MONTREAL: Anti-globalization activists will gather in Montreal on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) for the first World Social Forum (WSF) to be held in the northern hemisphere, hoping the location will provide fresh impetus for the movement.
A march through downtown Montreal is to kick off the event, which was first held in Brazil in 2001 seeking to promote alternatives to neoliberalism.
More than 50,000 members of civil society groups, social movements and others are expected to attend the six-day event.
“We’re hoping to gain momentum by bringing the forum to a northern country like Canada,” which is also a Group of Seven industrialized nation, said one of the organizers, Raphael Canet.
“Social inequality is everywhere,” he added. “We want to overcome North-South divisions and say clearly that there are social problems worldwide, and also global solutions.”
Born out of violent protests as a counterweight to its capitalist rival, the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland, the WSF aims to offer a space for decentralized debate and an exchange of ideas, as well as the coordination of global campaigns.
Past annual conferences held in Mali, India, Pakistan and Tunisia have attracted up to 100,000 delegates each.
Only half that number are expected for the Montreal event, however, as many could not afford the trip and relatively pricey accommodations, even with financial assistance, according to organizers.
They said the Canadian government also denied travel visas to 234 delegates, preventing them from attending, including Mali’s former culture minister Aminata Traore and Imad Temiza, the president of the Palestinian postal union.
Officials declined to comment on specific cases, citing Canada’s strict privacy laws.
Nancy Caron, a spokeswoman for the immigration ministry, said the department reached out to WSF organizers to facilitate delegates’ entry into Canada.
But she said in an email to Agence France-Presse: “No contact has been made with the special events unit by the organizing committee to inform the special events unit of any issues or difficulties in obtaining participants’ visas.”