Scope of the Victoria Forum 2017

With the emergence of populist agendas and in the face of declining trust in our key institutions, there has been a trend towards increasing protectionism and anxiety about migration worldwide. The Victoria Forum will challenge this narrative by highlighting the benefits of diversity, openness and inclusiveness.

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The 2017 Victoria Forum revolves around six themes that will resonate throughout the event. Led by two co-chairs and a partner organization, the structure integrates different perspectives, promotes inclusiveness to generate ideas for a better world for all, based on economic, social and environmental perspectives.

Pluralism is about developing positive responses to the presence of difference. Pluralism does not imply the absence of tension or disagreement within a society. It does not require perfect harmony. Rather, pluralism requires the development of both mechanisms and mindsets that can peacefully and effectively provide outlets for the tensions that will inevitably arise in a diverse society. This is neither an easy nor a quick process.

It takes a long time for pluralism to take root in a society and a deep commitment across many levels of a society to pursue an inclusive and participatory approach to the relationship between the State and its citizens, and between citizens themselves. For pluralism to be sustainable, it requires that constant efforts are made to try and ensure all members of a society have the opportunity to be included in the political, social and economic spheres of life, and to identify and remedy sites of exclusion. Crucially, just as the forms and context of diversity will differ in each society, so too will their responses to it and their ways of working to achieve pluralism. What works in one place may not be effective in another, and no one society has all the answers. It is therefore useful to examine different cases and different contexts from around the world, to try and identify different best practices and effective approaches.

Potential priority questions:

  1. Does Canada have the tools and resources to ensure our celebrated pluralism is resilient enough to resist the global tide of xenophobia and populist parties?
  2. How can we celebrate pluralism and social cohesion while Canada has not come to terms with how it has treated and continues to treat its indigenous communities?
  3. Is Canada’s celebration of pluralism just empty rhetoric?
  4. How can the Canadian experience contribute to strengthening pluralism in other countries?
  5. What are the limitations of the Canadian experience?
  6. What lessons can be learned from how other societies have tried to address their diversity and worked to strengthen pluralism?

This theme focuses on the contemporary attempts by Indigenous peoples to participate in economic development while nourishing and strengthening their world-views and aspirations. Indigenous peoples have struggled against assimilation throughout Canadian history and Indigenous peoples have worked to ensure development does not further erode relationships with their lands, languages, resources, and social standing. These conditions for engagement in economic development produce challenges and opportunities for Indigenous peoples and others in creating prosperity across Canada.

Potential priority questions:

  1. Can Indigenous peoples retain their distinctive political, legal and cultural status when engaged in economic development?
  2. How can Indigenous peoples develop?
  3. Can Indigenous peoples retain their distinctive political, legal and cultural status when engaged in economic development?
  4. How can Indigenous peoples develop capacity to grow their own and other’s economies?
  5. Why are Indigenous peoples largely second-class citizens when it comes to economic development?
  6. Who have been the most effective champions of Indigenous economic development in government, the private sector and civil society more generally?
  7. Will Indigenous economies become dominant in leading Canadian growth? If not, why not? If so, how will this occur?
  8. Where might Indigenous economic development be focused to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities in the next 10 years?

Cross-border mobility of goods, services and people has reached unprecedented levels in particular in the Global North. At the same time, security concerns in the wake of terrorist attacks have led to a fortification of borders around the world. Moreover, fear of the ethnic, cultural or religious “other” has rapidly led to a rise in xenophobic sentiments around the world.

These developments pose a particular challenge to the globally 65.3 million forcibly displaced people. The current refugee crisis poses a structural and increasingly pressing challenge for the world community.  Liberal democracies will have to develop effective and morally valid responses given their political and legal commitment to protecting the right to political asylum and human rights. Similarly, liberal democracies are tested in their resolve to withstand ideologies that exclude the non-national “other” or depict migrants as incompatible with national identity.

Potential priority questions:

  1. How can liberal democracies balance their security concerns with their commitment to open borders, a diverse and inclusive society and a compassionate approach to refugees?
  2. What could and should Canada’s contribution to an international human rights regime be that protects the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable regardless of their citizenship status?
  3. How can the legacy of Canada-style multiculturalism be an antidote to the rise of anti-immigrant populism and its underlying exclusionary nationalism?

When considering diversity and inclusion in the context of climate change, the theme of “climate justice” arises. As the impacts of climate change accelerate, people of all current socio-economic conditions will feel the effects. What are some of the solutions needed to tackle issues such as generational and cultural inequities that arise from climate change; financial and social challenges for those people living in low-lying coastal areas who are subject to inundation; those who have livelihoods that are tied to stable and foreseeable climate regimes; and the plight of other species who are being impacted?

Furthermore, climate change is not just a spatial phenomenon; it has a temporal dimension as well. How do we deal with the certainty that future generations will have to deal with the problems that current and past generations have helped to create? This theme will look at three aspects of “climate justice”, posed through questions that will explore solutions to how we can and should begin to consider dealing with the social, political and financial challenges ahead. The consequences of not addressing this complex issue could be significantly destabilizing, and cause untold harm to large groups of people and other species around the globe.

Potential priority questions:

  1. Who tells the story about climate justice can shape the actions that we take to address climate change.
  2. What are the perspectives around climate justice, for example, of youth who will be faced with increasing impacts of climate change throughout their lives?
  3. How do different cultural values (e.g. First Nations) change solution pathways?
  4. What are some solutions to address climate change that can address multiple perspectives?
  5. In a developed country like Canada, our communities and businesses rely on stable climate regimes to operate effectively. This includes businesses in the forestry, fishing, agriculture, and tourism sectors – as well as communities that will be impacted by future sea level rise, flooding and drought. What are examples of socially just solutions for dealing with these impacts?
  6. Who should take responsibility for dealing with the economic and social effects of climate change where it seriously threatens livelihoods?
  7. Who should pay when communities need to make complex decisions about adaptation or relocation?
  8. The issues of justice and fairness are very real when addressing climate impacts.  Most of the discourse on climate change focuses on the impacts on people. In this context, climate justice looks at those who lose their livelihoods, become impoverished, or are forced to relocate. But this is a highly anthropocentric view, and one that ignores other species. Should climate justice be expanded to include other species and ecosystems?
  9. Should we consider other species when we make our decisions about how to mitigate and adapt to future climate regimes? And if we do so, does this shift the debate about climate justice to include all life on the planet?
  10. What are the implications, and how do we develop guidelines for tradeoffs that must certainly arise?

This theme focuses on exploring the role of private philanthropy and civil society in promoting social inclusion. At the international level, foundations are emerging as a potent force in development as demonstrated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Aga Khan Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation and George Soros’ Open Society Network. Less well known is the work that philanthropy does to promote social inclusion within communities in Canada, or examples of philanthropy working in partnership with other institutions, including government, social enterprises and corporate funders. Critics express concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability of private philanthropy. Proponents argue that private philanthropy offers creative and entrepreneurial solutions to persistent social issues that traditional institutions have failed to resolve. This thematic track, thus, explores the primary question of the appropriate and potential role of private philanthropy in inclusive local development.

Potential Questions

  1. What role should private philanthropy play in inclusive development, both domestically and internationally?
  2. Does philanthropy have a distinct strategic role in sustainable development in Canada? How can philanthropy contribute to Canada’s pursuit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)
  3. What is private philanthropy’s role in strengthening community capacity for social innovation in the face of complex challenges including worsening economic inequalities, threats posed by climate change and the challenges of including and integrating immigrants and refugees, and reconciling with indigenous communities?
  4. How does the current populist political environment affect the role of private philanthropy?
  5. How does philanthropy contribute to new models of partnership or governance in cross-sectoral collaborations?

As globalization has fostered economic integration through substantial growth of international trade and the free movement of capital, some perceive a “race to the bottom” in which social and environmental standards are compromised to attract investment. Many blame income inequality and lack of fairness on globalization. The recent rise of isolationist, protectionist and popular nationalist sentiments in developed and developing countries coincides with real and perceived degradation of living standards. For many, globalization is associated with the maximization of profits and little if any consideration for the circumstances of local communities.

Meanwhile, recent failures in the financial sector and increased banking risks and currency crises are blamed on the destabilizing effects of the increased volume and volatility of global capital flows. Conversely, others see globalization as a driver for openness, innovation, connectedness and new opportunities. Globalization of trade is credited with lifting many countries and many people out of poverty and increased global life expectancy.

As we critically reflect on 150 years of diversity and inclusiveness, this theme explores whether Canada provides genuine alternatives in our international outlook and global partnerships, and whether we possess the willingness, strategic vision and capacity to effectively balance global trade and economic integration with the sustainability of local communities and the environment.
This thematic track will take stock of the positive and negative consequences of globalization for Canada and the World:

  1. How will the advantages of Canadian diversity and inclusiveness play out in global trade and the economics of a recalibrating international context?
  2. Does Canada possess an environment of genuine diversity which can be leveraged in concrete ways to effectively enhance global trade and other partnerships, particularly with Asia?
  3. What are the international perspectives on Canadian diversity in terms of development assistance, capacity building, governance, international trade, and the global talent pool and international connectedness?
  4. Where are the gaps in Canadian perceptions, willingness and capacity which constrain more effective engagement with international partners, especially in Asia?

The thematic track will examine new ideas and solutions for sustainable and responsible growth of global trade and economic integration.What practical strategies can be implemented to effectively leverage existing diversity in Canada, and enhance diverse perspectives and understanding by more Canadians to facilitate mutually beneficial international partnerships?

Finally, participants will explore alternative measures for economic growth that combine social progress and environmental protection (triple bottom lines).