education, and mobilization, with a legal challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. From the word go, however, the federal and provincial governments have been fighting tooth and nail against the effort. As of 2015, the coalition is still being prevented from actually presenting its 10,000 pages of evidence and dozens of expert witnesses in court — in late 2014, in a split decision the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision to dismiss the case without allowing evidence to be presented, and at the moment the coalition is awaiting a response from the Supreme Court of Canada on their application for leave to appeal that decision. Luu and Fitzpatrick are both involved in the Right to Housing Coalition, and they speak with me about the severity of the housing crisis in Canada, the origins of the coalition, the legal case, the public education efforts, and the importance of winning a legally recognized right to housing.

To learn more about the work of the Right to Housing Coalition, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Love Intersections: Storytelling, queerness, intersectionality, solidarity, and love

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Jen Sung, Andy Holmes, and David Ng about Love Intersections. It is a community and online project based in Vancouver that emerged out of the complex dynamics of identity and oppression during last year’s updating of a local school board’s LGBTQ anti-discrimination policy, and that aims to go beyond that beginning and use storytelling to explore complex intersections of identity, power, solidarity, and love.

It has been something like 30 years since Audre Lorde observed, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives,” and even then it resonated because it captured something that a lot of people — particularly women of colour — had been experiencing for a long, long time. Yet still today, most communities and movements and organizations and groups manage to act from critical conscious around one way that power shapes and plays out in people’s lives, but not the full spectrum. This means that far too often, people who experience marginalization along more than one axis have their marginalization reinforced even in spaces that are supposedly for or about them. And far too few of us do the work to build meaningful solidarity within our communities, our movements, and our groups that extends across those complex differences in how we experience benefit and harm from the ways our social world is currently organized.

In 2014, the Vancouver School Board updated its anti-discrimination policies, in particular in ways responding to the needs of transgender students and lesbian, gay, bi, and queer students. There was vocal opposition to these changes, as well as community mobilization in support of them. Much of the support came, not surpisingly, from LGBTQ students and parents and the broader LGBTQ community in the city, but it happened in a way that tended to centre white queer voices. And the opposition, though it certainly extended beyond, often had at its core Chinese-Canadian Christian women, generally mothers of students.

Jen Sung, Andy Holmes, and David Ng all supported the updates to the anti-discrimination policy. However, as queer people of colour, they also saw close-up a great deal of anti-Chinese racism mixed in with the broader support for the policy update, including in queer contexts that they are a regular part of. They also saw a generalized failure to recognize that, for all of the differences between the two sides in that debate, both were acting out of what they saw as love and care for young people, and they beleive that point of similarity held and holds the potential to build understanding, bridges, and solidarity.

The name of their project is Love Intersections, and it originally came into being when Jen and David created a website and wrote pieces (which circulated broadly in British Columbia and around the world) calling out the racism they were seeing in the Vancouver queer community. And now that the catalyzing issue has receded — the policy passed, though it is being challenged in court — they have taken on a broader vision for Love Intersections as a community-based and online project using storytelling as a way to explore intersectionality — that is, all those messy complexities of power and experience and identity — and build solidarity throuth the lens and language of love. They talked with me about their experiences of the policy reform process, about intersectinoality, about the broader Love Intersections project, and about their vision for social change.

To learn more about Love Intersections, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Radical Desi: A monthly grassroots magazine out of Vancouver

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Gurpreet Singh. He puts out a magazine called Radical Desi, a monthly alternative print publication based in Vancouver.

Making grassroots media can be a precarious business. There are lots of exciting initiatives in the Canadian context, varying in age from months to decades, and covering a range of different organizational and financial models, but none have an easy time keeping on keeping on. And in terms of print media, even mainstream publications that have commercial publishing models, mass circulations, and obedient politics are finding it harder and harder to stay afloat.

This is the environment in which Singh — an independent journalist with many years of experience in India and in Canada — launched Radical Desi in April 2014. It’s an ambitious project. The print version is distributed largely in the greater Vancouver area, and to subscribers further afield, and you can also find it online. It comes out monthly, and is a rich combination of feature articles, editorial analysis, and news coverage; of little-known history and under-reported current events; and of integrated attention to a field of political concern that spans South Asia and Turtle Island. Singh tells me about the founding of the magazine, about the ground it has covered so far, and about some of the challenges of making radical media in an inhospitable environment.

To learn more about Radical Desi, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Lynn Gehl: Centring Indigenous knowledge

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Lynn Gehl.

Gehl is an Algonquin Anishnabe woman who has roots in the Ottawa River valley, though she lives in Peterborough, Ontario. She has, over the years, been involved in various kinds of things related to struggles for survival and for social change. One way of thinking about what brings together those diverse elements for her is that they flow from the act of centring Indigenous ways of knowing, and acting accordingly.

Indigenous ways of knowing, among much else, emphasize that we know the world in embodied, situated ways – that is, both what we know and how we know it depend on who we are, on our circumstances, and on our experiences. So among the many horrible and complex ways that 500 years of colonization and genocide have impacted Indigenous peoples, and the many ingenious and resilient ways in which Indigenous peoples have responded, there are two issues in particular that she has focused on, based on centring her own experiences. One is a response to the Canadian state’s ongoing use of the Indian Act legislation to separate people, particularly women, from their nations and communities — in her case, it is through a policy that, when paternity is not known or not stated, assumes that the father of a given child does not fit the legal category of “status Indian,” which has implications for descendants’ ability to access that status. The other is the land claims process in which the Algonquin people are engaged. It is the only way in which the Canadian state has shown any willingness at all to recognize even a fragment of what are, for the Algonquins, unsurrendered and unextinguished rights to the land, and Gehl argues that rather than being a path towards a good future, it is yet another colonial process that will end up doing little more than reinforcing her peoples’ dispossession.

Over the years, Gehl has pursued a lengthy court battle, she has done research, she has written scholarly articles, and she has engaged with a wide range of people in the community in a wide range of ways. (Including, as you will hear about in the interview, by publishing several books.) She wants her work to contribute to anti-colonial struggle, to a revitalization and resurgence of her own peoples’ culture, and to teaching hard truths to Canadians about our past and present. She talks with me about the issues she has worked on, about the different approaches she has taken, and about Indigenous knowledge.

To learn more about Gehl and her work, click here.

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

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

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Radio — Unjustly extradited, still fighting: Justice for Hassan Diab

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Donald Pratt and Peter Gose. They are members of Justice for Hassan Diab, the support committee that has been working to defend a wrongfully accused Ottawa academic who has been struggling against a Kafkaesque legal nightmare since 2008. Diab was extradited to France in November, but he and his support committee continue to fight.

From colonial violence, to slavery, to camps, to apartheid, Western states have always found ways to inflict unjust suffering and violence on those marked in some way as “Other” while claiming a cloak of “fairness” and “rules followed.” The form and focus of such infliction of harms shifts over time, so even though it didn’t start then, the targeting of Muslims and of people read to be Muslim in the West increased dramatically after September 11, 2001. Though nominally done under a banner of “fighting terrorism,” the amped-up racist marginalization of entire communities rapidly reached a point that one prominent Canadian scholar, Sherene Razack, has described as “the eviction of Muslims from Western law and politics.”

There are many ways this has played out, but one is in the targeting of specific individuals by national security state measures based on fitting a profile or on some tenuous chain of connections rather than anything resembling concrete, publicly shared evidence. One such case is that of Ottawa academic Hassan Diab. At the request of French authorities, he was arrested in Canada in 2008 under suspicion of involvement in a bombing that happened in 1980 in Paris. He denied the charges and he and his support committee, Justice for Hassan Diab, fought efforts to extradite him to France. In the course of doing so it became ever more clear that the case against him was so flimsy and contradictory that it would not stand up even under the imperfect scrutiny and standards of a Canadian criminal trial. But the combination of a national security infrastructure that is allowed within the rules of the system to do all sort of horrific things with little transparency or due process, and a Canadian extradition system that has incredibly low standards of evidence and process — much lower than a criminal trial — culminated in Diab’s extradition to France this past November. There, he faces anti-terror laws, courts, and practices that are well-known for questionable due process, deference to state interests, valuing secrecy over justice, and violations of rights that many of us assume we can take for granted.

Pratt and Gose are friends of Diab’s, and they have been centrally involved in his support committee. They talk with me about this injustice, the details of the shoddy process and highly dubious case Diab has been facing, their work to support his struggle, and the new phase of that work now that Diab sits in a French jail.

To learn more about Justice for Hassan Diab, click here.

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

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

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