On Thursday evening, supporters of the On to Ottawa Caravan gathered by the beach in Vancouver's Crab Park to officially kick off the journey to the 2014 Peoples' Social Forum.
In typical west coast style, clouds dominated the horizon and rain sprinkled down upon the gathering, but the mood of those assembled was anything but dreary. Some were set to depart early the next morning on the caravan, while others had chosen to fly to Ottawa. The common thread among all those making the trip was a growing anticipation for what will be a once in a lifetime gathering.
The original "On to Ottawa Trek" was also sent off by a rally in Crab Park, way back in 1935. Instead of cars and airplanes, those trekkers rode the rails, clutching the tops of freight cars. What they shared in common was a desire to cross this broad continent with the goal of building a better Canada for themselves and for future generations.
This gathering began with an acknowledgment that it was taking place on unceded Coast Salish Territory. Celia Point and Audrey Siegl, representatives of the Musqueam Nation, then shared words and song with those assembled.
Echoing the diversity of the Social Forum to come, the kickoff included the "Witness" art project and a number of additional speakers, including Rachel Tutte of the BC Health Coalition and Brigette DePape of the Council of Canadians, who discussed a wide variety of issues that we face both as a nation and globally. A small delegation from the Hugo Chavez Peoples' Defense Front added an international perspective, sharing their experiences at the 2006 World Social Forum in Caracas.
With over 500 workshops jam packed into only four days, along with concerts, art projects, assemblies, a unity march, and more, it's been hard for us to imagine the beautiful chaos that is set to erupt in Ottawa next week. Stuck on the farthest corner of the country, it felt too distant to be real. But throughout the evening, the mood of the crowd grew increasingly excited as the Social Forum’s massive scale began to dawn on those present.
The 2014 Ottawa Peoples' Social Forum -- the largest gathering of activists in Canadian history -- finally felt real.
The rally was held at the same site where the On to Ottawa Trek started in 1935.
Celia Point and Audrey Siegl share song with those gathered.
"Witness," the art project.
Rachel Tutte speaks about continuing attacks on our health care system.
One of many speakers who will attend the Forum, Azza Rojbi shares her thoughts.
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