back to intros
What I'm doing, actually is collecting the stories of organizers... I hope to talk to 20 or 25 people across Canada. And the purpose of it is to share the stories of one another, to really begin to get a sense of what is the state of making trouble? What could be done to support and advance organizers?
In Canada, and we're going to Australia after this,
So it'll be eventually published?
Yes, it'll be published in 3 ways as we do interviews, they will be transcribed and put up on the web for people, so that'll be a publishing... And, then I hope to put Brian Murphy and Eric Shragge, and Lance Evoy who have been involved in creating the new degree program at Concordia. And in the Institute of Management and Community Development and their Summer Institute as well.... Which would bring all the people together that have been interviewed, at the Institute in June, with some Canadians, with some Australians, with some North Americans...to really reflect on some of the organizing...
It's a good time to do it now.
In terms of a lot of the things that are going on, a little bit of exchange of experience, and I think that there are some common problems... I'll give you the web site address that we're using for the project is comm-org.wisc.edu. This is the basic site on community organizing which includes a lot of writing and a lot of observations and it's a very good bibliography on what's going on. I'm really interested in hearing your story and what you do and how you came to do it.
I'm okay till around 530.
Can you spell your last name for me?
I'll get the address and the phone number and all that... So, the opening question is what do you do and why do you do it?
Well, I mean, what we're doing here now is running an open community organizing center. And I think that comes out of a lot of experience over the years about what makes sense for how to make change in communities and the way this place came together was the realization that to do effective community organizing, you have to have an independent base. I think in the context of Canada in many instances, organizations, NGO's and so on were able to do a certain degree of community organizing and community change work, but at a certain point, one ran into the structure of the government sort of saying you've gone far enough. What we've tried to do here is create a space. We have everyone here, college students, high-school students, we have generations from the old to the young, we have people here who are organizing intentional communities... we have people who are active here in the struggle against globalization and we have youth who are really concerned about the nonunionization of service workers. So we cover many, many things. What we've done here is tried to say is that our field - and I think this is happening in other parts of the world - that people need to have a place to organize from. As much as we get caught up in the e-mail, web thing, that you can do out of your house, you can't because organizing is community and you've got to have a community to organize from, you've got to have a base to organize from. So that's what we're trying to do here, I mean, there's a really strong feeling that an independent organizer can step in when others can't do it. Like this week for example there's a major strike on in town of service workers. Making minimum wage and they're 99 % women on the picket line, in front of the hotel, and they are members of a union. But they need community support. So out of here we went into one of the major hotels that is owned by the same company and they're making they're million dollar profits. And because we're an independent organizing center, we were able to go into that hotel and raise a lot of hell. To the point where we got banned and we'll get arrested the next time we show up. But doing that in an independent but friendly way I mean, we didn't take away from the strategy of the picket line, but what we feel is we've got to support them in their struggle because that's where you get your community solidarity. And then, in this last week as well, we've organized a campaign to support the teachers who are working to rule. We've produced the materials that for one reason or another they can't... the organization is just too big to do it, or... they just aren't on top of the issue at the community level, right? We work very much in a solidarity fashion, here, we work along side. We don't impose our agendas. For example, our involvement with the service workers was taking their message into the management side of who they're having to bargain with and showing the management that there are more than just workers on the picket line who are concerned with what is happening. So that's the kind of strategy that we get involved in.
I'm interested in you're own particular background. You know, I started with your name. What made you kind of move into the labor of organizing?
Well, I actually came out of a place called Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, which was a very strong Cooperative Commonwealth Federation area. And my first ...I mean, there were members of my family who were members of the CCF, but my first kind of more public radical experience was with the Medicare struggle in the 60's. I was in the youth club of the CCF. And that was very important for us to see what was lining up... I mean, it was an attempt to have socialized medicine and then I became a fairly radical student leader, I guess. Edited the student newspaper.
High school or college?
College. And then we had kind of one of those what they called in Britain, the Red Brick Universities, where they were able to push the liberal arts a long way in terms of understanding humanity and taking a stand. And I ended up working nationally for what's called the Canadian Union of Students on the International Newspaper. We were extremely involved in the war in Vietnam, in terms of anti-war activities and support of people who came to Canada to avoid having to go to Vietnam. And we had a lot of good influences then. There was a lot of good stuff going on between American and Canadian communities. I think it was kind of a period that we have never had a very good conversation about. I think there was a lot of good ideas and concepts and a kind of solidarity. I mean, at that time in the student newspapers and that we had what was called Liberation News Service, which was kind of interesting... You remember that...We rattled off the fucking news media (laughing). And at that time we were really involved in that and the Canadian establishment took us on big time. We were a union of Canadian students. We had 460,000 members and because of the position we took, clearly, against the war in Vietnam. And we also took a very strong position on class in Canada, and who has the wealth. We took a very strong position on democratization of the University. Because those are all together. People, when they think about not just the anti-war, there is a whole culture and a concept of democracy around that. And they went to war against us. They sent the secret police through the RCMP around campus and security investigations and surveillance went after people. And the Canadian students basically... we were destroyed. Because of the right wing attacks and all that. I think we did exactly what should have happened at that time. We took it on and fought it; but we sure learned a lot about what will happen when you fight. There is a counter force that will come after you.
It was an interesting struggle.
Learned a lot from that. And then I ended up coming back to Saskatchewan, because I was in Ottawa at that time working on the national stuff. And worked for the national farmer's union -- set up the National Farmer's Union across Canada. And that was quite an incredible experience of organizing. What actually happened was that people in the farmers union gave us a call in Ottawa and said, "we'd like to have your organizing skills working for us, setting up a farmer's union across this country." There was a great openness between sectors. I mean, we were students, but they knew we had come out of here, and they knew the stuff we had done here when we were students in terms of supporting the rural economy and they called us up and said, hey, come work with us.
They got the connection.
They got the connection big time and they wanted the energy. And this is something very important for us older ones now. Don't dismiss the energy of the young. We were given the opportunity. There is a guy by the name of Fred Gudmundson. A part of the farmer's union at that time and he knew it he just said, look, we want you guys here, we want your energy, we want your help. So we were part of. And because we had the rural, Sask. Base, we were able to move across Canada. So within the farmer's union it was a very interesting experience because we were taking on the large multi-national corporations that were trying to begin the process of globalization that we see today. So I ended up being the Urban-rural coordinator for the Farmer's Union and we went after Kraft. We call it the famous Kraft boycott. That was the first multi-national food company that was really nailed to the wall. It was an interesting experience because it was all about building alliances. Rural and Urban.. Building alliances on real terms, like we would go from one city to another and from one rural community to another and link them up in actions. It all started because Kraft was demolishing these small cheese factories in rural Ontario, and in doing that they were destroying the local economy. It was really about community development. They couldn't survive if they were going to be in there destroying the area. So, And then also the Farmer's union was really good at articulating the concept of a strong rural Canada that was in balance with an urban Canada. And talked very much in terms of what we know call sustainability.
Market circle... making sure that all the way through, workers were treated decently, farmers were treated decently and consumers were treated decently. Now a days they use the words sustainability, and that's what they were talking about then. We're more aware of what we mean by sustainability now. But that circle of supporting each other was certainly there. I did that and I was really involved in the farmer's union. And after that I ended up being a worker for a union here that was a breakaway from an American union, it was a Canadian based union. And we worked with cooperatives in rural Saskatchewan. In a very interesting way we were involved in developing rights for cooperative workers. Because it was that whole kind of interesting thing about you can have workers coops that are very democratic and you can have consumer-producer coops that really have to extract profits from somewhere and they took it out of the workers. So we were quite involved in organizing...
What union was that?
It was called the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union. And that was for the latter half of the 70's. And then that process I got quite involved in the overall credit union movement. We were fighting at that time the imposition of wage controls. There was a whole thing at that time to restrain worker's wages. They weren't up to restraining profits, but they were up to restraining wages. So we were mobilizing. And I learned a lot then about how you could do mass shut-downs and how you build to that, you know. How you have to be aware of the community about bringing community groups together, including trade unions. Without that whole kind of thing where you get played off against each other. We were fighting the propaganda of the state, blaming workers for taking too much out. We were just saying, look, people have to survive, and tried to address where the profits were going. And then, in the early 80's I went to Mozambique and spent a lot of time there and ever since then very regularly working on economic development and community health. The work I did in Mozambique in the early 80's was developing construction co-ops and housing co-ops and setting up local economic activity and working in the barrios. I was in Mozambique and just being submerged in a country that at that time was a Marxist-Leninist State and seeing how it worked. It was interesting. Sort of convinced me that we probably have democracy at the top and the bottom. Even if you have a very clear socialist direction at the top, unless you build from the bottom up, you're not going to get there. The conveyer belt concept doesn't work. It's not a matter of turning on an engine and having the right gear, you've got to have community organizing and people accepting where they want to go. Mozambique was caught in the middle of the war with South Africa, so that was quite an incredible experience, to see how a country could be overrun by apartheid forces. So what we built, they destroyed. It was quite an experience to be able to be there and see what was going on. But I learned a lot about people's abilities to organize with very very little and to also have the endurance to go through an incredible amount but still want to come back and rebuild.
You were in the rural areas?
I worked in the "barrios", which are almost like the peri-urban areas, urban-rural. In Mozambique we were in Maputo, a city that went from a population of about 600,000 And because of the war and migration expanded to about 2 million 100 thousand or something like that
So we were actually involved in building a capacity to survive in an enclosed area. But you know they did it, you know. They took the beliefs and values and turned them into what they called the "zonas verdes" - the green zone. And it was women who did that. It was a cooperative. And in the programs that I was working with in health and sanitation, a cooperative built the sanitation system, because the state couldn't do it. And they did it. Not only did they build them, in terms of supply and the infrastructure for sanitation and we're talking, very basics of clean water and latrines and all that. But they built them and they built them in quite a unique style in engineering capacity. And then they ran education programs at the community level, about proper uses of sanitation and making sure the people's money went first to health before it went to other things. So they combined education, economic development, community spirit, together. I was in the middle of a pretty heavy case. So that was for me personally it was quite a… It was really really hard, but I really thought that it was a privilege in terms of the people that I got to work around with.
What brought you back to Canada?
Oh, family and knowing that internationalism is very important, but you gotta do it at home. I don't think you can really go away for a lifetime unless something really compels you to do that. You can do it, and I think that's a really important message for people today is that working along side communities and other locations either North America, or Europe, Africa, Asia, South pacific, it's very important for opening people's consciousness and the way to do this is to work in solidarity so that you learn and you bring it back. So what we did is that we came back very intentionally to be involved in the anti-apartheid movement and we were very very much so. And actually, my partner, Denise Kouri, who I've worked with over all the years, and we made a decision that that was what we were doing. So we came back here and that was in the mid-80's and for the next, almost until about the late 90's I was the CUSO coordinator. CUSO was an international development group. I was the coordinator here in Saskatchewan. And what we did was try to think of an internationalism, which was what we called direct solidarity. So what we looked at was that rather than just sending things to others and never knowing who they were or what they were about and almost in a way practically a sophisticated charity, we developed programs that are still going now that link you directly, so one of the programs that we worked on that is going quite well is, a health and safety center. In Mozambique, it services all the workers in Mozambique. But it's linked to the Grain Services Union here, which is rural and urban workers who did some of the first break-throughs on the impact of health and safety on workers here in the prairies like in the grain elevators. They are in a direct solidarity relationship with workers in Mozambique. The project started in '85 and it's going great. So it's neat when you link communities and you think of all the money that you put through the United States AID and see what really counts. If you want to see lasting projects, it's that community connectedness. We have another one that we work with here called the Training for Health Renewal, which came out of the group we went to Mozambique with. We were kind of a collective. There was a dentist and a nurse and they got really involved in community health practices in Mozambique and then at the time they were doing that and coming back the conservative government here was closing down an exceptional community dentistry program. It was basically demystifying dentists and showing that you could do para-dentistry, you could train health workers to do dentistry, you didn't have to put all the money and all the time that you sometimes couldn't afford in training up dentists. So the methodology of the community dentistry program in Saskatchewan as it was being wiped out by the conservative government here, was almost wholly transported to Mozambique. It took years in Mozambique to make up for the destruction of the health system by the apartheid forces. That has built into a very interesting project and study where the concept that was being used in para-dentistry is now being used at every other level -- it's a vibrant community health program that believes in training of the trainers. So what you've got are people who are not MD's, people not having whole degrees and scientific whatever it is that we have here but people who have a good sense of community development and health and can train others about the practice of that. So right now, what we're setting up in Mozambique, is a training and research center for health and renewal. The job of that group will be to link the physical aspects of health, the mental aspects of health, and the economic aspects of health. We're really involved in that right now. So in a way the internationalism that we were involved in I think was really a turning point because it really kind of showed that alternatives can be built in communities and they can be built by learning from each other either internationally, or you can learn locally. But you can sure give each other a tremendous amount of power in sharing back and forth. That was a very critical experience for those two projects in particular.
Were you part of starting this center here?
Yes. Now what we've done is a group of us here who are quite committed to continuing our work with Mozambique and looking at ways and means that working along side Mozambicans we can work back and forth. That's sort of the overall area that we've taken on in principle, and the principle is solidarity. In just recognizing that we're all in it together, one for another, be it Mozambicans trying to survive under the absolute pressure of the World Bank structure adjustment. And you know Canada is going through a lot of that at the same time. So we try and know about politics within our community development direction.
One of the questions that I'm asking these folks, is, what is it really, that sustains you in maintaining your work?
Oh, I think the energy and spirit of working with people who have a real strong commitment to making things better. I mean, I think that many people get stressed out because they have a narrow ceiling, you know. They're in a room that's four feet high, so they crawl into that space and they're constantly pressured to do things that they don't want to do, that they don't feel good about doing. And I think unfortunately, many people are trapped like that. I think that what you got to do is push the ceiling up, and I think that you can do that because you have other people to help you do that. I don't think everybody has the opportunity to be able to leave particular jobs that are crashing on them. But by linking with others and by being part of communities that are looking for the alternative, that gives people spirit. And in my instance, I've just been able to link with communities and certain individuals that have a sense that community organizing is a long-term thing; it's a long-term commitment. The sustaining energy is there as people build the alternatives. You can realize what you can think about. You can read lots of books about alternatives, but the thing is to actually start to practice it, so that by practicing it it gives you the sustainability to keep going.
You talked about the cadre here. Tell me about who, or describe the circle of us...
Well, I think that what there is, is that every community has it everywhere. And that's part of being good organizers is to know them. Every community has levels upon levels of intelligence and history. I think your job is to find the levels and layers of that. And in Saskatchewan we've been benefited by quite a major struggle to create social democracy in a sense of a more or less socialist democracy with the CCF. So right away from the Riel Rebellion, over a hundred years or more, there's been a very strong sense of community awareness and change. Either we challenge the colonial sources or by fight those who are going to take your product and give you quite little back, as the farmer's organizers did, and then with the workers organizing in a resource area. You have to organize to survive, right? So there is an incredible awareness of that in Saskatchewan where people were able to take it to certain recognizable results like Medicare. We made a government that at least recognizes the role of pari-statal organizations, that understood that through the gathering of peoples collectively you could create telephone service and power and everything like that. So for me it transfers all the time forward and forward and forward because you build on each layer of that. Saskatchewan has a very strong network of people that are somewhat aware of the history that they've come out o, and are extremely aware of the absolute transformation that's going on in Saskatchewan right now as its rural component is being demolished, and globalization, and transnationalism through the corporations. It works its way through dismantling all that. But still there is a thinking, a process, people aren't giving up. Okay, globalization is going on over here with the corporations, but how do we think of an alternative to that? What kind of alternative social, economic, environmental, possibilities are there? So, when I say a "cadre" I don't mean like five people, but I think it's a "cadre" of thinking that links people together. People can contribute to, how can we turn Saskatchewan around, and build something that is truly reflective of the communities and the people and the environment so that it sustains itself. Then, how do we link that up to the rest of Canada, to Ohio, to Australia? I think that organizers always have to be aware of that. I think it's very hard, when you're really on the line as an organizer, but that vision keeping the vision really open and connected keeps organizers from wiping out and burning out. That kind of way of knowing the strengths that are around your community and knowing how you can go beyond that to communities that are international or in other places gives you so much back. I see here, that we're caught in something with organizing right now that, and I think it's great, we have a lot of energy in people becoming cooperative and people forming good networks, to forming intentional communities, and then we've got another kind of organizing which I call front-line organizing which is taking on the state or the corporations. We need to bring those two parts together a bit better, because it's all critical. You're not going to get to set up an alternative "food system" unless you link with the front line which is taking on cargo. So we're a bit desperate right now, if you're looking at the organizational field. We have to kind of link those incredible energies, because it's great energy in terms of what people are saying, well, alternatives in housing, or alternative food systems. But we have to also link that to what the kids are doing in Seattle. Where I think we've got a bit of a problem right now is we've got the incredible youth energy and that was inter-generational as well, because Seattle was like an onion layer, I mean, I was there. I was just amazed by the kids. They just kept on going, put yourself down, you know. They chained themselves down, only to have the goddamned Seattle police come up and we're going to charge you with obstruction and riot. We're going to club you with the club, and the tear gas, and all these. I was there doing radio stuff, right? And I did one show, it was five to ten and the police were there but everyone else was around, and I was thinking very dramatic, but very peaceful, because everybody's holding hands and they were yelling, and convincing the delegates not to go in. Five minutes later, they weren't doing anything different than they were doing five minutes before and that's when the police walked in with the rubber bullets and tear gas and pepper spray and all that. And I really felt something then about our role as older ones, you know? If we're not there to be tied down like they are, and that's a choice that people make. We should be there as witnesses to be with them and to talk about what they did, to relate the story. There were many like me who were doing that in Seattle. I was quite amazed, all these Americans showing up. I didn't realize that they had met with the United States. But we were there and we were together and in a way that was an important lesson about solidarity between generations. So it wasn't just those kids left there to have their heads cracked. In a way Seattle was interesting because it showed how to be successful.
There was a big labor presence...
Big labor, but a big community presence, too, I mean a lot of labor, but you know I was just absolutely amazed about people showing up from towns in California and that, they had their own buses come up. People like ourselves, you know, kind of gray and silver hair. And they said, well we're here, and we'll be there, and they were there, and you know what they did? They didn't go back to any hotel or anything. There was kind of an interesting group of older ones who kind of hung around the place and went up and down the street and were along the side. The reason that I'm saying all of this is because it's an important lesson for all of us as organizers that in organizing you talk about solidarity and you know, part of that solidarity is the witnessing. I mean, as much as you witness in Guatemala, you witness at home as well. Getting back to what I said earlier about having two sets of organizing. I think that that political front, some people call it the confrontation front, has to join with the alternative development front, and the alternative development front has to join with the confrontation front to some degree. I mean, people can decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, but we have to learn how to bring the organizational forces together. Like we had here killings in February, where the cops took native people and dumped them to die, outside of town here. And you die here in the winter -- it's a death sentence. So there was a big question there, what are you going to do? What do you do about it? What happens is that you organize. You get out on the streets, and we did. We had tons of people, particularly people from across Canada because it was a solidarity gathering and by being there with the first nations people, it means you can also be with them to talk about alternatives and food and economics. We talk about this a lot of years ago, but you've gotta read the pattern...
Being there is the first test...
And it's all there. And eventually it's all there. And I think another reason too is that with young people now that are just pissed off, mad, prepared to go all the way, as they did in Seattle, Washington and so on, they need to talk to us, and we need to talk to them. Because they're debating a hell of a lot right now about what kind of a society they want. They're not patient in the sense that we've been forced to patient. We weren't patient, but we were forced to be patient. So they're talking violence, in the sense of saying, well you know, these guys, McDonald's fucks people over all over the world, and what's the problem with that in being violent to them here, because they're doing it. And go right to hell. There has to be a good serious discussion, which I hope may be as part of what you're doing we'll get into it. A round table, about what we mean by civil disobedience and what we mean by tactics and strategies of confrontation, how people can feel okay about that, how do you build consensus, what are our roles, you know? And in a way Seattle and I saw this in Washington as well, people did decide on roles. And there was a lot of heavy stuff going on, people said you know, look it, we'll do the lock down, but we would appreciate it if others would be the witnesses. And those things got sorted out. And I think they can be sorted out like that on many levels, if we get some dialogue going. But I think that if we don't talk to each other we're going to lose the incredible energy that's spinning around that circle right now from those who do that solid, prodding, organizing day by day, and then you've got that remarkable high energy of the youth coming in, who want to learn or are looking for answers.
But they're not always looking to us to learn from...
No, not at all.
They want to learn, and they want to learn it now.
And they don't have the patience to want to sit down and hear about what did or didn't work in 1968 or 1969. But if you're with them, working with them, they'll sit down. Like one of the things we're doing here, is we're going to do sessions on the Spanish Civil War, because people want to know exactly what happened, and again, they're into it because of the romanticism behind it. But, if you get into it, it could be a very important discussion because of what the war meant. It meant a lot in terms of fighting the fascism of that time. A lot of young workers died there for the United States and Canada and other places. And got past fear. That's a learning thing. We want to talk about the Farmers Union, the IWW, they are really interested in worker's co-ops, so the interest is in all the same areas, for the most part. We can build an exchange where we learn from each other. And I think learning from each other is important, too, because they're going to be saying, we don't have time to do this kind of thing. I spoke at a church about a month ago, and they asked me to talk about the food system, food security, and multi nationalism and globalization so what I ended up doing was talking mostly about what the experience was like in Seattle, because I talked about resistance, right. Then I talked about youth and went through what they did, and a little bit of what we've been talking about right now, and the need to learn from each other, patience, and respect. Some people there just went bananas, they just said, No, you're wrong about all that, there was a highly trained group of people who were deliberately trying to bring everything down, and if you go near, you're going to be manipulated by these people, that... They were talking about the black anarchist or something like that. And I said, you know, that may be the reason for why you should get involved then. You don't walk away from these, you're not going to walk away from globalization, it's gonna be there. So are you saying then because you don't want to be part of something that you're therefore going to be manipulated into not becoming part of something that overall is very important to your lives. So maybe you should enter into some kind of a dialog, discussions, maybe say to them, no, this is why you don't believe in the property being destroyed. You will have a good discussion because you know that it'll be picked up and used in a certain way, so talk to them, don't walk away from them. But some of them, you're never going to get through to yourself and they're going to have to learn themselves. But as Seattle shows, the movement is much bigger than 200 people, and the stronger and wider you go, the more you've gotta introduce them and control citizen's opposition. But I think it's a very critical debate now for community people, organizers, social activists, all those kinds of people.
My last question on the interview level is, do you have any observations or questions for organizers in Canada or the U.S. Or Australia? We're trying to create a dialogue here...
I think the thing is to really, in a way, do more of a sharing about, which is in a sense what you're doing right now, about what is happening at the community level. I think what happens because of the way the media controls us is that everything is on the big stuff. I don't deny that that's very important when people manage to play it through... like in Seattle, ... but what still has to be shared is what's going on regionally and locally. And finding ways to do it... and I think with the web and all that you can do it. There are extremely strong possibilities for alternative media. Like I do a radio show for over 5 years. It's on twice a week on our community radio and now we've got it on the web. (Find this at www.makingthelinksradio.com) What we do is basically good journalism that is about communities, internationally and locally. Many can do that. I guess what I'm saying is, we really spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to capture the establishment media, and they really spend most of the time capturing us. We can do a lot on the alternative, as much as we talk alternative economics, we should really talk alternative communications and the means to be able to do that. So that to me is an absolutely critical level. And I think the other thing for me that is very important, and I think it's because of my work in Mozambique and that, is actually that we try and make it, much as we have corporate globalization on one side, we can create community globalization. It sounds kind of funny. But it really is all about how communities can work with each other globally. And to follow that, build that power that can address these issues that we talk about, protecting our communities and ourselves. So, I think we've got to really think that way so that when we talk any kind of initiative, we always think, what does that mean for others? Not only in our home communities, but beyond that. I think that's a real chore for organizing. My next step is that we should not let ourselves be professionalized. Too often organizing gets picked up by .... apparatchiks. You know, by professionals who go to university and get this degree in community development. I say, beware, you know, watch out, because you can easily take the spirit, and the sense of really good organizing, out of organizing. If you leave it as a professional degree in community development. And that scares the shit out of me when I see what's going on. I think we have to be really careful about not building up, sort of a mirror image of what we are opposed to. So we build up even within ourselves, sort of bureaucracies and professionalism and tear down what we actually planned to build. And I guess my last point is that we be really aware of classism, that, it's there. That there are many people who are very, very poor, and people who are extremely rich and that we have to address those issues. And I think, particularly in North America, and I suspect in Australia, we are a bit fortunate because we can still have the paycheck roll around and have homes and all that, but, real organizers have to reflect the communities who are impoverished and not just in North America. And then recognize in North America that there's really a North America. That, you know, there are aboriginals here, First Nations people here, and aboriginals in Australia, so some type of the class thing has to be done. But I think then that even organizers themselves even making sure that we are representative of the communities that we come from. We have to join and encourage those to come in who may be seen as minorities. But... the conflicts from a quarter century ago are still there, you know...
Let me, before time runs out....
...But we don't have to accept the democratic institutions as they are. I know Judy Rebick has written about this. I think her book actually radiates what a lot of people are doing. You know, we've got these institutions that are supposed to be our democratic institutions, and they're not working. And I think that's what people are thinking. I mean, you look at the more people who vote in the U.S. and here as well. So, one of the projects that we've really got to be concerned about is how access to decision making, power sharing, happens, on the local level, regional, and international. And I think globalization may have already brought that to the table as well, because you've got WTO basically telling you what you can and can't do. The U.N. when it comes down to the real issues, can't enforce anything. I think that democratic side is there, and I think young people are attentive to that one, too, I mean, they know that intuitively that there isn't a hell of a lot of representation out there.
And that as a core value, has power.
It has an incredible motivating power, the right to be recognized and to have a say in what's going on. We did a citizen's inquiry here during the MAI, actually, this was the first major launch of a mass participation against the MAI that took place here in Saskatoon. We had about 500 people. The underlying people that came there were farmers, students, laborers, you know...I think people really, if they didn't intellectually take it all the way down, they intuitively knew that the MAI and the WPO was all about dismantling event the limited democracy that you do have.
But what it does do, and what we found when we did the citizen's inquiry, we went to towns all over, small towns in rural Saskatchewan and business centers. We linked up inquiries all across Canada. What we found was that people were intent to know more about the impact of these world trade organizations. But what really got them going was the discussion of alternatives. Economic, social, democratic alternatives. That energy that keeps people going, well, there's energy that can keep whole communities going. And the moment that you open the door and walk into saying, if this isn't the W.T.O. what is it we're going to do? It was like, the feeling, the feeling got pushed off... And it's hard to relate it. We were constituting the chapter of the Council of Canadians here as well. We were really involved. And right away, we were consultating to do the right thing, you know, the power of citizenry, and within that what's called, for want of a better word, intentional citizenry, you could see in a very collective, mass way, that people really do want to be intentional citizens, it's not just a few who feel that, it's for many. There's a great need to walk to the other side, to put your mind somewhere else out of the groove that it's stuck into, and say, yah, this is the Canada that we'd like to see, or the Australia, or the world we'd like to see, it's just really liberating. Now one of the processes we've got going, we're going to be setting up a what we call, citizen's agenda. But we want to do a process that will be longer than most people realize. The majority of these manifestos are written in a weekend. What we want to do is develop a process where Canadians from all walks of life, all parts of Canada, can participate in building this citizen's agenda, which will include all key elements of democratic decision making. What do we want, what kind of an economy, what kind of an environment, what kind of a community where youth, and where elderly can walk. But we want to build it from the bottom up.