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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Building solidarity between migrant and Canadian workers

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Chris Ramsaroop and Melisa LaRue about a collaboration between Justicia for Migrant Workers and the Windsor Workers Education Centre. They are in the early stages of bringing migrant workers and Canadian workers together to talk about their commonalities and their differences, and to build solidarity in the face of shared experiences of predatory employers and precarious work.

Migrant workers are workers mostly from the Global South who are admitted to Canada purely to fill a role in the labour market, on what for most is an explicitly temporary basis, under highly restrictive legal conditions that are far harsher than those faced by even the worst-off segment of workers who are slotted into the legal category of “Canadian citizen.” They’ve been in the news a lot in the last few years, and it hasn’t been pretty. Truly awful commentary has come not only from those in coffee shops and cable news networks who revel in their xenophobia, or from the broad mainstream who clothe it in claims to common sense and national interest, but also from a significant proportion of those who understand themselves as “progressive” or “left,” who often frame it as “defending workers” even as they reproduce (sometimes overtly, sometimes in cloaked ways) nationalism and, frequently, racism.

In the face of this, migrant justice groups, anti-racist organizers, and many worker organizers inside and outside of the formal labour movement have vigorously put forward different narratives — narratives that seek to identify root causes and to build solidarity. And it is in its very earliest stages, but some are translating this into action.

Ramsaroop is an organizer with Justicia, a grassroots group which organizes migrant workers in Ontario and British Columbia, particularly in the agricultural sector. Melisa LaRue is the volunteer and outreach coordinator with the Windsor Workers’ Education Centre, a community organization that organizes with low-wage and precarious workers in Windsor, Ontario, to help improve their lives and working conditions. The groups have collaborated before, and after yet another panic — this one in Windsor in the summer of 2014 — about migrant workers supposedly stealing the jobs of Canadian workers at a local employer, they decided they needed to do something. In the months since, they have taken a number of steps to build solidarity between migrant workers and Canadian workers, and to challenge the divisive, nationalist rhetoric that dominates in the mainstream and in many so-called “progressive” contexts as well. They talk with me about the issues, the organizing, and the huge amount that remains to be done on this issue across the country.

To learn more about Justicia, click here. To learn more about the Windsor Workers Education Centre, click here. To read the Our Times article by Ramsaroop, LaRue, and Claire Mumme that inspired this episode, 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 Red Hand Coalition and the fight against austerity in Quebec

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Joël Pedneault of  the Red Hand Coalition, one of the main province-wide formations opposing austerity measures in Quebec, about the trajectory of resistance to those measures in recent years — from before and through the student strike that brought down a government, to the lull in the year that followed, and into the resurgence that has just begun as a new Liberal government seeks once again to impose austerity on the province.

Within this resistance, there are numerous centres of activity. There is a formation comprised of the largest labour bodies in the province and the more conservative student unions. There are other formations calling themselves Spring 2015 Committees which are autonomous from formal organizations and which anticipate animating the most militant wing of the upcoming wave of action. And in between these two is another coalition, formally known in English as the Coalition Against User Fees and Privatization, but also called the Red Hand Coalition. It is comprised of a number of other trade unions, much of Quebec’s active and politicized community sector, and ASSE, the most radical and most active of the province’s student federations. Joël Pedneault, who was an organizer with ASSE during the student strike, now works for a popular education organization and in that capacity is part of the Red Hand Coalition. He speaks with me about the coalition’s origins, about its involvement in various phases of anti-austerity struggle in Quebec, about the broader political context, and about what promises to be a busy, militant spring for social movements in the province.

To learn more about the Red Hand 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 — Defending land and nationhood after the Mount Polley disaster

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with community organizer Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc Nation, on whose territory the massive Mount Polley mining disaster took place this past August. She talks about the grassroots struggle in response to the tailings pond spill, and the larger multi-front struggle to defend the land and to assert, defend, and strengthen the many Indigenous nations on the west coast.

On August 4, 2014 a tailings pond burst at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine, owned by Imperial Metals. The mine lies in the interior of what is currently known as “British Columbia,” in the territory of the Secwepemc Nation. The pond covered more than four square kilometeres, and more than 25 million cubic metres of mine waste and contaminated water flooded into the surrounding watershed. It has been called one of the worst environmental disasters in modern Canadian history, and it is also an example of colonialism in its most toxic form. The land in which the mine sits, like most of British Columbia, was never surrendered and never covered by any treaty with the Crown, and the mine’s presence has never been sanctioned by the nation whose territory it despoils.

Kanahus Manuel has been at the centre of the grassroots response to the spill — a response that is not only demanding answers, a clean-up, and some measure of responsibility from the company and the provincial government who imposed this violence on her people and the land, but one that is all about asserting and strengthening nationhood. And beyond even that, it is about strengthening the links across the many struggles currently hot and active in so-called “British Columbia” between indigenous nations defending their land, and resource extraction companies backed by the settler state. It is, as Manuel notes, a “revolutionary time” for indigenous nations in the northwest of Turtle Island.

For more about the struggle in the aftermath of Mount Polley, check out this page on Facebook.

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 — Working against war and militarism in Winnipeg

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Glen Michalchuk, the chair of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, a broad-based anti-war and peace organization, about the long-term challenge of opposing war and militarism in Canada.

The direct violence committed and abetted by the Canadian state abroad has a horrific impact on those who bear its consequences — largely civilians, whatever the government propaganda says, and mostly non-white. But here in Canada, the amped-up Canadian complicity in war, empire, death, and destruction in the last 15 years is, tragically, more like a dull ache in the body politic — a source of nausea and a focus of dislike for the significant proportion of the population who oppose militarist adventures overseas, but largely dealt with by trying not to think about it too much. Even the Canadian participation in war and empire in the context of Afghanistan, which was the longest war in Canadian history and which a solid majority of the country opposed in its later years, generated only sporadic and fragmented active opposition.

Thankfully, there are a range of ordinary people who continue to do the hard work of actively opposing war and supporting peace-with-justice. Not all of these self-identify as “anti-war activists” or “peace activists,” of course, but some do, including Glenn Michalchuk. He speaks with me about the roots of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, its work to slowly build routine peace and justice events into the fabric of life in the city, its responses to the not-infrequent crises that militarism brings, and some reflections on his own more than three decades of working against war.

To learn more about Peace Alliance Winnipeg, 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 — Beit Zatoun: From Palestine to important multi-movement infrastructure in Toronto

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Robert Massoud about Beit Zatoun, a cultural centre and grassroots space in Toronto. It emerged from a project focused on supporting Palestine to become a multi-issue space, hub, and infrastructural node used by many grassroots initiatives focued on many different issues — while still constantly returning to the importance of Palestinian struggle.

In 2004, Massoud founded an organization called Zatoun, which is the Arabic word for “olive.” Since that time, Zatoun has imported fair trade olive oil from Palestine and sold it through grassroots networks and select independent businesses in North America. Massoud, who is Palestinian-Canadian, has been active in a number of ways in supporting a just peace in Palestine, and this sale of olive oil is a way of supporting Palestinian farmers and building material connections between sympathetic people on Turtle Island and the lives and realities of people in Palestine.

This episode is not about Zatoun, however, but about a space and an organization that emerged from it in 2009 — Beit Zatoun, it’s called, which means “house of olive.” It is a name familiar to anyone involved in grassroots work in Toronto, where the organization managed to secure central, beautiful, and highly affordable space, and established itself as a cultural centre, a gallery, and a meeting and event space for people from a broad range of communities, organizations, and movements. Beit Zatoun quickly became a piece of widely used infrastructure for all sorts of grassroots work in the city. With no government or foundation funding, they have survived based on olive oil sales, space rentals, admission fees, and of course the hard work of volunteers, and have hosted more than 650 events in the last fives years, including cultural events, arts events, films, meetings, book launches, teach-ins, debates, discussions, and many other sorts of grassroots educational endeavours. Though Palestine is never far from the goings-on at the centre, its work is informed by a vision of offering broad solidarity to diverse efforts to create a better world. Though the space is now threatened by gentrification, and will have to move within the next two years, it remains an inspiring example of how determined effort can reestablish what Toronto-based organizer and scholar Alan Sears calls “the infrastructure of dissent.”

To learn more about Beit Zatoun, 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 — Health workers radicalizing health struggles

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Martha Roberts. She is a midwife, an educator, and a community organizer, and was one of the founders of the Alliance for People’s Health, a collective of health workers, grassroots organizers, and community members committed to understanding the links between health and social justice, and to building the struggle for health for all.

There’s something a bit weird about how we talk about “health.” As deep as the mainstream roots seem to be of the conviction that health care is best understood as a socialized public good (however imperfectly that has always been realized, and even more so today), there is still something deeply individualized and asocial about most of the ways we have available to talk about health itself. From the majority of professional public health discourse to that aunt that always raises her eyebrows when you take a second helping of dessert at a holiday meal, we’re bombarded with incessant messaging that links our health to a very narrow spectrum of individual behaviours. This completely ignores the ways in which far more of the circumstances which determine our health are about how our lives and communities are socially organized. And not just in terms of the growing but still very under-appreciated focus on “social determinants of health” in some professional corners, but in ways that go to the very core of how social relations of exploitation, oppression, and marginalization take such a toll on so many lives. “Structural determinants of health” are where the analysis needs to go, according to today’s guest.

The Alliance for People’s Health combines popular education, organizing, and mobilizing in working-class communities in Vancouver, in a way connected with and informed by liberation movements from around the world and among indigenous nations on Turtle Island. Along with their important work on the ground, they are elaborating a cutting edge analysis of health that Roberts says identifies “social justice as prevention of disease” and “participating in liberation movements [as] a form of healing.” I spoke with her about the group, about their analyses of health and social justice, and about ways that progressive health workers can and do participate in collective struggle.

To learn more about the Alliance for People’s Health, 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 — Bringing together Black students, scholars, and communities in Montreal

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Rosalind Hampton of Community-University Talks about their work to centre the the many different experiences, needs, and strengths of Black communities in creating dialogue and collaboration among Black students, scholars, and communities in Montreal.

It’s not unusual for universities in Canada (much like many other large institutions) to claim the mantle of “diversity.” Though that term is often deployed to respond to a broad spectrum of social justice-related claims, it often does so, particularly in how it gets taken up by powerful institutions, such that it is emptied of political meaning, or at the very least stretched so far that its truth along some axes is used as a way to avoid dealing with stark deficiencies along others.

McGill University in Montreal could certainly, in some respects, be understood as “diverse,” yet when Hampton and a colleague of hers began the PhD program in which they are studying, they noticed what they described as “a lack of Blackness.” Though Black people have been part of the McGill community throughout its history, this lack remains intense in terms of representation in positions of authority, presence as faculty, in curriculum, in the kinds of scholarship that get centred and prioritized, in the ways of knowing that are valued, and much else.

To respond, they came together with other Black students and faculty at McGill to found Community-University Talks — abbreviated as C-Uni-T, which they pronounce “c-unity.” Over the last three years they have organized small and large events that centre Blackness, that support Black scholars and scholarship, and that nurture relationships and collaboration between Black people at McGill and Black communities more broadly in Montreal. We talk about the context, the group, and the work that they have been doing.

To learn more about the work of C-Uni-T, 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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