activist notes

Facilitator’s Notes, Fair Trade Canada Preps for June Meeting in Vancouver by activistnotes
April 13, 2008, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Fair Trade Canada | Tags: , ,

[This is copied from an eight page document. Over 80 fair traders from across Canada have contributed to the making of this document. Throughout select pieces of text have been made bold to enable people to skim the document should they not have the time or desire to read it through in its entirety.]


Fair Trade Canada is an emerging national fair trade platform. The strategic planning meeting of the emerging platform set for 1 – 5 PM, Saturday, June 7th, 2008 in the Chemistry Building, Room 124, at the University of British Columbia will be facilitated by Ian Hussey of Equinomics. It will be the third and final meeting held in the last year on the subject of developing a national fair trade platform in Canada.


The organizational development committee of the emerging national platform comprises: Roxanne Cave (Ten Thousand Villages), Marc-Henri Faure (fibrEthik), Reykia Fick (TransFair Canada), Ian Hussey (Equinomics), Carmen Iezzi (Fair Trade Federation), Dario Iezzoni (Oxfam Fair Trade), Sini Maury (Oxfam Fair Trade), Jacqui MacDonald (Just Trade), Satya Ramen (Just Us! Development and Education Society), and Isabelle St. Germain (Équiterre).


The platform’s first strategic planning meeting was held during the second symposium of the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network (Saskatoon, June, 2007). The platform’s second strategic planning meeting was organized by the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network, Équiterre, and TransFair Canada (Montréal, October, 2007). The Vancouver meeting – the third and final regional strategic planning meeting – will occur during the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Studies in Cooperation. The platform’s first annual general meeting will happen October 3rd – 5th in Ottawa concurrently with Equinomics’s second Activist School.     


The platform defines “Fair Trade” as “a partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that works towards greater equity in global trade. It contributes to greater social and economic equity and to the protection of the environment by offering better trading conditions and by guaranteeing the rights of marginalized producers and workers, particularly those in developing countries.


“Fair Trade organizations, through the support of consumers, are actively committed to working in solidarity with producers in developing countries, to raise public awareness, and to campaign for changes in the regulations and practices of conventional international trade.”


The following is an account of what transpired at the first two strategic planning meetings. This information will be reviewed at the beginning of the Vancouver meeting. Should you have questions on these notes or otherwise like to speak with someone further about the upcoming meeting, then please feel free to email Ian Hussey at activistnotes[AT]



First Strategic Planning Meeting (Saskatoon: June, 2007)


The meeting was four hours in length. 28 people participated. Notes where taken by Caitlin Peeling of La Siembra Co-operative, and the meeting was facilitated by Ian Hussey. The meeting occurred during a larger symposium organized by the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network. CSFTN allocated almost $10,000 of donated funds to getting people to the meeting who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to participate in a national convergence. This proved significant to having an initial conversation about whether the movement saw the need and had the desire to develop a national platform. All Canadian regions and facets of the movement were represented: community and student organizers, coops, regional and national NGOs, researchers, the labeling initiative, businesses who trade certified commodities, IFAT members, FTF members, and businesses not affiliated with the TransFair Canada and FLO systems or IFAT or FTF. The group agreed having such a platform was needed, but recognized many other fair traders who weren’t present would need to participate in the planning process if such a platform was to become a reality.


Conscious that the program for the developing platform needed to come from the movement, there was no agenda set for this initial meeting. Participants set the agenda right then and there. It was an incredible process to participate in. The only parameters the group set was that the meeting was meant to be directional not decisional, and that this meeting was to be part of an ongoing consultative process with as many movement members as possible. The ground rules for the meeting: consensus-building, allow the facilitator to give all participants an opportunity to speak, encourage quieter participants to speak, facilitator expected to keep us moving forward and on topic, we will build a speaker’s list, allowing for points of clarification calls.


Agenda: (1) Why do we want an association? (2) Mandate & mission: how broad? (3) Membership (4) Do we want an association? (5) Next steps


(1) Why do we want an association?


·  Desire for greater collaboration, coordination of actors

·  Share resources; on the educational front, avoid re-inventing the wheel

·  Collectively address “fairwashing” and negative and/or mis- representation of ethical consumption in the media

·  Need a national space for nuanced, internal debate

·  Need a collective body to advocate on behalf of fair traders in “the north” and in “the south”

·  To talk about a “movement” is difficult unless there is a space where fair traders can come together and give some structure & voice to such a movement

·  Share information and create coordinated campaigns and messaging

·  An association would give us much more political clout in face of the government and, for actors wishing to do so, in asking for support from CIDA for “southern” partners

·  Having a coordinated movement voice is very powerful as we address issues within the TransFair Canada & FLO systems, and IFAT system

·  An association would allow us to more effectively build linkages with other movements & bring visibility to fair trade as a “sector”

·  An association could complement work already being done by these actors & avoid duplication

·  An association may allow us to leverage more of the resources “out there” and support and strengthen the fair trade movement in the long-term


(2) Mandate & mission: how broad?


These items could be grouped into several broad objectives. An association would have: (1) a representational function (advocacy, lobbying, negotiation); (2) a resource sharing / networking / clearinghouse function; (3) a movement-building function (building and maintaining solidarity, creating a space for internal debate & nuanced discussion); (4) a coordinating function for collective action & educational campaigns; (5) a capacity-building function (long-term, leveraging resources, supporting research). These objectives would need to be looked at in a priority-setting framework. Suggestion is to put this list into a consultative space to allow others to give feedback & then feed into priority-setting process.


(3) Membership


The identification of members demands a definition of the concept of fair trade. The group didn’t get into trying to define “fair trade” but a definition has since been developed by the emerging association (see above). The group felt that the focus of the association should be fair trade in the traditional, international sense of the term. Other alternative economic models will be considered related movements with whom the association will build linkages when possible. The group acknowledged that the movement can grow into including “domestic fair trade” in the future (it already is in some capacity, really). We recognize that one group cannot be all things to all people, but a statement of solidarity should be made at the founding of the association.


The association considers fair trade “practitioners” to be businesses, organizations and individuals who advocate or educate about fair trade, or work as importers/distributors, etc of fair trade products. Membership will likely need to be tiered between businesses, NGOs, and associate members (individuals, including researchers, and businesses and organizations involved with other alternative economic models or otherwise not directly involved in fair trade).


A concern was raised that the association might develop into another bureaucratic structure that could continue to exclude the marginalized and only include the well-developed fair trade organizations. How do we reach out to those outside the structured systems? The response was that the association could build linkages with like-minded groups, and a tiered membership structure would enable a broad-based membership.


The group felt that it should be made explicit that the association is not accrediting or certifying organizations who work outside of FLO/IFAT/FTF as this could create a lot of confusion and potential loss of credibility for the association.


The group recognized that the language of “north-south” and of “developed” and “developing” countries is problematic as it creates a conceptual, global divide as if there are two worlds, not one. The “north-south” concept implies a political orientation towards “developed” vs. “developing” countries instead of groups around the globe struggling against the neoliberal, unfair trade regime. The group concluded that the terminology we use will always be to some degree problematic and that we should focus our current discussion on the focus of the association. For instance, we need a statement of principles that is inclusive and comprehensive. This will enable inclusion of “domestic fair trade” initiatives in the association in some manner. The argument being that domestic fair trade is where expansion will occur, and is already occurring, in the fair trade movement and, furthermore, that principles articulating fairness all along the commodity chain would exclude corporations with unfair labour practices which everyone agreed we wanted to do though multinationals likely wouldn’t want to be members of the association anyway. Consensus was to begin the association with a narrow focus with a commitment to tend towards a broader engagement with ethical consumption/employment/living.


“Fair Trade in a global context” is the preferred terminology for the group over “north-south”, with recognition that further definition needs to occur to make sure that this maintains focus on marginalized people and groups. Consensus is that we focus initially on existing initiatives working for fair trade in a global context with a commitment to tend towards a broader engagement (you have no idea how long it took us to come up with that sentence! ;).


(4) Do we want an association?


Do we want an association in the provisional sense outlined today? Consensus is YES!


(5) Next steps


The meeting notes were approved by participants for accuracy and completeness. The notes were translated into French before they were circulated to a wider audience.


The group recognized another meeting was needed to bring together “stakeholders” who didn’t participate in this initial conversation. Participants agreed to go back to their own groups and confirm interest by their group in participating in a national fair trade platform.


The Canadian Student Fair Trade Network, Équiterre, and TransFair Canada volunteered to be the initial steering committee of the emerging platform. The committee was directed to organize the next strategic planning meeting in Montréal, make simultaneous translation available throughout the meeting, follow an ethical sourcing policy for the meeting, and find the required resources for the meeting. Finally, the committee was directed to plan the Montréal meeting to build on the Saskatoon meeting’s provisional directions.



Second Strategic Planning Meeting (Montréal: October, 2007)


The meeting was two and a half days in length and had about 60 participants from across Ontario and Québec. It was organized by the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network, Équiterre, and TransFair Canada. Caitlin Peeling of La Siembra Co-operative took minutes and Chantal Havard facilitated. Ian Hussey delivered the opening address.


Below you will find summaries of seven key points covered over the two and a half day discussion. The seven points are: (1) Definition of Fair Trade; (2) Taking Stock: Strengths, Threats, Opportunities; (3) Do we go ahead with the national platform? (4) Mission and Vision; (5) Next Steps; (6) Establishing the organizational development committee; (7) Next meeting. But, before providing the summary of key points, to provide some context and because the reasons expressed for participants’ interest in building a national platform are quite telling, we have included a list of those reasons below, right after a summary of the opening address.


Summary of opening address by Ian Hussey


We are approximately 60 actors from Fair Trade businesses, certification bodies, NGOs, student activist groups, and researchers. We have converged in Montréal because of our common passion for Fair Trade and our common goal of building a national fair trade platform.


A steering committee was struck at the end of the first strategic planning meeting in June. Our job, predominantly, was to organize this meeting. The committee comprised Murielle Vrins of Équiterre, Nathalie Rodrigue of TransFair Canada, Elizabeth Wallace of the Vancouver Island Development Education Association (VIDEA), and Isobel O’Connell who works in corporate social responsibility. I facilitated the committee. We approached the current process of building a national platform as formalizing an already existing network.


Through past collaborations and conversations, we’ve learned from one another and about one another, and that process is still ongoing. And through previous attempts to build a national network or umbrella organization, we have realized that any national organization has to come from the grassroots of the movement.


That is why we are engaged in a consensus-building process and why the meeting in Saskatoon was directional, not decisional. And that is why the agenda for this meeting is quite open, so all of us can be involved in developing the agenda through an organic process.


Actors in the movement with many years of experience who were consulted by the steering committee strongly advised that our success will be based on whether we can come to agreement on the following points: (1) the goals of the national platform; (2) the underlying values of the national platform, that is, what definition of Fair Trade this organization will use and support; and (3) what constituency or constituencies the national platform intends to serve.


The steering committee set two overall goals for this meeting. The first is to facilitate discussion on key issues of the national platform’s organizational development and key issues of Fair Trade in general. These discussions will be direction-setting for the national platform, and preparatory for the first general meeting of the platform. The second goal of this meeting is to form an organizational development committee. The tasks of that committee will of course be determined by all of us during the course of this meeting.


The structure of the meeting includes break-out sessions of approximately 10-15 people to discuss particular issues. Each session should designate a note-taker, so that the full notes can be consolidated and summarized for wide circulation.


To ensure the success of this meeting and to ensure a consensus-building process takes place, the steering committee suggests we adopt the parameters and ground rules used during the June meeting.


Parameters: this meeting is meant to be directional not decisional with an ongoing consultative process


Ground rules: consensus-building, allow the facilitator to give all participants an opportunity to speak, encourage quieter participants to speak, facilitator expected to keep us moving forward and on topic, we will build a speaker’s list, allowing for “points of clarification” calls



Reasons expressed for participants’ interest in building a national platform


·  ensuring that fair trade maintains or renews its principle objective: defending the interests of small producers

·  advocating for an increase in FLO-determined Fair Trade floor price

·  pushing for a fair trade system that is more accessible to small producer groups (abolishing or lowering certification fees for producers, simplifying the certification process)

·  building alliances so that we can lobby decision-makers (e.g. government, FLO)

·  developing responses to consumer concerns or doubts about fair trade

·  raising public & consumer awareness about fair trade

·  networking to share information/resources and identify possibilities for collaboration

·  creating a space for researchers to share their results with practitioners

·  bringing attention across Canada (where FTF & IFAT don’t have a strong presence) to fair trade artisans, their work and struggles

·  making linkages between the fair trade & co-op movements, and building a national platform that adopts the co-operative principles of democracy, transparency and accountability

·  finding a common vision for fair trade

·  finding a common voice for the movement



Key Points of Discussion: (1) Definition of Fair Trade; (2) Taking Stock: Strengths, Threats, Opportunities; (3) Do we go ahead with the national platform? (4) Mission and Vision; (5) Next Steps; (6) Establishing the organizational development committee; (7) Next meeting.


(1) Definition of Fair Trade


The group made significant progress on a definition, and directed the platform’s organizational development committee to wordsmith the group’s draft definition for circulation and official approval at a later date (see the “polished” definition above).


(2) Taking stock: Strengths, Threats, Opportunities



1. A grassroots social movement with a broad base of fair trade actors

2. The credibility provided by certification



1. The loss of fair trade’s meaning as conventional business appropriates the message of fair trade and promotes pseudo-labels (fairwashing)

2. Lowering of standards due to the pressures of large importers 

3. The credibility of certification: for example, when the difference between the Fair Trade price and premium and the world market price is minimal

4. The most marginalized of producers face significant barriers to entering the Fair Trade system and the most challenges operating within the system



1. The significant growth of the responsible consumption movement; for example, ethical purchasing policies and other initiatives.

2. The coordination of efforts within the movement and with allied actors (e.g. organic, social economy, domestic fair trade, co-operative sector) to achieve results

3. Learning from the experiences of fair trade actors in other countries who are facing similar issues


(3) Do we go ahead with the national platform?


Would the national fair trade platform (or another organization with a different structure, such as an association, network, roundtable, coalition, etc.) be a tool to help us face the challenges and threats to the movement? Consensus: YES


The possible functions of such an organization:

·   A networking and gathering function for movement building and consolidation (maintaining solidarity, creating a space for internal debate, sharing of resources, etc.);

·   A coordinating function for collective action & educational campaigns, for bringing greater visibility to fair trade, raising awareness, responding to media attention;

·   A monitoring or watch-dog and information-sharing function (e.g. with regard to monitoring the standards, certifications and accreditations that are determined by the responsible bodies);

·   A representational function in cases of full consensus and the development of common positions for approval by members as individual organizations – position statements, advocacy or lobbying, and defense of the principles of fair trade;

·   An organizational development and capacity-building function for members (supporting research, the development of new groups, etc.).


There is a limit to what we can approve here. We will need to return to our organizations for their approval. Furthermore, what is feasible will be determined by the level of involvement of the members and the resources available.


(4) Mission and Vision


The outline of a mission and vision were developed by consensus for general approval at a later time (either by consultation or at the next meeting)



·   To contribute to the internal and external development and success of Fair Trade in Canada;

·   To strengthen the movement;

·   To create a space for dialogue;

·   To support Fair Trade actors; and

·   To uphold the values of Fair Trade (We will need a separate list with a definition of the values of Fair Trade)



That Fair Trade becomes the norm


There is general agreement that there are several objectives that are not included in this framework, for instance, the organizational objective of becoming the principal voice of fair trade in Canada. There was also concern that if we identify a mission that is too expansive we risk losing our capacity to act in defense of fair trade in the immediate future. However, there is a general understanding that we need to begin by getting to know one another, in building consensus, and that this will allow us to develop the capacity to take action to defend the values of fair trade.


(5) Next steps


·  recruiting potential members for the organizational development committee

·  drawing out the consensus on membership (structure and eligibility) in order to circulate a proposal

·  organizing a consultation process with respect to the mission and membership proposals

·  recruiting new potential members

·  seeking financing

·  organizing the next meeting


(6) Establishing the organizational development committee


Murielle Vrins of Équiterre, Nathalie Rodrigue of TransFair Canada, and Ian Hussey continue on the committee. Dario Iezzoni of Équita d’Oxfam-Québec, Marc-Henri Faure of fibrEthik, Carmen Iezzi of the Fair Trade Federation, and Julie Marchessault of Équicosta are all named to the committee. The committee is given authority to and is responsible for recruiting further members as they deem fit, with an eye to regional and sectoral representation.


(7) Next meeting


We are agreed to meet within a year. We will wait for the organizational development committee to propose dates and a location.


1 Comment so far
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Ian, Carmen, and the rest of the team…well done! I’m so proud of you as you reach this milestone and excited for you all as we continue this campaign.

– Scott James
Founder, Fair Trade Sports
Eco-Certified Fair Trade soccer balls and more!

Comment by Scott James

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