So how close are we to Fair Trade Town status?

By Lia Walsh

“So how close are we?”

We get this question all the time. People want to know if this campaign is an uphill battle, or if their simple action will bring it to a conclusion!

The answer is complicated, but in short: close. Really close. So close that, as a volunteer who’s been with FTOÉ from the beginning, I can taste it!

So what’s in the way?

Well, it’s definitely not the product availability, which we’ve had in the bag since our first audit in 2012. 100 stores? No problem. 50 cafés and restaurants? Piece of cake. Fair trade products are everywhere in Ottawa, and we love it!

And it’s definitely not the public outreach and media awareness. We’ve donned a lot of banana suits, and if you haven’t had the privilege of catching us in one, you’re really missing out. (Here’s a link to a banana-graced event for your viewing pleasure!)

It’s certainly not a lack of support from community groups. We have schools supporting us left, right and centre. (Carleton and uOttawa both have Fair Trade Campus status, after all.) We have places of worship and nonprofits approaching us all the time and asking for tips and tricks on how to source the best fair trade products. You know, because they’ve already got their coffee, tea and bananas down and now they want to figure out how to get some soccer balls for the kids… Heck, we even have 4 workplaces with the Fair Trade Workplace designation!

And it’s absolutely not that we haven’t got a team in place to hold it all together. I mean, have you seen how talented and good-looking our leadership is?

So what’s left?

Well, it’s the only part we can’t do on our own: City Hall.

That’s right, literally the only thing standing between Ottawa and Fair Trade Town status is…well, Ottawa.

And that’s actually pretty good news. Because that means when we approach City Council, we can be like, “It’s done. You just have to pass this motion and we’ll do the rest.”

It’s making sure that they do their part that’s tricky!

What do we actually need from City Hall to get the status? Well, there are a few components, which are:

  1. The Council has to pass a motion in favour of Ottawa becoming a Fair Trade Town.
  2. The City’s purchasing policy (which affects all the facilities that they have control over like arenas and the canteen in City Hall) must be amended to commit to buying only fair trade coffee, tea and sugar.
  3. The Council needs to appoint a City Hall rep to participate in the Fair Trade Town steering committee, so that we don’t get the designation and then immediately fall off the bandwagon.
  4. The City of Ottawa website needs a page that explains to people that we’ve gotten Fair Trade Town status (post-designation, of course).

The good news? The purchasing policy is already in great shape, and the coffee and tea used in city facilities is already fair trade! So adjusting the policy to explicitly state coffee, tea and sugar must be fair trade is a relatively simple thing. Some towns have it much worse!

So mainly the hold-up right now is that the City Councillors just kind of…don’t see Fair Trade Town status as a priority.

That’s where you come in!

It is so powerful to contact your councillor and ask them to prioritize Fair Trade Town status. Imagine how much attention a councillor would have to pay to the issue if they received 100 emails on the exact same thing! Imagine when we drop a petition with 1,000 signatures in the inbox of everyone on City Council! And this is absolutely possible!

So we hope you don’t mind that our ask is three-fold:

  1. Sign our petition. We are about 1/3 of the way to our goal of 1000 signatures and we know we can get there, no problem!
  2. Write an email to your councillor, asking them to support the Fair Trade Town campaign. The National Fair Trade Conference is in Ottawa this March, so it’s an extra little push if you mention how much pride you would feel if Ottawa got its designation on-stage at the conference, in front of fair trade representatives from across Canada!
  3. Tell at least 5 of your friends to do the same. Power lies in numbers, and every single person counts! Ask your most politically-engaged buddies to follow your lead and then ask them to ask their most politically-engaged buddies! This is how change happens!

We can’t tell you how much your support means to this campaign, and we look forward to crossing the finish line with you in 2019!

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