Peter Garden

Community activist, Owner of Turning the Tide Books

Four years ago, I wrote an endorsement like this one for Ryan Meili because I thought that he would make a great leader for the Saskatchewan New Democrats. In that endorsement, I noted many of the attributes that I thought would make Ryan a strong and thoughtful leader. I also outlined why I thought that Saskatchewan NDP was in need of significant rejuvenation, and that Ryan was the catalyst who could spark that change.

My opinion has not changed on either of these positions. Ryan and I met 16 years ago working as student advocates for social justice and environmental sustainability. Since that time, he has devoted his life to making a difference on these issues through organizing at the grassroots level. This longstanding commitment to progressive politics has shown me that he cares deeply about them and has been willing to devote his life to moving them forward.

Our paths of community activism took different directions early on as I opened a bookstore and he began medical school. However, he demonstrated that he was going to keep his values front and centre when he helped create the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health (SWITCH) Clinic as a student. This innovative project opened pathways to students to work with some of society’s most marginalized people while collaborating across disciplines with other helping professionals. Ryan began his practice in Saskatoon’s inner city, in communities in Northern Saskatchewan, and overseas in Mozambique. He was using his medical practice to help advance issues of justice and in the process, learned intimately the impact that social and environmental injustice can have on people’s health. It is these insights that he has shared in his book A Healthy Society.

Ryan’s ability to connect the personal with the political and put complex ideas into language people can relate to and be inspired by sets him apart from the vast majority of people running for political office. He has shown that he not only has innovative ideas but the ability to collaborate with others to effectively put those into action, making a real difference in people’s lives.

Ryan and his supporters have the potential to breathe new life into the NDP, refocus the role of politics on making the lives of people in our communities better, and begin repairing the relationship between settlers and Indigenous communities. As someone involved in movements for social justice, I believe that we will have someone in political power who will speak our language and help move the issues we care about forward. 

I will be purchasing a membership in the Saskatchewan NDP to support Ryan in the upcoming leadership election and encourage others who share these values to consider doing the same.