2018 Assembly: Moving Forward

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 4:52pm

Dear 2018 FSC Assembly participants, members, and friends,

In November 2018, the 10th National FSC Assembly was held, marking a critical time in the organization’s history. This message is follow-up on the statement issued to participants and posted on the FSC website on November 15, 2018 following the assembly. While many aspects of the gathering were appreciated and much of the feedback received was positive, there were problematic elements that led to a number of participants feeling unsafe, excluded and racialized. These experiences culminated in a boycott of the final day of the Assembly by numerous Indigenous, Black and racialized participants along with some of their allies.

Since issuing the statement last year, FSC’s board of directors and staff have been working towards understanding what happened and what we can do to address these issues in our organization and the broader food movement. We have also taken a number of steps forward, which we highlight below: 

• Information gathering and unpacking: Following the Assembly, FSC sent out an online qualitative questionnaire to all participants to gather feedback. We thank all those who participated and invite you to read the summary of the questionnaire feedback here. The responses reveal important tensions within FSC and the food movement more broadly. This feedback highlights the difficult but urgent work of actively addressing systemic racism and fostering a stronger and more inclusive food movement. We have, for example, reached out to the National Farmers Union to share and learn from their approach with respect to tackling similar challenges. This work is ongoing and will continue to be a part of FSC’s transitional priorities and key considerations in the co-creation of our strategic plan for 2020 onward - a process we have already started planning. We will be hosting our Annual General Meeting in Tiohtiá:ke / Montréal and by Zoom / teleconference on December 6th 2019, at which point we will report back on areas of interest, continue discussions, and present a forward-looking planning process for the organization. All voting members are encouraged to attend. 

• Reflecting on Assemblies in general: With our board and new Executive Director, our unpacking, reflection and documentation of the events of the 2018 Assembly is ongoing. Further to discussions over the past year, we feel that many aspects of the Assembly format are no longer appropriate. With approximately 800 attendees at our most recent gathering, logistics have become unwieldy and will require a different approach in terms of event planning and support. We also want to experiment with regional assemblies to better meet the needs and diversity of local communities, something for which we have acquired modest resources over the next year and a half to test. The sheer magnitude of the 2018 Assembly meant that we developed significant blind spots in providing an event for everyone. While our small staff team and volunteers set out to do their best, with limited resources the Assembly became an overwhelming and somewhat impossible task. Yet, these gatherings are one of the most highly valued activities that  FSC provides, as listed in our participant evaluations. With that in mind, we want to continuously learn about what works and what doesn’t to more effectively engage our growing and highly diverse constituencies, with particular attention to those who felt excluded and marginalized. 

• Building in learning and ceremony: We have started investing in staff and board sharing, learning and engagement on questions of privilege, racism and oppression and have begun to assemble associated resources to develop this work  further. Moreover, we are including more ceremony in our activities to acknowledge, learn about, honour and create space for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples. We are also working to develop more meaningful engagement with other communities who are disproportionately impacted by the inequities of our food system. 


We are deeply sorry for creating an assembly where people felt unheard, hurt, and unsafe and are working to prevent a similar situation from happening again. 


We look forward to continuing to work with you, our members, friends and partners in a transparent and relationship-centered way to create a welcoming and safe movement for all. We are feeling energized by the work we have done over the past 12 months, heartened by the engagement and critical feedback we have received, and hopeful for the work ahead. We hope that our approach will invite dialogue, engagement and collective learning about how to address these ongoing issues in an organizational and broader societal context. We know that this is the only path forward to foster a strong, vibrant national voice for the food movement in Canada.

In solidarity,

The board and staff of FSC