The Peoples’ Social Forum

The countdown is on until the Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa from August 21 to 24. But surprisingly, one of the organizers can hardly wait until the event – a historic gathering of social movements and Indigenous peoples – is over and done with.

“I’m actually looking forward to September!” jokes Michel Lambert, executive director of the organization Alternatives. “I don’t really mean to sound like I want it to be over, but I’m dreaming that it won’t just be an event. We don’t want to organize one more conference. We want to build something – whatever it’s called, an alliance of people – that cannot stop on August 25 when everyone goes home.”

The vision behind the broad gathering of progressives, which is inspired by the World Social Forum (WSF) model, is to bring together the divergent forces of the left in hopes of working toward common goals and strategies. The event will include assemblies on climate change, labour organizing, decolonization, and poverty, to name a few, and a final larger assembly of social movements that will attempt to establish a common platform.

According to the event’s website, organizers hope to not only foster debate but also “stimulate the emergence of concrete actions and the convergence of struggles.” The expectations are ambitious: organizers are hoping for 10,000 participants.

It’s hard to know if that is realistic, but there are dedicated regional organizing committees across the country. In early April, the B.C. committee announced plans to launch a caravan that will gather steam as it travels east. It’s directly inspired, says Vancouver organizer Nadia Santoro, by the 1935 On to Ottawa Trek, where hundreds of men, unemployed due to the Great Depression, jumped freight trains and set off for Parliament Hill (only to be halted in Regina and then attacked by the RCMP in the so-called Regina Riot on July 1, 1935).