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Ray Funk Interview Transcript

Sept. 17
Ray Funk
Spruce River Research
Box 63
Spruce Home, Saskatchewan S0J 2N0
Fax - 306-764-8508


You know, I've never seen an actual Saskatoon berry in action and I'm looking forward to it. How do they grow, they grow on a high bush?

Ray Funk:

Yah, they all grow to about 15 or 20 feet and you can let them grow there, but they're the only berry on the new wood, so you really. and I haven't been pruning them here enough. They all grow pretty high,

SO, the kinds of questions I'll ask. I won't try and talk so much as I have so far. Mostly they'll be questions like, what do you do, and how do you do it and how did you get started and what did you do then?

Well, those are hard questions, though!

The easy questions are tomorrow! But, so I'd love to just hear however you want to start, either why you do what you do now, or how you got started in organizing and social change work, however you'd like to start.

Oh, probably easier to start at the beginning, or at least trace it a bit. Certainly, I came from an activist family background, I had role models

Like what?

My mother and her family were family were very active in the Mennonite church. She helped found and worked at the Mennonite center for Europe and North Africa. So there was a lot of, the whole family, grandfather actually, organized cooperatives and in the Volga-German Republic. He was trained as a coop organizer, actually, my grandfather. And the Funk side of the family, my Dad's family, his grandfather helped found something called the "Waisenamt" which was the organization to look after the widows and the orphans, you know, the social needs of the Mennonite settlers as they arrived in the early nineteen hundreds.

Here in Saskatchewanatchewan.

Here in Saskatchewanatchewan. Yah, I'm from, not right here, I'm from the Rosthern area. Which is kind of a historic part of Saskatchewan. So, I mean it goes back, my dad was forty-two years chair of the Saskatchewan. Wheat Pool Committee in Laird. Until they closed the elevator and then mom founded the women's auxiliary for the Mennonite high school I went to. So, there was always a lot of organizing going on. And, I went to, I was active in student politics and whatever.

In the ..?

that was first, actually my first triumph was saving the hill!

Save the hill?

Yah, save the hill in grade six? Public school was originally a big four room wooden structure with a full basement and there was a gym underneath, you know like those old schools used to be. A tower. And there was a lot of dirt from the basement and they had just left it piled up and it was a hill. And then they built a new school. And the janitor wanted to start a new year without this hill. Had everybody, you always got muddy on it, eh, I mean it was a wonderful toboganning hill and sledding hill, and king of the castle hill, the only hill for miles around here!

It's mighty flat here in Saskatchewanatchewan!

Yah! It was certainly, you know, we all tested our sleds on it and whatever got a little muddy. SO the school board passed a motion to do in the hill. And we actually got a petition came out of our grade six, out of our junior red cross group in grade six, to petition our parents for them to phone the school board members to let them know that we wanted to save the hill. And we did, actually. The hill is now gone, though. It's, a, future generations of students, somehow or other didn't.

Lost out!

They lost the hill! Yah, that's really the first. And then, I was a student president in high school, so you organize a lot and you know, it's just partly organizing's a set of skills and getting yourself at a task and getting motivated. So, then I had gone to public school in Laird in high school in Rosthern and my friends were either going to Saskatchewan to the University of Saskatchewan. Or to a couple of Mennonite colleges called Bethel and Canadian Menn. Bible College in Winnipeg. And I wanted to get away from home, I wanted to go a little bit farther, so the compromise was that I could go to Goshen. Which was, nobody else that I knew was going there, and it was still a Mennonite college. So I ended up there, in of course, 66-69, fascinating years to be a student in any part of the world, anywhere probably. They had opened up the campus to black students, first year, eh, there were about 25 or 30 of them in the student body of about 1000 or 1200. SO, there was some rapport there between the Canadians and there were about a dozen Canadians and the black contingent, you know.

Two minorities.

Two minorities, kind a! And, probably about 25 or 30 of us, too actually. So I took sociology there and I became president of something called the Student Christian Association. And it was a service oriented operation. We actually supplied counting services to Operation Bread Basket in Chicago. And we ran a migrant camp literacy program in the Goshen area. And there was a housing project in kind of a shanty town there. We were there working on the trailers ...SO, it was really, you heard about Saul Alinsky and all these organizers, so. I got a little bit versed in the American organizing tradition which was I guess, quite different from the Canadian in some ways. And came back, organized a worker coop and set up a group home in Ontario and that was after graduating from school. And there I got involved in politics and started organizing politically through the New Democratic Party, I'd been involved in you know, the peace movement, and, different things. I worked initially for McCarthy and then lost all my friends by switching to Kennedy when he came into the race! You have no idea what a moment of conflict that was!

Oh, it was horrible! I remember.

Yah, it was the first real hard values choice that I remember making politically like that. And it was because I was from here and here we had fought the battle for Medicare, and particularly he was running on a Medicare platform that something had sounded more like the socialist, if you will, traditions, not that Mennonites here, and my family were particularly socialists, but certainly it was a part of the culture. So I went to Ontario and… am I taking this too slow or?

No, my next appointment is in May, so,

Right, yah! So we organized the group home, started organizing politically, got involved actually, I had grown up in the Laird area which has beside it Beardy's first nation. When I was 10 years old my dad started leasing land on the reserve. And a rare treat I had just 2 little sisters at home on the farm alone. We got to go out to the reserve with my dad and if I picked roots in the morning I could play with the kids in the afternoon, so, it was a great deal. So I got to know Indian people, so I guess that's why when I had experience with American black people I wasn't particularly intimidated by that because I'd had to make find common ground before. So when I got back to Ontario and was involved in politics I got involved in an issue called Camp Ipperwash. With some people there which, I became the candidate, actually for the NDP, I was only 24 years old in 1972. Wrote Jean Chretien about this land that the military had expropriated during the war and they were going to give it back when they didn't need it anymore, which they thought would be after the war. Well, this was 1972 and the military still had it. So I got to know the families. I still keep contact, it ended up in a fairly major incident in 1975 when Dudley George got shot at Camp Ipperwash by the imperial provincial police. Dudley George had worked on my sign crew, we had partied together. I spent five years as member of parliament, and became reconnected with them and helped prepare the research and the documentation of the place. Anyways, so I got to know that community, got married, got a little alienated from Ontario, I guess,

So you were a student activist in the States, came back, worked in a group home,


helped organize.

Got involved in politics and then came back to Saskatchewan. Because

From Ontario,

From Ontario because I liked the politics and you know, I felt culturally a lot closer to Saskatchewan than I did to Ontario and so we gave it a try. The party actually got us out as pre-election organizers in 75, and then I got on with a place called Natonum Community College in 75, which is here in Prince Albert. In 76 we bought this place. And the NDP government at that time had just decided to embark on an adult education project, community college project. Certainly its formative ideology was very much community development driven, that's why I managed to get a job. I wasn't an educator or whatever, they wanted community developers, community organizers, and so I qualified. And I spent ten years there. I, too, did a sabbatical - that's when I went to Michigan State and got my masters. It was a wonderful place, they practiced what they preached and let you do self directed adult learning as opposed to most places that told you we've got ten courses you can take any eight! This guy said you can take anything in the Universities there's 14 you've gotta take, 3 we tell you, you know, what you have to take and the rest we do on a mentoring basis. So you have a learning plan that makes sense.

So who did you connect with there?

With George Axinn actually, was the main connection. He was an old rural development hand, international. And Scott Whitford and Bill Derman. I even got published in their book actually. They taught social impact analysis and it was very challenging. They actually had a contract, you know, there was a war on campus, between the engineering school or the ag-engineers who had the development contract for the Sahel Dam in the Sub Sahara and the Anthropology school had the social impact analysis contract! So, it was a bit of a conflict of interests to start out with, and the war was on, eh, and you had to pick sides, and I was kind of a rural development guy and from here and in fact I, and these guys were essentially Marxists, you know, studied Mexican River Valleys. So, I kind of fell in with them. So that was pretty interesting, I got published in their book. I got focused, the theme of the masters was Adult Education for Social Change, eh, you know, and it got a little, it was actually my first education training, adult education. So that was in 1995, and the community college job was just an organizers delight. It's the kind of core funding that those of us in the field have always preached would be so valuable if people with those skills didn't use 90% of them chasing money and convincing funders, and spent all their energy in the community. It was just wonderful and it went on for about 10 years. And,

What happened to it?

The bureaucracy, the adult education bureaucracy and the government in the institutions really were threatened by this beast and tried to strangle it all along, but there was enough of a core in the community to keep it rolling for a while. And it really filled a need, especially in rural Saskatchewan. Which has been depopulating, and you have a few Meachams, but very few. So, those up there, kind of came from efforts, that in those days, when people sort of got themselves organized around some new things and did some community learning, really kind of a golden age, people came from all over the world to see what you were up to. Like I could organize something like, Citizens for Alternate Enrgy. I can't even remember all the old groups. There was a peace and disarmament coalition, and Citizens for Alternate Energy were the two major organizations that we managed to organize right out of the community college. One stopped a uranium refinery right in our back yard here. The fight never started, eh, it's the kind you like, eh, that only about 50 people ever knew about. The way, well, a couple of hundred people knew about it and then they all showed up at the right time and the right place. There was a big proposal to do this right in Saskatchewan, El Dorado Nuclear that was. That was still a government funded organization, to take advantage of Saskatchewan's uranium. And to a certain sense, there was a value added here. They picked a site outside of Saskatoon. And there was Saskatoon's environmental community plus the family whose land it was going to be on. They picked badly, it was a Wiebe family, Nettie Wiebe became president of the National Farmer's Union and they were all - if there was one family of Mennonites that you didn't want to tangle with, it was the Wiebe family. The one son in law is now Dennis Grundig, just elected M.P. he used to work for the Catholic Bishops. So, they organized a superb campaign for about two years in Saskatoon. Finally El Dorado Nuclear warned us that they were winning and you could tell they were winning, they were public heroes at the hearings. But the government of Saskatchewan, which was our government, the NDP government was not to be trusted on some of this, they weren't going to let it go, and there was an alternate proposal for here at Prince Albert. I had been the campaign manager actually for the cabinet minister who was the minister of environment from here and he said he was going to pull a little fast one. But, leaving nothing to chance, we formed Citizens for Energy Alternatives and started putting on workshops on you know, solar housing and wind power and log building, and all of the back to the land sustainable things. This would have been in the late 70's, eh, pretty popular stuff. And we developed a mailing list out of that of about 250, 300 people that we could count on. Then all of a sudden, sure enough (and the nice thing about this trap was that it was sprung when I wasn't here, so, it was when I was at Michigan State they announced it). I was no sooner there and they announced they were going to have some public meetings out here to sell two of the sites, one in Prince Albert and one in Henribourg, to sell the concept of this thing. And there was only about a week's notice, just in the press that there was going to be...

They have their list.

Yah, they have their list ready apparently. But, they didn't realize already we were, they got about 40, 50 people out to each of these things and we had about 250, 300. El Dorado Nuclear took one look at that and said, we've had enough of this Province, this is going to happen all over again. And that's all we had, like Saskatoon had thousands, we had this one list! You know, as an old warrior, that when you have superior forces in a particular place at a particular time, you can win those!

That's great.

SO, that was fairly encouraging, also during the community college days, I organized something called the Association of Combined Income Farmers. Another legendary been and gone organization. I used to be an old hand at some of these organizations. Sometimes they served their purpose and if you don't have the personal energy, and there isn't institutional supports then it becomes an end in itself.


And the old ACIF was is one of those in the late 70's, when there were a bunch of us, kind of back to the landers. We had 309 acres here and there were thousands of us around here with that kind of acreage and, we were seriously trying to farm. Revenue Canada decreed that we weren't farmers, for purposes of income tax, that we couldn't take our salaries and apply them to our farm losses. So we said, wait a minute, that's our money! We earned that money! We're investing it in this province, in rural Saskatchewan. Where you need investment,

And we're losing it like everybody else!

Yah, we're losing it like everybody else, we're just starting out, you know, we all have young families, you know, and we've got big mortgages, and they took us on, there was a real witch hunt. And so, out of the community college, of course, we started organizing meetings and gathering information. The freedom of information act had just come in. We figured out how to use that to help one guy with his case. A local fellow here. So we figured, well, may as well give it a try. And sure enough, we helped this guy win his case by this bizarre file that Revenue Canada had that claimed that the reason he wasn't a farmer was because he spent too much time with his family!

The judge must have loved that!

Yah, the judge, he just laughed. They got run out of there. So that was kind of a big thing. So after that then you have to be spokesperson, eh, for farm people, you always need commentators. I got on national radio and t.v. So that was another little organizing battle. Then I, I a little sub plot to this, just in the history, that I should make note of the American connection as well. While I was at Michigan State, I connected with Highlander Research, in , I think Tennessee. My boss here at the community college, he's the finest guy that you could ever work for. I'm not good at working for people and I spent 10 years working there, so. The one thing he said was that he had heard of this Highlander place, he had seen one of their organizers up in northern Saskatchewan. A guy by the name of Tom Ludgwig. He said, you go down there, he didn't know exactly where it was, and you go take a visit. The adult education people that kind of had an activist orientation, kind of got together, the ones at Michigan State kind of got together with similar minded people from University of Michigan a couple times of year, and so we had one of those and there was some weekend, Oh, it was an anniversary, a fundraiser, an anniversary for Highlander coming up. There was a group of four of them from the University of Michigan that wanted to go, but didn't have a car, and I had a station wagon, I had a family and whatever, so I had a nice new Zephyr station wagon. Well, I'll drive the car.


Oh, yah, that was one of the funnest weekends of my life.

Actually, this place makes me think of Highlander!

Yah, well, when I came back! What I was trying to do all of a sudden made sense! So I had that experience you know, visiting with Miles Horton, singing and playing along, though I'm not great. We had a folk group in high school - so I could sing We Shall Overcome at least!

It was written there!

Yah, exactly, so we had sung it. We were a Brothers Four, type group.


But, yah, so certainly as part of that the American organizing, I think there's some cultural, there's a shit-kicking tradition in the American organizing and the cultural tradition that are certainly in some ways present in Canadian organizing but not I don't think to the same extent.

So at this point you're, in 88 you're elected from here?

Yah, they created a new seat, boundaries change, and redistribution, and there had always been a Prince Albert seat, and this time there was what was called Prince Albert, Churchill River, which was the city of P.A. essentially with this rural strip and then the north, most of northern Saskatchewan. So in some ways I was uniquely situated because I was a rural person, I had worked in Prince Albert a lot, and I had done work in the north. So you really had to, it was about 46 % north, I think, and 32% city and 22% rural,

A lot of territory…

So you had to be a three footed runner, or it sure helped. And plus, the conservatives were in power, federally, provincially, and they were hated, we were riding a wave and we didn't quite realize how high that sub-terrainian wave ran, you know! Gave ourselves more credit than it later turned out was our due, but it sure worked well. It was a mass, mass gathering of the clan, just from a voter organization standpoint. And it wasn't that it was that great technically, but the message was so powerful and so pervasive that it created lots of energy. We tried to do this is on an old vote pulling thing, and in those days we had lots of elections, by-elections, and we were quite good at it, but, better than we are now. Sort of like, poll captains went out to the toughest poll to pull out these apartments, six in a row of people that move every 3 months, they end up on welfare, and come to the north. It's a tough spot, and usually, if you have 2 or 3 people that you know in there and you can get another 10, well you're doing good. Well he pulls into the parking lot about an hour and a half before 600, say two hours before the polls close, it's getting dark, it's fall. And here people are hollering from the parking lot to people in the windows, if they'd been out to vote yet.

They're already working!

[lots of laughing] Giving each other rides! You know what I mean! We didn't have to. He said he just sat there for about 20 minutes, he offered some people a ride. This was good! So we kicked ass! And, very interesting, I got into a caucus, there were 43 of us elected, it was the biggest NDP caucus there ever was, led by Ed Broadbent. So it was exciting to be there, but 28 of them were veterans so, Canadian parliamentary tradition is very much cabinet oriented, eh, and so the cabinet essentially runs the government. In both the administration and the politics the critics are the high profile people, eh, like big ministries of health, and finance, and foreign affairs, so the jobs you want of course, is to be critic of those things. So of course there's 28 veterans and you know, 70 new comers and you know, realistically,

Everybody's lined up,

Yah, you know, for the, and so I thought about it and we had to go into the leader to see, and rate our top 3 choices and I though about it and I came up with something called cooperative community development. And I thought, hey, I can go around the country, and it was strategic, too, because after free trade was clearly coming in, this whole agenda was clearly going to win that round. So how do you position yourself for the post world, because it will change and new things will have to be built. So I figured its' going to have to be, they've destroyed us at the macro level, you know, our two rows at the national and provincial level, so really that reinforces what I like best anyways, the community level is the primary line of defense really. So I asked if I could be the critic for cooperative and community development and I went in to Ed Broadbent

So you invented this position and then pitched for it?

This critic area and then pitched for it. So I went into my leader and I knew he had done some work in cooperatives, that he had a master's degree in cooperatives, he was a Ph.D, this guy. But that's all I knew about it. So I figured, and he hadn't, he'd been labor oriented since being an academic. So I, he had my papers, and maybe it was kind of goofy to ask for that, you know, I don't know if it makes big sense to you or you know, maybe not important enough to warrant it, a separate critic. He laughed and he said, oh, it's important enough, he says, you know, I did my master's degree on the role of cooperatives in community development.

That was a strategic moment!

Yah it was. Unfortunately he was only there for another year which was a real tragedy because I had a great year as long as he was there. Of course then my marriage fell apart and that never helps. Had to move off of here for three years, and, but still the opportunity, that's when I got to visit Van City and you know, hang out with some of the Montreal folks, all the main stream coops. Van City, particularly in Vancouver, Carol Stranburg, and those people, and Canadian Cooperative Association, and made a lot of good friends. And the people that run the CEDTAP, Ted Jackson, particularly. I worked with, Ted I had admired from afar, he was the one Canadian that those Highlanders were always quoting, that's where I had first known him as being in participatory research and I had thought it was a good idea. And I still do it, even though now I have to fight Flo Frank every project I work on has participatory research in it, or I'll do it whether I'm paid or not! So, I got to know him in Ottawa, sat on the platform committee and we wrote something we called a jobs plan. It was a very good document, unfortunately our leader didn't understand it, but, you know, you don't have to quote that, but it was not well understood in our own ranks and we didn't run on it.

Educating your allies is usually half the problem!

Yah, exactly. Unfortunately our enemies were the guys that then leapt on us with glee and it became part of the liberal red book that the Chretien government, you know, ran on and then totally ignored of course. So that was when I kind of got turfed out on my ear. The aboriginal discipline broke down, for one thing or another, weak leadership, provincial government, we had got elected here and had to make some horrible cuts, they're hard for social democrats, you know. It just goes hairy, with the Tories had just blown the bank and borrowed everything. Literally bankrupted the province, so we had taken our year in 91 and they were still just into the heart of the worst of it in 93 when it came time for us to come to bat as New Democrats, oh good, closing hospitals. And then the constitution debate had really fragmented people, we had something called the National Party and some of the nationalists went to that, including this cabinet minister that I had once had got a job with. So that fragmented some independents and, the aboriginal people really saw the Tories were really getting busted and there was real propensity to vote liberal among aboriginal folks, to go with the government, especially a liberal government when it comes in and so I couldn't hold it, so I lost. Reestablished Spruce River Research, tried to recapture, actually hooked up with Bill Hatton. Bill is kind of a legendary fellow, he's a guy who actually learned his organizing from Hubert Humphrey in his home state.


Yah, organizing the veterans against the Vietnam war, he was a returned marine.

Humphrey. People don't understand what a powerful figure Humphrey was at that time. And then he got stuck with Johnson.

Yah. And unfortunately I came onto him in that situation. But Bill soon straightened me out the old DFL man. I'd met him at Kitsaki. He'd had me do a human resource plan for him at Kitsaki, when he was living at Kitsaki. So we hooked up and we were going to do something called the Development Management Institute to build a little more, better organized system of support, to develop management. We had, and I still believe that, I'm not a Leninist, I'm certainly not, my family was butchered by those fellas, but you know, there's a certain letting people off the hook of the real requirements that sometimes happens. When you get into economic development in the end, the real requirements are the same, you know, to manage the businesses and to you know, there are, there is only,

It's got to add up at the end of the day.

Yah, it really does, and it's too easy and part of this bridge between you know, when does empowerment become it's own trap kind of a thing, and how many allowances that whole debate, always active, certainly active here, and I thought there wasn't people really spelling out their real requirements, they were getting everything done except the real work. And so we did, we developed a bit of a system and then the economics of it kind of fell apart. We were a private enterprise, I was still too hot to handle from politics. We ran into a couple of development organizations. But then I ran again in 97, so that took another year out, basically, and then the constituency changed, again. It took in Prince Albert and this time rural and East right into the Bible belt and now became something like 45% urban and 55% rural and Bible belt. I got smoked by the reform, I beat the liberal, that had beat me by 3000 votes, our party was saying the enemy was the liberals. I hadn't argued with them on the phone yet, but the election was on a Tuesday and on Saturday they were still telling me the liberals were my enemy. I told them the first day, that the polling was out, I had beat the liberals, I told them, I'm going to beat them by 3000 votes, I told them just out of the clear blue, and I beat them by 3200! Lucky, but you know, a lot of it is the anti-aboriginal stuff. Through all my being involved with Ipperwash and from being an advocate for northern issues while I was an MPA I was really seen as less of a rural spokesperson and co-op spokesperson, but really a spokesperson for Aboriginal causes because there were so few people speaking on that. And nobody specifically lined up to speak for that and I sometimes worked up some real passion on it. So, there were a series of events like the post secondary education-hunger strike, we helped facilitate a settlement. That was a national thing where the government was cutting aid to post secondary education of Indian people. I was very involved in that, and then Ipperwash was you know. So you start to get to be a bit of a target, you know. So this time I'm not running. Plus the organizing is getting a little bit more interesting again, you know, linking up with Flo and this CEDTAP program and that network to people. It's always hard, it's hard when you go into politics for people to take you serious as a professional. So I'm getting myself cleansed of my sins here!

So tell me more about your work right now, what's the range, what are the things you're working on, what is the institute about?

It does still have what is sort of a DMI methodology if you will, which is a kind of package of board training, organizational development and joint venture negotiations, tied to a mentoring period, you know, just as a kind of a basic unit of stuff that if you get to do it to somebody usually it works! But it's too small of a place and I'm not a good enough marketer so, we end up doing a lot of different stuff so we do a fair bit of applied research, kind of thing.


The big ones now we're helping to reorganize and mobilize 26 fishing coops in northern Saskatchewan. Given Burnt Church they're working to get the Aboriginal fishery organized on a cooperative basis. You don't have to have a race based fishing, you can have a coop based fishery but you do have to learn to get down and do it. But the Douglass government, the old historic CCF government organized them into coops in the 50's and this little plant has persisted in the north. It's the longest running aboriginal organization, you know, aboriginally run, organized instead of instituted structures. Well, that's the CCF legacy you know, you can find it here still. Tommy Douglass himself was the minister of coops. And there's tales of Tommy Douglass personally coming to northern Saskatchewan. to settle things, to mediate disputes among coops.


Yah, among aboriginal fisherman, you know, figuring out how to allocate resources. And they figured a way to work that out and it kind of fell out of favor with government's core funding, you know, being what it is and development corporations and one thing or another. But they persisted and now hopefully we're going to bring them back. There's a lot about today's niche marketing and being able to identify what lake things are from and that things are sustainably managed and that the local people are involved in that management and that, we're kind of uniquely positioned to capitalize on. Well actually I took up the cause when I was a critic and then the secretary treasurer was a neighbor here and was always too poor, they have no phone no fax, there's nothing for years. So they always used their office here. So and then finally we convinced some folks to put money into resources for operations... Well, into at least taking a look, is there a real opportunity here, because we're hamstrung here by a federal or crown corporation that just gives government enterprise a bad name. You know as a socialist it's hard to fight a marketing organization but they are horrible. They treat fish like you do grain, like you know, grain you can keep 10 years in a bin, fish you've got to get to market. The bureaucracy is in a huge flat in Winnipeg, with fish being caught on the west side of Saskatchewan., trucked to Edmonton and then trucked back across Saskatchewan to Manitoba to sit in the parking lot over a weekend and then into the monstrosity of a plant, and then they wonder why they can't get a price for the fish, you know. It's bizarre. But we're winning it and so, that's kind of a current cause. We've been working on kind of cultural development tourism in the heartland there, Batoche, and Duck Lake, kind of the area that I'm from. It's historic country, there the Metis Rebellion of 1885, the resistance was there. Treaty 6 was signed there, the first man made settlement was there, the Conference of Mennonite Missions was actually founded there. And, so it's real rich and I've been there all my life. So that's pretty interesting.

I'm interested in the Mennonites, in the picture of the culture and the politics, and the church. My niece married a guy who is Mennonite and lives in Winkler.

Oh yah. The Theocracy there. You bet, you bet. The mission conferences were always in Saskatoon and the parties were here in P.A. You know, there is a powerful peace ministry at the heart of it and that's led to the justice edge. And there's a powerful service focus, helping people. I'm interested in the justice edge on that, how much that really translates.

Oh, man, that happens at a lot of levels, you know it's a complex folk you know, Mennonites. You know there's some ethnic strands and then there's more all the time. We're the first European church to become a majority non-European actually,


Yah! Surprising to note. ...Oh I think there's in some ways, people looking at it from a political science standpoint are always mystified because you have social attitudes and not everybody shares them and sometimes it's related to education levels and urbanization, but pretty conservative attitudes generally on things like abortion and social kind of questions, actually some quite right wing. And very right wing, actually, but then you have this other side, and not everybody buys the peace witness and the service, but a big majority do, you know, and put incredible time and effort into it. And yah, I think that kind of gets you out there and keeps you out there. Certainly in Prince Albert are there is a ministry called Person to Person, which a lot of Mennonites are involved with. And we're just looking at, that's the other thing we're doing locally is I'm working with Riverbank Development Corporation which is one of these NDO's the government has sponsored now for three years. They've continued finally our funding, so, we've been doing some work with them here in Prince Albert. They come out of the housing coop sector, kind of. So, there we're maybe looking at the MCC link with them, they there's sure a lot of folks in the formal CED sectors, various projects in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Winnipeg's a major animator of that kind of thing. Yah, so there's a culture there where that's, and I kind of grew up in. It's kind of expected of you that you're going to be out there and not just work for yourself. And when you launch yourself that far out into the world, if you will and into conflict situations or whatever, I mean, you absorb some of the passion that's out there. That sometimes makes you culturally a little bit separated from some folks who haven't have that you know, that sort of experiences. But that happens to a lot of people.

What is it do you think that really sustains you in the work? I mean, you've been doing it for a while.

Yah. It hasn't beenthe money! But I do have a beautiful place. If it wasn't for Saskatchewan. you know, this is the cheapest nice land in North America probably. So it's been possible to, I think it's part of it is really the feeling of satisfaction when something good happens and you have the feeling that what you're doing is going for something more than payments. It's something else, and it's worth it in itself. People you get to know tend to be a little bit more interesting people in the community, you know the organizers and the people who get on the fringes, but still with their act together. So, you start to like the company. You just look at the options, career wise and work wise and whatever and all the down sides just, it always seems to look out looking like the, the most interesting thing to do next is to keep organizing something or other.

So have you ever been to Toledo?

That's near Archbold, right? Archbold, Ohio.

Oh really? Sure it is. Who do you know in Archbold?

Oh, quite a few people, my Goshen of them was a good friend of mine. Ended up actually out here, we had a kind of a reunion and a bunch of guys from Goshen here in 79 and a hard night of partying, my friend from Ohio was up. And by morning him and I had a joint venture to manufacture mowers. Yah, I feel good about that, too I helped them, you know, there was a little rural town with 7 full time jobs and a mower plant.

Really? Makes a big difference.

Makes a huge difference.

I know a lot of people in the states who have sort of gone in and out of social change and politics. So I'm interested in that, know that's not everybody's path. And as you said, you earn your credibility in one world and then you earn it in the other. Talk a little more about that if you would. Your experience, and the role politics plays in social change work in your experience.

Well, the two if in my life have been very closely linked. And I know that's not everybody's experience or people on the political map that think community organizing and so on is too micro a solution to really be taken seriously as a central strategy. And there are people in community change and community organizing and social change that figure politics is way too restrictive and contaminated by evil, evils of one sort or another to have anything other than a peripheral you know, or pragmatic kind of relationship. But, on the other hand from a larger sense it kind of struck me early on that everyone was explaining to me, politics was really big changes without war. And that was kind of a unique take on the Mennonite business, you know, if you really want peace, maybe traditionally we said you don't get involved, but maybe the thing to do is to get maximally involved. Because if you can figure out how to figure, to solve your problems in the social order, peacefully, then we've accomplished something, you know, this is kind of a goal! So maybe there's a, way that made quite an impression on me. Certainly the history of our province, what sustains people on working for change is often the notion of replaying the prophetic role. For somebody from Saskatchewan that ties naturally to politics because we did have the CCF you know, we've brought Medicare to North America, a lot of big social political, or political battles were fought here with profound social consequences. So, if there was any place where a person should naturally think coincidentally about change and politics it should be here. You know, you maintain that, or, because there had to be so much cleaning up the debt, really never has had a chance to develop a creative orientation to it. That's really suffering now for that. But, and the tools are limited politically, but boy there's sure a lot of tools. And a good policy decision can just give an infiniteamount of...

Incredible amount of impact. you know like something like Medicare. And even now, some just a couple of my pet peeves, core funding for organizing, you know it's the amount of time like I said earlier that organizers and their organizations spend chasing money is just hideous. And certainly I think people have to be involved, matching shouldn't only be done by government, but, economic and community infrastructure organizing is just as important to me as schools and hospitals, you know, something that communities need for their health and survival. And you know, get on with it. I lived like that for 10 years and it wasn't bad, it didn't tie me up, it didn't dictate or limit people's freedom and creativity

The other way!

Yah. It created more freedom than it limited! By far. You know, the social welfare, those transition programs, they're you know, so much waste and all that. So there's big political questions that are still ... and on a micro level my term as MP with that critic area there were three or four pretty sizable innovations and I was the back bench of the back bench, you know, third party and junior member of that, obscure critic area. But, there are a few things we got done. Certainly regionally here we got a new forestry agreement. The federal/provincial forestry agreement, with the Federal government being Tory. Both federal and provincial were Tory, and me as an NDP back bencher tries to convince a federal conservative government to put in a northern forestry program period, nobody there was going to vote for these provincial Torries. These were giving money to their enemies. And we did it to create, I called them community forestry brigades, and they now became the first response team. They are out there they are full time trained groups of young people who get up every morning and go to work , you know, on community projects, and fire, forest management. Beautiful. Our forest fire rates are just plummeting.


Yah! It's a,

How many jobs were in that?

I think there were, there were originally forecasted an amount at about 1000, that was pretty optimistic, but I think there's probably 250 or 300 in northern Saskatchewan. Which is great.

That's a lot of jobs.

Yah. And they're good jobs. So, you know, that was a political thing. This fisheries issue that we're working on now trying to readjust fish management policy, marketing policy. There's a lot of political questions tied up in that.

And somebody will make the deal.

Yah. you know, and so I mean politics was certainly quite real in community development. It's working on that economic development, and I know there's community organizing that's much more about the critique you know, about drawing awareness and , I haven't been doing as much of that, you know, in-your-face, kind of organizing, as I used to partly, you know a function of age. I look to young people.Yah. And you know also you get good at some other things. But, I think I mean there is a real challenge on the left everywhere to come up with more meaningful responses to the global age! In some ways a person has to at least stay involved enough to be connected to that discussion. And really it's in the discussion and in the connecting that the new vision comes. And you know, so, yah, I just have trouble uncoupling my religion and mypolitics and my community and personal life.

Pretty much woven together.

Yah. But I mean all those spheres, you know there are people you feel can relate to it. Move the agenda forward. You've worked, you know, on a national scale and on a very very local scale. On that scale where are you right now?

Well, I'm more local. I'm more local. Part of that is circumstance and part of that is choice. I'm rooted here and partly as long as a person is keeping his political options and horizons, actually I still am, we lost this seat by 250 votes provincially, and when I couldn't run federally there was a lot of encouragement to hang around and not give up on politics and at least consider this provincial seat. So at least at this point I've got an open mind about that. And that keeps you rooted. Just a wise thing to do. And I like being on the road, that's part of what keeps you going. You know, somebody will pay my gas and my time to go to these places and meet these people and see what they're all about and what they're up to.

What isyour field at this point? I mean, how far a field do you travel for work?


Mostly Saskatchewan. Actually right now it's been quite centered on you know, from Saskatoon north, about half the province.

How far north is the north?

About up to the Northwest territories.

How far away is that?

Oh, it's what, 3 or 4 hours flight. Well the geographic center of Saskatchewan is about 100 km. north of here, just about by where you're going. So the north is the other half. I'd like to expand, I'd like to do some international, but I haven't had the opportunity and nothing has turned out that way. Certainly if I decide not to run I would want to maybe get a little further in that field. But I like the direct drive here, too, so, we've done some work in Alberta, actually, I've got a friend that's working in the oil industry, we've done some work for the other side. That was interesting. We actually negotiated the resource benefits agreement, signed agreement with an outfit called the Lubicon Cree, I don't know if you've heard of them. but there's a long saga about the Lubicon Cree, they got left out of a treaty process, there was a long international crusade going back to the Calgary Olympics years ago, long talks, international, and they first thought about the culture of rejection, you know, a rejectionist culture, you know, and my buddy, Doug Anguish has been in the Saskatchewan. government for a while but also is an old organzer, community organzier. He has been in and out of government and was working for this oil company and charged with making a new relationship with aboriginal people and gave his old organizing buddy a call, and actually we got an agreement with the Lubicon First Nation, and,

That's great.

Yah. But that wasn't the only tricky part, and also with their neighbors who are also all break away groups, eh, that the government has all bought off over time, so they're surrounded by their own members that have left them. And of course the oil play covers both, so we had to somehow or another talk to them simultaneously, so it was a tricky little piece of work. And I'm almost ashamed because the oil company was terribly dubious about the cost of all of this, and not counting mine and Doug's costs which weren't terribly high, but just the direct cost of the project came in at 5.6% higher than what they would have expected out of the, a you know, a similar job, for doing a whole series of training benefits and setting up a camp that they own, take ownership of and you know, all kinds of stuff. And so, that was a different experience, working for the other side then. The reason that I bring that up is because I'm going to meet with Doug again here in a couple of weeks, from this conference, this ... conference in Calgary. And actually I'm going to meet with him, maybe go up into the McKenzie valley, there's a play, I did my master's on the McKenzie valley pipeline inquiry for those social impact analysis guys, and I am going to be there. Now if I went out there working for an oil company, it could be on the verge of happening.

Well, I'm about to the end of my list of questions. If we view this as a conversation among organizers and there's only 2 of us sitting on the side of the swamp here, but, imagining the other Canadians and the Australians and the folks in the U.S. involved in this. Do you have questions that you want to add to the dialog?

Yah, I think all the questions you ask are good questions. You know, we need to, you know there is always that need to be refreshed, that's what I like about the American element to all this, the culture and the kind of in your face quality about it. I think you know here we always need to be better at that than we are. I think we've done some things in the political arena that we don't always recognize as having been useful. But, may be helpful...