Vancouver Dave Tate of ACORN Canada’s New Westminister chapter opened the AGM for ACORN Canada right at the stroke of 6 PM in the Century community center surrounded by beautiful gardens, English lawn bowling greens, and a room full of members from British Columbia and members of the board including Kay Bisnath and Marva Burnet from Toronto.
The AGM or annual general meeting is one of the twists of Canadian “society” law for non-profits requiring an open time every year where certain opportunities are presented to the members for election, financial reports are approved, “i’s and t’s” are dotted, and in ACORN Canada’s case lively conversation is encouraged and expected about campaigns and programs expected in the coming year.
These meetings are a treat and are accompanied by the ACORN Canada board meeting on the same weekend. Judy Duncan, ACORN Canada’s Head Organizer, and I have been at every one of these together with a couple in Toronto, then last year in Ottawa, and now in the Vancouver region. I think Marva and Kay, both long time and great leaders from Toronto have also been to everyone, but I’ll have to make a deposit in the memory bank on that one to see (i.e., I’ll check with Judy!).
A fascinating and spirited discussion and brainstorming session was held on where to go with the “Fair and Just Remittances Campaign” launched less than two weeks ago with actions in most of the cities where we are organizing around the globe. Members totally “got” this campaign and its basic contradiction: why in an age of so-called “globalism” and high technology miracles in the internet was it still costing so much for immigrant workers to move money from one place to another to support family and friends with their hard earned wages? Ideas and questions kept Judy hustling along the blackboard writing down ideas.
A quick summary of most of the points fell into two baskets from what I could hear.
On one hand there was interest in turning on the head on the companies involved in these transfers and making the demand that the fees be lowered. The personal stories that moved me the most were the ways some of the members in the room had found a way to slice the costs by going with Indian shopkeepers and other local, small establishments into the backroom to transfer money at a huge discount on the predatory rates of the big players.
On the other hand one member after another raised the point about why the Canadian government and the rest of the governments (just like the USA) were continuing to allow this critical area of financial transactions where almost $50 billion (North America) in fees are being collected to be totally unregulated while turning a blind eye to the predatory practices involved by the international financial service companies.
There were no good answers to either question at the AGM. This turns out to be a financial justice campaign with deep commitments felt by the members, and that spells trouble for companies and governments around the world in the future.