It can be difficult these days, especially here in Alberta, to fathom that there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel in regards to our future.
Our provincial and federal governments have been increasing the frequency and severity of attacks on democracy from attacks on collective bargaining and First Nations, to the death of evidence-based decision making and the broad-scale silencing of dissent. Federal and provincial governments seem intent on eliminating any space that might result in the articulation of creative and alternative ways of structuring our society.
Despite all that, we have seen a tremendous number of grassroots movements like Idle No More, Occupy and the fight-back against the government’s anti-union legislation in the past couple of years. Albertans have shown time and again they are not yet prepared to fully abandon their belief in democracy, people-power and collective action—they’re not prepared to completely had over control of their lives, their livelihoods and their communities to the goals, dreams and aspirations of the one percent.
Our province and country are clearly at a crossroads. With out-of-control inequality and ever-increasing consolidation of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands, there is a choice to make: we can let go and succumb to undemocratic government decisions or we can hold on to our values and ideals and work to turn things around.
The latter option is what the Peoples’ Social Forum is all about. It will take place in Ottawa from August 21 to 24—a forum building on the successful expressions of civil society we have seen in the past few years, and on the principles of the World Social Forum movement. It will be a space where movements, organizations, unions, students, First Nations and many others will come together to share their visions and hopes for a better Canada and begin strategizing how we go about building it.
Given the role that Alberta’s natural resources play in the national discourses on everything from pipelines and trade to labour, environment and First Nations, it is critical that the voices of Albertans be heard loud and clear at this national gathering. Albertans have been on the frontline of these struggles for the past 20 years, and our stories of victory and defeat and visions of an alternate future must help inform the development of alternatives at the national level.
To that end, a group of Alberta-based organizations, movements and individuals have organized a province-wide convergence in advance of the Peoples’ Social Forum. This Saturday, June 14, a broad cross-section of Albertans will gather at the University of Alberta to raise awareness about the Peoples’ Social Forum, and begin coordinating what Alberta’s presence at the national gathering will look like.
The social forum process has the potential to be the start of something new, vibrant and hopeful for our province and country, but only if the broadest range possible of Albertans commit to fully engaging with it. Check out the details of the provincial and national gatherings at psfalberta.wordpress.com and peoplessocialforum.org and find a way to get involved. A better Alberta is possible. V
Ricardo Acuña is the executive director of the Parkland Institute, a non-partisan, public policy research institute housed at the University of Alberta.