• The Low Down

Wakefield: Quebec’s first fair trade town, say what?

By Catherine Sinclair


Last September, inspired by the Halloween trick-or-treat event generously hosted by the residents of Wakefield’s Burnside and Elm streets, I burst out with a Facebook post about using this unique setting to promote the distribution of Fair Trade goods for the occasion. Little did I know that the banana-costumed person handing out, well, bananas, and the volunteers pouring Fair Trade chocolate into trick-or-treater’s bags were part of a vibrant local committee.


Shortly after, at the invitation of the unbeatable Anne Winship (Bean Fair Coffee) and her tireless crew, who have been championing Fair Trade for over 10 years, I joined the Wakefield Fair Trade Committee. Their goal, through in-school workshops, pamphlets, fair trade fairs and handing out many, many bananas, has been to bring another global cause to mind: consumer accountability in creating a just world for workers in the international market for goods. Before I lose you right off the bat due to the compassion exhaustion you’re feeling thanks to all the worthy causes out there, think about this: you, a resident of the Gatineau Hills, are a part of this.


When I moved here from Ottawa in 2011, I noticed the sign on the way in and out of Wakefield Village indicating that La Pêche is Quebec’s first designated Fair Trade town. What on earth is a Fair Trade town?


Doing some digging, I discovered that it means that, as residents, we are part of a network of over 2,000 Fair Trade towns worldwide, certified here at home through Fairtrade Canada, which is committed to promoting the placement of our buying power, municipality by municipality, towards companies that don’t exploit people in the production of their goods.


Based on our population, our certification is sustained by continually proving that we have local political support, and product availability, meaning that a minimum of four retail or grocery stores and at least two food service locations stock at least two Fairtrade Canada certified products. Chelsea is also a designated Fair Trade Town.

In La Pêche, we far surpass these requirements already. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to do. There is an unceasing demand for products, such as coffee, chocolate and sugar, that are grown outside of our local climates, which means importing from countries that often lack social structures to support the basic living needs of their people (not to mention in the time of COVID-19).


We can all help maintain our Fair Trade Town status by continuing to encourage local individual, business and political participation in these choices.


Not that I would ever want to imply that a pandemic could have a positive side, but there is something interesting about how it has launched the whole globe against a collective viral enemy; fostering connection and collective action like never before. What better time to actually think about greater things than our day-to-day.


Catherine Sinclair is a member of the Wakefield Fair Trade Committee. Follow the Committee on Facebook and at www.fairtradevillage.ca.


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