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MCC wants city to be fair trade

By Svjetlana Mlinarevic, The Graphic

Kevin Hamm, manager at the Portage MCC Thrift Shop, is working on making the City of Portage la Prairie a fair trade municipality. (File Photo)

Kevin Hamm, manager at the Portage MCC Thrift Shop, is working on making the City of Portage la Prairie a fair trade municipality. (File Photo)

Portage Mennonite Central Committee made a request during Monday night’s Portage la Prairie council meeting to make the city a fair trade municipality.

MCC manager Kevin Hamm presented the proposal ahead of Tuesday’s announcement by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC), which is challenging municipalities in the province to use fair trade products for thirty days.

“This is something only one other Manitoba municipality has taken so far,” said Hamm. “We see this as a great opportunity for Portage la Prairie, which as a city already supports fair trade by the number of retailers providing fair trade in this town and restaurants that serve fair trade products.”

Hamm said it would take some work to become a fair trade city in terms of promoting the initiative through a committee and providing businesses with an incentive to become fair trade.

“We would like to encourage the city to take the next step. We feel that it would be a positive promotion for the city to be the first fair trade city, the second municipality after Gimli,” said Hamm.

The Town of Gimli has been a fair trade municipality since 2009 and just erected their fair trade sign.

“The businesses that are participating, I’m sure they’re happy with it. I haven’t heard anybody that isn’t,” said Gimli Mayor Lynn Greenberg.

“It’s important that we’ve taken an initiative on something and a lead role on it and being one of the first ones,” he added.

Greenberg said that while the town is designated as free trade, unfortunately the town doesn’t do enough to promote it.

“We honestly don’t do enough advertising and promoting of ourselves,” he said.

Gimli has a permanent population of 5,700 residents but gets a boost in the summer to 10,000 when cottagers come out, some of whom look for fair trade products.

Hamm told councillors there are six steps that need to be taken to become fair trade, one of which is to create a steering committee.

Coun. Irvine Ferris asked if there was currently a committee in place to which Hamm replied that there wasn’t.

“I would say that from our volunteer and staff base we would be happy to help initiate such a committee and I’m certain that it wouldn’t be difficult to form such a committee. MCC would be happy to participate,” he said, noting the committee would have to be created a year in advance of designation.

The Fair Trade Challenge asks Manitobans to “go fair trade” for 30 days and offers six potential challenges such as the Core Challenge which asks people to consume only fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate and the Bakers Challenge where people only use fair trade baking products.

“We’re going to be encouraging local retailers and other charitable organizations to get on board,” said Hamm.

There are currently 17 fair trade municipalities in Canada with 22 other cities or towns discussing getting a fair trade designation, none of which are in Manitoba.

The MCIC Fair Trade Challenge begins on Thursday and ends Nov. 29. For retailers that would like more information, they can visit


Side Bar:

Six steps to becoming a fair trade city:

1) Support from council.

2) Selling fair trade products in stores and restaurants.

3) Support of community groups, workplaces and schools.

4) Public and media support.

5) Creating a steering committee.

6) Promotion of ethical and sustainable consumption.


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