The People’s Social Forum: Coming in 2014

By Ethan Cox

You know an event will be special when a planning meeting, almost two years in advance, bursts the seams of its venue. Such was the case this weekend in Ottawa, as activists from across Canada converged to prepare for the People’s Social Forum, Canada’s version of the World Social Forum.

This weekend’s gathering, a planning meeting originally expected to attract around fifty participants, had to be moved to a larger venue at the University of Ottawa at the last minute, as over three times that number descended on the nation’s capital.
The social forum, which was originally entitled the Canada-Quebec-Indigenous Social Forum before being changed to the People’s Social Forum over the course of the weekend, is based on a triadic approach which gives equal importance to the role of Canadian, Quebecois and Indigenous Nations.

This approach may have accounted for the composition of participants this weekend. Almost a quarter hailed from Indigenous communities, while roughly the same number had made the short trek from Quebec. Those are tremendous levels of participation for national projects, which in the past have struggled to achieve meaningful buy-in from Quebec or First Nations.

Roger Rashi of Montreal NGO Alternatives, who along with Raul Burbano of Common Frontiers has been spearheading the social forum project, was thrilled with the progress made over the weekend.

“The weekend was an unqualified success. We had three times more people than originally expected, and the tremendous new development was that thirty front line Indigenous activists, including two of the founders of Idle No More, (see video below) took a very active part in the process. In the eyes of many, this was the first time they had seen so many Indigenous activists fully engaged in a process which involves non-Idigenous movements.”