Canada - ‘Another world is necessary: together, it becomes possible!’

World Social Forum (WSF) at Montreal 2016, 9 — 14 August. For its 12th edition, the World Social Forum went for the first time to North America.

The city of Montréal, which next year will celebrate the 375th anniversary of its foundation, was proud to host it. For the occasion, Quebec civil society offered a platform where those involved in the changes of today and of tomorrow gathered together, people who came from 125 countries. In that place where social movements converged, there were 35,000 participants seeking opportunities to develop the reflection with regard to changing the world: 1,200 self-managed activities, 21 major lectures and 6 parallel forums offered so many varied possibilities with, in addition, 200 cultural activities. Throughout 11 places in the city centre and surrounding areas, including university premises, francophone and Anglophone, the 11 themes mobilised people. It all opened with a march where over 15,000 persons had come to express their desire to found a better world. On arriving, they were invited to participate in a performance led by the native people, followed by various musical presentations. 

 
Do you know that Montreal is Amerindian land never ceded to the colonists? Here is an extract from ‘’ My land never given away ‘’, by Jeanne-Mance Charlish (…) 
 ‘I have a huge territory
That I have never ceded
A thousand-year ancestral heritage 
I have an immense territory
Never ceded 
This foreigner, does he know that he never discovered the New World? This foreigner, does he know that the New World 
We, the natives, the first peoples, Were and remain to be discovered? 
Imitating ‘The League for Rights and Freedoms’ on the occasion of public activities, the following declaration is often pronounced: ‘We recognise that we are meeting on non-ceded land of the Mohawk nation…’ (when the activity takes place in Montreal).
 
We are three LSA, and a laywoman who is committed with us: Gisèle LSA, 
Colette LSA, Micheline, Julie LSA
 
Each one organises her participation at her own pace. But, on the first evening, we arranged to meet together for the “launch”. The atmosphere was festive, as was getting to know the premises. We put on our “cocarde ‘’, the sign of our inscription, and read the programme for the activities. The 1,000 volunteers already have an idea of what is ahead of them. 
 
From among the themes proposed, I chose those that were connected with my concerns at the level of JPIC and my commitments with the networks concerned by protection at the ecological level and the government of the countries that are a prey to the voraciousness of the financial powers. Here are some: ‘Struggle against the dictatorship of finance and for the sharing of resources; Maternity for others; Citizen power and the ‘‘Paris oath’’ of Cop21; The tax havens at the heart of inequalities; Eco-citizenship and education for the environment: the art of living together; the law as a means of resistance and as a citizen tool for change: What are the fiscal alternatives to the austerity measures in Quebec? Initiatives for collective mobilization and resistance with regard to the transnational extraction companies.
 
I would like now to say a few words about some of my experiences. I am committed in the struggle against the passing of a pipeline taking oil from the bituminous sands of Alberta, a Canadian province, from one end of the country to the other.
 
We have considerable fears concerning the protection of the ecology, our rivers and subterranean waters, the protection of the fauna, the future of the farmers situated along the path of the pipeline etc. At a workshop I met some young women lawyers who are committed in human rights causes. The workshop made it possible for us to hear testimonies of causes that were won in Switzerland and in Asia. The Quebec lawyer who was present is working on the cause that we have very much at heart concerning the Company Énergie-Est with which the Canadian people is in conflict. A Frenchman who was present spoke to us concerning the struggle against Monsanto and the Monsanto Tribunal in October, in the Netherlands. He proposed actions that could be taken via the Internet. 
 
 
At the workshop ‘Citizen Power and Cop’, we had a dialogue via skype with persons in France. The animation helped us to participate in a symbolic action of ‘re-creation of the earth’ with the help of drawings made by us and used as a puzzle. Together we read the Paris oath. Some people shared with us concerning their local commitments, one of which had been to convince the mayor of his locality to go to see the film: Demain. As a result, there was a joint action by citizens and local councillors. That workshop gave rise to very good cohesion between persons from various countries. 
 
The young people also were numerous. I met some at various workshops, but it was above all to the cégep [college for general and professional education] of Old Montreal that they were invited. There is a group that I know from having taken part in some of its actions (Institut du Nouveau Monde) and which has taken as its project the training of future leaders. It offered a good programme for the World Social Forum. I have learned that it was been copied in France (under another name).
 
Here now is something from the other participants:
Testimony by Micheline:
‘I attended a lecture on the tax havens. We were informed of the fact that the present economy is based on the following pillars: Obtain a maximum of income, reduce the fiscal and other expenses to the minimum and intervene in the governments to influence legislation. To summarise, the tax havens, which exist with the complicity of the banks, are not the only tools for increasing profits.’ 
I was also present at that talk and I was sharing my reflection when I heard safeguard groups talking about various treaties between countries or regions (Canada-Europe and others). I noted how precious these ‘’awareness raisers’’ are. The zone of secrecy in the treaties is too large. This keeps the population from being enlightened, from demonstrating and pleading for human rights. Now, there really is an awareness. 
 
Testimony by Julie, LSA
‘From the contributors to workshop (6 in number) I have retained that the capitalist market intrinsically gives rise to differences. ‘Those most affected are those who are the least responsible’. M. Cliche from Development and Peace explained to us the native vision according to which the concept of development does not exist. Rather than seeing things in terms of growth, see them in terms of harmony. … See in a different way. The idea is not to maximise, but to learn to detect the logical discrepancies in respecting the rights of nature. 
 
Testimony by Colette, LSA
‘The three workshops or talks in which I participated were for me the occasion of a real international immersion, and helped me to feel once again the blatant realities of some countries in their relations with the West. 
 
Emerge from international assistance and development: towards a renewed international solidarity. It emerged, after the very committed talks and discussions, that the innovation ought to come from the people, and not from those who are responsible for projects… Attention to the word ‘inclusion’: that it be the financial partners who participate in the projects of the people… and they allow ’the time’ for the development…. Go rather towards a ’transnational’ solidarity: what is at stake in the global struggles for entering into another world. 
 
The peoples and the planet before profit: The body movements at the beginning of the meeting symbolized very well the testimonies that followed: a woman, caught in a net, trying desperately to get out of it, which she succeeded in doing: it was like a great and beautiful message of tenacity, of hope and of liberation. 
 
From Africa to the Americas, women are fighting for their rights: 
 
In Mali, in Honduras, in India, in Mexico: Very moving testimonies from women who are committed ‘wholeheartedly’ so that women be treated as ’human beings’. From mother to daughter they learn to struggle: so that justice be done in cases of assassination or rape, so that the feminine dimension be integrated in politics, so as to impose mutual respect … ‘’Without peace, it is not possible to develop’; the hope brought by these dignified and rebellious women was vigorously applauded! 
 
Here now is a rather more global view. I have encountered several persons whom I meet in the social networks. According to the estimates, the persons involved in their surroundings were greater in number than the civil population. Others who come above all from countries in Africa and Latin America have not received their visas, or they have been refused. Verifications are going to be made by the organisers so as to document this reality. 
 
The native population have undertaken several activities including that of a visit to the Mohawk Nation on outskirts of Montréal. Since the Truth-Reconciliation Commission where the wrongs resulting from the governmental assimilation programmes were analysed, they have passed from being ashamed to be autochthonous to having pride in their culture. There is still a long way to go because we, as a colonizing people, have also to recognize the steps to be taken for the encounter. For me those days were full and enriching. I was happy to see that many people are truly in solidarity so as to bring about a more just world and that they do not minimize the challenges. They understand what is at stake in the powers of the financial world over the governments of our countries. And that is why they have a cry: ‘’Let us change the system, not the climate”. 
 
At the evaluation that was made of the WSF as a whole, I was happy to hear young university graduates speaking about how the event as a whole was run. While they were proud of their participation, they were able to analyse clearly their commitment and express the challenges that mobilised them. I was touched by the sense of responsibility that led them to prepare 60 volunteers to accompany people at times of possible aggressions on the site. Refusal of visas, the delay and the reduction of the sums of money promised had delayed the start. But their creativity had made alternatives possible. Participation via skype and the internet created possibilities for the foreigners who were prevented from coming to the country. Now is the time for networking so as to continue the commitment towards 
 
Another world that is necessary and possible together.
 
Sr Gisèle, LSA
26/01/2017
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