The Journey Towards A Fair Trade Edmonton

Make Poverty History Edmonton, Fairtrade Edmonton Team

In recent years, Fair Trade has gained popularity amongst Edmontonians. The whirlwind of dedication originally began with the excitement and cooperation of enthused individuals, businesses, faith groups, and communities, which initially stirred interest within the city. Thus the word spread, and with it hope that one day Edmonton would receive its Fair Trade designation.

The past three years we’ve overcome many difficulties and made many accomplishments. Make Poverty History, Engineers Without Borders, and World University Service of Canada were three of the main student groups spearheading the efforts. Beginning within the hallways of the University of Alberta, we ignited conversations, gave out pamphlets, and handed out Fair Trade drinks to passers-by.

We set up our awareness tables every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday across campus, giving out thousands of cups filled with tea, coffee, and hot chocolate — a tradition
 that continues today. Eventually the energy spread to those more prominent in power. We discussed Fair Trade with deans, professors, councillors, student groups, and the Students Union (SU) — anyone that would lend an ear — and were met with high interest. Though we at the University of Alberta are still in the process of acquiring Fair Trade Campus designation, we’ve taken solid strides: Fair Trade is now an area of high interest for the SU and the students in which it represents; the SU now incorporates Fair Trade as part of its food policy.

Branching out from our academic circle, we hoped to permeate the masses in Edmonton. Presentations and tabling were a regular part of our schedule as we endeavoured to talk to restaurants, cafés, businesses, NGOs, faith groups, and community leagues. Over 1,000 houses were visited during the annual Reverse Trick-or-Treat event, where Fair Trade chocolate was handed out to families.

Fair Trade EdmontonFair Trade tabling and outreach has taken place in numerous stores, and Fair Trade materials were put up where possible. To date, we have over 50 cafés and restaurants and 15 businesses that sell or use two or more Fair Trade products, and over 25 faith groups that support Fair Trade. Notable groups include: the University of Alberta Campus Saint-Jean, the Shaw Conference Centre, King’s University College, Public Interest Alberta, Canadian Baptists of Western Canada Denomination Office (overlooking more than 150 churches in Western Canada), the Catholic Archdiocese Office, the Anglican Diocese, Micah Challenge, and a variety of stores that include Costco, Save-On-Foods, Java Jive, and Starbucks.

Our goal has always been to work with the Edmonton City Council to build Fair Trade momentum within the city. Part of the work that we’ve done over the last three years involved leading the  “Be My Fair Valentine” awareness campaign in Alberta in February, 2012 — the culmination of which resulted in submitting a petition with more than 500 signatures supporting Fair Trade to our city council. Since then, we have been meeting with city councillors to develop strategies that will help us achieve a Fair Trade designated for the city of Edmonton.

Today, Edmonton is very near to achieving its Fair Trade designation. Our only remaining task is to gain a full approval from the city council. We have recently sent each cityFair Trade Edmonton councillor — including Edmonton’s Mayor, Stephen Mandel — a proposal for Fair Trade designation, which provides comprehensive information on the process for Fair Trade designation, as well as evidence for Edmonton’s growing support for Fair Trade.

As we secure plans for ethical procurement policies and increase the number of ethical choices within our community, we’re excited to explore the new possibilities in alleviating poverty in developing countries around the world. We invite you to become a part of the whirlwind as it sweeps across the nation.

Feel free to contact us with your thoughts and ideas. We would love to hear about what is happening in your area, or how we can assist with our own knowledge and experience. Contact Robin and Michelle at mph.fairtrade@gmail.com; or to learn more, visit: http://www.mphedmonton.com/?page_id=6

July 31st, 2012