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World Social Forum coming to Montreal in August

International gathering to be hosted in a northern nation for first time in its 15-year history

by David Gray-Donald

Photo: Rubem Ribiera
Photo: Rubem Ribiera
The World Social Forum is coming to Montreal August 9-14, 2016. 
 
Under the tag-line "Another world is needed. Together, it is possible!", the event aims to bring together tens of thousands of people from civil society around the world to discuss themes like human right, solidarity economy, environment, democratization and more. 
 
The World Social Forum (WSF) was first held in Brazil in 2001 and has since returned there as well as being held in India, Venezuela, Mali, Pakistan, Kenya, Senegal, and, for its last two iterations, in Tunisia.
 
There is an organizing committee for the 2016 WSF open to anyone. The majority of planning for the event, however, happens outside of this committee.
 
The co-coordinators, bottom-lining general coordination of the WSF, are Raphäel Canet and Carminda Mac Lorin. Canet is an assistant professor of International Development and Global Studies Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa. Mac Lorin is an activist, musician, and was politically active as a graduate student at the University of Montreal.
 
As for funding of the WSF, according to a media spokesperson, "The Forum’s budget is meant to be funded equally by three areas, the government, by organizations and the participants. We will readjust depending on the amount receive." Partners listed on the WSF site include municipal, provincial and federal levels of government, several large unions, and major colleges and universities.
 
The "List of groups involved" contains names of many organizations in Quebec civil society, including big NGOs like Equiterre and Oxfam-Quebec. Notably absent are many of the big-name NGOs from English Canada. Nowhere in the list, as a small simpling, do the following names show up: Council of Canadians, Leadnow, Environmental Defence, Dogwood Initiative,  Canadian Federation of Students. 
 
Perhaps less present still are the names of organizations in English Canada engaged in grassroots social movements. 
 
From discussing the WSF with a number of activists in the rest of Canada, and also in anglophone Montreal, it seems a number of people heard about the event only very recently. The deadline to submit self-organized activities to the WSF schedule was mid-June.
 
Still, a number of big names from English Canada will be at the WSF in August, like Naomi Klein, who has spoken at previous social forums. 
 
WSF co-coordinator Carminda Mac Lorin is hoping to see bridges built in Montreal. In her words: "The global aspect of the forum that we are organizing enables us to overcome historical cleavages between French speakers and English speakers in Canada. We are hoping to count on the presence of different groups from all over Canada. It is crucial to us that we touch Canadians because as Canadians we have a fundamental role to play in regards of the environment and Human Rights.” 
 
There will be many people from around the world coming to Montreal. The forum begins August 9th in Montreal, and runs until the 14th.
 
The host committee of the WSF in Montreal has faced criticism, including from the Media Co-op blog Carré Noir.
 
Happening almost in parrallel is the 5th World Forum on Free Media, taking place in Montreal from August 7 to 14.
 

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David Gray-Donald (David Gray-Donald)
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