Transforming Brown to Green: Environmental Organizing in Toronto in the 1970s

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Environmental Organizing in Toronto in the 1970s. An evening to look back at the environmental issues and organizing that took place in working class communities. Join our Zoom meeting
Tuesday, 12 January, 2020
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

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Harold Crooks

Harold Crooks is a documentary film director and writer, best known for The Price We Pay (2014), Surviving Progress (2011) and The Corporation (2003). He is a recipient of a Prix Gémeaux and a Genie Award of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and TV; a Gold Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival (Best Documentary); a Leo Award for Best Screenwriter [Documentary] of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Foundation of B.C.; and a National Documentary Film Award (Best Writing) at Hot Docs 1996. The Price We Pay was a New York Times’ Critics Pick and was voted Best Canadian Documentary [2015] by the Vancouver Film Critics’ Circle. 

His waste management industry expose Dirty Business was publishedby James Lorimer [Toronto] in 1983. An updated edition – Giant of Garbage: The Rise of the Global Waste Industry and the Politics of Pollution – came out in 1993 as did a French language version La Bataille des Ordureswith Éditions du Boréal [Montreal].

The Financial Post‘s Christopher Waddell included Dirty Business on his list of the five best business books in North America in 1983. Greenpeace co-founder Robert Hunter in Eye Weekly, the Toronto alternative periodical, wrote: 

“even for a print junkie, the avalanche of books about the environment is too much to fully absorb. And one finds oneself scanning rather more often than is probably healthy. Some eco-books, however, are too good to be merely scanned. Into this category falls Harold Crooks’ Giants of Garbage.”

Irene Harris

Irene resides in Eastern Ontario and prior to her retirement was an elected Officer of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). 

As the Executive Vice President from 1997 to 2008 she oversaw work on many actions including Apprenticeship, Education, rights for persons with a disability, health care and for a time co-chaired the Ontario Health Coalition and the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre. 

Moving up to OFL Secretary Treasurer, from 2005-2009 she was responsible for administration of the organization and the OFL Women’s Committee. She is currently a member of Ontario’s Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal and was on the Board of Ontario’s College of Trades. While at the OFL Irene was on leave from CUPE where she worked as a National Representative in the Kingston Office and Provincially as CUPE’s first Equal Opportunities Representative. As an Equal Opportunities Representative she was given the privilege of working with hundreds of CUPE locals and Reps to achieve equal pay for work of equal value for female dominated jobs under Ontario’s Pay Equity Act. 

From 1976 to 1987 Irene worked with the then Labour Council of Metro Toronto: as its founding Executive Director of Labour Community Services ; as an Executive Assistant and with the Council’s Municipal Committee wrote its Municipal Program (1976). Prior to joining the Labour Council’s staff, Irene worked with a Pollution Probe project dealing with industrial pollution in Toronto’s West End and with the community organization, West End Assistance.

Laura Jones

Non-violent activism and social justice issues guide Laura’s life. In 1982 she volunteered for an evening  washing children’s hands for blood lead testing. It turned into an interest that continues to this day. In the 1990s she headed the community office during the $11 million project to replace contaminated lead soil in South Riverdale.   
She then worked as the community information officer in the Niagara neighbourhood Lead reduction housecleaning project.

Photography is a tool that Laura has used to educate and promote social change. Her first job when moving to Toronto in 1967 was teaching children with learning disabilities to express themselves through photography and through creating stories. Currently some of her photographs taken during this time are enlarged and hanging outdoors on Baldwin St. in Toronto.

Her American civil rights photographs are in museum collections in Washington DC, and Memphis, Tennessee.  After the white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville, Laura was invited by the University of Virginia to speak about photography as an activist tool.

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