Social justice is our fight here at Fairtrade Canada, but the fight is large and has SO many angles. Anti-racism is not our expertise. This is where others step in. Sometimes the best you can do is listen and give space.
This is where my thoughts were 3 weeks ago.
In the last weeks, while keeping up with the news, reading, learning, listening or joining protests, our team was also busy sharing resources with each other, challenging our own assumptions.
I kept thinking: “actually, this is part of our work every day in Fairtrade”. We are now ready to re-enter the discussion, now is no longer the time to be quiet.
As we were collating podcasts, movies and books that had helped us on our journey of anti-racism, I wished I could share with my team the words of Renwick Rose. He is the founder of the Windward Island Farmer Association (WINFA), and a political activist in the independence of St-Vincent from the UK. Renwick was instrumental in the beginnings of the first Fairtrade bananas. Renwick was a mentor to me early in my career when I started working with small-scale farmers. I learned a tremendous amount from him. He made things I had read in books become real and actionable. Linking up Caribbean political theory, the powerful politics of trade justice, and solidarity amongst the communities in the Global South. The most unfair trade of all had been the trade of enslaved Africans. His more recent work focused on calls for reparations. His words have helped me understand Fairtrade as a political act, and in the Caribbean at least, Fairtrade is directly linked to a political and historical racial justice fight. You can hear Renwick speak in the video I am sharing below.
Racism is one of the founding blocks of unequal trade. From the tea pluckers in Assam, the banana workers in Colombia, the cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast to the sugarcane farmer in Jamaica, it isn’t hard to understand how a history of racism and injustice created the unfair trading relationships we have today. Putting back global trade on its head, with humanity, respect and justice is not just a commercial endeavor. It’s a political act.
We will continue to train ourselves, to learn and unlearn, to listen, to protest. We will stand by those who fight police brutality here in North America, we will join our voice to decry systemic racism across our Canadian institutions. We will hold more space for Black communities in our movement. Most of all we will continue to fight for fairness, equality and justice in trade. Every day.
Julie Francoeur, Executive Director of Fairtrade Canada