Who is OPIRG and why are they important?

OPIRG Peterborough works to create and sustain student and community-based engagement through research, education and action on social justice and environmental issues. We challenge oppression in all its forms using consensus-based decision-making in a non-hierarchical and accessible setting.  OPIRG is a levy group—that means in 1976, students voted to pay towards funding our activities.

Over the past decade, we’ve worked a lot on food issues. We’ve had a hand in starting up The Seasoned Spoon, we’ve updated and re-published the provincial collaborative document known as The Supermarket Tour (which some of you will be reading in your courses), and we’ve opened, expanded, then decided to close what was the first Emergency Food Cupboard.

This year, we are continuing our environmental and social justice work starting with Disorientation Week. In addition to taking the lead on organizing DisO Week (the schedule of which is included in this issue of Arthur), we’re holding many events.

Monday kicks off DisO Week with a walking tour of the campus. Symons Campus is home to many rich stories of struggle and resistance. Through the corporatization and neoliberalisation of our university, amidst student fee increases and the presence of racism, homophobia and sexism, this tour will ground you in your first experiences at Trent. This tour will be facilitated by Trent alumni who have a history of being student leaders and actors at Trent.

We will also have a Free Market Giveaway on campus. The Free Market began by the initiative of a small group of Trent students in 2005 who wanted to promote the values of reusing and recycling in favour of discarding and “re-consuming”.  The Free Market serves the environmental purpose of reducing waste materials through reuse, and the social justice cause of providing free goods to those who need them. The name plays off the neo-liberal concept of a free market economy and is known worldwide as “Really Really Free Markets”. Free Market bins are located across campus.

Drop off your donations at any time of the year. At the Free Market Giveaway on Bata podium, we are bringing the Free Market Store to you. Everyone is welcome to stop by and take items free of charge.

Tuesday is then another walking tour of the downtown arts scene which bolsters so many marginalized identities. Learn how places such as Artspace and the Theatre On King have evolved from and been inspired by the determination of people to create art in the face of corporations, colonialism and capitalism. Learn why space is so crucial to self-expression and marginalized identities, the feelings of comfort and belonging, and how art can bring all of that to the fore.

Thursday night will be OPIRG’s big event, the Vegan BBQ. The Vegan BBQ started as a barbecue to boycott Aramark, the former food service provider on campus. Aramark and the current campus cafeteria company, Chartwells, are both behemoths in the food service provider sector. We encourage you to become even more part of the community by checking out how you can get involved with the organizations featured in the dining hall during the meal, and to stick around for the Disorientation Social. If you are so willing, please step up to the open mic during the meal.

We will also host an anti-oppression workshop. If you have ever wondered what ‘oppression’ means, then this is the workshop for you. In this workshop, you will learn about your own and others’ identities, how these intersect, and be able to apply it to your everyday life or a special issue you’re working on. You’ll learn about power and privilege. This workshop is at the core of what Disorientation Week is about—educating for change, unpacking, sharing and organizing to create action.

After September, we will have regular programming which includes a weekly radio show, a Free Market thrift store that is open three days a week, and monthly documentary film screenings.

Our ongoing projects currently consist of Guerilla Gardening, the End Immigration Detention Network, the f/RE/e Crafting group, Anti-Poverty Activism and the Nogojiwanong Aspiring Allies Action Group. Past working groups include Canadian Mining Awareness, the Food Issues group, the Peterborough Coalition for Palestinian Solidarity, and Subversion Zine. You can join a movement or make a new one of your own!

If you have read all the way here and are interested in getting involved, guess what? You can volunteer here as part of your course placements, and you can also get credit for doing research with us! We will be holding a Meeting for New Volunteers on Wednesday September 21, at 7pm in The Gathering Space (First Peoples House of Learning) so that you can touch base with us.