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World Social Forum and WFMC Annual Meeting of Members

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The 2016 World Social Forum (WSF) took place August 9th to 14th in Montreal. More than 35 000 activists from around the world attended and around 1500 workshops were organized, along with other activities and events. WFMC participated in the WSF by hosting several workshops: on ways to develop and reform global governance; on peacekeeping; and on the proposed Latin American criminal court for organized crime.

As well, one of the plenary events of the WSF was sponsored by the WFMC, along with the McGill University Faculty of Law and McGill University Institute for the Study of International Development. The evening’s theme was “From Global to Local: The Importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Reconciliation in Canada” and included the presentation of WFMC’s 2016 World Peace Award to Senator Murray Sinclair, former chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The presentation, and Senator Sinclair’s remarks, were followed by a panel discussion with Senator Sinclair and McGill University professors Cindy Blackstock, Catherine Lu, and Payam Akhavan (who was unable to attend, but provided remarks).

The WFMC World Peace Award honours “those among us who have the courage and the competence to lead us and our government so skillfully.” The proposal for a peace award was put forward by the Brantford branch and adopted by the national executive in 1972.

In his remarks, Senator Sinclair spoke about the importance of peace and the role everyone can play in recognizing the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and how UNDRIP can be viewed as a framework for reconciliation. Senator Sinclair acknowledged that it will take generations to get to reconciliation, but to begin, children must be taught to understand that indigenous peoples are not inferior. Senator Sinclair particularly mentioned panelist Cindy Blackstock’s work with children through the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

Because reconciliation belongs to everyone, Senator Sinclair suggested that each person consider the TRC’s Calls to Action and choose one to personally focus on. Following Senator Sinclair’s remarks, the panelists discussed UNDRIP from their different perspectives.

Catherine Lu spoke about reconciliation, its value and the challenges that it raises. She focused on the need to address structural indignity and inauthentic agency and how UNDRIP supports cultural resurgence and authentic agency. She said that the problem ought to be viewed as one of structural injustice that affects indigenous people and is not over yet.

Cindy Blackstock spoke about how Canada’s vision of what it should be is reconciliation’s greatest barrier and greatest hope at the same time. Blackstock also talked about the January 2016 ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal against the federal government’s persistent underfunding of social programs for indigenous children and the lack of action by the government since the ruling.

Romeo Saganash, an NDP MP who has introduced a private member’s bill, Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with UNDRIP, was also present at the event and was able to directly answer questions about his bill. UNDRIP would cover multiple jurisdictions in Canada, which complicates its adoption, but does not make it impossible, he said.

Walter Dorn elected WFMC President

At the 2016 WFMC annual meeting of members, Dr Walter Dorn was elected President of the organization. He succeeds the Hon. Warren Allmand, who had served as WFMC President since 2004. Dr Dorn is a scientist by training (Ph.D. Chemistry, University of Toronto), whose doctoral research assisted with chemical weapons sensing for arms control. He participated in the negotiation, ratification and implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) while working at Parliamentarians for Global Action (1992–93).

His interests are now broader, covering both international and human security, especially UN peace operations. At the Canadian Forces College he teaches officers of rank Major to Brigadier-General from Canada and over 20 other countries in the areas of arms control, Canadian foreign and defence policy, peace operations and international security.

One of Canada’s leading experts in UN peace operations, Dorn recently served on the UN’s Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping. In the Fall 2016 and early 2017 he will spend several weeks on assignment to the UN’s Department of Field Support, helping implement the Expert Panel’s recommendations.

Prior to Dorn’s election, the Montreal AMM viewed a tribute video recognizing Warren Allmand’s contributions to the movement. The video is available online. Other newly elected members of the WFMC Board include Donna Dasko, Susan Bazilli, Nigel Martin, Sylvain Pâquet, and Nancy Regehr (Treasurer). Returning officers and directors include Claire Adamson, Warren Allmand (Past-President), Peter Bailey, Nic Baird, Nick Christie, Robin Collins (Secretary), Vivian Davidson, Myron Frankman, Florencia Gor, Karen Hamilton (Executive Committee Chair) Cameron Laing, Blake Macleod, Bill Pearce, Patricia Philip, Simon Rosenblum, John Trent (Board Chair), and Fergus Watt (Executive Director).

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