FEATURE: Youth Action Montreal

Arndell LeBlanc | jhrc president

Journalist for Human RIghts Concodia PresidentAn important part of the jhr is support local endeavours. We decided to attend the Living your Legacy Conference organized by Youth Action  Montreal. The day had a full roster of speakers, from international stars to local University groups.

Disappointment described the crowd as they realized that the headliner Kofi Annan would not be attending due to the current political unrest in Cote D’ivoir. This being said, the other headliners kept the crowd pleased. The actual show went on with a couple little technical difficulties but nothing that was too detrimental.

The first speaker that we listened to was Kristina Partsinevelos from Five Days for the Homeless. The group’s roots are base at the University of Alberta, where it was created to spread awareness on homelessness. The Concordia Chapter began in 2008. The group holds a week long event of sleeping on the street in solidarity with the homeless community. If the group rings a bell, it may be because of their celebrity endorsements from CJAD hosts and most notably MP Justin Trudeau.

Partsinevelos  brought a human face to the issue of homelessness. She explain the complicated nature of getting off the street.

 “…they have no social insurance numbers because they have no fixed address and no SIN means no job.”

In light of the current election campaign, she pleaded for government officials to pay attention to the under reporter cause of the homeless.

The next part of the conference was quite odd, CJAD’s Rick Peterson introduced a video address by the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, which was met by rolling applause. This is the first time that I have seen a digitally recorded video projection receive a round of applause … before it had even started. Jean spent the entirety promoting her organization, which is to be expected at such an event. As the video abruptly cut off the crowd seemed hungry for more of the former governor general. Sadly they stayed hungry.

The next speaker, was Desiree McGraw, Executive Director of Jeanne Sauvé Foundation and Co-Founder of the Climate Project Canada. McGraw has been a long term activist. At the age of 16  she spoke on  a national tour for peace and security during the Cold war era.  She told the crowd, filled mostly of eager minded University students, the 5 lessons  that she learned in her life.

 “You have to Marry your passion with what your good at…Be an Expert – continually update yourself…be grateful…don’t pass the buck and never become complacent.”

As to how to accomplish these five things, that was left to the individual for interpretation. McGraw acknowledged a special guest  in the crow, Flora Terah, a Kenyan Parliamentary candidate that was brutally beaten and left for dead during her last political campaign. Tehra’s son was also murdered during the violence that ensued. CLICK HERE  for a jhr Concordia Exclusive Interview with Flora Tehra.

Next on the agenda was  CJAD’s Share the Stage Contest winner, Arcie G. Mallari. Mallari is the sharply funny founder of Silid Aralan (aka Learning Room). He also implemented an environmental education program that is now being practiced in a Montreal school. Mallari ‘s pleasant demeanour was intertwined with an important message.

 ” Ask yourself, how many families would you be willing to barry with your trash? “

Mallari focus was on the environmental issues of dump sites and their affect on surrounding communities.

Next on the Agenda was Joey Adler – Berdugo, the CEO of Diesel Jeans Canada and the founder of OneXOne a NGO with the goal of promoting human life one person at a time.  Adler motivated the crowd and was dynamic in her delivery. Like a stand-up comedian, she would repeatedly ask questions to the audience and remarkably remember the names of each of the half dozen people who she pointed out from the in crowd. She asked the crowd, how many were business students to which she was surprised when no more than a few dozen rose their hands. CLICK HERE for a Feature Interview with Joelle Berdugo-Adler.

 ”  The rest of you all want to work for NGOs?” Adler asked as she  used both her hands to block the spotlights in an attempt to see each individual in the crowd. ” How are we going to change the world if we are all working in NGOs? We are all on the same treadmill, we need business owners.”

Then came one of the much anticipated headliners of the conference, Stephen Lewis. The former Un Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, who many would argue, needs no introduction walked onto the stage to the sound of thunderous applause. Lewis, who is renown for his speeches, did no disappoint. His focus as per his specialty was on HIV and Aids in Africa, more specifically on how they spread from what he called the ugliest weapon of war, rape.

Lewis used his anecdotal experiences to illustrate the human realities during the brutalities of war. Using the example of a young woman that he met during his travels he brought the horrors of rape into the psyche of all attending. He began by describing her ordeal, which on it’s own was hard for many to take, it moved many to tears. His point hit home when he said what the woman believe was truly the worst part of her ordeal.

” Now I wake up every morning, and I see the men that raped me. How can I forgive and forget?”

His descriptions of women, who months after could still taste and smell seamen regardless of where she was, truly brought shivers to  much of the audience. CLICK HERE for more on Stephen Lewis and his speech.

The crowd burst into a roar of applause as they  stood to respect Stephen Lewis while he walked off stage with tears in eyes.

The next speaker was Craig Kielburger, the man who began his international development at the age of 12, he was also a  founder of Free the Children Foundation. An incredible speaker, his dynamism was hindered only by faulty technical preparation, microphones seemed unable to handle the power of his words . Technical problems aside, the bulging veins at his neck illustrated the amount of emotion that he had for his subject. Kilburger is the poster boy of youth involvement and his speech preached of it’s merits. CLICK HERE for a FEATURE TALK with Kielburger.

The final speaker of the day was the world renown Canadian environmentalist  and host of the Nature of Things which is currently in it’s 50th season, David Suzuki. Suzuki apologized that his words may stray from their conventional message due to the current elections.

After Suzuki’s speech there was a question and answer period for Suzuki and Lewis moderated by CTV anchor,Mutsumi Takahashi The questions came from the audience, were prerecorded or were from Twitter. One student from the audience asked Suzuki what youth could do to engage political parties to make them more accountable for environmental needs.

He began by saying that because of the position he had with his charitable organization that he had to be careful. He claimed that the government used audits as a punitive measure to punish him for speaking out. Reluctantly Suzuki answer,clarifying that these thoughts didn’t represent his foundation

 “We’ve had five years of the worst environmental government ever on record…Harper said we don’t give a shit about the K yoto accord.” Suzuki said to cheers from the crowd. “When Crétien ratified Kyoto he didn’t ratify that as a liberal he ratified as a Prime-minister. When Putin ratified it  became international law. Harper came in and declare Canada as a international bandit.”

Suzuki stood and continued on his rant which was met with constant clapping and cheers from the crowd. CLICK HERE for video of the Q&A period.

 – 30 –

Arndell LeBlanc, jhr Concordia President.

 We wish to thank all of the speakers for their time. Furthermore we would like wish to thank the journalist who worked in collaboration with us. It was refreshing to see journalists working together. Thanks to Navneet Pall, Joëlle Pouliot and Erica Fisher for all of their help.


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