A letter from the outgoing editor

Photo credit: Sara Birrell

July 4, 2018 will forever stand out to me as one of those days that alters completely the course of your future, a date you can point to on a map of your life and say with a rare certainty, “here. It happened here.” That was the day that I got an email from Briarpatch editor Saima Desai, saying that she wanted to pick up a story I had pitched her – the first story I had ever pitched in my life. It was exciting and nerve-wracking to have the opportunity to write such an important story for a magazine that I had read and admired since I was a teenage socialist and I approached that story feeling the full weight of responsibility that came with it.

I had only ever intended to write that one article. At the time my heart was, and to a large extent remains, with literary fiction and non-fiction. But shortly after that first article, Saima asked me if I would write again, this time for the Sask Dispatch, and this time about the strike at the Saskatoon Co-op. I knew little about co-ops at the time, other than that they were an important part of the social and economic infrastructure of small town Saskatchewan, and that to buy gas anywhere else was to break my grandmother’s heart. That story turned out to be one of my favourites, not only because it turned out well and continues to help explain how co-ops have become an important site of struggle in the province, but also because it marks the beginning of a shift in my relationship with Saskatchewan. I spent a lot of time reading and researching that story, delving more deeply and with more intention into the history of the province, interviewing activists and farmers (and activist farmers) who had made cooperatives a part of their life’s work, and I came to a fuller understanding of the aspects of the province worth defending and emulating, and the ways that those things have been deliberately undermined by conservatism.

Saskatchewan has always been a place where almost limitless possibility and unfathomable violence live alongside one another. It was bought with the genocide against the Indigenous people who have lived on these lands for millennia, and it was sold as a territory filled with endless opportunity for the settlers who were urged to make their home here. It is frequently a difficult place to live, and it can often be a difficult place to love. Working as the editor of the Sask Dispatch for the past two years has helped me to love Saskatchewan more deeply than I would have thought possible. Despite the entrenchment of conservative politics and the ongoing violence of settler colonialism, Saskatchewan is home to countless people who are dogged in their commitment to pushing this province to be what it could be. They are fierce and uncompromising in their pursuit of justice and liberation. I’ve been privileged to meet many of these people, to interview them about their work, and to edit their words. These are the people who make Saskatchewan home.

Working as the editor of the Sask Dispatch has been one of the great honours of my life. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done here and I'm thankful for those who have read and shared Dispatch articles over the years. I’m also thankful to the donors who have helped keep the Sask Dispatch fiercely independent, and I encourage everyone who appreciates the work the Dispatch is doing to join me in becoming a monthly donor. I’m endlessly grateful to the writers who have trusted me with their words and thoughts, for the activists and organizers who shared their stories with me, and to the Briarpatch community, who have always been ready with wisdom, advice, and valuable insights into this province and its people. I am especially grateful to Saima, who believed in my abilities before I did, whose thoughtful and conscientious edits have helped me hone my skills as a writer, reporter, and editor, and whose leadership I trust and respect immensely.

While I don’t yet know what comes next for me, I’m excited to hand off the editorship of the Sask Dispatch to Emily Klatt, a thoughtful and capable journalist and editor who understands the challenges that this province faces and who will no doubt help the Dispatch flourish. I’m looking forward to seeing the Sask Dispatch grow with her.

In solidarity,

Sara Birrell

Outgoing Editor