activist notes

Notes from Equinomics Visioning Meeting by activistnotes

Equinomics Visioning Meeting

May 16-17th, University of Ottawa


Agenda of the meeting


Participants: Erin Harrison (Youth Representative, Canadian Labour Congress), Shelley Melanson (Incoming Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario), Caitlin Peeling (La Siembra Co-operative), Norm (VP Member Learning, Engineers Without Border’s U Ottawa Chapter), James Douglas (United Students Against Sweatshops Canada), Bob Thomson (Founder of Fair TradeMark Canada – succeeded by TransFair Canada in the mid-90s), and the catalysts of Equinomics (Patrick Clark, Amanda Wilson, and Ian Hussey)


We spent a day and a half meeting, talking, and brainstorming with members of different trade justice movements about how to build Equinomics, what we should focus on, how other organizations can be involved, and how we can work in solidarity with one another. The meetings were a great success in defining more clearly what we are trying to do. Below is a summary of conclusions and some suggestions of concrete things we would like to work on within Equinomics.




Envisioning Equinomics:

·          Equinomics will initially focus its work in Ontario.

·          Our aim is not to set up another liberal “non-governmental” organization.

·          Equinomics recognizes the distinction between solidarity-based Fair Trade and market-based Fair Trade. We aim to facilitate critical dialogue on the difference between the two, and to advocate for solidarity-driven models.

·          We view Fair Trade and No Sweat as means to certain ends, not ends in themselves.

·          We should work to synthesize the strengths of various trade justice movements (No Sweat’s more critical edge, anti-oppression training, student-labour solidarity; Fair Trade’s development of concrete alternatives and ability to push product).

·          Local solidarity is just as important as international solidarity.

·          Personal consumption is not a form of political activism. Slogans like “to buy is to vote” focus on individuals. We want to work for systematic, not just individual/personal, changes.


Campaigns/Issues, three programs/functions were initially identified and discussed:

·          Equinomics could co-organize an Activist School every 6 or 12 months with the CLC’s youth members, CFS-Ontario and other organizations. The Activist Schools would aim to provide students and youth with organizing training with a focus on anti-oppression, a strong analysis of power relations, and how to employ direct action tactics;

·          Equinomics could develop a Canadian version of the Designated Supplier Program (DSP) developed in the US by the Worker Rights Consortium and United Students Against Sweatshops. The Canadian oriented program could act as a vehicle between union and co-op (solidarity economy) garment manufacturers and Ontario-based school boards, university bookstores, and post-secondary schools. This program could also place emphasis on small-scale producers.

·          Equinomics could engage student co-op cafes on Ontario campuses around the idea of developing an Ontario Federation (or Network) of Student Co-op Cafes.


Next Steps:

·          CFS-Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Labour are organizing an Activist Assembly for September 27-28. The catalysts of Equinomics (Pat, Amanda and Ian) were invited to facilitate a session on the ideas behind the emerging Equinomics and the founding meeting set for October 10-12, two weekends after the Activist Assembly.

·          We will try to meet again for a day or two in Toronto during the last two weeks of August around organizing the Activist Assembly and Equinomics’s Founding Meeting.

·          Erin of the CLC said she’d see about holding Equinomics’s Founding Meeting in the Steelworkers Hall in downtown Toronto.

·          CLC and CFS-Ontario will encourage young union members and student organizers to participate in the Equinomics Founding Meeting.

·          CLC, CFS-Ontario and La Siembra encouraged the catalysts of Equinomics to submit a proposal for initial seed funding for the developing organization.




·          Large consumer coops like Mountain Equipment Coop have come a long way in the last 10-15 years with their sourcing policies, but it is still difficult for them to follow their codes of conduct because of the structure of the global economy and the limited number of solidarity economy garment factories. Similar reasons make it difficult for public institutions to purchase “ethical” garments, making Ethical Purchasing Policies sometimes hard to follow.

·          Many students in Canada have expressed a desire to see a Canadian-version of the DSP to incorporate an emphasis on worker co-operatives and local production into the core DSP principles.  The nature of the Canadian university apparel market means that the DSP might need to operate a bit differently to be successful and effective here.

·          The No Sweat movement needs to develop concrete alternative mechanisms. This has been a strength of the Fair Trade movement, and is one of the ideas behind the DSP.

·          More trade justice activist training schools are needed in Canada with an emphasis on anti-oppression, solidarity economics, and the use of direct action (such as sit-ins).

·          At Activist Schools we might facilitate discussion on deconstructing the idea of “development”.

·          We will aim to remind students and youth labour leaders of the “larger picture” if they’ve slipped into a focus on specific commodities and individual consumption and lost sight of the larger ideas of a solidarity economy behind creating channels for alternative trade.

·          CLC has activist training sessions they could facilitate at Equinomics’s Activist Schools.  

·          Equinomics could tap students into the CLC’s clearinghouse of union shop info.

·          Equinomics might be able to retain institutional memory of student trade justice struggles. This would help deal with year-to-year turnover in the CFS and on individual campuses.

·          Once we get our footing as an organization, we should seek to work with Québec-based groups working for a solidarity economy.

·          Membership in Equinomics will be free and done through a sort of affinity statement which should be created at the founding meeting (October 10-12 in Toronto).


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