Saskatchewan people’s social forum
An issue for one is an issue for all
Activists from across Saskatchewan made their way to the University of Regina campus this past weekend to discuss and formulate solutions to some of the major issues facing the people of the province.
Tria Donaldson, one of the social forum’s organizers, discussed the event and how it came to be.
“I had been at the national social forum strategizing session in Ottawa that happened in Jan. 2013 – we had been organizing for over a year and wanted to start regionalizing the efforts. We started organizing in January and the main focus was trying to get folks to come to the Ottawa forum but we really identified that we wanted to create capacity for change in Saskatchewan. And while sending people to Ottawa is good for creating dialogue, it does not a movement in Saskatchewan make.”
Dr. Michelle Stewart of the justice studies department went into some of the challenges behind organizing an event representing as diverse a community as the People’s Social Forum, “One of the things that people are talking about is the need for us to be thinking more critically about how we work together and how we include people in a meaningful way so that an issue for one is an issue for all.”
Groups within the forum focused their discussion on community building, labour issues, poverty, environmental issues, and governance. These groups were given two hours to craft a statement of what they would like to see change within the province and ways to work toward these ends. The results of the social forum are presently being compiled and are set to be available online by Oct. 1.
When asked about organizing such a diverse group of people and interests, Stewart told us, “A lot of these groups have spawned groups who want to continue to work together. People have said they want to work on a sanctuary city/solidarity city campaign in Regina and Saskatoon.”
Solidarity or Sanctuary Cities are municipal areas in which access to social services is made universal, regardless of one’s immigration or legal status – especially relevant locally given the recent struggle to keep U of R students Victoria Ordu and Favour Amadi within the country.
The forum was also home to a radical book fair, which featured Regina’s Briarpatch magazine, Saskatoon’s Turning The Tide Books, Edmonton’s Thought Crime Ink, and more.
The discussions held over the weekend have already begun to materialize in plans for more events and a public unity march to be held Oct. 30 in Regina. Among the aforementioned plans is a plan to hold another installment of the forum in Saskatoon with the possibility of smaller groups traveling to rural centers to discuss issues with people local to those regions.
The weekend ended with a rally at the Regina legislative building, which occurred alongside 2,800 similar ‘Defend Our Climate’ events around the world. Speaking with organizers and attendees of these events, it becomes clear there are overarching, shared, and structural problems faced by these activists and the people of Saskatchewan.