People’s Social Forum – Ottawa 2014.08.21-24 – Forum Social des Peuples

As you may have heard, the People’s Social Forum will take place this month (August 21 to 24) in Ottawa (Ottawa University). Over 10 000 participants are expected to participate in some 400 workshops. Aiming at a wide convergence of social movements, it will be the first pan-canadian Social Forum, aiming at the inclusion of social movements from First Nations, Quebec, and all of Canada.

Where does it come from?

The first Social Forum was the World Social Forum in Porto Allegre, Brazil, 2001, and has been held once a year since then. Proposing the slogan “Another world is possible”, it was an opposition to ideologies (capitalism, neo-liberalism, et al.) that dominate globalization, and aimed at creating regular meetings of activists and civil society organizations in the future. Several other Social Forums have been held since, and Quebec had its own Social Forum in 2007 and 2009.

The goals of the People’s Social Forum are to “1) Bring together, assemble, combine and reduce the isolation of the progressive groups and individuals belonging to the concerned communities; 2) Promote the convergence of large strategic struggles against neoliberal and neoconservative politics in Canada; 3) Promote public debate, public expression and political education.”

Initially called the First Nations – Quebec – Canada Social Forum, the People’s Social Forum is strategically placed to create a strong convergence of progressive organizations in Canada to muster opposition to problematic politics here, gather support and foster solidarity for the struggles we face at home, but also to prepare the field for hosting the 2016 World Social Forum, which will be held in Quebec. So far, preparatory meetings have been held in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, etc. You can read about how some went here and here.

Who will be there?

So far, some 10 000 participants have registered to join, and you can still register to join up to the start date. You can expect participation from individual activists, international NGOs, community groups, formal and informal coalitions and networks, citizen’s groups, and worker’s unions. Quebec participation is expected to be very strong. How will all these groups come together to work collaboratively? Some are offering workshops, others attending them, and if it goes like other Social Forums, this convergence of progressive activists will generate connections and alliances with great potential. This is a creative space where we don’t necessarily aim at establishing strategies or guidelines, only at establishing a convergence of movements and discussion forums.  Some organizations have also come together as organizing committees and been actively participating in spearheading the organization of the Forum, and those organizing committees have some larger-than-workshop structures proposed for the event.

What is there for us to do?

Although the deadline is past to submit your own workshops, you can attend the People’s Social Forum and participate in one of almost 500 workshops currently scheduled. This is one direct way for you individually and/or your organization to participate in shaping the conversations. If you believe the People’s Social Forum is an important event and that it could be interesting for your network to know more about it, you can help spread the message. For “Signal Boosting”, look to their website for their newsletter, follow them on Facebook and Twitter and share their messages. If you have the means and the will to do so, you can donate to pay for the organizational costs. Finally, you can be on the lookout for the outcomes of the Forum, as the energy, the learnings, the strategies and the networks that come out of it may be something to pay attention to in times ahead.

COCo’s own Sabrina McFadden and Gabriel Bergevin-Estable will be attending the People’s Social Forum in Ottawa. Sabrina will also be facilitating a workshop on “Power and our role in the world” (Notre pouvoir dans le monde), and you can read more about it here.

What happens after?

In a Social Forum structure, the Social Forum does not speak on the behalf of its participants to provide an official position, stance, or conclusion. It merely provides the space and the momentum for the meetings, conversations, and convergences of social movements to happen. That means that what happens next will be what the participants make of it, what they learn and take home, the networks of solidarity, support and alliances they’ve built. It’s a process that is fundamentally emergent, impossible to predict or to control, but it will be what we make of it.

If the Social Forum structure is something you or your organization would want to be a part of, you should pay attention to the upcoming World Social Forum 2016, which will be held in the province of Quebec.

Useful links

PSF websites:

On Facebook:

On Twitter:

On Instagram:



Pierre Beaudet on the PSF as seen from Quebec: