ArtReach Toronto, in partnership with Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture, Toronto City Summit Alliance (now known as CivicAction), Remix Project, and the United Nations Association in Canada hosted a youth dialogue between over 500 youth, stakeholders and Her Excellency the Governor General Michaëlle Jean. The event, part of the Governor General's national “Can We Talk” series, took place on Monday, September 20, 2010 from 5:00 – 7:00pm at 99 Sudbury, right before ArtReach’s third annual Youth Arts Pitch Contest.
The Governor General chose Toronto as her last stop on national Youth Dialogues tour commemorating the United Nations' International Year of Youth. The International Year of Youth is intended to increase dialogue and understanding across backgrounds and lifestyles. It aims to facilitate participation in problem-solving on the local, national, and international levels. “Where better to celebrate the power of community arts than here: one of the most multicultural cities in the world”, the Governor General noted in her opening speech.
The “Can We Talk” Youth Dialogues series saw the Governor General address young people in Ottawa, St. John's, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Montreal. In Winnipeg, she visited Graffiti Gallery, a urban arts organized working across neighbourhoods to address issues confronting youth. Like ArtReach, such organizations aim to harness the power of arts and culture to empower, transform, and create meaningful arts opportunities. During the evening, the Governor General spoke about “the power of arts and culture...to carry us to a better place”.
A key aspect of the Honourable Michaëlle Jean's tenure as Governor General was about “encouraging decision-makers and philanthropists of every stripe to reach out, support and include young people”. As a follow-up to that priority, the Governor General announced the creation of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. The Foundation has been set up to support youth initiatives, and encourage networking between like-minded organizations across Canada.
Once the floor was open, numerous young people took the microphone to share their experiences, ask questions, and describe the challenges and opportunities they face. The live feedback provided by individuals is that it’s crucial for young people and their individual and institutional supporters to “continue working together, in Toronto and across Canada”.
Following the dialogue, the Honourable Michaëlle Jean took the time to meet the contestants in the ArtReach Toronto Youth Arts Pitch Contest.
ArtReach Toronto thanks the Honourable Michaëlle Jean for her commitment, time, support and passion for youth arts. We wish her the best of luck in her new role as Special Envoy for Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.