This weekend, Michael Ignatieff is hosting a conference in Montreal called “Canada 150: Rising to the Challenge.” The challenge is to discuss the issues facing our country and how they will be dealt with over the next seven years. What will Canada be like when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation?
The conference is being live-streamed on the Canada 150 website, (http://www.can150.ca ).
I urge you to visit the website, where you can look at the full agenda, read about the speakers, and follow the conference. You can join people across the country who are participating by sending in comments and questions online, on Twitter (#can150), and via Skype.
It’s only Day 1, and there has already been so much to take in. The challenge I am going to try and rise to is to keep you up to date about the conference, while sharing my observations.
The morning opened with a very moving rendition of ‘O Canada’ sung in Mohawk by Elder Two Rivers from the nearby Mohawk community of Kahnawake. He said this was his welcome and his thanksgiving for our country, and that we were under the safe protection of his people. He reminded us that there are no bad ideas, and that we have to be willing to exchange all of our ideas to achieve understanding and co-existence with all peoples.
“Remember that we have to have a legacy for future generations— a legacy of peace, harmony, and respect, Without that, we have nothing.”
Following that, Michael Ignatieff gave his opening remarks, setting the tone for the conference—one that he says he hopes will invite debate, controversy, and stimulating ideas. Quoting Lester (Mike) Pearson, who hosted a similar conference in Kingston in 1960, Ignatieff said, “There can be no dialogue from the decided.”
Mr. Ignatieff spoke of the challenges and the conversations that have to take place to meet those challenges—to turn the talk to action. In a rare moment when he wasn’t being “scrummed” by the media, I had a moment to ask him how he sees those conversations taking place. He told me there will be regional conferences in April and May, and more local events such as those being held this weekend to help shape policy, but that this is not a policy-writing exercise this weekend. The goal for the weekend is to generate the ideas that will lead to policy development.
There wasn’t any real conversation or dialogue this morning, as the presentations made set the context for the conference: today to 2017, and looked at the first challenge: Jobs Today and Tomorrow: The Productive Society in 2017. (Go to www.minerandminer.ca for more information on the report written by Rick Miner.)
The afternoon keynote address and panel discussions included opportunities for questions from the audience, including the online audience, so the conversation is just getting started, and should prove to be interesting.
Education was the Word of the Day today. This may be a “thinkers” conference, as some have dubbed it, but if this morning was any indication, it will, as Michael Ignatieff said, send home a group of “doers.”