Peoples Social Forum: Ottawa, August 21-24, 2014
Build together, win together! The Future is Ours!
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Forum social des peuples: Ottawa 21 au 24 aout 2014
Ensemble pour gagner, l’avenir est à nous!
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“Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”
ARUNDHATI ROY. From a speech entitled Confronting Empire given at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 28 January 2003.
For the next few days, I’ll be in Canada’s capital, Ottawa (Ontario), for the Peoples Social Forum. I’ll try to blog “live” from the independent media center to tell Awestruck Wanderer’s readers what’s going on there. I also plan to film a short-film documenting the event, to be released here (and on my Vimeo cyberspace) as soon as I can find some time to edit it. This journey starts tomorrow, August 21, with a talk by Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein, who is about to release her new book This Changes Everything – Capitalism Vs. The Climate. Canadians everywhere, if you’re interested in helping out in building another future, if you wanna meet active and critical people who are joining together, if you wanna to protest some of Mr. Harper’s ecocidal policies (Oil Sands in Alberta, for instance), if you wish to get yourself acquainted with all sorts of activists and freedom fighters, artists and scholars… don’t lose this! Hey ho… let’s go!
Here are the main themes of the Forum:
justice – responsibility – action
What are we doing to stop the largest threat to human survival? Who’s responsible for climate change? Who is disproportionately affected by the impacts? Does the West owe a climate debt to the Global South? Where are key points of intervention to stop climate change? Which companies, foundations, and individuals are promoting climate change denial? What are some ways to adapt to increasingly chaotic weather? How is climate change pushing people out of their homes, and who is benefiting? Can we move to post-carbon or carbon-neutral societies? Will we wait until it’s too late to develop the political will to act? What’s holding back effective action? How is climate change being used to further colonial and corporate ends?What is the relationship between climate change, environmental racism, and energy extraction on Indigenous lands? Why and how are Indigenous Peoples taking a lead in the fight against climate change?What must we do as individuals, communities, movements, and society to save the climate?
media – language – arts
Who owns the media? Who controls the airwaves? What is media literacy? How concentrated is the media in Canada and Quebec? How can progressive and radical journalists subvert dominant narratives? How can we use social media more effectively? How can we use our art for social change? How can cultural and artistic workers organize in ways that don’t stunt their craft? Whose interests do copyrights serve? What language do we speak and why? Is Canada bilingual? How do we promote the survival of the French language? How do we revive Indigenous languages? How do we work with migrant communities that don’t operate in English? How do we communicate the need for serious change to millions of people?
race – access – place
How are we organizing in our neighbourhoods? How can we fundraise for grassroots community initiatives? Who’s included in “the community”? In what ways are our communities divided by race and class? What can be done about gentrification? How can we design public space in the most accessible way? How does our race affect our access to community, and belonging? How can we honour Indigenous sovereignty while also becoming attached to a place and putting down roots? What type of multi-culturalism is promoted by the government? How has white supremacy adapted to the 21st century? How can various Indigenous and racialized communities organize in solidarity with each other? How can we fight horizontal racism? How well do we understand the history of racism and colonialism, including linguistic, cultural and national oppression, in Canada? Has the word “racism” become a taboo? How does racism intersect with other forms of oppression? How do we support the rights of the homeless? Where is their place in our community? How are people with disabilities excluded from community? How can able-bodied people support movements for disability rights? Do you have to stand up to fight back? Why is the adoption of an anti-oppression framework in our activism work soimportant? How do we ensure access to decent housing as a right? How are our communities bought and sold from under us? How do we take back public space? Whose streets? What are inspiring examples of sustainable and intentional community?
criminalization – surveillance – prisons
Who’s controlling society and through what forceful mechanisms is our obedience ensured? Why is dissent being increasingly criminalized? What is the prison industrial complex and its relation to racism and capitalism? How can we counter police violence and racism on the ground? Are we creeping into an Orwellian world of total surveillance and censorship? What can we do to stop the spread of cameras in public space and defend our privacy rights? Why are governments increasingly scared of hackers and whistle-blowers? Why are new prisons built while crime rates are dropping? Why are Indigenous peoples, youth of colour, and migrants disproportionately incarcerated? How does immigration detention serve to keep people of colour living in fear? How have police, prisons, border officials, and intelligence agencies historically and presently been used to further colonial aims? Can we abolish prison? What are alternative models for defending ourselves, our communities, and resolving conflicts?
land – air – water
What is our relationship to the earth and all it’s non-human inhabitants? How has our relationship to land shifted from one of responsibility and communal care to one of individual ownership and speculation? Why is the Harper government attacking and defunding Environmental NGO’s and silencing scientists? What are inspiring ways people are defending the natural world from pollution, degradation, and devastation? How are we defending the commons (air, land, water) from predatory mining, fracking, logging, drilling, bombing, dumping, spraying, damming, and sprawling? How can environmental activists, people of colour and Indigenous people’s work together as allies in defense of mother earth? What are examples of environmental racism, and environmental justice work in Canada and Quebec? How do we connect environmental justice, anti-racism and reproductive justice work? What is Canada’s role in trashing the planet on an international scale? Why is it important that water be made a human right? How can we join others in making the “Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth” law? What can we do to help heal the earth and live sustainably?
In what ways has the current economic model failed us? Can we overcome global inequality? Is capitalism doomed? What are other economic models that have been tried and failed? How can we reverse the trends we’ve been seeing of increased social inequality, the multiplication of economic crises, and the commodification of everything including human life? Are we heading back into feudalism? Should the very concept of growth be questioned? How is our economy propped up by slavery and colonialism, both historically and presently? What can we do to support calls for reparations for slavery and debt jubilees coming from the global south? Where are there inspiring examples of modes of production and life outside the logic of capitalism? What economic alternatives can we seek? Can we democratize the economy? What economic models have the best chance of replacing capitalism in our lifetime? How can the economy serve the people so that we can live in a world that is just, equitable, respectful of human beings and the environment?
sovereignty – access – production
Who grows our food? Who harvests it? Who gets access to healthy food? Whose neighbourhoods are food deserts? What is the state of food insecurity in Canada? How are Canadian corporations affecting food sovereignty abroad? Does Canada ensure food a human right? Where are there good examples of permaculture, urban farming, community gardens, CSA’s, and food co-ops that we can learn from? How does the local-food, food justice movement include migrant workers that grow the food, and the racialized people that work in the food industry? Why are family farmers losing their land to large agribusiness? How is Canada infringing on Indigenous food sovereignty both here and abroad? What foods should we avoid for ethical and environmental reasons? What is peak soil? What are new inventive ways for urban food production? How do we fight the growing collusion of government and agribusiness? What’s being done by various levels of government that affects food sovereignty? Why doesn’t Canada have a federal food policy? How does structural racism manifest itself in our food system? What are inspiring examples of resistance to GMO’s, monocrops, over-fishing, and factory farming? What would it mean to decolonize our diets and develop sustainable and sovereign food systems?
sexuality – patriarchy – socialization
How can queers and trans-folks bash back against ongoing discrimination and hatred? How can we subvert heteronormativity? What does patriarchy and feminism look like in the 21st century? How is poverty gendered? What is patriarchy’s relationship to displacement, colonization, war, and capitalism? How do we unlearn and dismantle rape culture? How does our gender socialization reproduce oppressive power dynamics? How can we stop gender policing in queer and trans communities? What can we do to stop the wave of murders and disappearances of Indigenous women? How can we stop all sexual violence, slut-shaming, and gender oppression?
9- Governance & Democracy:
representation – organization – decolonization
In what ways could we politically govern ourselves better than the current system? How do we address anti-democratic trends in our current government? How do we formally reject the Doctrine of Discovery and concept of Terra Nullius? Can we make democracy more direct, more empowering, more participatory? Can we govern without leaders? Can we vote ourselves in to a better society? Can we empower our communities on localized levels such as neighbourhoods, bioregions, and watersheds? How about workplace democracy and worker-control of workplaces? How do free trade agreements lead to corporate dictatorship? What Free Trade Agreements must we fight presently? How can we empower those who are not allowed, or choose not, to vote? What future for the Quebec nation? What strategies are successful for defending Indigenous sovereignty? How does Canada continue to violate Indigenous sovereignty and traditional governance? How can all peoples work towards decolonization and a respect of treaty rights and responsibilities?
austerity – cuts – privatization
What does austerity mean for average people? How do we fight back against the age of austerity? How are governments impoverishing us through budget cuts and legislation? How do the cuts impact poor, people of colour and indigenous people differently What new struggles can be waged in the austerity era to win concrete gains like higher minimum wages, access to social housing, and health benefits? Can we reverse impoverishment through campaigns such as guaranteed income, affordable housing, community and worker co-operatives? How can folks fighting against their own impoverishment work in solidarity with communities who’ve been systematically impoverished and excluded for centuries as part of colonization and racism? How do we fight to stop the cuts and expand services at the same time?
solidarity – peace – justice
What role does Canada play in global capitalism and neo-colonialism on the international scene? What are some examples of international injustices caused by Canadian interests? How do we hold those Canadian interests accountable? How do we respond to global crisis? What can we learn from the alter/anti-globalization movement? How can we be more effective in resisting war and militarization? What is Canadian Imperialism? How can we act in solidarity internationally to counteract and stop global capitalism, colonial aggression, and empire building? What can be done here to apply pressure in support of occupied and oppressed populations internationally? Can the whole world be decolonized?
education – access – alternatives
Can we ensure access to education as a basic right for all? How do we stop the increasing privatization and corporatization on campuses? How can students fight back against increasing debts and tuitions? How are students and youth fighting back both here and internationally against the neo-liberal agenda on campus? What are lessons and challenges we can learn from the historic Quebec Student Strike? How has “education” been used to further colonization and the erasure of Indigenous and diverse people of colour’s ways and knowledge, and how does this persist today? How do we ensure that all children have access to the same educational opportunities no matter what neighbourhood they live in? What are popular educational alternatives to institutional learning? What can we learn from Indigenous and international models of education? How do we stop school from getting in the way of education?
mobility – borders – displacement
Why do we move? Who gets to move? Who gets to stay? Why is Canada, and most of the world, moving towards a system of temporary immigration? What does migrant justice look like? How can people with immigration status support their undocumented and precarious status neighbours? How does migrant justice include honoring Indigenous sovereignty? Does Canada have a responsibility to refugees? How are Canadian interests complicit in forcing communities into migration through displacement and dispossession? Who benefits from current immigration policies and at whose expense? What are the different forms of racism mobilized against migrants? What could a world without borders look like?
intersectionality – alliances – solidarity
How do we build effective and sustainable movements for social justice? What are some strategies to build alliances across traditional divides of race, class, gender, ability, age, and sexuality? How do we foster a spirit of solidarity and respect within pluralistic and diverse movements? Who are unlikely allies we can work with? How do movements succeed or fail? What will it take to dismantle corporate power?
15- Public services
quality – universality – access
Why are right wing governments across Canada and around the world attacking public services? Why are they deregulating and privatizing public services and public space? How does this impact on workers, communities and the public in general? How can we stop deregulation and cuts to public services? What are other countries doing to push back against the corporate agenda? How can we defend our public services, postal service, and healthcare from cuts and privatization? Who benefits from quality public services? How can we build strong public services that will strengthen the economy and social justice and pull communities together?
ceremony – traditions – identity
How does spirituality intersect with activism? How can people of different faiths work together to end religious-based conflict? How do we foster respect for each other in multi-faith societies? What are our peoples’ and movement’s ceremonies and traditions? How do faith communities serve the most excluded? How do we work through trauma? What can be done to heal our spiritual connection to each other and to the earth? How has religion been used to further colonialism and what can be done to reverse this? How were Indigenous people’s ceremonies, traditions, and identities targeted for extermination and how are they being revived today? How can we spread a spirit of empowerment, mutual aid, and revolution?
precarity – deindustrialization – scarcity
Who’s hiring? Who’s firing? Who’s working more than ever? Who is promoting and benefiting from low-wages? Who can’t find stable employment? Do careers exist anymore? Why is the manufacturing sector being hollowed out? How can organized labour adapt to the shifting world of work? How can workers, particularly migrant, Indigenous and citizen workers, avoid being pitted against each other? How do we honour all work, including domestic, care and sex work? Why do Indigenous Peoples, women, youth and people of colour have the highest unemployment rates? How can we support Unions, and how can Unions include everyone? What ways are people finding to survive at the margins of the economy? Can workers take-over the companies that employ them? How do we build alliances between workers in resource-extractive industries and those opposing environmentally-destructive resource extraction? Can we develop a solidarity economy and produce and distribute what we need without capitalism? What are some alternatives to capitalism that we can start exploring and building?
Lots of political ART will also add fuel to the fire of CHANGE: