City of Vancouver seeks Fair Trade Town certification

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      The city that has branded itself a nuclear-weapons-free zone is now applying to become a Fair Trade Town.

      In a meeting today (May 6), Vancouver council voted unanimously to endorse an application for fair-trade certification, after hearing from the nonprofit group Fair Trade Vancouver.

      According to Jeff Geipel, Fair Trade Vancouver’s executive director, the City of Vancouver already meets most of the criteria for this status, due to the interest in fair trade in the city.

      Clearly excited, Geipel said Vancouver is set to become the first major fair-trade city in Canada.

      “It’s fantastic,” Geipel told the Straight following the vote. “It shows that the Vancouver city and its people have shown leadership on ethical purchasing and sustainability. We are the first major city in Canada, and we hope other major cities follow suit.”

      In approving the application, council also okayed continuing the “existing policy to purchase only Fair Trade coffee, tea and sugar, and other Fair Trade certified products where possible and practicable, for all meetings, offices and canteens”.

      In his first term on council, Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie spearheaded bringing in an ethical-purchasing policy to city hall. Louie brought the fair-trade motion forward.

      In a later interview, Geipel said, “It’s important that people are paid a fair price for their product and a fair wage for their work. Being environmentally sustainable goes hand in hand with being paid enough to live in harmony with your environment.”

      On Saturday (May 8), celebrations for World Fair Trade Day will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store on Granville Island. Louie will make a short speech.




      May 7, 2010 at 8:51am

      Remember when we shipped in migrant construction workers to work on the RAV/Canada Line for $5 (yes FIVE) an hour? While unemployment in Canada was on the rise?

      Is this the kind of "fairness" Vancouver is demanding shiny new trophies for? Is this kind of blantant exploitation we can expect to see more of in the future "fair" Vancouver?

      The reality of our labour market destroys Jeff Geipel's little feel-good utopian comment: "Being environmentally sustainable goes hand in hand with being paid enough to live in harmony with your environment."

      As long as our corporations and governments are allowed to use foreign slave labour to avoid paying a living wage, the concept of Vancouver as a "Fair Trade Town" is at best an insulting mockery.

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      May 7, 2010 at 1:09pm

      thank you for your comment, birdy. the issues that you touch on regarding the living wage, Temporary Foreign Workers, and a just economy in general are extremely important and should continue to be part of everyone's work to raise awareness about, and ultimately work toward changing.

      everything is a process and a work in progress (and, unfortunately, it is often a process that appears to be taking steps backwards). yet I believe that Fair Trade Vancouver's hard work to make Vancouver a Fair Trade Town should be recognized in this context - it doesn't mean that Vancouver is in any way ideal in terms of labour conditions, fair wages or Ethical Trade. but it is a small step that expands a window of opportunity to further education and awareness-raising efforts regarding issues of a fair economy.

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      May 7, 2010 at 2:37pm

      I wish Vancouver could leap ahead as well on a number of fronts, but it requires steps, and this I believe is a very important step in achieving the world (and Vancouver) we want to see. If we don't support these steps forward what do we support?

      What does Mr Birdy want, a motion for the city to declare itself a bunch of corporate sellouts? If so where does that get us, and how does it help solve the problem? Where does that step move us for future action? How can we use such a motion to leverage a movement against cheap immigrant labor?

      I see a lot of positives here as the city is willing to try and be more ethical, and if they see support for Mr. Geipel's hard work they will have to look more closely at a lot of other issues to keep progressing forward.

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      May 7, 2010 at 3:13pm

      I agree with "Anonymous", although I understand Birdy's distrust of how this could be used to greenwash our city. Now that it is passed by council, what's stopping them from pretending like it was their idea the whole time and showing off how progressive they are (as Gregor seems to do a lot of these days).

      But the fact remains that this Fair Trade Town status is indeed like every other victory for working people, it is small but none the less has a very real material impact on the lives of poor farmers. Its a small step towards reversing the flow of wealth out of the Global South. Also, like any other victory, let's use it to reinvigorate building our movements for social justice and, ultimately, liberation from the bonds of colonialism, capitalism, etc.

      Because like any other great gains- from civil rights laws to the welfare state- the law makers will always pretend it was their idea and be the "great emancipators.

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      May 13, 2010 at 2:10pm

      I understand that providing incentives for some to act more ethically (such as crowning Vancouver a "Fair Trade City") is a widely used strategy for environmental and social movments.

      However, the battle for fair treatment of workers, not only in Vancouver, but in every city we are globally connected to (and responsible for) will be long and arduous. This achievement will cheapen the meaning of "Fair Trade" and serve as an excuse to reduce further efforts toward living more ethically.

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