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People's Summit Opens in Toronto

Alternative to G8/20 has Open Agenda, Open Membership

by Geordie Gwalgen Dent

Hundreds Pack the Opening of the People's Summit PHOTO Sharmeen Khan
Hundreds Pack the Opening of the People's Summit PHOTO Sharmeen Khan
Victor Baez speaks PHOTO Sharmeen Khan
Victor Baez speaks PHOTO Sharmeen Khan

Toronto - With one week to go until the the G20, an in-camera meeting between the worlds most powerful finance ministers and bankers behind a $5 million security fence, ordinary people from all over Canada and across the world are holding their own summit.

The People's Summit, an open membership summit set up as an alternative summit to the G8 and G20 meetings, aims to be a place where people "debate, discuss and learn about the issues that really matter to people the world over," according to the Summit's Program.

Over 100 groups are presenting at over 100 different workshops between June 18th and June 20th on topics ranging from the Economics of the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement and Women in Politics to Building Coalitions and Activism in the Attawapiskat Nation.

The cost of the Summit is equivalent to 6 seconds of the G8/20 Summits.

Marya Folinsbee, a coordinator for the Summit says that a lot of the impacts from the People's Summit are intangible.  "A lot of the participants tell me that the relationships they build...are helpful.  There's lot of ideas being advanced [at the summit] like the financial transaction tax," she said.  The tax has been rejected by the G20 with strong opposition coming from the US and Canada.

The opening of the People's Summit saw hundreds of people attend the Summit launch entitled: "Stories and Solution from the North and South" held at the Carlu theatre in downtown Toronto. 

Speakers included Lorena Aguilar, Dorthy Ngoma, Ambet Yuson and Jessica Yee and others.

What they said:

Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians:

Barlow discussed the need for a Tobin Tax on Financial Speculation, the need to tackle climate change, new trade agreements being pushed with the European Union and past victories social movements have had at summits.  She talked about her experiences at the Cochabamba summit in Bolivia with 35,000 people attending and how the right to water was introduced recently at G77 meetings.  Barlow also spoke of new and recent amendments made to the Fisheries Act which will allow mining companies to use healthy lakes as tailing ponds.

Best Quote"The G8 and G20 should be abolished and replaced by a democratic process."

Robert Lovelace, Adjunct Professor at Queen's University in the Department of Global Development Studies:

Lovelace spent 3 1/2 months in jail for stopping uranium exploration and mining on the  Ardoch Algonquin homeland.  He spoke that direct action is necessary to defend against what he believes is the root cause of environmental exploitation: Colonialism.  He spoke out against the Boreal Forest Agreement emphasized that direct action was 'key' to the success the Ardoch Algonquin had against exploitation.

Best Quote: "When I was in Cochabamba there was a little sign that I saw that gave me hope.  That sign said "Another World is Possible."

Victor Baez, General Secretary of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas:

Baez spoke of similarities between Canadian and American foreign policy.  He highlighted how the President of Columbia, Alvaro Uribe, under fire for human rights violations in his country including the public murder of 45 trade union activists last year, will be attending the G8 to sign a free trade pact with Canada.  He also spoke how austerity measures are being planned at the G20 Summits with the IMF giving loans and bailout packages with the express intent of attacking the Social Welfare states in Europe.

Best Quote: "Harper very much misses his friend, Bush."

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