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October 1, 2000Monica Hay #3 - 1556 W. 13th Ave., Vancouver, BC V6J 2G4 604-685-1734 email - firstname.lastname@example.org Laura Stannard 964 W. 23rd Ave., Vancouver, BC V5Z 2B3 (W) 604-721-0091 (H) 604-732-8685 email - email@example.com Patsy George 867 Hamilton St., #2305 Vancouver, BC V6B 6B7 604-687-7115 email - PatsyGeorge@hotmail.com Ted Kuntz 201-3041 Anson Ave., Coquitlam, BC V3B 2H6 (W) 604-942-7134 (fax) 604-942-3915 (H) 604-942-2899 email - firstname.lastname@example.org Ken Lyotier 302-118 Alexander St., Vancouver, BC V6A 3Y9 (W) 6604-681-0001 (fax) 604-662-7677 (H) 604-681-4250 email - email@example.com Seth Klein 1400 - 207 West Hastings Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7 604-801-5121 fax - 604-801-5122 email firstname.lastname@example.org Herb Barbolet #106-131 Water St. Vancouver, BC V6B 4M3 604-730-0450 fax 604-730-0451 (h) 604-731-7785 email@example.com Jennifer Wade 6061 Highbury St., Vancouver, BC V6N 1Z2 604-263-4727 firstname.lastname@example.org Margaret Mitchell 821 - 525 Wheelhouse Sq. Vancouver, BC V5Z 4L8 604-873-1493 email@example.com Murray Dobbin #803 - 1340 W. 12th Vancouver, BC V6H 1M5 604-739-8560 fax 604-739-8564 email - firstname.lastname@example.org Jean Swanson #211 - 456 W. Broadway Vancouver, BC V5R 1R3 604-879-1209 Mark Haddock 21 Brackenridge Pl., Port Moody, BC V3H 4H8 604-469-6607 fax - 604-469-6638 email email@example.com
Please note - these remarks are taken from a tape made of the meeting. Some parts were unintelligible very important remarks were lost. Others have been incorrectly transcribed. I have done my best to recover the sense of the meeting, and take full responsibility for errors and omissions the people quoted have not had the chance to 'improve or extend' their remarks.
I met David in Montreal at the institute of management and community development and that's the premiere institute in the country that is committed to addressing social justice and economic equities based upon community organizing. David comes from Toledo, and works with the center for community change and it's a national organization. I'll describe what it does. They are committed to working in partnership with local groups that are addressing primarily issues that surround poverty. Housing, economic activists and some social justice issues. David was going to take a 4-month leave of absence, and was convinced to take an 8-month leave of absence at half pay. You can tell that there are roots in the community at the Center when people are offered half pay and they take it! What he's doing is working on the CANAUSUS project, which is Canada, Australia, and the U.S. and what he wants to do is look at community organizing, activism. He wanted to meet in Vancouver with some of the people who are doing projects and what an opportunity to assemble people who care about their community. Everyone here is either now or has been over a very long period of their life in some significant way making institutions of caring and advocacy for those who live in distressed communities or in conditions of social injustice or economic inequity. So, I would like to be able to take the opportunity to extend the invitation to people tonight as one of the groups that Dave is seeing on his way through BC, he's been through Saskatchewan and Alberta and has seen by web site accounts, 14 of the world's 150 whooping cranes! I have in my life growing up on the prairies seen 2 whooping cranes. The family has fallen in love with the prairie landscapes of the yellows and the harvest moons and the northern lights, and it's just gorgeous countryside, so, I'll let David introduce himself and his family and describe what the project is about. David welcome, it's good to have you here.
Thank you. It is quite a life, and I have to say that the project is really very simple, as it says on the back of the card, we are collecting the stories of organizers and activists in Canada, Australia, and the United States. I'm an organizer, I left a perfectly good job in a curtain factory in Holyoke Massachusetts in 1971 to take a job as an organizer in Rhode Island. I've worked in local and regional and national organizations in the States for all that time, essentially, trying to advance the projects of change and justice. It occurred to us as a family, that now is about the time with a 13 year old, and a 15 year old, for us to do something together if we were going to do something together. It occurred to me as an employee of the center for community change, that if I was eligible for a sabbatical after 7 years, and it had been 12, it probably was about time to take my 4 months' pay. As we looked around, I sort of began with a sense as a person that I wanted to learn about other people's work in organizing and change. I discovered that other folks shared that curiosity, of learning about other people's work and the desire to have a conversation. So, the CANAUAUS project, which I think sounds a little bit like a small town in New Jersey, and in Australia it's called the AUSCANUS project, so Canada isn't first, Australia is. It really started as a personal interest and then being a family interest and then the Institute in Management and Community Development became interested in hearing from organizers around Canada, how the Institute can help in sustaining them in their work. The Jewish community foundation in Montreal is a supporter, an active project partner because they're interested in all the Jewish communities around Canada and in organizing as an approach, what role community mobilization and community organizing and activism for social change plays in advancing the various communities. The Van City Community Foundation has been supportive for some of the same reasons. Where does change come into the mix? So my life's project is changing the way the world works and I'm fascinated by the opportunity to meet other people who share that project and to learn from your work. What the project consists of is as I said, collecting stories. My project is talking to people and running the tape recorder. These conversations will be transcribed and published on the web site that is in reference on the inside of that card. It is my hope that I can then get out of the middle, that the conversation can happen among the people that have been interviewed. So that you can begin to talk to Flo Frank and Alex Campbell, and Mike Retasket, and Yvonne Stanford, the others that have been in the interview mix. And the conversation about how do we advance community organizing and how do we advance justice can go forward with all of us around a bigger table. In fact what will happen after we publish these interviews from Canada and Australia (after Christmas we're going to Australia for 4 months) in June we will at the summer institute meeting in Montreal, the week of June 12th, we will invite all of the people who have been part of this in Canada, and some from Australia and the US to come together and have that conversation take place. So there are a lot of ways to have the conversation. Our friend Brian Murphy from Inter Pares, as we talked about this project initially, gave me a very wise piece of advice. I said I want to protect some time on this project so that I'm not working all the time, so that I can spend time with the family. He said, well you're thinking about this all wrong, it's not that work is here and family is there. Find ways to bring the family into it. So I want to introduce the other members of our family, to introduce themselves and talk about what their part of the project is. And we'll go around. Whoever wants to go first, Sky?
Okay, I'm Sky and I am interviewing the children of activists and organizers just to see how having their parents as an organizer has affected their lives and if they have any interest in working as an organizer themselves. I'm hoping to make it into a 40 minute documentary in the end. But, we'll see what works out best.
I'm Jud I'll be taking pictures of activists and organizers, and some of my pictures are right there. You can look at them and pass them around if you want.
I'm Lindsay Potts and I am home schooling and trying to figure out how much time that takes and then see what's left over and what I might do with it. I'm really interested in literature and so I've been sort of nosing around Canadian children's literature. And I think I will end up, this project has become sort of unwieldy for Dave and so I think I'll end up in assisting him in some of the editing to try to pull out of these interviews interesting tidbits that might be posted. So that somebody could sort of you know, go in a little ways and then decide if they want to go further and read the whole interview. They won't get the whole thing, but at least they will get a good flavor with both at the web site.
So, what I've been asking people is who are you what do you do and how did you come to do that, why do you do that, what sustains you? If we could begin by just going around the table, people could say who you are and what you do, and then we'll start with the more complicated and interesting questions. And if people could sort of bellow out, we will try to get this all on tape. Whoever wants to start.
Do you want me to start? It's my penalty for being late, isn't it? My name is Monica Hay. Gosh, where to start, do you want me to just do like,
Why don't you just say what you do,
5 minutes or something like that?
Yah, just a couple minutes on what you do.
Okay, I started doing community work on the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. I've done a lot of work for Laura who will introduce herself next and some of the people around this table. I started working there in 1992 upon graduation from UBC. I did a bachelor's degree in urban and economic geography and I was particularly interested in gentrification. So I started volunteering at the Downtown Eastside Resident's Association and before I knew it I was organizing housing activism I guess. Developing social housing, working with homeless people, starting at the branch office and the downtown, doing surveys of people living in SRO housing and documenting the amounts SRO's we had in Vancouver, how much we had lost and generally the impact on Canada's lowest urban low income neighborhoods. From there I went from organizer of the organization to provincial government and working on sort of dual initiatives, starting at the community bank for low-income people. Over the last 10 years, banks had pulled out of the neighborhood and there was only one left after it had been 10 for a number of years. And then the other one was developing a provincial homelessness strategy. I had worked on that for DERA for years and the bank is currently at the corner of Hastings. It's still a running operating for low income people as a provincially owned financial institution but it provides services and programs in the community. And we built 35-unit housing project next door for low-income people out of highway infrastructure money. It was money that was designated for highways and we somehow managed to get it routed into a social infrastructure project. And then from there I went actually to highways and left the community, work in the community, but remained on a number of volunteer boards, and so I'm president of the Main and Hastings council society and we developed affordable housing for low income people and we've developed about 200 units that we've developed and now manage. I also work with the Pride center which was set up to train people to work in GM place, and the Pride center is still continuing, providing employment and training opportunities for people in the Downtown East Side. Primarily once they've stabilized their housing then they can obtain training and employment and the means to develop that aspect of their lives. Currently I work for the insurance corporation of BC which is the public automobile insurance company and the chairman of the board there, Bob Williams, who was interviewed separately. We're developing transformational projects in other low income communities for east city center, one of the technical universities of BC will be out in Surrey and that's sort of my day job now and I'm still involved in the community, on nonprofit boards. So, a wide range.
Hi, my name is Laura Stannard. Currently I'm an information and referral specialist, and that's not too specific to organizing, so I'm going to sort of leave that out. Like Monica, I started in Downtown East Side, became active in corporate services and in 1989 started working with DERA. The provincial government at the time had just changed the residential tenancy act so that hotel tenants now had rights as residential hotel tenants, but they had not informed anybody of that.
Secret rights! Nobody knew about them but they were there. But it really made a big difference in the life of SRO tenants, because I don't know if you remember with Expo in 86, there were hundreds and hundreds of people who were evicted out of the homes that they were living in for many many years. So, this was nice and together with another DERA person we set up a community education program and again advocated for hotel tenants and for about two or three years hotel managers still kicked hotel tenants out illegally and evicted them with exactly the same repetition as they had done before, but it truly did change so that now most hotel managers are aware at least that they might transgress if they just lock somebody out of their room. From there, the downtown south of Vancouver was undergoing, actually the most, the largest redevelopment in the history of Vancouver and there were no plans being made really for the population in that area. And so I and Monica set up a community office and organized the residents around that. There were 3 things that the residents sort of chose to tackle. They wanted to create a community center, the area was just totally devoid of any amenities. That's one of the big differences between organizing in the downtown south and the Downtown East Side. When I was in the Downtown East Side I could always use the community victories to sort of say to people, look, you know, we've got the Carnegie center, we're going to shut down this, we're going to do this, we're going to do that, we can, if we work together, we can do something. And there was no sense of that in the downtown south at all. And it really took a lot of people knocking on doors before the community really began to see that there were some things that they could do. And in the mean time of course, we held meetings with provincial governments and that helped a great deal. So they had wanted to set up a community center, a health center, cause there was no health center there, people were using emergency rooms as their point of contact for any kind of help. So we set up the community center, the health center, and the first thing, as always, what a low-income family wants is housing. The actual residents had not been successful setting up their own housing project there yet although there are some things in work right now. Then after that I did this really weird thing, I jumped into the working with the Canucks, we're building a new arena down in downtown Vancouver. And Jim Green and I had been for a few years trying to encourage developers to use the Downtown East Side and at least the people who were most effected by the development should get some benefits out of it. So far that really hasn't gone any place. But the Canucks saw the opportunity to get the community on their side. And they needed to. There was some opposition to the new arena and the kind of people it was bringing. So we set up a program during the construction called the Blade Runners and we commenced the negotiations involved to set aside 20 positions for us that we would put through a preliminary training program and they would, actually, jump the queue, what they did was just a tremendous amount of support from the trade union movement. So that was very successful in setting up the construction of the arena, and the other side of the project, originally, the new arena was going to create x amount of jobs, they didn't really know. And half of the operational jobs would go to people on the Downtown East Side. If all things were equal in ability and you know. That was a lot less successful, some jobs appeared, there are some people still working but, we learned a lot from it.
Well, mine is a somewhat different story because I work in government.
Could you state your name?
Patsy George. George is my last name. I think it's perhaps best for me to talk about what I've been doing just in the last 3 or 4 years, because there are a whole bunch of, we've done so much that we would be here all night! We would talk about the work I was doing in the early 80's, and there are a whole bunch of stories that you would probably want to hear, but I think I'll concentrate on what I'm currently doing, that probably will make sense. I work for a ministry called ministry of multiculturalism in this province. This ministry is set up to promote the implementation of what we call the multiculturalism act. It's legislation that talks about equality and rights of all people to fully participate and those general sorts of values. And our work is to really work with cultural minority communities and also to promote anti racism. We do this not only through our own work, our own staff, but a great deal with community groups, so we fund a number of community organizations, and we also work cooperatively, with community groups. One of the projects we're working on currently has to do with the United Nations, which has decided to have a world conference against racism in August of next year. It's going to attract quite a lot of attention because it's going to be in South Africa and it's the first time the world community is saying that it's no longer acceptable, that you will not tolerate racism, and asking the member countries to account for what they do in their own countries. This is how it usually works, right. We decided in this province, and this is the only province that is doing it in this country, that we will have local community groups, we will facilitate those community groups to get together and address what is happening locally and what they will do themselves and what kind of actions or demands they will make of municipal, provincial, and national government, around policy changes around legislation around funding, around training, around all kinds of things. So we are in the middle of that. What we call a consultation, but now I've attend three meetings and I'm going to a fourth one tomorrow, it's really fascinating to me because it's really becoming a really community action kind of organizing, community mobilization around what's happening in their own communities around racism. And the last two meetings have focused on relations between the aboriginal community and the non aboriginal community in this province, which is really great because we have a great deal of work to be done in that field. So that is one of the things that I am working on. The other area, which is something that I've been doing for a number of years, but these last 3 or 4 years, we've been concentrating on again, the immigrant or minority women community of this province. There are a lot of issues, not only around the status of women issues, but also a lot of personal cultural family issues those women have to deal with. And unless we do it in an organized way, it's going to be next to impossible for making changes. Within their own cultural communities as well as generally, or provincially. So that has been the focus of my work, there is a whole bunch of other stuff that I do because I get paid to do this, but those are the two things that I do.
We're going around the table sort of who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ted. What I do for a paid profession is that I'm a family therapist in a private practice in marital and family relations. Probably what I'm doing on the board as a member of nonprofit organizations. Probably what is most common with most of you is that I work with a way of facilitating where people take responsibility for taking good care of each other and their community. One of the organizations is called The Society for Community Development. The other organization is PLAN which is started here in BC but is moving across Canada, it's become a national, a national corporate design firm working on disability issues. Currently we have a national project, which is the dialog on citizenship and disability.
My name is Ken, and I manage a recycling project in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. About 5 or 6 blocks over that direction, which is partly why I'm late, I'm so close! Our project is a non profit society project though it generates now, a little bit more than enough revenue to cover its costs. It's been operating for about 6 years. Along with it we've got a number of facility projects involved in the local community in the works, including main and side walk painting and in these recent years I have tended to work on issues that face the urban environment, both economically, physically, and socially. And try and address those in a way that employs local labor. Most of the folks in my community are on income assistance in one form or another, so we incorporate issues to improve people's income. And one of the ways to do that is creating work. In the last year we've, well, the last several years we've struggled with provincial government over issues where they have cut back on various social supports. We're growing and one of our struggles has been how to manage that growth in a way that keeps us close to our roots, because all of the folks that are working at our place lack work experience, and that's the hard part. We're people that are over 30 and that are chemically dependent in some way. How we balance that, trying to maintain the inclusiveness of our group and at the same time recognize that we've got this really real limit of our day to day operations related to what we have to compete with in the marketplace. That's the source of hurt and growth in a sense, right? It's an ongoing struggle. The other role that I work on is the health board. Our biggest help for the Downtown East Side, apart from poverty, goes hand in hand with the other. The alcohol and drug issue is always top and sometimes we're at each other's throats. There's a lot of pain and hope in that.
For me when I try to answer that question myself it's very much a part of family history. Knowing from an early age that my grandparents were communists and labor organizers in the States and my grandparents came to Canada just before I was born as a draft dodgers and my mother was a documentary film maker who filmed as a social change vehicle. So for me it was very much, not so much, you need to become an activist, but where do you find your place, and on which issue. And I started in peace making as a teenager in Montreal. I don't really consider myself an organizer right now, but I was then. At that time, that kind of culminated when I was 18, when 4 of us from a peace group in Montreal went across the country on a national tour for a year, talking to high school students about disarmament in the late 80's and organizing groups in schools and communities. We figure we spoke to 1 in every 20 high school students in the country that year. And probably started about 100 groups because of it. It's been all down hill from there!
I was going to say, top that!
So now I'm the director of the BC office of an outfit called the Canadian center for policy alternatives. We aren't really organizers, although, I would say we're a resource for organizers. And we also serve as a bridge organization between aggressive academics, social community groups and trade unions and bring them together around progressive research. So that's what we do. I was hired about 4 years ago to open up the BC office and I now work with, 6 of us as staff and others on our board and committee. There's a group of us within the office of young people who are really committed to producing research, and we're reaffirming, we can do a much better job at that.
How many other offices of the center for policy?
There's a national office in Ottawa and a Manitoba office, and a brand new, Nova Scotia office, and it is, it's kind of, it is a real success story in this year that hasn't had many. It was about 5 years ago and it was just 4 or 5 people in Ottawa and now we're about 18 or 19 people across the country.
I guess I started my organizing and community-developing career when Margaret Mitchell hired me as a community development worker in 1968, 112 years ago! And I've been doing community development and organizing, and I guess the work that I believe I'm doing is working for empowerment. It's been in community planning and then housing and in recent years, including agriculture. I've been trying to find the tools and the means by which to reach more and more people. And I think it's been marvelous in the last while, helped us start an organization called Farm Folk, City Folk. And we're all about Food. We work from the producer to the eater and from locally to globally and across disciplines bringing people together. And I'd love for you to interview my son, he's up in the eastern arctic, and he helped to set up the new government, in the new territory of Nunavut.
Really? By the way, if anybody else has kids, Sky has interviewed a pair of 7-year-old twins, and a 24-year-old girl. So, you know, kids of any age.
Where to begin, I guess really with Amnesty International, I'm a founding member in Vancouver, I've seen the organization since it began in London in 1961. And I tried to found an Amnesty group in Georgia, I was telling David earlier, and fortunately I was also working with Martin Luther King indirectly through the Southern Regional Council, I was in the South during those years. That was the beginning of the first death threats. I was telling David, I guess it's been a lifetime of 4 death threats all together, but more and more I feel I'm working more on the edge all the time. I had mentioned to David how fearful the first ones were and now the last one, 5 years ago, you learn to live with it, much more readily, believe it or not. But the other things that I have been working with, the death threats I might say, just to clear up the matter, have come mainly when I was working with civil rights in the South. When I worked with a refugee that came into the country here only to find out he'd been working with Pinochet forces and was up to all kinds of mischief. I accidentally happened to find out about it. So that was the last one, but those are more individual than anything. But I've also worked with both the local and the national, I've been both on the local and national board of the Elizabeth Fry Society, working with women prisoners and their children and this has all been voluntary, none of it has been paid. My training, I taught English at university, both in America and in Canada, but it seems in the last, I took an early retirement purposely wanting just to work on justice issues, I purposely made the choice. A lot of the work that I've done has not been so much with organizations as with individuals who are powerless or inarticulate. And it seems that every week there is somebody, I get approximately 28 phone calls a day, but every week somebody comes to light that needs help in some way. Probably one of the biggest projects in that light that I have worked on is with a united church minister who was thrown out of the church in Port Alberni for whistle blowing on alleged murders and illegal land deals. I went to his whole hearing, sat through it from beginning to end, I do not to this moment know anything that he did that was wrong, accept he was a whistle blower. I followed that very closely, I spoke out to the national press, in fact I brought the national press into his hearing and for having done that, I myself have been victimized by the united church web site, which I can't reply to it. So now I'm taking that up with an MP to find out, there are no federal laws about slander on the Internet, so I'm trying to get the government in on this to start making laws and rules about this, so that's one of the things. And then, for the pleasure, I've been working with the United Nations, for many years and right now I have about 4 speaking engagements coming up before UN day. Mainly I'm dealing with the UN and globalization; the whole issue of what's involved there, and the necessity for reform and fast reform within the UN, those are the speaking things I do. And I remain active with Amnesty. I have come to the stage in my life that I almost refuse to go to board meetings, the sight of a flipchart just sends me anymore, and another mission statement is the last thing I ever want to hear from any organization. The years are too few now. And I feel that it's out there and having to work and having to push hard. And the more you do that, the more difficulties you get into, but also, the more unique fine people, and it's amazing where resources come from as you go along. I still remain active in Amnesty, I'm the China coordinator for the west coast here, and do a lot of work on that and do their television and radio
. I still remain active in Amnesty, I'm the China coordinator for the west coast here, and do a lot of work on that and do their television and radio broadcasts and so forth. And then I come in to bother David Driscoll to find out if Van City will help me set up a fund for women prisoners and their children. And that's how I happened to be here, just coming in off the street and asking David for help.
I guess I'm one of the ancients of community development, having been one of the kind of pioneers in the late 60's and through the 70's. I don't whether you'd be interested but we did at the end of that almost a ten year period compiled a book called Don't Rest in Peace, Organize, which was the stories of some oh, 12 or 15 communities that were involved in community development at that time. It's really fascinating to see things in cycles, that this whole community change has gone through, we were pretty dormant for quite a while I think in the 80's, and certainly it's a delight to hear what people are doing now. I, after having been a grassroots organizer in the 70's I worked in the institutional change things. We had a great thing called the Vancouver resource board, which involved people more in the structures of the welfare system. When I was elected as a member of parliament, from north of the City Vancouver east and was a member for 14 years, and it was kind of interesting because I always felt that this was an extension of community work in a way because being in that position I didn't have to take responsibility for any of the government policies, but, to criticize them! And you had a lot of opportunity to continue to be an advocate in such things as housing and poverty and certainly the status of women, and involved with human rights, our charter. I guess since then I've just been hanging around, trying to find out what Dave is doing in the foundation and some of us have worked to set up a fund for women, and to turn things around, so that's a summary.
I've been a social activist and political organizer, I guess since the late 60's in the student movement. I've worked mostly in Saskatchewan, I've been in BC for 5 years, so for years I've worked extensively with first nations people and poor people. But the movement is sort of exposing right wing organizations. The last 15 years, I've sort of split my time between writing, which I do for a living and organizing which I do for fun, I guess. The last 15 years I've focused mostly on the social justice movement and in particular globalization and trade deals such as the free trade deal, organized cities and that. WTO and MAI all rose, and I work with setting up policy alternatives, which is sort of my writing side of my activity and I'm involved with the council of Canadians which you've probably heard of some in the other travels. It's an organization of 100,000 members in Canada and about 17 or 18, thousand in BC and it's sort of in a transition period from being a campaign based organization to a social movement organization and I'm trying to push it in that direction.
My work I actually get paid to work half time at coalition of BC groups called End Legislated Poverty Now. I'm not the organizer in our organization, I'm the editor of the paper. I've been involved in justice work since I started working at the Downtown East Side residence association in 1974. It really hasn't changed a lot in this city. The politicians. There are 5 of us here that have worked in the Downtown East Side, well, 7, 8. And look at it you guys! It's the same battle that we had in the 70's, which is the battle that if people who own the property want to get the poor people out of there the property values will go higher. And no amount, I mean, I'm a person that has been on the boards of organizations and I've worked on different kinds of programs and worked to get this community center opened and worked to get housing built and all that, but there's no program, there's no program, training program or any kind of program to kind of stop those creeps from pushing poor people out of there and making them lose their community and their home. So I worked at there and I was, I chaired the meeting that formed the Women's March for Peace, it was a group here that we had here in the 80's that had massive peace marches, one year we had 2000 people.
That's a good size march!
Yah, we had quite a nice peace march, so that's what started all that. Now we have this thing called the solidarity coalition. Governments brought in a whole bunch of horrible legislation and a huge coalition that formed, there are books written about that now. And End Legislated Poverty kind of formed out of the solidarity coalition. The anti poverty movement is in terrible shape, I mean, those poor people are in terrible shape, in spite of all the programs, all the housing the people are trying to do, all the little piddly units, that are everything to the people that live in them. But our federal government is not funding housing. And poverty, the latest stats show that poverty is getting deeper. Although because there are a few more jobs now it's not quite so wide spread, it's getting deeper, poor people are poorer, they're far below the poverty line and the gap between the rich and the poor in Canada is increasing. There are people that we come in contact with at intake whose poverty is desperate. They are fed up with being treated like stumps. There is a real anger out there that I haven't seen, I've never seen when I've been in this kind of work before. I attribute that to localization. We at End Legislated Poverty now are putting a big push on really becoming, really working on aboriginal issues and issues of immigrants and refugees. So often I think it's racism and sexism and poor bashing that keeps the poorest people from seeing who is really causing the problems. It is very hard and we're in a bad stage of trying to figure out how to organize. Like, when people are hurting so bad and they just cram your phone lines or come into the office and their big thing is you know, I need to be treated like a human being instead of being treated like shit at the government offices. That's a very immediate need, how do you organize in such a way as to meet an immediate need but also acknowledge and fight this incredible race to the bottom that's being caused by globalization and some of the federal policies. I don't know.
I want to come back to the question of how things are going in organizing, let me finish going around the circle.
Hi, everyone here knows who I am because I phoned everybody. I have been here in Vancouver. I was headed towards the priesthood through growing up in Alberta, and that didn't work out, so I looked for the secular alternative, because of my sense of justice, what was going on all around me. In Alberta I thought it was my problem, it was very individualized. In that province and if there are issues that you want to deal with publicly, that's a problem that you have personally. Coming to BC in the 60's and going to school at Simon Fraser University, I just had a tremendous explosion that personal issues were public issues and public issues were personal, I mean everyone understood that! And it was just a wonderful thing not to be seen as someone who didn't connect with mental health, as it were, because you thought things were wrong and unjust. So that sense of activism around me was a wonderful sense of acceptance. And I left Simon Fraser at that time and struggled with the realties, I had a wife and a young family and a 70-dollar income and the neighbors were feeding me. Then I worked with Herb for a bit in the mental health association. Initially the decision in my life to pursue this field, I've done a lot of community organizing and a lot of work around social justice and a lot more around economic equity issues. And a, Jennifer was a huge influence then, a real act of kindness. I struggled with my sense of anger that goes into organizing. I was having a tough time of putting anger and caring together. So, you shared with great generosity about your early life and what you needed to sustain yourself was a righteous anger, and that is just my understanding and of caring for community. Everyone in this room is trying to act in inclusion. I saw this for mentally handicapped people, the key step is understanding the giftedness and the acceptance of many handicapped people is the giftedness and acceptance that we find in each other. Ken's story I told Dave about, his great strength of character, that motivates me. transformation. I've signed some letters that Mark wrote. Mark is a young lawyer. Mark works in environment. You were looking at ways to try and make sure that the watershed is protected from the DVRD. I had so much confidence in Mark, as a forester and a lawyer, that I asked him to write letters when I chaired the regional council of governments. So he wrote as an advocate and we were able to turn the DVRD around and move that forestry engineering, water based activity. I'm thankful for those folks who helped to push the organization for the better, as soon as we accomplish goals, it's what's next? What's next, what's next? And I really do believe they operate on the principle, if you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room! We stay out on the edge
I guess I'm an environmental lawyer, I'm a consultant. I come from Port Moody, which is famous for a mayor we once had, who could have held office for as long as he wanted, basically, given the level of community support he'd built. David Driscoll was way ahead of his time when we was mayor of Port Moody, he probably still is, but I mean, over a decade ago, he started making decisions as a community, rather than as some local governments are used to making decisions all within their own little circle. David decided to enlarge the circle and created an environmental protection committee and basically sought the input of the committee for how the environment ought to be treated. And it's really through this, and just seeking support of council, local council, for environmental issues and in the community, that I got drawn into this. I've had the good fortune over the last decade to be employed in the environmental justice field full time. And have spent that time doing all kinds of things that I wouldn't have necessarily expected. Such as, most of my work has been with the forestry and wilderness movement. I started off I guess about 2 decades ago, working for the government, that's where I got my education in what was happening out there. That was enough over 9 years to supply me well with anecdotes that would fuel my environmental activism for the next decade! It was enough to send me to law school and after that start to litigate around these issues to try to get some legal activism happening in terms of drawing in the courts and trying to get judicial response to some of the things that we felt were wrong and some of the things indeed that we felt were illegal. But that approach, I mean, that has it's place, because it can only do so much, what it did happen to do, which we were happy to see here, was motivate the incoming government to want to change the dynamic and bring in some laws to protect the environment and bring in some policies that would set aside some of the important wilderness areas, and forests. I moved from that into sort of law reform, I guess, which is dealing with the government on the content of the laws around these issues. That itself was very frustrating, because,
The law didn't want to be reformed?
Well, it wanted to be reformed only this much! Or only to the extent of 6% of the cut of the province. As you can imagine here with forestry being such a big economic driver in the province. It's also a major supplier of government revenue and we ran head to head with that. So we were able to see some change but we got a whole bunch of policies that limit the effectiveness of it. In tune with what I've just said, 6% in fact. Which if you believe that that is the problem, that industrial demand shouldn't be the prime factor in limiting change, and that itself is unsustainable. That leads to some major issues. I was thinking, partly, I moved recently from the law reform field into just a completely outside of government field, which is dealing with markets. And there are a couple of experiments in the environmental community around markets, some of them deal with, you know, market campaigns, trying to enthuse major purchasers such as Home Depot and Loew's and 84 Lumber and such, to not purchase from certain companies off range, certain water sheds, that's not the side of the work that I'm doing, that is done more by the likes of Greenpeace and such. Mine is more along the lines of certification, which is a concept that has been around since '93 The council, where we're trying to get some sort of positive incentive to do the right thing. And of course, spiritual council which is based in Oaxaca, Mexico, has spelled out 10 principles and 52 criteria that lead to sustainable forest management. And there's all kinds of community relations, forest workers rights, environmental, many factors, more than just environmental in that. And as we were trying to make this work, and available to those who wish to become certified in the province, we're running in to quite a lot of issues that show how complex this really is. I don't think I could fairly give you a sense of the issues that we face that fits any one paradigm. I can't really say, the problem is multi-national corporations trying to come in and you know, having gotten tenured 50 years ago, which is true, and sort of displacing communities, or acting against community interests. That is happening in places, but that would be far too superficial. To say, we also have the opposite, in which our vision, speaking collectively for the environmental community, recognizing some of the global significance of the old growth forests that we have. Our vision sometimes comes up against community visions. There's been a long history of community employment in the forest industry and we're trying to expand the vision but at the same time deal with some very real issues. Sometimes those involve companies that are BC companies, and they might be small companies, or they might be large companies that operate globally. A lot of this is sort of, a lot of the industrial paradigm for forestry here has been exported abroad from British Columbia as well. And just to, there's a mix, I was just on the weekend in Claquit Sound again, where we have a situation where one community has one vision of the future and another community has another. So, none of this is very simple.
Well, thanks. I realize what an unwieldy instrument we have here, a meeting of a large number of people, dealing with important and actually, rather personal questions. But, one of the things a lot of people are very interested in this whole conversation is, why would we do this? What is it, and I think that part of the reason that people are interested is to think, how can we get more people to do it? If we understand the why we can expand the who. So I would like to put that question and the near cousin of it on the table for discussion. In other words, why do you do this, and what sustains you in doing it? What keeps you getting up in the morning, why would we continue to, not only to be so foolish as to try to change the world, but why do we keep trying, what is it that sustains us in this work? And let me ask you for the purposes of the tape, to say I'm Dave and I do it because, or whatever, whoever you are. Go ahead.
I'm Herb, and I'd like to tell you about a project that somebody is doing. There has recently been an installation in an art gallery just south of here, where a couple has videotaped environmental activists and they've asked them why you care and the expedition was called Y2Kare. And the theory behind it was, there is a concept called MEMES, which is according to the theory, a particle of thought. That particle of thought, it's thought, could act like a virus, and it explains why all throughout history, inventions would happen at different parts of the world at the same time, and couldn't possibly be connected. It also explains why Coke is the real thing, or McDonald's has spread throughout the world. And so, they're trying to find out what it is about environmental activists that make them care and see whether that can be used as a MEME to infect the general population. Extremely esoterically difficult concept and I'm not sure that there are, so far, there obviously isn't a way, but it's a good question, but there are lots of projects and I'd like to put you in touch with these people.
Yah,good. Who else, why, why?
I'll go. I always bump between social work because of jobs and fear behind the jobs
This is Laura,
Oh, sorry, I am Laura. The reason for that was at a real early age, I had to have the ability to affect some kind of change when I wanted to. And my passions revolved around urban core cities and housing. I lived in New York, in the city for a very good time. And 10 years later, that was 75-78, and 10 years later in 1988 I went to New York City and I was just blown away by what I saw because in between 1978 and 1988 Reagan had taken affect and I just couldn't believe it. I came back to Vancouver and I looked at the city that you know, I think is truly one of the most beautiful cities in this continent and I knew that it was going to happen here, too and it has, it's just as bad now, as 88 in New York. So that's what sustains me, is wanting to change that. I'm connected, I didn't ask to be, but I am, real intrinsically. I always sometimes think that maybe in a past life I was like on the Bowery in New York or something like that because I feel most at home in the Downtown East Side.
Yah, anybody else.
I, when I was listening to Jean I thought isn't it interesting. I'm of an age group that, I feel the tiredness in Jean's stories and I have felt that extremely much in the last five years, a real tiredness. I think partly seeing the injustice of a huge Canadian institution and what it can do in the lives. It can tell the established church that has done this and also, going to the APEC inquiry, I feel very responsible because I gave all the talks at noontime to those students, whether it was about Mexico, China, or Tibet, every noontime I was out lecturing at the University. And then when they made a stand. To see what happened to them, I got down to their inquiry, I tried to go every Wednesday, it was the only day I had free, and to see the blatant lying and theatrical and bullying! Those kids that went into it went in with a sense of innocence and almost in places a little bit of silliness, but with a degree of caring. They came out, they came out, and they are not at all innocent at all. They have seen things that the average citizen in Canada hasn't seen and known and I have, I felt, when Jean was talking, I felt the tiredness and the sadness, I feel that an awful lot these days. And everything is a deja vu, Jean was mentioning, what's really happening in the poverty thing. When I went back to San Francisco and I took two workshops at the 50th anniversary of the signing of the charter, around me in Union Square there were more blacks in destitution then I remember when I started working in human rights in 1965 in Georgia. In the black movement in civil rights, yes, there's a middle class, but for the poor, there are many more now and the situation is it really any better? I'm not so sure. But I feel that terrible tiredness. This whole big expensive conference in Canada on the child soldier, I was talking about that 14 years ago with Amnesty International. I have 3 portfolios on the child soldier, there is nothing that I have read in any of papers that is new, it is only new for another generation, and yet what is being done about it? Nothing. Child soldiers roam all over the world, more countries are taking them into their armies and how does one go on caring. Yet if you're in it too deeply ever to get out of it, at this stage, you can't stop and you know these things and you feel compelled to work in it and to keep going. But you do feel extremely tired, extremely weary of it all, and I think you have to be sustained by so many other things.
My family, I have a very close family, good friends, music, garden, they sound trite but they become even more meaningful. The promise of the earth renewing itself in the garden, I think it carried me through on a couple of springs when things were very bad. I thought the earth keeps fulfilling a promise and yet ah, where do we fulfill it, you know? And I think at this stage you do feel tired, and it's wonderful to hear said that the positive feeling of going forward is building up, something is going to be done and you long for that feeling again.
I come from a background I guess where when I look back on it, we weren't poor like the kind of poverty that I have seen around me and have experienced, but there was always in my family a concern about how we would find a way to share together, how can we do that. We weren't at all a religious family, I learned that, but we were sort of a values ring through our lives together. I guess that growing up they were theoretical kinds of things and I guess I took some of that for granted and it wasn't until quite a lot later in my life that they started to incorporate into an experiential understanding, if you know what I mean. It's sort of like a gift of learning. That has been a gift that I never knew about, and that gift sustains me, because I've seen it in others and I discover it in others and it reminds me that I've got it, too, you know, and the difficulty is that I can't just snap my fingers and know when that one is going to come along. There are the dry spells. There isn't any answer, I don't have an answer for it. I think it probably throughout human history, centuries and centuries ahead of us, and I sort of feel a part of it. When I get really tired there's a thing that says like, I just can't go on. But we do, we do get up, and once in a while, this incredibly beautiful stuff happens, in community like that. To just let you know that it's all worth while, that you know how to do that. In the midst of it there is horrendous tragedy. I live in the Downtown East Side, when I think of all the people who have struggled to find food and you know I think that it's important not to dwell overly, though, I mean there are stages in my life, not to dwell overly on the bad stuff. There's a sustaining that social justice tends to create because I think that that encounter of what's hopeful in our human natures. It's just fascinating in community, it somehow everywhere is a matter of stretching in there and trusting that I'm going to find it and finding the ways to generate that. Sometimes it is, like up against it, and people are demonstrating in a conflict, but I guess, finding the way past that is what I think we need to be working on.
Yah. Anybody else, what sustains you? Go ahead.
I think there is a basic belief and I'm not sure whether this is the family values, that Ken, you were talking about. I grew up in Kerala, in India where everything is organized and everything is done in a collective, or a cooperative. So it could very well be part of that political history when I was growing up, but, there was a basic belief that when people are brought together, if they are interested in finding solutions they will find it. So it's a matter of really believing in the abilities of people to find solutions for their own issues. Provided of course, resources are made available, because there are times that that has to come from outside. And I think that I have that belief and so even through there may very well be a time when you feel things are really going wrong and people are really taking over and not allowing the people to do themselves, for example, not only people like me, that are getting high pay to do it, but also at the community level, community bureaucrats run the show instead of the people doing it themselves. I still have that belief that, you know, given time, that people are capable of changing, they will find solutions themselves. I think that's what really keeps me going, and I really think our professional education helps us in rallying, in sort of maintaining some of those values. I guess it's more like a religion in that respect, it really becomes part of one's system of allowing or erecting themselves so that one doesn't get too carried away or don't get too disappointed when things are not really happening at the pace that we might like it to happen, or sometimes may go backwards. But nevertheless I think we need to continue to make sure it's really, a group of people, they make the decisions that affect their lives and I think we just have to continue to maintain that legacy.
Thanks. Anybody else? Go ahead.
I was going to say that for the, in terms of addressing the question why first, at least for some in the wilderness/old growth type of movement, I think fundamentally the why begins with an experience. I think, it's if it doesn't sound too hokey, it's a different vision of what forest means, what people are experiencing when they're in that wilderness, in the full growth forest area. I was thinking of Jean Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, we have a very clear demarcation between that sort of experience one gets there versus the absence of that experience in a clear cut devastated valley. And the contrast is so clear and apparent that it answers the question why for many people. But I think in terms of going on to the sustaining the vitality of the movement, it's very much based on getting recharged by going to that source of the initial vision and using the energy from that to sort of sustain the effort to maintain it as long as you can.
I think that depends on people's activism and social activism in a way serves a function similar to a religion. I think for all of us who are in it, it forms a very important part of your identity, a very important source of community, a definite source of where your values are from and it gives your life meaning. It answers the question, you know, the core question, why are we here? We're not here to try and make things better we're just passing through then, what's it about, and if we're doing it then you would have to say the answer is in the question. I already answered in my own case why, but I think for a lot, because I've always found it interesting asking other young people who come from a political family. I do think, and I think this is true with everyone, particularly young people, where you're at a stage in your life where you're looking to believe in something bigger than yourself, I think you're more accessible to encounter somebody that comes along with a vision and an idea. Then once you're in, it plays out, it becomes very difficult to leave because it is so core to your identity. I have found it interesting looking at, for some, I'm not a parent yet, for some of my friends that have become parents while being activists. When they became parents, being a parent became enough of a substitute identity to phase out and for others it compounded the feeling that they had to be in.
I see some parents, some parents and some non parents nodding, I don't know what that means, but
Starting with the question about why am I doing this, I think it is a great question and my first answer is because TV bores the shit out of me! As I reflect upon my own life, I grew up in a small town in Ontario, a smaller town, I had a sense of community, I had a sense of feeling, I had a sense of belonging. When I moved out here to the coast I had to re-create that sense of belonging, so I know that I felt like I had to consciously and purposefully reclaim some of the experience I had as a kid because it felt like something was missing. There was this drive within me, I wanted to belong, I wanted to connect. So I think that was a big source of motivation for me. And then I think one of the next events in my life was having a son and my son was damaged by his vaccination and became quite disabled by it. And it did two things. One is that it helped me to appreciate that because of his disabilities he didn't belong in the same kind of way, so I had to become the very strong advocate for the right for him to belong in community because it wasn't given to him because of his disability. The other thing it did is it opened up the possibility that things that I was told by society as being true aren't necessarily true, and so I had to ask the question, what else have I kind of just accepted as being true that I need to revisit? And so the whole issue about that kind of opened up the doorway for me and I recognized that there were paradigms that I bought into. For example, if I work hard, I'll be happy, you know, it was that German work ethic,
And that's not true?
It's not true for me. So I think that those things have motivated me. And then really as my work as a therapist, I find more and more that I'm helping people to reclaim their ability to take charge of their life, take ownership, to create their own experience. As I witnessed people doing that, it's powerful for me, it's energizing it's exciting. I see people embracing their life in a way that they haven't been before. They're becoming active in life as opposed to passive. They're creating as opposed to reacting. And so witnessing that and being part of it is a gift, it's a blessing. And it inspires me to do more of it.
I just have something to say about once you have knowledge, you can't sort of unlearn it, right, and of course what's you've been doing it for 30 years you can't even imagine what else you would do. And I think part of it is righteous anger, as David was talking about. A friend of ours is moving to Ottawa and I have a reputation of being sort of a curmudgeon and I was saying this fellow couldn't join the club because I thought he felt the same as I did, that he just couldn't stand the idea to let the bastards win. So you have to keep fighting it like. And I think that is part of it, it's an anger at what power does. I think back at where I started and it was in some ways just a search for some sort of explanation about stuff that went on around me. I came to my politics literally overnight in a five hour argument with a very bright young student who was very tolerant of my intolerance and by 4 in the morning he'd completely convinced me that everything I'd learned to that point was wrong. I came back to Saskatoon where I was going to University, and joined the student movement. I mean, my friends all thought I was crazy, they were all kids of, you know, I had moved from a working class area where there were a lot of very poor people into a middle class area and all my friends at this point were sons and daughters of privileged people and they thought I was completely mad. But it reminds me of this wonderful story that Miles Horton told, you probably knew Miles. Miles worked in the South, in a place called Highlander with a leadership training school, and Miles was just this wonderful, wonderful man who I met in the early 80's. And he told this story and I think it was Pete Seeger who had visited Highlander, and they had written this song together, and I can't remember the name of the song, but one of the lines was, "Truth shall make you free" and Miles told the story of hearing the song on the radio a month after they had written it and writing to Pete Seeger and saying Pete, you got it wrong, it's not the truth shall set you free, it's the search for truth shall make you free. And that really struck with me, because I think that's what gets people initially is trying to figure out what explains all the stuff that's happening to me. I mean that's really what I've been involved in for 30 years, as an activist and a writer, is trying as a writer to write in such a way that it connects with people and organizing in such a way as to define issues so that they connect with people's daily lives so that they then feel a part of what the struggle is and feel that they can in fact have an impact. So I think, for a lot of people anyway, if people aren't in some way interested in figuring out what's happening to them, then it's going to be a tough sell to get them involved. So my assumption that most people do want to have some sort of explanation of what's happening to them.
Anybody else, the question of why? Go ahead.
Why, or what sustains, I guess is the challenge of that Over the years I've been to some pretty dark places, you know, occasionally there is dark things coming around to visit, and you have to find a way of getting through those dark places to get to the light places. This whole first nations thing that you turn your face to the sun and your shadow will be behind. You turn your face to the sun and in some sense as you engage in community. In my first experience it was kind of resolved intellectually. It was a wonderful intellectual trick that the Jesuits know. It's this, if you can't live with hope, then try living without it. So we can't live without hope and it's clear which path we must choose, so on a simple intellectual basis, you can't live with the opposite, no hope, so you must go on. The second thing is that I know what happens when people come together on teams. There is a wonderful sense of inclusiveness to say that the night is never dark enough that we'll not see each other as brothers and sisters. And that's the inclusiveness and that sense of celebration and engagement in collective achievements, when we work together. The third thing I guess is just the personal things. I know what happens, you tell me my job is an individual job and that's to protect and preserve my wealth in the confines of my own home. So it's the way of keeping my heart open, to engage with others. So it simply is a matter of my physical well being and my health and personal health, connecting to my social network. It works here and it works there, but it doesn't stop me from going to bad places sometimes.
But overall it's better than Prozac!
I guess it sounds trite, but looking back over things that I've been involved in and my own actions as well as the reactions of people, particularly in groups, I think that if there is a fun and enjoyment, humor is quite important. And there is a real limit to how much groups and individuals can tolerate intensity. And in the kind of things we've done as groups I think it is really important every once in a while, if there isn't fun occurring naturally to say something that is fun and certainly demonstrate with protests and celebrations and just enjoying people.
I would like to second that also. We found in organizing that we will pass around the concept of celebrating what we have, while warning about the dangers of losing it and the fact that other people have already lost it. And this brings in groups that I've never been able to reach before in organizing, because for most people they have the blinders on of self-satisfaction or the perception that everything is fine. So they feel that all of these people who are complaining are just misfits or rabble-rousers or you know, there's something wrong with them because they are in this personal space. So by celebrating and by having fun and by doing things in a positive way and then starting to inculcate, well why is it like this? It's been tremendously successful, wonderful.
I would just like to tell a little story of before, about what Margaret was saying about fun. At United We Can we do this Binners Olympics thing and we see hundreds and hundreds of people every time,
It only took a couple of days, by the way, for me to get that United We Can has TWO meanings!
And we call ourselves binners because we're out digging through dumpsters and the garbage bins and so that's our work, right. And so every year we have this thing called the Binners Olympics and we have these contests in the lane behind our office. It's sort of like we do shopping cart races and sorting contests and all the stuff that's part of the work that we do, but it's a contest, thing, right? And most often in past years, we've had visiting politicians and officials and media and all this stuff come because it's a good story. But the problem with that is we have to kind of play that out then. And that means, you know, you have to respond to people and the reality and the politics of them being there, and that's part of it. Which sometimes can create a sort of an artificialness to an experience, I don't maybe that's not right, but in my experience there's sort of, there's some barriers for them getting set up there, as to how to do that. So anyway this last one, we didn't invite any people. Our stuff is behind the women's center and our project is male, so in any event, we did it as a joint thing and this thing started at I don't know, 1000 in the morning and it went on and on and I didn't have to do anything. I'm supposed to be sort of organizing it, I just worked in the depot and I could hear them roaring, they were having these contests and cheering and going on with their stuff. We have food and stuff and usually the food has been like the main focus and the drawing place, but it wasn't. These people were playing in the lane from like 1000 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, in a lane, that the image is, in the Downtown East Side, people are lying around with needles in their necks and all this other stuff. There may have been some pot smoking on the sidelines of the lane there. I don't know, I heard rumors later on, but I ducked out every once in a while to see, and they were having fun! And, and the gales of laughter just filled my soul. If anything ever does, it's that, because it reminds me, like, in a sense, doing it is almost finding ways that you can back off and know that people can do it. It's a good story for me, and it's real.
Go ahead, Monica
I'm interested in following up about what Ken said, and I really don't know what motivates me which is why I couldn't answer your question earlier about what drives me, but, a lot of what I learned in working with Ken when I was working in setting up United We Can very early on, was we ran into a lot of people who said we couldn't. A lot of it is finding ways that you can do it and then also working with people who don't think they can do it and figuring out ways to work with finding out how they can do it. And because I was working in the community and then went to government, I spent a lot of time in government battling the system, especially when we were setting up the community bank when nobody wanted to do it, especially in the Downtown East Side. And you can't have poor people running a bank and you can't do this and you can't do that. So a lot of I think what I run into in many cases is first of all people telling me I can't, which motivates me to do it even more because I want to know that I can do it. A lot of that was instilled by my parents who told me that I could anything and I truly believe that I can. It's just finding ways to do that in a way which is responsive to people. I lived in the Downtown East Side when I worked there which was very odd to people who would meet me and knew that I came from a very small town they thought it's dangerous and you can't live down there because it's poor and it's dangerous, it's dark and it's not nice. And I think you can do it, it's just a matter of wanting to do it, figuring out ways to do it and then if you can't do it you'll find other people that can help you or you can help other people to find ways.
Yah. The invitation promised to be done at 7, and although we have plenty of tape, I want to make sure people feel comfortable to leave at 7. So I want to get the capstone question in, and we'll come back to all the others. The capstone question is, this is going to be a dialogue among organizers across Canada and in the United States and in Australia as well, what questions or quandaries or issues do you want to put on the table for that conversation? If everybody else was in the room, what would you be asking then?
Well, I've asked people what is their best example of having changed someone from a non-active citizen to an active citizen. I think if we collected dozens and dozens of examples of individual stories of how you did that, I think that would be interesting. I remember once an activist from South Africa who ended up being one of Mandela's assistants, she was asked at an anti-apartheid meeting how she did it, in these incredibly difficult circumstances. And she described this woman who lived down the road from her who she knew was going to be a really difficult sell. The first time she knocked on her door she got hit with a broom and the second time she got hit with a broom again, the third time she just got chased off the front step and so on until the eighth time she was invited in. And her message was, it's just difficult, I mean this is just hard work and the sooner you start the sooner it will be over. So that was the story that stuck in my mind that this isn't easy work, it's difficult, but having those kinds of stories can help.
I think I'd ask what have you learned that you wish you had known 20 years ago? 30 years ago?
I think, how can we do what we're doing and work with the groups that we're working with and be useful and helpful but at the same time spend more time on root causes, on fundamental change, and turning around the values in society at large.
Who else, questions for the conversation?
I think one of the most important things, sorry for coming again, but, how do you engage the media with honesty and integrity because they're you're biggest thing to pull in on something if you're really going for change. You have to work through media and politicians somewhere along the way, and how do you bring them in, that's an awfully important thing, otherwise as a fringe thing it fizzles.
I would like to send out, like how do you find ways to reconcile differences within your group and external, because what I see happening so often is we get caught in the differences, that we're not flexible enough to find a way to sort it out together and get on our feet. So what have you found that you could use to keep that open.
It's a completely different question but as Jean was saying, what's the program. I think this is one, I mean, at the root that question is a problem that the left is struggling with in a major way. Even if people know what's wrong and what they're struggling against, but in terms of having some clear notion of what our alternative vision is. It's much easier than what it was at an earlier time, and that's a conversation that has to happen across this country to figure out what that program is.
Questions for others?
Well what Ken's saying again because that was key language, is how do we transcend our differences and then carry it out? How do we work from the place that we're all in this together?
Ken's comment also led me to think I would ask the question when you're dealing within a community of interests that are centered around a just cause, how do you avoid fundamentalism. I'm seeing it more in ours and I think it's a big problem. Because it dissipates the energy to end fighting.
I started to think how there would be no peace without justice. Somehow, you know? That's sort of ideal, like how do you find the way there, because, like I'm all for social justice but some stuff that goes on requires sort of, some sort of merciful hand in that because it's damn hard, I mean, some of these days as you run down the road drugs can run over your kids. Well, that's your kids out there, how do you get over those kinds of things, you know, knowing that that person has got a heavy-duty addiction. Those type of contradictions, how do you find the way to get there. I don't have the answer. I guess part of it is, like, I think of South Africa, this is going to be an international sort of thing and they've got the process of truth and reconciliation, like I don't know how they get through that stuff. They have to find a way. So I think those are the biggest kinds of issues. How do you overcome those? Because we know we're all on the planet, it's not easy to get off it. How hard we have to work to go off a few miles!
Coming out of the civil rights, anti-war movement, a number of years ago someone used the phrase "the narcissism of small differences" which is an absolutely amazing phrase. I guess the question is, how do we get beyond that Gnosticism, how do we get beyond that thing that we have to differentiate ourselves from one another so much that we fight within the movement, but the strength really is trying to improve the world.
I was thinking that comment that sometimes we are a little more solidified around what we're against than what we are for. And I think that one of the important things is maybe a need for humility around the answer of what we're for. It can take many possible forms and all of them are experimental, otherwise we wouldn't be in the cause of change,
I think it's important to know that, and remember that what Seth said is very true. We've lessened in our vision in the last 20 years. I think the big picture has stopped people from getting out and fighting their battles. I think generally people who come to activism have purpose, they're not seeing their values reflected in their everyday life, they are raised in a society where they saw from very early on that their values are not necessarily what's out there. So you learn to fight, to struggle to make your values important to the rest of the world and it's very hard not to do that. That is a habit and certainly that is what we run into when we see less movement in Vancouver. So I guess I have a really hard time relating to these people in Australia, and even people who are working on a global level. I am in awe, because really I find that I can only go to what's outside my door there and the rest of it is just too damn big and I'm real glad somebody else is tackling that.
In some ways it's easier to do the big stuff because it's not as personal.
Maybe it just is our breadth of individual differences, you know, you guys are good at doing that, but I think we have to work on correcting that vision of what kind of a world we want for ourselves, for our children for our grandchildren and you know hopefully that is what we can contribute.
Before we end, and I do want to go around the room one time, and ask, and you can pass or you can just, Lindsay,?
I'm getting interested in this notion of the globalism. I work for a member of Congress that represents Northwest Ohio, who is an activist against a lot of these world trade organization discussions. And I can't think of even how many people have brought that up and I don't know if I'll have a chance to follow through with you particularly but maybe that could be part of the discussion through the web site in the future.
I don't have really much to say other than to say thank you to David, for including me, I enjoyed hearing everyone's stories, thank you.
Neither will I make an ending comment because I think this should continue and thank you, David and Dave for inviting me, I have two children, so I'll give you their names later.
Thank you, too, David for calling us, it was great to get together with people that I haven't seen for a while and others that I'm just meeting, I'd like to have more of this. And that itself is almost,
Yah, it's almost like going to a stupid conference and not having to sit through the conference!
[Dave] Why doesn't anybody organize a conference like that, you know? Nobody speaks, you just do it among yourselves? There will be a closing tomorrow. I'd love that!
The thought just came to me at this time. The action in Seattle, I really believe the world changed in Seattle and things are going uphill.
More a question than anything, first thank you very much, David, for including me. But, are you interviewing anyone about aboriginal issues because that's a very good thing of course, it's shaping an awful lot, it may even change the image of Canada to have these things come out.
Well I will go away quite inspired at the generational evolution of this whole thing and it's so great to see what's happening, and even the potential I think in what you're doing, too.
One thing, I think people shouldn't despair over how difficult it is when you're among the progressives, when you think about who you're up against. I mean, we always think about the right is so organized. Well, it's easy to organize if your only principal is greed and not only that but everything you hear in this culture leads you to want to consume stuff, so it's real easy for their side to do that because they're part of that culture and it's easy to be greedy. It's much more difficult to figure out how to resist that and how to create community, these are not easy things and that's why we have disagreements.
David and Lindsay, thank you and Schuyler and Judson being away from school and friends. It's a big jump out of their lives as well. Brian Murphy said in this project very early on, I'm not sure what our target is, but I know we can't lose! And in some sense, that celebration is saying you're going to be in an animated function when it's capacity building among organizers. I want to thank you for us.
Since I have the pen, then I get to say the meeting is over. You'll see here in the pictures that Judson took for the annual report for the center for community change, a guy named Jack Kilroy. His was sort of a pre-project interview. Jack is the head of something called Organize! Ohio, which is really much like national organizers alliance, built on local luncheons. Brown bag lunches with people that are doing organizing. However you define that, however eclectic the definition is, it's just to get together and talk to one another. I think that's really important and I would encourage you to see if there aren't ways that you can meet like this, you know, get a room and come back.