Working with SFPIRG

Working with SFPIRG

By: TsatiaA
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I am currently a board member of the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group, which is a community organization located on the Simon Fraser University Burnaby Campus. It has been a really excellent community for me to find myself involved in this school year, and I have made some really excellent friends and colleagues through my volunteer experience with the organization. Within SFPIRG there are many active outlets for social and environmental justice, and many dedicated volunteers that are passionate about working both locally and globally on creating equality and awareness on a wide number of issues and events. Some of the projects that are currently in work within the SFPIRG are focussed on include LGBT community rights activism, Indigenous equality awareness, environmental movements and networking, and many other justice initiatives. Currently, the SFPIRG is working on putting together a semesterly magazine that can be contributed to by both graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in having their socially and environmentally justice minded papers and other creations that they would be interested in having included in the publication. I have found myself as the head of this project, and I’m looking forward to seeing it come to life within the university community.

I have been a board member on the SFPIRG since October 2013, and I found myself part of a community right away. I was actually invited to apply to become a board member of the SFPIRG by a fellow member of the Simon Fraser University First Nations Student Association who was already a board member of SFPIRG, who also shared a passion for social and environmental justice, and believed that I would be able to find a more effective outlet and community to share my passions and energy with the SFU community. I was really nervous about joining a board, because up to that point I had never really checked out SFPIRG or been involved in many of the activities that they put on, but I had always been interested in the work that they did and the community that was inspired through their work. When I first became oriented around SFPIRG, I was amazed at the different resources that they had access to and were providing to students who were interested, which included an enormous library, as well as a safe space for students to utilize, with lots of sunshine and fresh air to encourage a healthy workspace. It was an incredibly friendly space, with lots of people going in and out constantly, but always taking the time to stop and introduce themselves. When people with likeminded interests get together in a space that they can put their passions into action, it creates a very healthy and safe environment to be a part of. This is one of the things about the SFPIRG space that I like the most, and why I have found such a passion for being involved in the work that they do.

One of the most important things that I have been working on fostering within myself and the SFPIRG organization is the issue of Indigenous rights and awareness within the context of environmental protection and respect. Because this is such a broad area, with so many different issues that arise under it, I have found a lot of passion from other board members as well in this area, and believe that there is a lot that we can accomplish within the organization and the networking that we can achieve and utilize. This summer, I spent a period of time in the Unis’to’ten area of the traditional Wetsuweten land, where a blockade has been erected to prevent the mobilization of several different pipeline proposals into that area. I have found myself taking from this a continued passion to bringing awareness of this issue and this resistance to the university community, because these kinds of events and refusals to accept mainstream settler authority exercised by huge corporations is very important to my life, and I find if I translate it into my university degree and research, I am able to find a enthusiasm that I didn’t know I had in my first year and a half of university. Being a member of the SFPIRG provides me with an outlet to express these interests and concerns with other students who have similar interests. I have also been able to transfer these interests into my everyday life, and the way that I conduct myself in interactions with other students and professors in academic interactions. This has been really influential both in my involvement in SFPIRG as well as my academic journey in understanding how my First Nations background fits into my modern lifestyle in a settler and academic institution.

Being a member and organizational director of SFPRIG has had a profoundly positive effect on my life, both as a student, an activist, a Metis person, and social person. I have felt my spirit expand thanks to the support and fostering of my interests in being active in a socially and environmentally just community by the other members of the SFPIRG community. I have experienced a connection with the other board members that I have found in very few other areas, because of the openness and shameless dedication to becoming more self-aware and justice-aware within both a local and global community. Because of the diversity and wide array of passions that make up the network that is SFPIRG, I have not only been able to expand on my interests, but allow them to grow and encompass what my colleagues and friends are interested in as well.

The SFPIRG area is a welcoming and accepting area for students who are interested in bringing an aspect of social and environmental justice into either their academic or personal lives, or both. I would highly recommend anyone who is looking for an outlet to express their views and concerns in an accepting and respectful manner to a community that is always looking for new members to join in the huge variety of activities and organizations that are a part of it. It is also an interesting and expansive community for Indigenous students, and non-Indigenous students, who are interested in learning more about Indigenous issues and events that are happening both on a local and more widespread spectrum, because of the level of commitment and interest that stems from all areas, both the staff, volunteers, directors and supporters of the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group.

Posted on February 12, 2014