March 26–28 marks the first Radical Queer Weekend in Ottawa’s history, when queer activists and agitators from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal will converge to pass along knowledge and strategies to further social action.
OPIRG (the Ontario Public Interest Research Group) Toronto and its counterpart in Montreal have put on similar events for the last few years, and workers at OPIRG at the University of Ottawa thought it was time to try their own.
“We’ve done alternative radical queer events in the past, but it’s always been in partnership with other organizations,” says Zaheen, the campus relations coordinator at OPIRG’s Ottawa chapter and a principle organizer of Radical Queer Weekend.
“There are a lot of people doing activism in areas that aren’t strictly queer: anti-war stuff, migrant justice work, reproductive rights, feminist areas, anti-violence work, environmental work, labour rights. It’s been cool to see queers building links to other struggles, and I thought it would be nice to showcase that in a weekend of events.”
Zaheen hopes Radical Queer Weekend will be an opportunity to showcase what local organizations and individuals are doing — and for queer people to get involved in other causes.
“It’s about making sure that the queer voice is not isolated and seeing the relevance of a queer voice and queer perspective on issues in other struggles,” says Zaheen. “I’ll use Palestinian solidarity work as an example. It’s fairly new to [have] so many workshops and events out there… where we’re seeing clear links to how the queer voice has been co-opted. We have to set the record straight, so to speak!
“It’s good to look at how queers can fight back in various struggles and not just be isolated in our queer struggles,” she says. “For example, we’re bringing in people from Prisoner Correspondence in Montreal, and it would be awesome if we could set something like that up here in Ottawa.”
Radical Queer Weekend, which may become an annual event, has the overall goal of building capacity at the local level to address broader issues and boost the work being done by queer allies in Ottawa.