On January 9th, 2014, Intercultural Dialogue Institute GTA held its 9th Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner focused around the theme of Responsible Citizenship and Social Cohesion. The event had a distinguished Hosting Committee comprised of many prominent leaders from all over the GTA (see below). United Way Toronto was the charitable partner of the event, SAYGI Academics Association being the main sponsor.
The night began with welcoming remarks and reading of greeting messages from various dignitaries, including Hon. David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, (brought by MP Bob Dechert), and Hon. Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. It was continued on with remarks provided by Hon. David Zimmer, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
John Ralston Saul, prominent Canadian writer and President of PEN International, gave a keynote address of the evening concerning citizenship in multicultural society. He spoke about the importance of responsible citizenship, using recent Ice Storm as an example where people acted as responsible and inclusive citizens. Saul continued on to describe the various characteristics of a responsible citizen, citing qualities such as being engaged, conscious, empathetic and having courage. He stated that many new Canadians fit these characteristics and they not only contribute to the economy but to our civilization and culture as well.
However, Saul brought forward the biggest problem with multiculturalism stating that although many people are aware of it and have a gist of what it is, there is still a clear lack of dialogue surrounding it. Furthermore, the old European ideas of citizenship only serve to exacerbate difficulties since there is a tendency to assimilate and blend all cultures into one instead of recognizing and promoting differences.
Saul concludes his address by stating that “we are a Métis people” – that is, we are complicated, unique and a mix of various cultures. The sooner that we are aware of this, the sooner we can become better citizens and foster better social cohesion.
The night also featured two Excellence in Community Service Award presentations. The first award was presented to Dr. Charles Pascal of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Dr. Pascal received his award from Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice Chancellor of York University who presented it on behalf of the Hosting Committee of the dinner. The second award was presented to the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance. John Tory, Chair of the CivicAction received the award from Bill Fisch, Chair and CEO of York Region.
Excellence in Community Service Award is presented by Intercultural Dialogue Institute GTA annually to recognize individuals and organizations for their outstanding efforts and commitment to serving their communities. It’s selected by the Hosting Committee of Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinners hosted by IDI GTA. Some past recipients of this award are Matt Galloway (CBC Radio), Toronto Community Foundation, Maytree Foundation, Ken Shaw (Anchor, CTV News).
The event was then wrapped up with closing remarks from various distinguished guests. IDI GTA’s special thanks go to Jeff McGuire of the Niagara Regional Police Service who did a great job as the host of the night.
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