By Claudia De Simone
Jorgenson Hall was the scene for the city’s first Toronto Social Forum on Saturday, as activists poured onto campus to discuss the grassroots political issues.
The event was organized by Judy Rebick, Ryerson’s chair of social justice and democracy, and a committee.
Speakers included controversial anti-poverty activist John Clarke, who is in court this week facing charges of starting a riot at Queen’s Park.
Participants attended workshops throughout the day, discussing political tactics such as illegal squatting.
Rebick called on those attending the event to take action.
“I hope people will be inspired to get more active with change in Toronto [and] more educated about international issues,” Rebick said in an interview.
As part of the CAW-Sam Gindin Chair mandate to make Ryerson a place for more social justice awareness, Ryerson was chosen to hold this TSF event.
Except for one hired staff member, all organizers were volunteers.
No rent was charged because Rebick is entitled to book rooms for free as a faculty member.
Food and entertainment were paid for by the registration fees, and by a $20,000 grant from the Atkinson Foundation.
The grant will also be used to pay for two more Toronto Social Forum events later this year.
In an effort to bring together progressive social movements across all sectors and have a pluralism of political discourses, Ryerson politics professor and coordinating committee member Janet Conway said, “it is impossible to get a line-up reflective of every activism around.”
So the committee focused on “some of the current ones,” she said. These issues included hydro, food, security and the possibility of war.
Organizers tried to include a representation of women, men, students and people of colour.
People attending enjoyed eating vegan food.
Saturday’s event was part of a run up to the World Social Forum later this month. The event in Port Alegre, Brazil will bring together people dedicated to combatting the domination of capitalism and imperialism.
Co-coordinating committee member and fourth-year social work student Maya Roy said that she was pleased with the inclusiveness of Saturday’s event.
“There’s a lot of people in Toronto who do community work is about getting them to participate,” said Roy.
By the end of the day, 350 people had registered for the event.