Metro Vancouver, B.C. – ‘Fair trade’ would be synonymous with ‘trade’ if everything from production to consumption were done with the best interests of society and the environment in mind.
But the world isn’t fair – so KPU instructor Kyle Mitchell and friend James Milligan are doing something about it with the first annual Community Fair Trade Symposium at KPU next Tuesday.
“We really just want to stimulate dialogue and create conditions in which students are able to make conscious decisions about the products they buy,” says Mitchell, who teaches sociology. “This is about putting theory to practice.”
“We don’t have an agenda,” adds Milligan, who founded Social Conscience, a local company that produces professional fair trade sports balls. “Instead, we want to put the information out there and have people come to their own conclusions naturally.”
Hosted by KPU’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research: Community, Learning and Engagement (CIR:CLE), the symposium grew out of the social justice component of Mitchell's sociology class. His students were so taken with the concepts that were being discussed that Mitchell was encouraged to open up the discussion to the greater university population.
“The idea of fair trade is challenging the status quo and thinking about the production process as well as the global economy as a whole in terms of relationships,” explains Mitchell. “Students examined not just the relationships we have with the producers but with our own communities in terms of how these social and environmental justice issues are manifested in the relationships that come to define our local communities.”
Mitchell and Milligan put together a steering committee that has spent the last several months organizing a free one-day conference that explores the complexities of consumer purchasing.
The event, which is open to the public, features keynote speaker Dr. Will Low from Royal Roads University’s school of business, and Sean McHugh, executive director of the Canadian Fair Trade Network. There will also be a panel discussion on adopting fair trade purchasing practices at the institutional level with representatives from UBC and SFU, and City of Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer. Other speakers include Paul Richard of KPU’s environmental protection technology program and sustainability manager for the City of Surrey, Anna Mathewson.
Milligan, whose company just signed an agreement with Right to Play to start producing the humanitarian organization’s trademark red ball, will also address the symposium from the perspective of running a sustainable and socially responsible business.
“I don’t mind running a for-profit business - I just don’t want to do it on the backs of children and their parents,” says Milligan.
There will also be an Open Spaces session with a professional facilitator, where attendees will be encouraged to engage with each other, share and gain insights, network and add their own perspective to the discussions.
The symposium will be held Tuesday, Oct. 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the conference room at KPU Surrey, 12666 72nd Ave. The event will be followed by a fair trade wine and cheese reception in the atrium. Members of the public are welcome to attend any and all sessions, but asked to register as seating is limited. More information can be found here.
Fair trade is an international third-party adjudication and monitoring system that informs consumers that the fair trade products they buy are manufactured in a socially, ethically and environmentally responsible manner.
KPU has been serving the Metro Vancouver region for 30 years, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, apprenticeships, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 18,000 students annually have a choice from over 145 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates and citations. Learn more at www.kpu.ca.
Caption: KPU instructor Kyle Mitchell (right) with friend James Milligan, founder of Social Conscience.
For more information about KPU, contact: