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6 Degrees forum in Toronto to focus on Canadian citizenship, diversity

A nine-minute virtual-reality film created by Gabo Arora called Clouds Over Sidra simulates a 12-year-old girl’s life in a Jordan refugee camp.

Public figures and thinkers from Canada and beyond will take part in a new current-affairs forum in Toronto in late September. Household names such as Naomi Klein, John Ralston Saul and Adrienne Clarkson will show-face at 6 Degrees and engage in discourses about citizenship and cultural diversity from a Canadian perspective.

The overarching theme is social inclusion during a period of mass migration of people around the world. The Globe and Mail spoke with Charlie Foran, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship – a non-profit charity organizing the event – to unpack the highlights.

Naomi Klein

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Naomi Klein, an activist-author of international renown, will kick off the three-day event on Sept. 19 with a lecture about environmental issues entitled "The Leap Years: Canada Beyond Extractivism."

She is a well-decorated journalist with popular selling books such as The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo. Ms. Klein made headlines last year with the unveiling of the Leap Manifesto, a document stressing the importance of transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels in Canada.

The lecture at Koerner Hall falls in line with a 14-year tradition created by award-winning author John Ralston Saul called the LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture, an homage to the foundation of The Great Ministry – Canada's first democratic movement attributed to Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin in the middle of the 19th century.

"It's populist, it's accessible and it establishes the tone of independence of thought, which is pretty essential to 6 Degrees," Mr. Foran said about Ms. Klein's lecture. "Because we're now moving it into the opening night of 6 Degrees, we're trying to highlight a younger, edgier thinker."

360 Exodus

Mr. Foran suggests attending the 360 Exodus, too, for a discussion about what he considers the most "defining issue of our time" – how to properly accommodate the influx of refugees.

These "360s" will be oriented in a circular fashion and orchestrated by a master of ceremonies at the Art Gallery of Ontario. They are synonymous with "dinner parties" where everyone – big wheels and audience members – are equals.

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The event will be facilitated by Mr. Saul. Also in attendance will be Mohamed Fahmy, a former Al Jazeera journalist freed from an Egyptian prison last year, among others.

"From the get-go, we wanted to bring people in who're thinking about these subjects, these challenges, these defining issues of our times. … This destabilizing and displacement of people is obliging a lot of different nation states to think hard about how to be inclusive," Mr. Foran said.

A Tribe Called Red

Celebrated First Nation electronic group, A Tribe Called Red, is slated to headline a free concert on Sept. 20.

Their style is an amalgamation of traditional First Nation rhythm and singing and contemporary dance music. Some of their activism includes adamantly opposing cultural appropriation of indigenous imagery and dress both at their concerts and at large.

Opening for them is a two-spirit cellist named Cris Derksen, along with spoken-word performances. Award-winning novelist Joseph Boyden will be hosting.

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"From the beginning, we wanted to make it a night of First Nations music and artistic presentation," Mr. Foran said.

The Sidra Project

Mr. Foran recommends experiencing The Sidra Project – a nine-minute virtual-reality film created by Gabo Arora called Clouds Over Sidra – which simulates a 12-year-old girl's life in a Jordan refugee camp.

The project, a collaborative effort between Artscape and the United Nations, will be shown on Sept. 20 and 21 and followed by a conversation.

"After each of the 360s, 30 people will be lucky enough to watch this film," Mr. Foran said. "It's a beautiful piece."

Moving Stories

Moving Stories, from Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders), is a module-like session delving into first-hand exodus stories. The session will recount the experiences of a Canadian doctor, a refugee and a humanitarian.

"We want people out there doing things," Mr. Foran said. "For me, the importance of having MSF is that they're front-line people, so it's a real thrill to be able to let them present their vision."

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