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 — Migrant farmworkers demanding justice from Ottawa

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Gabriel Allahdua, a migrant farmworker and one of the organizers of the month-long Harvesting Freedom caravan. As the caravan approaches Ottawa, where it will present its demands for justice for migrant farmworkers to the federal government, we look back at the journey, the issues, and the struggle.

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As successful as Canada has been at propagating a mythology about itself that claims otherwise, this country has always depended in one way or another on land, resources, and labour taken from people — particularly Indigenous, Black, and other racialized people — in unjust ways. Settler colonialism and slavery were the beginning of it, but far from the end, and many trace a related thread through things like the treatment of Chinese railway workers in Canada in the late 19th century, histories of Canadian resource extraction companies abusing people and land in all corners of the earth, vigorous Canadian advocacy for neoliberal trade agreements that entrench hardship and exploitation in the Global South, and of course the injustices codified into law in Canada’s very own temporary foreign worker programs. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which brings workers each year from a variety of countries in the Global South to work on Canadian farms.

Gabriel Allahdua is from St. Lucia. Four years ago, the combination of an economic slump on the island with a hurricane that wiped out his until-then successful business left him with little alternative but to apply to the program. While he is certainly happy of the opportunity to earn money to support his family, Canada’s success in propagating its mythology of innocence and benevolence left him completely unprepared for the brutal and unjust conditions that workers face in this program. They are, by law, in a different category than workers who are citizens or permanent residents, and are deprived of many rights that Canadian workers take for granted. They are tied via their work permits to a single employer. Often, that employer controls their housing, which is often substandard. They get no overtime pay, and are excluded from many basic employment standard protections. They pay into Canadian social programs but are not legally allowed to access them. When they are injured in the course of their hard, hard work they are often deported without full treatment. They are legally barred from unionizing. And at the slightest sign of complaint or resistance, employers can summarily fire and deport them.

A group called Justicia, or Justice for Migrant Workers, has been organizing workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program for a decade and a half. Allahdua encountered the group a few years ago when, near where he was working, they held a vigil for ten migrant workers killed in a tragic vehicle accident. Since then, he has done his best to stay connected with the group and participate in their events when possible, and when his agricultural work contract ended earlier this year he signed on as an organizer with them.

To commemorate the 50th year of the program, and to demand justice from the Canadian government, Justicia has embarked on a month-long caravan across Ontario that they are calling Harvesting Freedom. They are travelling from community to community, doing events, raising awareness of the injustices that migrant agricultural workers face, and building solidarity. Though the injustices they face are many, they are making but a single demand: permanent resident status for agricultural workers on arrival. This single change, they say, would go a long way to alleviate all of the other problems.

Allahdua spoke with Talking Radical Radio on September 13th, about two weeks into the month-long caravan. He talks about his experiences as a migrant agricultural worker and about the Harvesting Freedom campaign, which will be culminating in Ottawa from October 1st to 3rd, when the workers will present their demands for justice to the federal government.

To learn more about Harvesting Freedom and to sign the online petition in support of their demands, 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 — Activism and poetry: Halifax’s first Indigenous poet laureate

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Rebecca Thomas. She is a Mi’kmaq woman, an activist, and a poet, and she is also the first Indigenous person to be the poet laureate of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

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Growing up, Thomas thought poetry was “the worst.” She always hated that unit in high school, and she just didn’t get much out of the poetry that they read there or the way it was taught. Her relationship to poetry began to change a few years ago when, in the context of a professional development workshop in her workplace, she was encouraged to write and submit a piece of creative work. A chance conversation with a colleague pointed her to the poetry of El Jones, a spoken word artist in Halifax and the city’s previous poet laureate (as well as a guest on Talking Radical Radio in October 2013). Watching videos of Jones’ performances showed Thomas that poetry could be something very different from stuffy, rigid rhymes on a page, and Thomas decided to try her hand at writing and performing poetry for herself. Her first effort was well received, and she was hooked.

While poetry is something she came to as an adult, Thomas has always been someone to speak her mind when it comes to injustice. As a youth, it took the form a refusal to be silent in the face of stereotypes or unfairness in the course of everyday life. With her reconnection to the Mi’kmaq culture that colonial Canada had denied her as a child, it was the Idle No More movement that brought her to a more collective and confrontational mode of activism. From her very first forays into spoken word, her poetry has been another extension of this impulse to speak for justice. Most of her work focuses on the experiences and struggles of Indigenous people — from missing and murdered Indigenous women, to cultural appropriation, to residential schools, and much more. She still performs when she can at rallies and protests and community events, but the role of poet laureate gives her access to many new kinds of spaces too. She is making full use of this opportunity to go into all the sorts of elite institutions to which a poet laureate is invited, and in those places she speaks these hard truths to groups of people who have rarely been made to confront them before.

Thomas speaks about poetry, activism, and the relationship between them, and performs her poems “Pennies” and “Redface.” To learn more about 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 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 — Defending public education in Canada and throughout the Americas

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Steve Stewart. He is the technical secretary for the Initiative for Democratic Education in the Americas, also known as the IDEA Network, which brings together organizations from across the hemisphere that are committed to defending and enhancing public education.

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You can make a case that all struggle is local. No matter the issue, no matter the strategy, no matter how many other people and places and groups are also involved, the actual doing of it always comes down to you and those you are immediately with, in whatever circumstance you find yourselves, making choices and taking action. Still, while some struggles are only local, most are either already broader in scope, or could be if people had the opportunity and will to come together across difference and distance to do the work of making common cause.

Take, for example, the education sector. No matter what jurisdiction you live in, the last twenty years have no doubt seen your school system face some or even all of the following: cuts; at least partial privatization, whether that is direct or through the reallocation of resources away from the public system and towards non-public alternatives in less visible ways; rhetorical attacks on teachers; legal attacks on teachers’ collective bargaining rights; the imposition of standardized testing and other pedagogically dubious corporate-backed changes that get touted as “reforms”; and various other manifestations of the cut/privatize/deregulate agenda captured by the term “neoliberalism.” At various times and in various places, teachers, parents, and students in different places have all acted to oppose this agenda — unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for these groups to be dividied in all sorts of ways (often because of debliberate efforts to keep them apart by those trying to impose this agenda), but sometimes they succeed in working together and forging a common resistance.

The IDEA Network emerged in the late 1990s out of precisely this recognition of common threats to public education spanning not one or two jurisdictions, but all of North, Central, and South America. The network “brings together organizations that share a commitment to protecting and improving public education,” particularly teachers’ organizations and students’ organizations, and also encompasses a network of education researchers and a network of Indigenous educators. In the moment of its founding, the main threat to public education in this hemisphere took the form of negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas that would have, among other things, opened the door to the neoliberal restructuring of education systems from Canada to Chile. In those years, mobilizing against the FTAA both directly and at various international gatherings formed the centre of the network’s work. Since the defeat of that agreement, attacks on public education have not abated but have become less centralized, so the IDEA Network has focused on research, on sharing resources and strategies among members for defending public education in their respective contexts, and on mobilizing solidarity actions when member organizations are facing repression or crisis. In the Canadian context, a number of teachers unions have been involved at various points, and occasionally student groups, but the main force behind it in this country has been the British Columbia Teachers Federation, which has a long and remarkable history of international solidarity work. Stewart talks about the ongoing, hemisphere-wide threats to public education, and about the work of the IDEA Network to support struggles to defend it.

To learn more about the IDEA Network, 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 for free public transit in Canada’s largest city

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Stefan Kipfer and Herman Rosenfeld. They are active with Free Transit Toronto, an activist network focused on a long-term vision of high quality and completely free public transit, as well as on supporting short-term organizing that seeks winnable immediate reforms that move in that direction.

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There used to be a project in Toronto called the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly. The Assembly doesn’t exist any more, but for a period of time it brought together activists and organizers from a range of movements, organizations, and communities-in-struggle in the city. One of its campaigns was Free Transit Toronto. Since the Assembly faded away, Free Transit Toronto has become a network in its own right, bringing together a small but dedicated group committed to organizing around a vision of high quality, widely available, public transit that is completely free.

This focus was carefully chosen. The ability to get from place to place is very important, and it’s not an easy thing for a lot of people, particularly in a large and expensive city. Even small changes that would make transportation around Toronto easier, cheaper, more accessible, and more available would have a major impact on people’s lives, especially the lives of poor and working-class people. At the same time, focusing on transit that is totally free as a long-term goal centrally incorporates a transformative vision into the work — a vision that includes not only the decommodification of transit but also all of the requirements and downstream consequences that such a change would carry with it. It would, today’s guests argue, have important implications for (and open space for radical conversations about) all of the broad range of issues and struggles increasingly being talked about under the banner of “the right to the city” — the fundamental struggles around who gets to enjoy, control, shape, benefit from, and thrive in urban space.

Free Transit Toronto has combined work that explicitly focuses on elaborating and articulating this larger radical vision and the anti-capitalist sensibility which informs it, with work contributing to broader campaigns that have more modest and immediately winnable goals. In recent years, this has included sinking considerable energy into building and supporting the TTC Riders and the Fair Fare Coalition — the former is a sizeable membership organization that pushes for increased public investment in transit, lower fares, more services, and increased reach for mass rapid transit, while the latter is a campaign that emerged largely from the city’s agency sector with the goal of reducing transit fares for people living on low incomes, especially people on social assistance.

Herman Rosenfeld is a retired autoworker and trade union staffer. Stefan Kipfer teaches Environmental Studies at York University. They speak with me about the politics and practicalities of the fight for free transit in Canada’s largest city.

To learn more about Free Transit Toronto, 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 a culture of peace in schools and communities

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Florence Stratton and Ed Lehman. They are both long-time peace and social justice activists, and they speak about the work of PeaceQuest Regina to build a culture of peace in high schools and in the community at large.

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Today, the peace movement is not nearly as visible in the mainstream as it has been at certain moments in the past — 2003, for instance, or points in the 1980s, or in the late 1960s. Yet a wide range of activities to oppose war and militarism, and to promote peace with justice, continue to happen in communities across the country. Take, for instance, Regina, Saskatchewan: It has not one, not two, but three active peace groups. PeaceQuest Regina is the newest of these, and is a local affiliate of a national organization. Since the chapter in Regina was founded in 2014, they have done plenty of work both on their own and in conjunction with the other peace groups in the city to counter our dominant culture of war and injustice and to build a culture of peace. This has included numerous educational interventions in the community through things like peace walks, teach-ins, memorials, and more. And it includes work specifically focused on challenging militarism in the education system through opposition to provincial government attempts to institute a program offering military training to high school students. They claim a partial victory in this campaign, as the program was suspended this year due to low enrollment, though the government intends to push forward with it again next year. PeaceQuest Regina will be continuing their opposition to it and also ramping up efforts to get a Peace Studies course added to the high shcool curriculum. Stratton and Lehman talk with me about the hard work of building a culture of peace in the community and in schools, and what a Canada that truly embraced peace might look like.

For more information on the work of PeaceQuest Regina, 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 — A broad coalition against austerity in Newfoundland

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Mary Shortall, Jim Dinn, and Sara Langer. They are all members of Common Front NL, a broad coalition that has formed to oppose the drastic austerity measures being implemented by the provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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According to today’s guests, there isn’t a lot of precedent, at least in recent decades, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador rising up in significant numbers to oppose the policies of their provincial government. But late last year, a provincial Conservative government that had been in power for many years was decisively defeated, and a large Liberal majority swept into office. Though their platform did not call for cuts and privatization — that is, for austerity — the introduction of their first budget in the context of a major economic downturn made decisive moves in that direction, with the possibility of even more drastic cuts in a second budget slated for late in 2016. The cut that made the news most widely outside of Newfoundland would’ve resulted in the closure of many, many public libraries, and that has (at least for the moment) been rescinded, but as today’s guests discuss, the vast majority of cuts are still happening, and people’s lives are being impacted in a wide range of ways.

Mary Shortall is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. Jim Dinn is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association. And Sara Langer is the treasurer of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Federation of Students. The Common Front NL brings together unions, student groups, women’s organizations, social justice groups, faith groups, and other sorts of community organizations, as well as concerned individuals. While some of the component member organizations have already been mobilizing people into the streets, the common front as a whole has so far focused on using roundtables and town halls to talk with Newfoundlanders in a way that they say the government has not. They are talking with people about their lives, about the impacts of austerity, and about developing a more hopeful vision for a fair and prosperous Newfoundland that makes sure everyone’s needs are met. Though actual reversals of proposed austerity measures have so far been minimal, the engagement by ordinary Newfoundlanders is unprecedented — not just via the common front but in lots of other independent initiatives as well — and the popularity of the ruling Liberals has tanked despite being in office for well under a year. Though they see a long road ahead, the common front also sees a real possibility for turning back the austerity agenda in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Shortall, Dinn, and Langer talk with me about the impacts that austerity is having and will increasingly have on people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and about what the Common Front NL and its member organizations are doing to fight back.

For more information on the work of the Common Front NL, 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 — Prison abolitionism in Canada’s prison capital

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Rachel and Eric. They are members of End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC), a group organizing in Kingston, Ontario — the city with the highest density of federal correctional facilities of any community in Canada — for the abolition of prisons.

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Prison abolitionism is a strand of radical anti-authoritarian politics that dreams of a world without prisons, and organizes to make it so. Exactly what that world might look like and what change might be required to reach it is an open question — certainly it would require transformative social change that would reverberate far beyond prisons themselves. Though it has a longer history in this country than many realize, it is still a relatively small element of the itself-small radical left in Canada. But it is perhaps not surprising that one city that has a group that focuses its work on abolishing prisons is none other than Kingston, a city of about 120,000 people on the north shore of Lake Ontario, mid way between Toronto and Montreal.

EPIC began in 2010. Radicals in Kingston had already been discussing for awhile the possibility of starting a group focused on prisons. A couple of other things happened that year that led them to finally make it happen. On the one hand at the national level, you had radicals organizing against the Olympics in Vancouver and against the G20 summit in Toronto who were facing intense repression from police — including the threat and then (for some) the reality of jail time. On the other hand at the local level, there was opposition developing in Kingston (both among prisoners themselves and among a politically diverse cross-section of residents) to the Harper government’s plan to close the two farms used as work sites for prisoners and associated with prisons in the city. It seemed like the right time for radicals in Kingston to come together around prison issues, and to add a specifically prison abolitionist perspective to that broader campaign.

Over the years, EPIC’s work has evolved. After the defeat of the campaign to save the prison farms, they mobilized for several years — this time mostly on their own, rather than in coalition — to oppose various prison expansion projects in Kingston. And since that campaign has receded, they have focused more attention on building relationships with individual inmates and inmate committees, and have done things like publish a regular newsletter that is mostly by and for prisoners, as well as supporting however they can acts of resistance by prisoners on the inside, all the while working hard to continue articulating their anarchist prison abolitionist perspective.

Rachel and Eric talk about prison abolitionist politics, about the very particular political context of Kingston, and about EPIC’s work in the service of a world without prisons or any other institutions of domination and control.

To learn more about End the Prison Industrial Complex, 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 Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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