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UPDATE: Council of Canadians participates in social forum exploratory committee meeting

An exploratory committee meeting – discussing the possibility and aspects of a Canada-Quebec-First Nations social forum – took place in Montreal this evening.

Organizations present tonight included Alternatives, Centrale des syndicats nationaux (CSN), the Council of Canadians, Fédération nationale des enseignants et enseignantes du Québec (FNEEQ-CSN), and Quebec Native Women’s Inc.

Those assembled discussed:

1-What do we mean by a social forum? How much familiarity is there presently with the term ‘social forum’?

2-What is a thematic forum? How does an assembly of social movements work within a social forum?

3-How do you build a social forum? How can it be organized given the size of the country? Is it possible to have an inclusive, polycentric planning process?

4-What size does the social forum need to be? Does it need 10,000 people present to be considered successful?

5-What are the objectives, demands, elements that will bring us together?

6-Would a thematic forum – focused on the question of how to combat the Harper government, right-wing forces, or austerity – be the best approach? Or would a wider discussion of many issues be more inclusive?

7-Should the social forum be aimed at the wider public, meaning non-politicized people? Or to the existing social movements? Or to both?

8-How is the inclusion/ participation of Indigenous peoples in the social forum best ensured?

9-What would it be called? A Canada-Quebec-First Nations social forum? An Indigneous-Quebec-Canada social forum? A peoples’ forum?

10-Where would the social forum take place? Montreal? Ottawa? Toronto? Winnipeg? Is it based on the history of the city, what has happened there, who is based there?

11-Could it be polycentric and held in different locations? Is it possible to connect social forums across the country by technology? If so, would we lose the critical element of being physically together?

12-How do we address any concerns/ skepticism about unions and non-governmental organizations spearheading a social forum, especially compared to the grassroots organizing of Occupy?

13-Can we study the US experience with social forums? Does that hold lessons for us? What is our Detroit?

Roger Rashi, Michel Lambert, Feroz Mehdi of Alternatives were at the exploratory committee meeting

While the exploratory committee primarily identified questions this evening, it was an engaging, interesting and meaningful discussion.

It was a good reminder that a social forum is not just about a several-day gathering, but a two-year collaborative process of planning and getting there.

The next exploratory committee meeting takes place on November 9 from 6-8 pm at the Alternatives office in Montreal.

A larger group meeting is scheduled for November 14 in Montreal to further explore the idea of a social forum, confirm if there is sufficient support to form an expansion commission (to outreach to more groups across the country in preparation for a general assembly meeting that could launch a social forum process) and to hear back from this evening’s exploratory committee meeting.

The Council of Canadians remains committed to participating in this process.