Moving from Talking to Doing

After four days of wonderful dialogues and enlightening panels about some of the most pressing issues of our time, Spur Winnipeg has spurred me into thinking about how we can continue these important conversations in our city and country, and, more importantly, translate our ideas into concrete actions.

As Winona LaDuke stressed when addressing our packed crowd on May 14th, “It’s important to do something because we’re the ones who can.” Consider five ways in which we can individually and collectively take action.

Firstly, as highlighted by Brianna Wu and Dr. Emily Flynn-Jones, the video game industry is sexist and privileged in ways it has not been willing to think about or explore. As consumers, it’s time to demand more diversity, genres, emotions and perspectives in the gaming industry.

Secondly, in striving for equality for all, we need to distinguish between wanting real change vs. not wanting to feel bad about racism, sexism, colonialism and other forms of injustice. There is a huge difference between principal and policy. Further, we need conceptual clarity. As Donna Dasko explained, in a recent poll, 95% of individuals said they believe in gender equality. Yet, when asked if they identified as feminist (the definition for many being the action of striving for gender equality), only 30% said they identified as such. Perhaps it’s time to abolish or expand the term “feminist”. The term is by no means static, but to some, “feminist” has become synonymous with a historically specific past.

Third, we are many things at once. As Amandine Gay, Rémy Huberdeau and Dr. Aaron Devor’s presentations revealed, where we most hang our identity is often where we feel most vulnerable. Be that primary identity our race, culture, gender or another marker, we need to look inwards and outwards, especially at where we individually and collectively hold power. It’s time to tackle intersectionality and examine the ways in which many of us hold the double status of discriminated and discriminator. Then, as Sarah Michaelson suggested, “Where you have power or agency in your life, that’s the place where you have the opportunity to dig in.” Let’s strategically and effectively dig in.

Fourth, when it comes to true reconciliation between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous community, Winona LaDuke’s wise words are important: “We’re not going to get there unless we all go together”. A huge part of this collective journey centres on the future of our environment and on ending the commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of our women and children. Need is not subjective for either of these human rights issues which affect us all. It’s time to support and join those leading efforts in these areas, both locally and globally.

Finally, during Spur, sports, recreation and the arts repeatedly came to the fore as forces that bring us together. Let’s continue our capacity building through volunteerism in these areas and our work across differences and sectors. Having played basketball all my life, I for one look forward to contributing to Lenard Monkman’s basketball initiative in Winnipeg.

In the words of Desmond Tutu, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” We have the potential to not only confront the challenges we face, but to be leaders in spurring our city and country when it comes to reconciliation, equality, the environment, ending commercial sexual exploitation and beyond. If we do nothing, nothing will change. Let’s do something.

Dr. Karlee Sapoznik is a human rights and social justice advocate, professor, researcher and NGO leader. She works in collaboration to spearhead international, national, provincial and local initiatives, host community events, bridge gaps between government and community groups, and break down religious, cultural, language and academic-public divides.

She is a widely published contributor to numerous books, academic journals, book reviews, curriculum units, research and policy reports. Her first book, The Letters and Other Writings of Gustavus Vassa (alias Olaudah Equiano, the African): Documenting Abolition of the Slave Trade was published in 2013 by Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton. Her research on human trafficking and sexual exploitation has informed task forces across Canada, and was cited in Canada’s Exploited Persons Act.

Sapoznik has represented Canada academically and as part of anti-slavery, genocide, social justice, human rights and development projects abroad in England, Israel, Italy, Mali, Peru, Poland, Sierra Leone, Ukraine, and the United States. She is committed to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. As a Professor at l’Université de Saint-Boniface, she created the school’s first course on residential schools, including a round table to foster dialogue between Métis, Aboriginal and Francophone leaders and elders. She also led a research team that informed the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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