In joining the Foundation in its 10th anniversary year, I’ve had the privilege to dive into the archives to discover our youth-driven programs in communities across the country. Whether it be through the 4th Wall — Making the Invisible Visible, or Justice, Art and Youth in Action (JAYA), the Power of the Arts Forum or the National Black Canadians Summit, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation has done collaborative work with courageous, creative and insightful young people. The Foundation has worked as an ally to put forward their initiatives and their perspectives, and to act against all forms of exclusion including systemic racial discrimination, hate speech, islamophobia, and homophobia.
I was also a participant at the Power of the Arts Forum held at Carleton University in Ottawa. I remember the dynamic energy in the gathering of young people, artists, community organizers, academics, researchers, and policy makers. The passion of the group was palpable, discussing projects and initiatives to ignite social change through the arts. The Foundation has this ability to open constructive spaces for dialogue, encouraging young artists to explore new practices of creative and social interventions, to unite their voices and create, hear, and exhibit their works of artistic expression.
These deeply held beliefs – that young people are among the most creative and innovative contributors to community issues, and that the arts provide a doorway to some of our most difficult yet necessary conversations — are at the heart of the work of the Foundation Michaëlle Jean Foundation. When thinking of the impact we want to have over the next ten years, it’s clear that young people will always be the focal point of the choices we will make and of the programs we will build.
Starting this fall, we will welcome a young person to our Board of Directors who will constitute and lead a national youth advisory committee. As we prepare for the National Black Canadians Summit to be held in March 2022 in Halifax, we expect to welcome over 400 youth delegates to actively participate in important conversations around the changes they wish to see in their communities. We are excited that a youth-led group from Arts, Community, Culture, Economics Halifax (ACCE) has agreed to organize the visual arts program and other extraordinary artistic performances for the Summit.
We are also exploring, in partnership with the Ottawa Community Foundation, the creation of a program to strengthen and diversify the entrepreneurial ecosystem to support the creative social enterprises led by young people in the National Capital Region. We hope to better understand and identify their needs, help them consolidate their business plans, and support them from one stage to the next of the entrepreneurial journey.
On this International Youth Day, I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the two interns who joined us for the summer: Aaliyah McCormick and Erik Steiner. We highly appreciate their curiosity, their energy, and their ideas. Aaliyah and Erik – thank you for sharing your skills, knowledge, and perspectives with us! You’ve demonstrated that you share the values, principles that guide us in our mission and our commitment alongside youth across Canada.
The Michaëlle Jean Foundation will continue to be a champion for the rights and dignity of youth across this country. Let this day remind us of the courage, the passion, and the brilliance with which young people continue to lead their generation and encourage us to learn as much from them as we can. Youth continue to remind us, both at the Foundation and across the world, that together, we are stronger.