Thursday, October 13, 2016

In light of the numerous social, political, economic, and environmental issues currently affecting our planet, the 12th edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) held presented an excellent platform for IofC to discuss these global issues and ponder on viable solutions.

Roughly 35,000 participants from over 125 countries representing various organizations and activists attended the forum. The opportunity to exchange ideas and network with all these different people made my first participation in the WSF a wonderful experience. The few activities I was able to attend, exposed me to unfamiliar regional and international realities, but one particular activity, the blanket exercise, stood out for me. This activity was facilitated by Initiatives of Change in partnership with ROJEP, an Ecumenical Network for Justice Ecological and Peace.

In a nutshell, the Blanket exercise is a learning tool that explores Canadian-Indigenous relations starting from the first encounter with Europeans. Personally, this exercise helped me put in perspective the gravity and impact of this history. The participants were invited to play the roles of First Nations, while the organizers took on the roles of the European colonists and history narrators. The narrators revisited various historical events that unfolded such as treaty-making, wars, and resistance while the participants simultaneously walked around on the blankets exchanging objects with one another simulating the barter that occurred back then. Following the arrival of Europeans coupled with events that transpired after, the narrators started handing us cards of different colors representative of death, children who were sent to residential schools, family displacement, etc. Meanwhile, the blankets we stood on were gradually taken away, indicative of the dispossession of First Nations’ territory.

In the end, participants were invited to share their thoughts in a group circle. It proved to be an enriching experience. Different perspectives were shared, but all espoused empathyand understanding. Two young First Nations women present in the audience delivered a pithy message contextualizing their own experience in relation to their people’s history. In concluding, they urged all participants to contribute to bridging gaps that still remain in our society.

Léonard Ishimwe, Montreal – August 15, 2016