| Jan 19, 2006

Feature Article - January 19, 2006

Feature Article

January 19, 2006

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Helen Forsey:Another form of Activism

by Jeff Green

Helen Forsey has never aspired to be a politician, even though she has been a political activist all her life.

In a sense she was drawn into the current election because Ross Sutherland decided not to seek the NDP nomination this time around. Sutherland carried the banner for the NDP in the Ontario election in the fall of 2003 and in the Federal election in June of 2004.

“Ross was an excellent candidate, and without him running this time I thought I should,” Forsey said.

There is also a parallel to the political career of her father, and political mentor, Eugene Forsey. “It’s kind of neat. My dad ran for the CCF, also against a popular Conservative, George Drew, in Carleton County.”


Eugene Forsey was a founding member of the CCF party, and he left the Party when the NDP was formed. He was named to the Senate in 1970 by Pierre Trudeau, and for nine years did a tremendous amount of work in Senate committees.

For her own part, Helen studied Agriculture and then worked for CUSO and OXFAM in Ottawa, South America and West Africa. She later lived in Enterprise, where she was part of a craft co-op and farmed as well. In 1991 she moved to her present home near Ompah to become a full time writer and translator. She worked for the National Farmers’ Union between 1999 and 2003, where one of her duties was to edit their quarterly publication.

Although Helen Forsey writes mostly about agricultural and environmental issues, her background as a feminist remains a force in her thinking.

“My feminism informs my entire world view,” she says.

Helen Forsey has a history as an activist, most recently in the anti-globalization movement, but her involvement with the New Democratic Party, and with electoral politics is quite new. “I’ve got things to say, and talking to the media or speaking at all-candidates meetings provides a good opportunity to be heard.”

She is not impressed with the way the leaders of the other parties have conducted the campaign. “The campaign has been full of pablum,” she said, “but the local campaign has been much better. In fact, if the seven people running in this riding had a chance to get together and work on local problems, I think we could do a good job at finding solutions.”

As a resident of one of the smallest, most vulnerable communities in the riding, Helen Forsey has a different attitude to some issues than some of the other candidates.

At an all candidates meeting in Verona, she responded to a question about high gas taxes, by saying “The owner of the former store in Ompah once told me that the store could survive if gas went up to $2.00 a litre. Then people would see the value of shopping locally.”

Although she is an outspoken advocate for farming families, she does not take the view that it is access to foreign markets, and subsidies for agri-business that are needed. Rather, she argues that a re-ordering of priorities around production and consumption of food are needed. She concluded a recent article called “Farm Crisis, Food Crisis, or both,” in this way:

“Farm families and their allies across the country and around the world are finding more and more ways to resist this destructive corporate model and kick the multiple dependencies that have entangled us in its net. Resistance is not an easy road to take, but it is creative and exciting, and we are not alone.

“And it really is our only choice. Literally and figuratively, farm families carry with them on that road the seeds of the future - a future where, if we can stay the course, the farm crisis and the food crisis will both be vanquished.”

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