Canada can heal itself — ‘no us and them,’ Archbishop Tutu tells Richmond Hill gathering

A child’s voice rang out through the palatial ballroom in Richmond Hill last night, prompting an outburst of appreciative laughter from the 300 movers and shakers gathered there.

The dignitaries and service-providers had assembled at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel last night for a very serious mission – to help Canada’s indigenous people, refugees and others cope with traumatic events such as ethnic cleansing wars, tsunamis, human trafficking, AIDS and homophobia.

And yet it was a child, a member of Georgina Island native reserve, who seemed to bring it all home.

This child’s unabashed wonder at the glitz and glamour and grownups’ applause for his school choir’s rendition of the national anthem in Ojibwa spoke volumes: change, it seems, is underway.

It was an opulent and optimistic final night of a three-day symposium organized by the Community Inclusivity Equity Council of York Region.

The theme of this week’s second bi-annual Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity Symposium was truth, reconciliation and engagement from the context of the South African experience after apartheid, and how it pertains to Canada as it works through its own truth and reconciliation process.

About 650 human service professionals and a spectrum of community members attended 45 workshops that examined the history of the residential school system, the Truth and Reconciliation process in both Canada and South Africa, as well as other traumatized groups and the organizations that help them.

Last night’s inaugural awards and benefit gala in Richmond Hill was a fundraising celebration with local, provincial and national attendees and dignitaries, joined by special guest Rev. Mpho Tutu, executive director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and founder and executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage.

The evening also included a video presentation by her father, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and numerous other awards for his work towards reconciliation on behalf of the oppressed.

But before the keynote addresses, about a dozen children from Georgina Island’s Waabgon Gamig First Nations School choir made their way through the sequins, saris and tuxedos to the stage to sing O Canada in their native language.

Proceeds from the event will go toward building a school library and educational initiatives for these children and youth of the Chippewa on the island located in Lake Simcoe.

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Article: York
Article by: Kim Zazour