We discuss the importance of bringing labour education to post-secondary and wider communities through the 31st annual Labour Fair at Toronto’s George Brown College (organized by the School of Labour and the Tommy Douglas Institute) and its collaboration with the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF). This episode sets the stage for the re-airing of major Labour Fair events on this podcast as well as on rabbleTV over the coming weeks.

Reflecting on the Labour Fair at George Brown College, Payne says:  

“The Labour Fair initially was meant to make sure that working class students .. had some knowledge of the unions in their sectors so .. they could find folks who could help them out and who could represent them. And also teach them the basics of organizing. Right? I mean, the main thing that we are always teaching is that we are stronger as a collective.…Our theme this year is P3s, so Pandemic, Privatization, and Precarity. But in our conversations, both with teachers and amongst each other, we’ve also sort of added a fourth P, which is the Planet.”

Speaking to the importance of CLiFF in these times, Blackadder says: 

“Its ongoing relevance is that it shows working people a mirror. .. it lets them look at a film that represents them in some way, shape or form.That will allow them to ..make that connection that in that bigger world, workers have a great deal more in common, than they do those things that divide us.”

Oikawa points to issues that demand attention: 

“There’s still that issue about workers’ rights, workers’ safety, having fair wages, safe workplaces for workers – ongoing, still needs scrutiny. Environmental issues… That’s the brilliance of CLiFF. A number of issues will continue to be reflected in the films that we show at our labor Film Festival, but have been shown as well….There’s never a point where, ‘oh, we’re done. We don’t need to know our history.’ We have to continue to know our history.”

About today’s guests: 

Lorene Oikawa is on the board of the Canadian Labour International Film Festival and helps organize screenings in British Columbia. She started volunteering for CLiFF in its inaugural year, 15 years ago. She is past president on the board of the National Association of Japanese Canadians and a human rights activist. Lorene is a fourth generation Japanese Canadian and a descendant of survivors of the forced uprooting, dispossession, incarceration, and exile from 1942 to 1949. She is a co-editor of the book, Honouring Our People: Breaking the Silence. She was the first Asian Canadian executive vice president for the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU).

Derek Blackadder spent over 30 years working for several trade unions in a variety of roles.  He currently volunteers with LabourStart, writes the Webwork column for Our Times Magazine, is Co-Chair of the Northumberland (ON) Coalition for Social Justice and is a contributor to RadioLabour.  He combines his commitment to the labour movement and his love of film by serving on the board of the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF).

 Kathryn Payne is a full-time educator in the School of Labour at George Brown College in Toronto. Her areas of interest include labour and working class culture, women’s work, diversity and sexuality studies, colonialism, and neoliberalism. Her work for the School of Labour is multifaceted: she designs curricula, liaises with union educators, teaches General Education courses at George Brown, and helps organize the annual George Brown Labour Fair.  She has also been active in the sex worker rights movement, queer activism and was one of the founding members of George Brown’s Positive Space Campaign.

Transcript of this episode can be accessed at georgebrown.ca/TommyDouglasInstitute or here.

Image: / Used with permission.

Music: Ang Kahora. Lynne, Bjorn. Rights Purchased.

Intro Voices: Ashley Booth (Podcast Announcer); Bob Luker (Tommy); Injila Rajab Khan and Danesh Hanbury (Street Voices)

Courage My Friends Podcast Organizing Committee: Chandra Budhu, Ashley Booth, Resh Budhu.

Produced by: Resh Budhu, Tommy Douglas Institute and Breanne Doyle, rabble.ca.

Host: Resh Budhu.

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