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      12th World Social Forum Conference in Montreal, Quebec

      By Alison Bodine

      This summer, more than 35,000 people gathered in Montreal, Quebec for the 12th World Social Forum. Held from August 9-14, 2016, the World Social Forum brought together social justice activists and organizers from around the world for 5 days of rallies, forums, workshops and cultural events under the banner of “Another world is needed. Together, it is possible.” Among the participants, who came from 125 different countries, was a strong delegation of Cuba and Venezuela solidarity and anti-war activists from Vancouver.

      The World Social Forum began with a powerful march of 15,000 people through the streets of Montreal. Among other demands, the march called for the government of Canada to grant visas to over 200 people that were not able to participate in the forum because they had been denied entry to Canada. The march also included a dynamic contingent in support of Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution that chanted “Viva Chavez!” and “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!” as they marched.

      Thousands of workshops were organized in the days following the opening march. These included a successful workshop by Vancouver’s antiwar coalition, Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) titled “NATO's role in the New Era of War & Occupation. Let's build a strong and effective antiwar movement in Canada and beyond.”

      There were also a number of workshops and events organized about Cuba and Venezuela. Chicago ALBA and the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice from Vancouver, organized a workshop on Cuba, Venezuela and the importance of organizing against U.S. intervention. This workshop brought together Venezuela and Cuba solidarity activists, a majority from Canada and the United States, and also included a special presentation by the Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada, Wilmer Barrientos, as well as Venezuelan Member of Parliament Francisco Torrealba.

      The Consul General of the Bolivarian Republic in Montreal also organized two public forums during the World Social Forum, both of which were held at the Simón Bolivar Latin American Cultural Centre. The first of these important educational events was a forum titled "Human Rights in Venezuela” which featured presentations by the Venezuelans who had been violent attacked, or whose loved ones had been injured or killed, during violent opposition riots in Venezuela in 2014. The second forum discussed the political situation in Venezuela, and featured talks by Nosliw Rodríguez y Francisco Torrealba, both members of the Venezuelan parliament from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

      La Table de Concertation de Solidarité Québec-Cuba organized multiple events in solidarity with Cuba with the support of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC). This included a workshop on Cuba/U.S. relations with Miguel Barnet, the President of Cuba’s Union of Authors and Artists (UNEAC) as well as a cultural and political event for the 90th birthday of Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution. This moving tribute to Fidel featured Canadian author and researcher Arnold August, UNEAC President Miguel Barnet and the Venezuela Ambassador to Canada, Wilmer Barrientos, among others.

      Now that the World Social Forum in Montreal is over, it is our responsibility as antiwar, Latin American solidarity and social justice activists to act upon the important discussions, debates and resolutions that came out of the international gathering. We must educate, organize and mobilize for a better world!

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