Giving Fair Trade a fair shake

Designation would celebrate availability of fair trade products

- April 15, 2011

Andrea Robinson and Emily Stewart have started a campaign to make Halifax a Fair Trade city. (Danny Abriel Photo)
Andrea Robinson and Emily Stewart have started a campaign to make Halifax a Fair Trade city. (Danny Abriel Photo)

You may have seen the symbol on a chocolate bar, or perhaps you take it under consideration when you are choosing where to grab your daily coffee. Regardless of whether you support the idea or not, the Fair Trade label is popping up on more and more products these days, as the issue gains global attention. But did you know that schools, workplaces, and even cities can now get certified as Fair Trade?

The idea began in 1999 in the little town of Garstang, England. The community voted to make a commitment to supporting the sale of Fair Trade goods, and eventually became known as the world’s first Fair Trade Town. A system of steps were developed by the Fairtrade Foundation to enable any town, city, community to become Fair Trade.

And what is "Fair Trade"? Fairtrade Canada defines it as "a different way of doing business. It's about making principles of fairness and decency mean something in the marketplace."

In 2007, Wolfville, Nova Scotia became the first community to achieve this status in Canada. Vancouver became the first major Canadian city to earn the name in 2010. There are now 15 official Fair Trade Towns in Canada.

Notably missing from the list? Home Sweet Halifax!

Dalhousie students Emily Stewart, a fourth-year student majoring in environmental science and economics, and Andrea Robinson, a first-year student in International Development Studies, started a campaign to change that after attending a workshop about Fair Trade Towns at an Engineers Without Borders conference.

“We pitched the proposal at the DSU’s Brains for Change conference, and hoped students would support us and help us turn the idea into reality,” Ms. Stewart explains. “Luckily enough, we got huge interest and support from students and community members, and it just exploded from there.”

Ms. Robinson emphasizes the “great thing about this campaign is that it focuses on the positive aspects of our community.”

“Essentially we are working to celebrate the Fair Trade availability that already exists in Halifax, and are looking to collaborate with other groups, businesses, and organizations that support and are building awareness about the Fair Trade initiative,” adds Ms. Stewart.

This Dal duo has certainly got the ball rolling here in Halifax, but there are still a few more steps the community must take to achieve official designation.

Fairtrade Canada, the organization which oversees the process, outlines the six goals for becoming a Fair Trade Town:

  1. The local council uses Fair Trade-certified products and supports the Fair Trade Towns campaign;
  2. Stores and restaurants serve Fair Trade-certified products;
  3. Workplaces, faith groups and schools use and promote Fair Trade certified products;
  4. Public awareness events and media coverage held on Fair Trade and the campaign;
  5. A steering group created for continued commitment;
  6. Other ethical and sustainable initiatives promoted within the community.

Ms. Stewart and Ms. Robinson have also developed some goals of their own, specific to the local campaign. “Our hope is that Haligonians will be able to use a searchable online database where they can look up a specific product—like coffee, chocolate, bananas, or roses—and find out which local retail outlets or restaurants have the chosen product available,” explains Ms. Robinson.

“We will also run free educational events regularly to provide information about the Fair Trade process, and host fun, family friendly coffee-shop sessions to foster discussion about the issue,” says Ms. Stewart.

The team is currently working on a Fair Trade Halifax website, but until then you can check out for lots of great information on the Fair Trade movement.

“It’s pretty exciting,” says Ms. Robinson, of the community interest they have received thus far, “People want to be part of something positive for our community.”



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