The Canadian Fair Trade Movement
Isaac Newton’s first law of motion is sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. It states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalancing force. For change to happen, we must be the unbalancing force, and push the world in the direction of becoming a more fair, sustainable place.
What is a Grassroots Movement?
Grassroots movements are people driven, where a community seeks to change the status quo. Grassroots movements and organizations use collective action from the local level to effect change at the local, regional, national, or international level. Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision making, and are sometimes considered more natural or spontaneous than more traditional power structures. Grassroots movements, using self-organization, encourage community members to contribute by taking responsibility and action for their community.
The Fair Trade Movement in Canada
As Canadians, we have a long history of standing up for workers rights, universal public health care, and the environment. The fair trade movement is no different, with individual people pushing for change, from coast to coast to coast for many years now.
The Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN) was founded in 2011 to grow this movement by tying together individual actions and enabling us to speak with a louder, more coordinated voice. The movement now encompasses individuals, volunteers and advocates, business, institutional and government leaders, as well as non-profit partners and academics.
In early 2011, Canada had one national Fair Trade designation program, Fair Trade Town, with 15 designations. The program started in the UK in 2001 and was brought to Canada in 2006. The program recognizes efforts made by municipalities and advocates for their support for fair trade.
Building off the success of Fair Trade Town, the Fair Trade Campus program launched in 2011, Fair Trade School in 2014, and Fair Trade Event, Workplace, and Faith Group after that. All six national programs recognize efforts made in the name of fair trade. There have been close to 200 designations since 2011. While much has been achieved, there is much to do, from establishing better support for fair trade through policy and purchasing, to driving education, promotion, and group sustainability, all while working to increase the number of designations.
Beyond designations, there is also a real opportunity to push the private sector and work with our government on a range of legislative goals. These goals and priorities, and our strategy on how we plan to contribute to our vision, are outlined in this strategic plan.
Fair trade offers a vehicle for promoting discussion and awareness around global issues. It's about rethinking our production and consumption systems, and recognizing the role that we all play in creating a fair and sustainable world.
Despite its long history among niche markets, fair trade is relatively new for mainstream consumers, and it is still evolving. The fair trade of today won't be the fair trade of tomorrow. It is our responsibility to recognize our role—whether it be as a consumer, business, institution, or certifier—to ensure that our notions of fair trade continually meet the challenges of global development.
We have the power to make choices that support greater accountability and transparency. By supporting the awareness and availability of fair trade products, we encourage a more responsible vision for the future while contributing to the development of sustainable communities.