Virtual Victoria Forum 2020: Theme

The Coronavirus pandemic is having widespread impacts on our economies, our societies, and our environment. The virus is exposing the limitations of existing institutions, structures and systems, and exacerbating many divides and vulnerabilities in Canada and around the world. Social and economic divisions are being widened through the differential impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations. At the same time, the pandemic also appears to be providing short-term relief to the environment through reduced emissions and consumption.

The webinars and the Virtual Victoria Forum 2020 aim at understanding the long-term implications of the pandemic and developing solutions and responses to it. In so doing, they will also lay the groundwork for the Victoria Forum 2021 by applying the lenses of Turf, Trust and Truth to a broader range of economic, social and environmental divides.

Impact of the pandemic on economic divides: The pandemic has had a major impact across the globe, and is deepening existing divides within and between economies, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable societies, enterprises and workers. Global supply chains have been disrupted, and in some instances may be permanently altered as the move to ‘build back better’ may seek to favour local or more diverse sourcing and supply chains. With a global recession looming and battered economies, protectionist instincts may prevail. The economy will recover, with some opportunities for new business models, but scores of small and medium enterprises — and some thought to be ‘too big to fail’ — may not survive.

Impact of the pandemic on social divides: The pandemic is deepening social divides by fuelling populism, racial animosity, discrimination and suspicion of ‘the other’. Confinement and isolation measures are affecting day-to-day interactions, compounding domestic violence, and threatening the deeper social fabric, particularly in cities, despite uplifting examples of solidarity and collective resilience.

Impact of the pandemic on environmental divides: The unexpected positive impact of the pandemic on the environment is noticeable in many regions of the world. Much of this environmental reprieve will likely be short-lived as economic activity resumes. The pandemic nonetheless offers avenues to ‘build back greener’, and has shown that impactful climate-related and environmental action is possible, albeit at a steep cost, and that our current course and environmental impact can be altered.

Building the momentum for the Virtual Victoria Forum

Since May 28, 2020, we have delivered a series of biweekly webinars to:

Enrich our collective understanding

of the long-term implications of the pandemic and explore innovative solutions in response to it,

Engage and strengthen

local and international partnerships for a better world for all, and

Build the momentum

for the Virtual Victoria Forum 2020 and the signature Victoria Forum 2021.

These webinars promote the following principles:

  • Ensure that diverse opinions and a wide range of perspectives on any issue or topic are represented,
  • Concentrate on solution development and avoid the blame game,
  • Encourage conversations based on facts and evidence (scientific or otherwise) rather than opinions or ideologies,
  • Ensure mutual respect and respectful discussions,
  • Maintain a discourse accessible to the public, and
  • Make available all content such as recordings of the webinar in open access to all without any financial barrier.

The webinars are organized around a unique partnership structure. Each webinar is organized by champions; two or more thematic leaders charged with the development of the content and questions and issuing invitations to the panellists. Two or more institutional partners are usually associated with each webinar to maximize engagement and commitment. The panel discussions are generally moderated by a Canadian Senator.

Continuing conversation

The first set of webinars has generated excitement and interest in the conversation around bridging divides. The Victoria Forum is creating a number of channels to build the momentum for the VVF and continue these conversations toward solution development through:

Thematic workshops and meetings

thematic co-chairs and webinars champions will be encouraged to host virtual workshops and meetings

Online moderated conversations

the Victoria Forum will create a blog section on the website to allow thematic co-chairs to post and moderate opinions and documents, and

Exhibitions and multi-media engagements

the Victoria Forum will re-engage with the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Royal BC Museum to explore hosting visual and multi-media virtual exhibitions around the theme of bridging divides during the pandemic.

Format of the Virtual Victoria Forum

The VVF will take place during the previously scheduled dates of November 12-14, 2020. The forum will be designed to encourage interactivity and connectedness between participants to recreate a virtual experience as close as possible to the 2017 forum. To do so, the forum is evaluating a number of potential virtual conferencing platforms with capabilities to create live events, hands-on sessions, expo booths, meetings and networking sidebars.

The program structure will be compressed to a few hours each day, scheduled in the mornings on the West coast, corresponding to early afternoons in Eastern Canada and early evenings in Western Europe. The proposed program will be structured as follows (Pacific Time):

November 12

08:30 AM – 09:00 AMWelcome and opening (Speaker of the Senate, Chair of the VF…)
09:00 AM – 10:30 AM Opening plenary (Bellegarde, Amina Mohammed, Mark Carney)
10:30 AM – 12:00 PMExpo, networking and other ad hoc activities

November 13

08:30 AM – 10:30 AMThree (3) parallel think-tank and hands-on sessions
10:45 AM – 12:00 PMExpo, networking and other ad hoc activities

November 14

08:30 AM – 09:30 AMPlenary session
09:45 AM – 11:00 AMThree (3) parallel think-tank to consolidate recommendations
11:00 AM – 11:30 AMExpo, networking and other ad hoc activities
11:30 AM – 12:00 PMKeynote address (e.g., PM)
12:00 PM –12:30 PMClosing plenary and closing remarks (co-chairs to present their recommendations)

The Virtual Victoria Forum 2020 and the Victoria Forum 2022 is a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Senate of Canada.

Founding partners: