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Face to Face in Vancouver: Protestors sit down with Foes

Activists who took to the streets in Quebec City and Genoa to protest global trade will meet from Sunday to Thursday with corporate and government leaders in the 2001 Civicus Assembly, a world alliance for citizen participation.
Last Updated: Monday 20 August 2001
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Face to face in Vancouver: Protesters sit
down with foes

Vancouver Sun

Patricia Bailey Canadian Press
Activists who took to the streets in Quebec
City and Genoa to protest global trade will step
inside Vancouver's convention centre this week
for face-to-face meetings with the corporate
and government leaders they oppose.

About 800 delegates from 90 countries will
have the chance to grill a World Bank
vice-president, Mats Karlsson, the president of
the Treasury Board of Canada, Lucienne
Robillard, and Skip Rhodes, a senior manager
for Chevron.

The 2001 Civicus Assembly, running from
Sunday to Thursday, bills itself as a world
alliance for citizen participation.
Washington-based Civicus -- an international
network of non-governmental organizations,
businesses, unions and civil activists -- is
dedicated to encouraging voluntary
participation for social change.

"So much of civil society gets pegged in the media as just about protesting...
What most of us want is a chance to have a dialogue with government and
corporations.... This conference allows us to do this," said organizer Shabna
Ali, who works in Vancouver's non-profit sector.

"This is the first time I'll have a chance to question someone from Chevron or
the World Bank, and I think they need a good talking to," said a smiling Cass
Elliott, a Vancouver-based activist and the coordinator of the conference's
youth media team, which organized protests in Quebec City and marched in
Seattle.

At conference workshops, delegates will discuss international trade, poverty
and health, as well as the nature of protesting itself.

As the violence around international trade meetings escalates -- a protester
was shot dead at a G-8 meeting in Genoa last month -- there will much
discussion about the best way to create change.

"There is lot's of debate around what level we take [protesting] to. Some
activists only want peaceful demonstrations. Others believe in direct action,"
said Elliott. "We are asking ourselves what is violence? Is it breaking a
window, or is it when someone gets hurt?"

Elliott said many Canadian protesters are increasingly radicalized by what
they perceive as the federal government's efforts to crack down on legitimate
dissent.

The recently released APEC inquiry report criticizes federal officials for
instructing the RCMP to remove student demonstrators camped out on the
site of the 1997 summit for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in Vancouver.
The report also questioned the arrest and pepper spraying of protesters by the
RCMP.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has led calls for an investigation into
allegations that police abused their powers by firing more than 900 rubber
bullets and using 6,000 cans of tear gas to subdue protesters at an
Organization of American States meeting in Quebec City last April.

And in May, the RCMP created a special unit to deal with public dissent,
called the Public Order Program. The new team of Mounties was established
to help officers exchange information on crowd-control techniques with other
police agencies.

Although Elliott believes forums like the Civicus conference are necessary to
make world leaders listen to the anti-global trade movement, he said many of
his fellow activists won't come to the conference because the registration fee
-- between $500 and $750 -- is prohibitively expensive. And some of his
friends simply disagree with inviting corporate figures to a social activism
conference. "It doesn't go over all that well," he said.

As a result, the conference -- which is meant to reach out to grassroots
activists -- may fall victim to protests itself.

The opening speech will be given by Craig Kielburger, the Canadian who
founded the world's largest network of child activists, today at 11:00 a.m., at
the Vancouver Convention Centre.



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500$ - 750$ to attend? 21.Aug.2001 09:45

Deva

So these activist-attendees are paying altogether approx $500,000-600,000 to be able to speak with underlings from the World Bank and Chevron. . .gee, that is so exciting. . .who gets all that money? Perhaps that half million dollars would be better spent funding and organizing the IMF mobilization in Sept end

The very act of paying that much money to talk to some bozos, is validating their authority. . .ha! as if they are important to warrant so much expenditure. If that person is interested in real dialog, there are a thousand opportunities that cost nothing but some time.

(I am willing to keep a somewhat open mind about this event since I am reading about it from a mainstream article and the story might not be well told.)

>>>"So much of civil society gets pegged in the media as just about protesting... What most of us want is a chance to have a dialogue with government and
corporations.... This conference allows us to do this," said organizer Shabna Ali, who works in Vancouver's non-profit sector. >>>

What most of us want is a chance to have a dialog??? Speaking on my own behalf, I am interested in seeing some change in the world. . .a dialog in and of itself means nothing to me unless it is effective towards that end. . .and talking to them on their turf, on their terms and bowing down at the money alter in a big convention center does not strike me as an effective means to change. . .

If you are going to negotiate with an opponent, you have to do so on equal terms, you cannot let them dictate the terms or you have already lost. For example, if we are going to go into a convention center to talk with representatives, then those representatives should also agree to say, come to DC for the IMF mobilization and join people on the streets for discussion there. Then it would be a mutual exchange