Written by Denise Deby.
Amazing, transformative, hopeful–these are some of the ways people are describing the Peoples’ Social Forum, taking place in Ottawa Thursday, August 21-Sunday, August 24, 2014.
The Peoples’ Social Forum is a gathering of individuals and organizations working towards social, environmental and political justice. It’s been described as the largest ever forum in Canada of social movements, with thousands of people and more than 200 groups attending. They’re coming together to work through issues, find common ground and propose changes to the unsustainable, unjust and inequitable way things are done now.
Participants can choose from hundreds of workshops on themes that include the earth, food, the economy, governance and more. Here’s just a tiny sample:
- The Vision for the National Historic Site at the Sacred Chaudiere Falls, with architect Douglas Cardinal (Thurs., 9 a.m.)
- Learning from Andean Indigenous Peoples on Living in Harmony with Mother Earth, with KAIROS (Fri., 9 a.m.)
- Documentary Activism: Political Filmmaking, Screening and Social Movements, with Cinema Politica (Fri., 9 a.m.)
- Extreme Heat Events: Working Together to Address Poverty and Climate Change, with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
- Food as a Catalyst for Change: Mapping Levers and Opportunities, with Food Secure Canada (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
- Resisting Water Privatization with CUPE, Polaris Institute and Municipal Services Project (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
- DIY Community Gardening with Brock DIG (a campus community garden) (Fri., 1 p.m.)
- Sharing My Treaty at Niagara Wampum Bundle – A Traditional Teaching, with Dr. Lynn Gehl (Fri., 2:45 p.m.)
- Beyond Extraction – How Will We Greet the Future? With MiningWatch Canada (Fri., 4:30 p.m.)
Also included is a “People’s University” with workshops on topics such as poverty, capitalism and pipelines; Assemblies on Indigenous solidarity, water, social economy, climate change, mining justice and more; a children’s forum; and a range of other events.
Following an Algonquin ceremony at sunrise on Thursday, Aug. 21, the Forum launches with a Unity March on Thursday, Aug. 21, starting at 2 p.m. at Jacques Cartier Park and the War Museum, arriving on Parliament Hill around 4 p.m. with speakers, music and cultural activities.
There are lots of associated activities that are open to anyone to attend. The Art Sparks Change Festival is happening along Sparks Street, with live music, art and performance (see the schedule here). Some highlights: The Winter We Danced concert, book launch and round-dancing on Thurs. at 7 p.m.; a “Breaking Good” break dancer jam on Fri. 12-2 p.m.; “Poetic Justice” spoken word, hip-hop and slam poetry on Fri. 6-10 p.m.; and a Traditional Pow-Wow on Saturday from noon-6 p.m.
Events at other venues include (for example): “A celebration of activism and independent media” on Thurs., 5 p.m. at 25One Community; “Material Witness: Art, Activism & Fibre” on Fri., 7 p.m. at Gallery 101; Asinabka Best Of 2014 and “Upping The Anti” journal Launch Party on Sat., 7 p.m. at Club SAW; an open stage on Sun., 7 p.m. at Celtic Cross Pub; and tons of music, poetry, performance art, film and video, art exhibits and more. Many of the events are free or pay-what-you-can.
I also recommend checking out the themed walking tours of downtown Ottawa on topics such as money, labour and local food solutions, led by Ottawa (de)Tours and on Indigenous social, political, cultural and artistic spaces, led by Indigenous Walks.
Running such a huge, multifaceted and diverse gathering that aims to give everyone a voice while respecting differences will be challenging, but the Peoples’ Social Forum holds much potential. Sharing of good ideas, respect for Indigenous lands and rights, action towards positive social, political and environmental change and continued collaboration after the Forum are some of the possible positive outcomes. Above all, it’s a place to meet people, listen to perspectives that aren’t heard often enough and learn about and negotiate creative paths forward.
You can download the full program, find out more and get registration information at http://www.peoplessocialforum.org/home/. Follow on Twitter at #PSF2014 and @forumsocial2014. Some events will be livestreamed at http://www.livestream.com/rabbletv.