Forum to tackle Niagara social justice issues

Workers’ rights, environmental sustainability and links between gender, sexuality and disability will be among the many topics covered at this weekend’s Niagara Social Justice Forum.

Marking its 10th anniversary, the free event will be held Saturday, Feb. 3 from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines.

The forum brings together scholars, activists, community organizations and the public to engage in dialogue and learn about social justice issues through a combination of workshops, performances and exhibits. This year’s event will also include a speakers’ corner that encourages participants to highlight topics they are passionate about, as well as an information fair aiming to connect student groups and community organizations working on social justice issues in Niagara.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for community members to network, for university students and faculty to meet members of the community, and for everyone to spend time together engaging in important conversations about issues of social justice,” said Mary Breunig, Chair of the forum’s planning committee and Director of the Social Justice and Equity Studies graduate program. “I am particularly hopeful that the event will draw undergraduate students from all Faculties who may be new to developing their understandings of social justice issues.”

Expected to draw more than 150 participants, the forum is hosted by students and faculty members of the Social Justice and Equity Studies graduate program and the Social Justice Research Institute.

Breunig said discussions of this nature help to expand the knowledge and understanding of participants, “hopefully impelling them to become more pro-social and to take deliberative action to make the region and the world a more just place.”

The forum is not only about getting discussions underway, but about bringing together like-minded individuals to create action plans for the future, she said.

Community presenters at the forum include Next to Lead, Niagara Centre for Independent Living, Niagara Workers’ Rights Activist Group, OPIRG Brock, Niagara Poverty Reduction, Poverty and Employment Precarity in Niagara, Niagara Anti-Racism Coalition, Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre, and many independent and student presenters.

The closing plenary will consist of a panel discussion on activism, called Responding to Challenges in Troubled Times, featuring panelists such as Zanab Jafry from Brock’s Student Justice Centre and Leigh Hill from Six Nations.

The event will conclude with a drumming circle performed by the Strong Water Women Indigenous Drummers, from Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre.

Registration for the Niagara Social Justice Forum is free and includes workshops, an information fair, live exhibits, lunch and child care. All are welcome to attend.

To register or for more information, visit the Social Justice and Equity Studies website.

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