Sometimes tackling the world’s problems seems like a big ask, but the City of Selkirk is proving that small gestures quickly have a big impact, both around the world and in your own back yard.
For the second year in a row, Selkirk has been recognized with a national award for its support of fair trade. The city was named 2017 Fairtrade Town of the Year at the sixth annual National Fair Trade Conference, held March 2-4 in Vancouver.
Selkirk Chief Administrative Officer Duane Nicol said the award is especially meaningful since the city had only been designated a Fairtrade Town 10 months prior to the conference.
“The speed at which our committee was able to have Selkirk recognized as a Fairtrade Town, and the fact that in less than a year our work was recognized with this national award, is due entirely to the commitment, dedication and creativity of our fair trade town committee. They have done and continue to do amazing work on this front,” Nicol said.
“The fair trade town program is an international one, with over 2,000 cities and communities around the globe recognized as Fairtrade Towns. In today’s internet-connected age, all cities are global cities. We can no longer ignore our impact and responsibilities in the global marketplace. Our youth understand that intuitively and expect that we take action. It has been so exciting to see how engaged the youth are on our fair trade town committee.”
Community comes together to support sustainable development
A fair trade committee – which includes representatives from the City of Selkirk, Selkirk Community Renewal Corporation, Selkirk Transit Authority, the Ecole Selkirk Junior High Youth in Action Committee, Selkirk Biz and the Selkirk Record – works together to support and promote fair trade throughout the city. They recently hosted Beny Mwenda from Tanzania, who spoke to students at Selkirk’s Comprehensive high school. Mwenda has worked for the Tanzanian government in the Department of Agriculture and is known for his work supporting rural women’s and youth groups to alleviate poverty and build local leadership.
Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said he’s proud of city staff, and citizens of Selkirk, for their strong social conscience.
“Winning a national award is very prestigious, but when it’s for something like this, for decisions we make here in Selkirk, Manitoba, that can impact and improve lives around the world, it’s really something,” Johannson said.
“We started small with Fairtrade products in our offices and now the city has embraced the philosophy and it gives me a good feeling. Especially the involvement of our young people. Congratulations to them, and others in the city who are supporting fair trade. It’s a job well done.”
Nicol said fair trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a transparent and respectful partnership between producers and consumers.
Fair trade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – particularly in the global south. They get fairer compensation for their work, thus reducing poverty, child labour, and building the prosperity and resilience of families and developing communities.
Certified workplace first, town second
Selkirk was certified a Fairtrade Workplace in March 2016. Its Strategic Plan calls for the city to take care of the environment in several ways, including by improving city practices. Nicol says everyone at the City of Selkirk pays attention to the social and environmental impact of their decisions.
The city purchases Fairtrade certified coffee, tea and sugar for use in its offices, which was the first step on Selkirk’s journey to become a Fairtrade Workplace. Next, the city led the way, with its partners on the committee, in having Selkirk certified a Fairtrade Town.
Numerous criteria had to be met to achieve Fairtrade Town status, including having Fairtrade certified products available throughout the city, launching public awareness campaigns and raising community support.
Shelly Leonard, Selkirk’s Program Coordinator for Culture, Recreation and Green Transportation, who also sits on the city’s Fairtrade Committee, said she credits the people of Selkirk with embracing the city’s Fairtrade goals so quickly.
“We went from being a Fairtrade workplace to engaging the entire community in shaping our future and now we are not just a Fairtrade Town, but the national winner of Fairtrade Town of the Year,” Leonard said.
“The City of Selkirk prides itself on being a leader in environmental action, and this national award is important to Selkirk. We are raising awareness on global issues, sustainability on a global basis.”
Help our global neighbours and support Fairtrade products
Selkirk businesses carrying fair trade products include: The Marketplace at Selkirk, A&W, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Gramma Carols, Co-op Gas Bar, Three6Tea, The Liquor Mart, Canada Safeway, Canalta Hotel and Walmart.
Leonard said the fair trade movement is about helping your global neighbour and the city and the fair trade committee welcomes others to join in the effort.
“We encourage the entire community to start by taking baby steps, it’s very easy to do when you take small steps, one at a time,” she said.
“At the city we take a lot of pride in our fair trade efforts, and it’s nice to be recognized, not just as a pat on the back kind of thing, but because it brings attention to the fair trade cause. That’s what’s most important here, it’s a big picture type of thing.”
For more information on fair trade, check out this page