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 — Grassroots Dene people defending the land in northern Saskatchewan

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Don Montgrand and Candyce Paul. They are grassroots Dene people living in northern Saskatchewan, and they talk with me about the Northern Dene Trappers Alliance and its efforts to defend the land and to defend the Dene people in the face of companies and governments pushing predatory resource extraction.

It would be hard to find something more fundamental to Canada as a historical project or to social struggles in our current moment than conflict between, on the one side, colonial capitalist resource extraction driven by companies and by the Canadian state, and on the other side Indigenous nations and their allies resisting, asserting sovereignty, and defending the land. Montgrand, who is 59, recalls a time before development began to have a major impact on the land in northern Saskatchewan. But then roads were built, a uranium mine opened with a promise of prosperity that never arrived and with major health impacts on the locals who got jobs there. And in more recent years, there are dozens of companies exploring and doing preliminary work on various resource extraction projects in the area, most related to uranium or to tar sands. The impact on the land, the animals, the food supply, and the people has already, compared to Montgrand’s youth, been extensive, and it will only intensify if projects are allowed to go ahead. Yet with elected leadership that they say is not responsive to the concerns of the people, and with purely token consultation from governments, it is only grassroots action that has a chance of stopping the devastation.

The Northern Dene Trappers Alliance is a grassroots group that originally came together about 15 years ago and mounted a highway blockade at that time in an effort to defend land use. As harm to land and people has mounted, and efforts to register objections to extraction projects have been ignored, they decided they needed to act again, and blockaded commercial traffic on a major highway in late November of last year. In early December, the RCMP intervened and dismantled the blockade, but the Alliance has maintained a camp at the site through the winter. In January at the camp, they held a major 3-day meeting of grassroots Dene people, where a strong consensus emerged to pursue a range of projects related to defending the land and to revitalizing language and culture. Montgrand and Paul talk with me about the territory, the blockade, and the powerful groundwork they are laying for a clean land and a strong people.

To learn more about the Northern Dene Trappers Alliance and their 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 — Transportation not Deportation: A migrant justice victory in Vancouver

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Daniel Tseghay and Daniel Wexel about the Transportation not Deportation campaign. It aims, in the wake of a particularly tragic case, to make public transit in the Vancouver area a place of safety and sanctuary for people regardless of their immigration status. And recently, they won a significant victory on the road to that goal.

Increasingly, border and citizenship regimes have become mechanisms through which marginalized populations are produced and controlled. One outcome of this in Canada is that more and more people — mostly people of colour from the Global South — are forced into situations of lacking documentation (also described as ‘being without status’), which makes them highly vulnerable to various forms of state sanction, including deportation. Part of what is so fraught about living without status is the ever-present risk that you’ll just be going about your life, working at your job, existing as part of your community, and something will happen that will bring you to the attention of the Canada Border Services Agency (or CBSA), who may then detain you, turn your life upside down, terrorize your family, and send you out of the country. This can happen, for instance, when accessing social and health services of various kinds, and many undocumented people avoid such services as a consequence (even though they generally pay taxes that contribute to making such services possible). Or, of direct relevance to today’s show, it can happen if you’re taking public transit home from work, you get racially profiled by transit police, and they turn you over the CBSA.

That happened late last year to Vancouver hotel worker Lucia Vega Jimenez. She later committed suicide in an immigration detention centre. Organizers with the No One Is Illegal group in that city decided they needed to know more about what led to this tragedy, and their digging uncovered an extensive record of collaboration between the Vancouver area transit police and the CBSA that was effectively turning the public transit system into a border checkpoint. This work eventually brought together folks from No One Is Illegal with other migrant justice organizers in a campaign called Transportation not Deportation. In the same spirit as those campaigns in cities around the continent which have carved out places of sanctuary, solidarity, and safety for undocumented people in various kinds of urgently needed services, Transportation not Deportation’s focus is a push to make public transit a place of safety for people regardless of migration status. And, recently, they won an important victory when the transit police formally cancelled the Memorandum of Understanding they had signed with CBSA (the existence of which they had earlier denied). It is unclear how far this victory goes, and more organizing is definitely required, but it is an important win on the path to creating and expanding spaces of safety and, ultimately, real justice for migrants on Turtle Island. Tseghay and Wexel spoke with me about the origins of the campaign, what they did to build its momentum, the recent victory, and the struggles still ahead.

To learn more about the Transportation not Deportation campaign, 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 — Austerity sparks student mobilization on a quiet Manitoba campus

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Kaitlyn Gibson and Ian McDonald. Both are undergraduate students at the University of Manitoba, as well as organizers in the campus’ new Student Action Network, an organization that is at the centre of the fightback against administration attempts to make major cuts.

As university campuses go, until quite recently the University of Manitoba has been a relatively politically quiescent one. It’s not that nothing has gone on – today’s guests mention the existence of a feminist group that has been doing some important work, for instance – but the general student political culture at U of M has not at all been oriented towards activism or critical engagement.

This year, though, that has started to change. It began in a trickle, as staffers with the Canadian Federation of Students took some steps to stimulate autonomous student organizing on the campus. (And without getting into the range of both supportive and critical analyses of the CFS as a whole among left student organizers in different parts of the country, subsequent events indicate this intervention has undoubtedly been a useful one.) And this trickle became a flood when the administration of the U of M announced that they would be bringing the global agenda of austerity to campus by making substantial budget cuts. With the surge of student concern about what impacts these cuts might have on their access to a quality education, the University of Manitoba Student Action Network has taken off and has been working collaboratively with various campus organizations and unions to oppose the cuts. They have been doing outreach and education among undergraduate students, and organized the first mass demonstration on the campus in many, many years.

Gibson and McDonald talk with me about the campus, about the threatened cuts, and about the upsurge in student organizing prompted by the arrival of austerity on their quiet campus.

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 — 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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