On February 27th and 28th, Next Up Saskatchewan hosted a thought-provoking and invigorating conference on “Building Skills for Social and Environmental Justice” on Treaty 4 territory (Regina). Supported by the keynote address, on the LEAP Manifesto, from Seth Klein - Next Up co-founder and Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC office - the weekend’s events fostered great interest from the public. As Next Up prepares to launch its program in Regina in the fall of 2016, the conference and keynote provided a dynamic opportunity for local communities to learn more about Next Up.
For the daytimes sessions, current Next Up Saskatoon participants met up with residents of Regina and area as well as Tishemia Tootoosis, Next Up alumnus who travelled all the way from Lloydminster to take part! The sessions’ facilitators created a rich learning environment in exploring how communities, who are passionate about social and environmental justice, can use specific tools and actions to challenge particular pervasive narratives while also collaborating towards positive solutions. On Saturday, Simon Enoch – Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Saskatchewan Office – introduced the historical and contemporary expressions of conservative thought and how progressive groups can better understand conservatism as a politics of reaction. Seth Klein continued along this stream of thought by demystifying economics and highlighting how current systems continue to perpetuate inequity and injustice. By the end of his session, participants were debating different conservative assumptions on economics with great gusto!
Sunday was filled with energy and heart as participants engaged in conversations on environmental/ climate justice and the intersectionalities with Indigenous rights and opposition to resource extraction economies. Heather Milton Lightening - community organizer, trainer and facilitator, as well as a founding member of Native Youth Movement – provided insight into the diverse ways honouring Indigenous rights are integral in protecting the environment and climate. Emily Eaton – associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Regina – and Simon Enoch ended the conference by unpackaging the social life (commodity chain) of fossil fuels in Saskatchewan, namely oil and coal, and the social and environmental implications.
While participants left this conference feeling a multitude of different emotions, many expressed how they felt revitalized and hopeful that change is indeed possible with collective effort, creativity, and community-based initiative.
This rewarding experience would not have been possible without the support of the sponsors: SEIU-West, SGEU Crown Sector, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Saskatchewan Office, Health Advocacy and Research Training Program (HART) University of Regina, Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG), Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC), and Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.