The student movement of the 1960s, including the civil rights movement and resistance to the war in Vietnam, illustrated that students had the potential for providing direction, person-power and idealisms that had a broad reaching impact on society. However, at the dawn of the 1970s more complex issues emerged, demanding diverse and increasingly complex approaches.
The birth of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in Canada can be traced back to October 13th, 1972, during Ralph Nader’s address to over 1,800 people at the University of Waterloo. His speech confronted corporate irresponsibility, pollution and the importance of independent consumer groups collaborating and contributing to a central research body. Just four days later 90 students, inspired by Nader’s speech, organized support for a student fee to establish the first PIRG in Canada. After the inception of the Waterloo PIRG in 1973, eleven PIRGs spread across Ontario with OPIRG Toronto coming into existence in 1982 and OPIRG York in 1992.
While PIRGs are autonomous entities and focus on diverse issues, PIRGs throughout Canada share many common elements, including a volunteer Board of Directors, consensus based decision making, the employment of the popular education model and the ongoing commitment to enacting positive social change.
OPIRG York Timeline: Coming soon!