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City of Surrey, KPU Talks Fair Trade

City of Surrey, KPU Talks Fair Trade

November 1, 2013

Surrey, BC—Support for fair trade is growing in the Surrey community. On Wednesday, October 29, Kwantlen Polytechnic University hosted A Community Fair Trade Symposium. Kwantlen university’s staff, faculty and student association, as well as representatives from the City of Surrey, the City of Vancouver, UBC and Royal Roads University presented at the event.

City of Surrey, KPU Talks Fair Trade
(KPU instructor Kyle Mitchell (right) with friend James Milligan, founder of Social Conscience.)

Awareness and support for fair trade has been strong in Metro Vancouver, but most of this support has been limited to the City of Vancouver and university campuses. As the sustainability industry grows, this awareness is spreading throughout the Lower Mainland.

Anna Mathewson, Manager of Sustainability in the City of Surrey, spoke about the City of Surrey’s Sustainability Policy, approved by council in 2008, and which is now in its fifth iteration. While the charter doesn’t include fair trade, Mathewson said that it could be included when the city revises the policy next year.

“The charter doesn’t mention fair trade,” said Mathewson, who added, “I have lots of thoughts from today that have been very helpful—to move forward with some of these ideas.”

Mathewson also suggested that if anything were to change with the city’s procurement, they would need to see strong local support. “I haven’t had anyone call me to talk about fair trade issues,” said Mathewson. “Maybe we’ll have lots of people after today. But it needs to come from the community.”

Arzo Ansary, Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) Director of Student Services and Chairperson of the KSA Executive Committee, was eager to encourage support from the campus and the Surrey community.

“We’re talking about things that affect people’s lives,” said Ansary. “There’s a real human cost to the choices we make in life—what we consume, what we buy. These decisions affect whether or not a person is able to purchase food for their family somewhere in the world. We have a position of privilege in society, and immediately, that catapults us into the realm of responsibility.

“We can’t overnight, or through the course of one symposium, wake up the next morning and change the way all trade is dealt with,” said Ansary. “What we can do, though, is through this conversation, get together and recognize that we have purchasing power—that we can cause economic disruption.”

Other municipalities and institutions in Metro Vancouver have made commitments to fair trade. The City of Vancouver achieved its Fair Trade Town status in 2010.

Andrea Reimer, Vancouver City Councillor, who spoke at the event, said the municipality has fully implemented its commitments to fair trade through all five of the city’s purchasing divisions. “We have an absolute bottom line on fair trade in the product categories that it’s associated with.”

The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University were the first and second campuses to achieve Fair Trade designations in Canada.

Sasha Caldera, board member of the Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN) and SFU alumni, spoke via video at the symposium to emphasize the impacts of these designations. “SFU is actually redirecting and converting these procurement dollars into the global fair trade system—and that’s going to be empowering hundreds of thousands of small-holder farmers and thousands of communities in Latin America, Africa, and India.”

“It’s been great working with Kwantlen,” says Sean McHugh, Executive Director of the CFTN, and keynote speaker for the event. “The university has shown great leadership in bringing a number of stakeholders to the discussion of fair trade.”

“The organizing committee is very pleased with how the day went,” said James Milligan, Steering Committee Co-Chair for the event. “The initial response from participants—vendors, faculty, student body, and presenters—is that the event was very well received.”

“We owe a debt to the speakers as they created an engaging environment around our topic of fair trade in our Communities,” said Milligan.

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