Category Archives: Family

Vancouver’s Co-Working Co-op Stimulates Worker Empowerment

Coworking gratis? A Verona da settembre!Tuesday night in the back room of The Tipper bar/bistro/restaurant on Kingsway at Victoria we are holding our Inception Meeting for a new kind of co-working space in Vancouver, one structured as a co-op.

You can read about the project in The Georgia Straight piece last week, and on the project webpage at Incipe, the consulting workers’ co-op that is spawning this co-op. Incipe, in-CHEE-pay, is Latin for “Begin!” And you can register for the [free] meeting here. And if you want to be involved and informed, you can sign up for the e-newsletter here.

We will be starting forming the community of people eager to take part in a new way of doing co-working, as equal owners of the whole enterprise instead of clients of for-profit corporate co-working spaces, which are how most of the world’s co-working spaces are run.

But considering the fact that people who work, study, think, research, and volunteer from home are often disempowered and vulnerable, they need support.

So they gravitate to co-working spaces because of possibilities of serendipity and synergy and connecting with people to envision greatness with, over coffee. Because trying to do that in a Starbucks has a slim chance of much success.

But one of the key principles of co-working is to build community. And why do we have communities? To support each other.

And, it turns out, co-ops are all about building community and supporting each other in democratic workplaces within an intentional progressive economic climate.

So there’s a natural fit to building a co-working space that is a co-op. And it’s also natural to convene the space for people who understand this, to get to know one another and start building the community so that we can all assess our collective needs, desires, dreams, visions and capacity for mutual aid and support.

From this, we will do the heavy lifting to find our co-working space.

So, consider how precarious work has become for so many people!

It has been a rough couple generations for working people, with a notable increase in precariousness of work.

Downsizing, contracting out, layoffs, people in the middle of their working lives being flung through the windows of corporate towers only to have a difficult time finding work because employers may prefer to hire much younger people.

And while many people choose the freelance, contractor, entrepreneur consultant lifestyle, many people who’ve been canned are forced into fending for themselves, trying to leverage their skills, training and experience into something useful. They are one form of the precariat: the precarious proletariat.

Others in the precariat class include young people who typically can’t get work in their fields they have trained in, or find corporate or organizational structures grotesquely tyrannical and impediments to optimizing their work-life-activism elements of existence. They end up being precariats too. Our Incipe consulting co-op itself formed out of this very dynamic!

So our goals in creating a co-working co-op space include these:

  1. Helping people work outside their homes.
  2. Helping people have meaningful ownership.
  3. Helping people feel some community in their labouring.
  4. Helping people connect with others who can build synergy with each other.

But one of the most important goals in this whole project is to recognize that workers are disempowered, disconnected and devalued. And to fix that, we need to build support networks for people. And one of the ways to do that is to build a co-working space that is co-operatively owned, just like MEC or your credit union or Modo or other small and massive co-ops around the world.

So, scroll back up to see the links to getting more information about our co-working space in development. Get involved, because we need you and your originality!

And whether you need a 24/7 space or a desk away from home for a few hours each week that costs about as much as the coffee you need to buy to camp out on Starbucks’ wifi, this ownership model is for you.

Remember, co-working is about empowerment. And so are co-ops!

What’s Wrong with Canada? We’re Not Denmark-ish

And I don’t mean we need to become Denmark, but we need to have the dialogue about why they can do what they do and we choose not to.

When Canadians are surveyed, a very large majority of us support these public goods. But those desires get subsumed with corporate, neoliberal, right wing government-cut rhetoric.

We need to explore the political sociology of Denmark to understand how they embraced the tax commitment to provide these public goods.

We can be Denmark, but we choose not to.

We need to respin the messages from the tax-hating corporations and make the economy serve human beings better!

 

How You May Be Able to Be a Better Feminist

I don’t need to add anything here. If you like/hate what you read, click the link and get up to speed on the rest of it!

White feminists: this is a call for you to get your shit together. The point of equality isn’t to claw your way to the top so that you can treat other people just as badly as white dudes have treated you — we need to elevate each other, amplify each other’s voices, and maybe let someone else tell us if we’re allowed to be on their team. Because, as per Flavia Dzodan, if your feminism is not intersectional, then I’m sorry but it’s complete bullshit.

* by “white feminism” I mean a certain demographic of white women who are straight, cis and able-bodied and view their brand of “feminism” as being better and more “real” than that of anyone else’s.

Sh*t white feminists need to stop doing | rabble.ca.

Image: New York Public Library

Being a Better Ally: #IWD

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Click me; it’s good for you!

International Women’s Day is a check-in point for me: I try to take stock of what has improved or worsened since last year. Doing so helps me be a better ally.

Our soul as a nation has suffered this past year. It has suffered from the continuing culture of rape and violence against women. The behaviour of the Dalhousie male dental students is just one more indicator of our continued dismissiveness and our neglect of dignity, though the process of restorative justice they’re now participating in offers some hope.

The worst sign, by far, that things aren’t getting better fast enough comes from our supreme leader, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

Last year, despite calls for a public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, the prime minister ended 2014 by saying a public inquiry, “Um it, it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest, Peter. You know, our ministers will continue to dialogue ah with ah those who are concerned about this.

I honestly believe him.

He could have tried to dodge the issue. He could have tried a non-answer. But ultimately, the communications wizards in the prime minister’s office decided that he should tell the truth.

People who don’t like the prime minister weren’t surprised by the answer. People who do like him probably appreciated his honesty. And those who are sexist or racist likely respected his bravery in championing the Conservatives’ continuing racist and sexist neglect of this national crisis. In 2015, the situation remains unchanged, with the government once again publicly stating it will not conduct an inquiry.

Another sign of the times lies in people’s continued reluctance to identify as feminist. They fear an increasing backlash, and they fail to see how feminism assertively addresses systemic injustices, past and present. They fail to see how feminism untangles the nature of oppression, the kind that has normalized hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in our society.

Though I’ve proudly identified as a feminist for decades, lately I’ve learned about complications that come from layered oppressions. For instance, what happens if you are a woman and suffer economic, social or political discrimination? And what if you also happen to be an Indigenous woman, who suffers from discrimination because of your heritage? Does one oppression “win,” or do oppressions interact?

The academic term for this is intersectionality. Miriam Dobson, a professor of modern history at Sheffield University in England, provides one of the best illustrations of the term you’ll find on the internet. In it, she describes intersectionality as “the belief that oppressions are interlinked and cannot be solved alone.”

So do Indigenous women address oppression as women or as Indigenous people? It’s not a binary.

As an upper-middle income, white, straight, English-speaking, university educated, fully employed, able-bodied man, I represent the demographics of the dominant class in Canada. In fact, I share more entitlements in common with Stephen Harper, demographically not ideologically, than most other Canadians.

This disturbs me.

And it motivates me to be a better ally. Luckily there are resources for everyone, including people like me, whose demographic entitlements often impede my ability to be useful to people suffering discrimination and oppression.

One of the best ally resources around is a short video by YouTube comedian and activist Chescaleigh. Watch “5 Tips for Being an Ally.” [It’s below, for your viewing convenience!]

If you’re reading Our Times magazine, you’re already an ally. Way to go! But we could almost always be better allies. Chescaleigh’s words encourage us to do just that. She defines an ally as “a person who wants to fight for the equality of a marginalized group that they are not a part of.”

Being an ally is noble and altruistic. But it can also be condescending, arrogant and paternalistic if we’re not careful. Thus, she provides these indispensable tips:

  1. Understand your privilege.
  2. Listen and do your homework.
  3. Speak up, but not over.
  4. You’ll make mistakes; apologize when you do.
  5. Ally is a verb.

Many of us could more effectively acknowledge and restrain our entitlements.

And since as allies we’re helping others who have lived different lives from our own, we should ensure that our arrogance doesn’t make us think we know it all already.

Entitled people often don’t even know that people defer to them. How many times have you been in a group where women allow men to speak first?

Allies need to have humility: there are no alliances without humility. Allies need to acknowledge that we’ll make mistakes: there is no growth without our changing unhelpful or damaging behaviours.

Once we’ve addressed Chescaleigh’s first four tips, we must remember to be allies in action, not only in identification. One way I can do this is to discuss my understanding of intersectionality with people I am close to: the people I trust, the people who have my back, and the people who help me rise above more pathetic versions of me.

When we establish our role as an ally with our people, we set up relationships that make us accountable. This makes it easy for people to help us help others.

Chescaleigh speaks about her journey to becoming more conscious, about unpacking her own privilege, about redefining comedy for herself and using it in the service of social justice rather than to reinforce stereotypes of all kinds – something she calls out as “lazy” comedy. We are all on a similar journey. But while we can always be better allies, we can also better understand the dynamics of intersectionality.

If we don’t, we risk oversimplifying our understanding of marginalized people. We cannot afford to be so ineffective.

This piece appears in the current issue of Our Times magazine.

Looking for Heroes?

energy-east-poster.jpg

I’ve been watching The Book of Negroes this week. I have no words. I only recognize justice, integrity, brutality, acknowledgement, witnessing, story telling and a myriad of other foggy responses.

It’s easy to also ponder qualities of heroes.

Then I read this from earlier this week, and nodded. Do you get it?

Anishinabe Women Protest Energy East Pipeline on Family Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 16, 2015

‘Protect the Water, For Future Generations’: Message being shared today with local families, starting at Market Square at noon.

Kenora—Dozens of Anishinabe Women, their families, and supporters converge today on Market Square at noon to deliver a message against the proposed Energy East Pipeline that will deliver tarsands oil right through the City and through all of Treaty 3 (and other First Nations) Territory.

Today’s Family Day demonstration, with a focus on protecting the water for future generations, is intended to be highly visible—with drumming, singing, placards and speeches—and to inform and engage the local public about the immense threats posed by the likelihood of oil spills to local water sources, ecosystems, animal habitat, and human health, as well as broader environmental impacts from proposed tarsands expansion.

Fawn Wapioke is Chief of Shoal Lake #39. She says, “I am deeply concerned about the pipeline and believe that our responsibility is to the land, the water, and future of our People. Our responsibility is upholding the law of the land to ensure survival of our Mother Earth.”

TransCanada, speaking to the possibility of a major oil spill in the area, has said that it would take a minimum 22 minutes to shut down the Energy East pipeline in case of a leak. Any spill from the pipeline  could allow as much as 2.7 million litres of oil to spill in that time.

It wouldn’t be the first major industrial spill in the region.

“Being from Grassy Narrows, I know firsthand how damage to the water can poison our families and our kids, not just now, but in the future, too,” said Corrisa Swain, a Youth from Grassy Narrows where families continue to watch newborn children exhibit the brutal symptoms of mercury poisoning, a Dryden pulp and paper mill having dumped over 9000 kgs of Mercury into the English and Wabigoon River System over 40 years ago. “We know from our own experience how these kinds of projects can have terrible impacts on future generations and how unlikely it is that government or companies will ever clean up afterwards,” says Swain.

The environmental impacts from the Energy East Pipeline also extend far beyond the local effects on the Winnipeg River, Lake of the Woods and local ecosystems.

“The project is a climate nightmare, demanding as much as a 40% expansion of tarsands extraction, releasing millions of tonnes more carbon pollution, just when we’ve been told that 75% of tarsands oil needs to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate impacts in the next century,” said Teika Newton, a representative of Kenora Transitions Initiative (TIK), a Kenora-based environmental advocacy group. “There is also the reality that tarsands extraction, like pipeline spills, have terrible impacts on downstream communities across the continent,” Newton says.

Trancanada’s new pipeline project has already been opposed across the entirety of its route, from local tarsands impacted communities to the Mohawk community of Kanesatake and Mi’qmak communities on the East Coast. In Treaty 3 Territory, Grand Chief Warren White has already clearly stated that the pipeline will not carry tarsands oil across the territory without express consent from affected First Nations. Local grassroots communities have echoed those sentiments.

“The Energy East Pipeline is going to affect us all, we together as Peoples need to prevent this project. For the sake of the water, wildlife, and land,” says Alicia Kejick, a Youth from Shoal Lake #39. “For our Peoples and future grandchildren,” Kejick says, “it is momentous that we protect what is ours to begin with. We will be out on Family Day, not just to raise awareness, but to speak for those who can’t.”

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Contact:   Chrissy Swain, 807 407 1468