The Foundation Keynotes at the Fresh Voices Award Gala in Vancouver

On October 2, 2015, over two-hundred refugee, immigrant and migrant youth, business leaders, elected officials, policymakers, artists and community leaders, gathered at the prestigious Terminal City Club in Vancouver for the inaugural 2015 Fresh Voices Awards Dinner.

Convened by the Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with the

Sajedeh Zaki Credit: Vancouver Foundation

Sajedeh Zaki
Credit: Vancouver Foundation

Multilingual Orientation Service Association for Immigrant Communities (MOSAIC), the event celebrated the contributions of inspiring young

immigrant and refugee leaders. The awards dinner was also part of the reception and launch of the two-day Youth Action Gathering (YAG), organized in partnership with the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR). YAG brings together 150 immigrant and

Ruth Mesegna

Ruth Mesegna. Credit: Vancouver Foundation

refugee youth from across Canada to discuss and explore policy and systems change for newcomer communities.

The event offered the Michaëlle Jean Foundation an opportunity to announce, jointly with the Vancouver Foundation and TELUS, the winners of its 2015 National Fresh Voices Artivism Awards. The awards honour refugee, migrant and immigrant youth, who have used the arts and/or cultural engagement to tackle issues of concern to their communities. Each winner receives a $1,000 bursary to help them enhance their ability to improve quality of life within newcomer communities through the arts.

The highlight of the soirée was the keynote speech delivered by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s Director of Programs and Communications,  Peter Flegel. Flegel began by addressing the audience in French, pointing out that it is one of Canada’s official languages. He then acknowledged and paid respect  to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, upon whose unceded territory he stood.

He then congratulated all the Fresh Voices award recipients by saying, “Through your achievements, you are shattering the myth—far too popular these days—that immigrant, refugee, and migrant youth are either burdens on our society or simply passive recipients of Canada’s benevolence.” “Quite the contrary,” Flegel exclaimed. “You are doers.

Peter Flegel

Peter Flegel. Credit: Vancouver Foundation

You are movers and shakers. You are helping to build  the Canada of today and tomorrow. As a nation, we all owe you our gratitude.”

The Director of Programs and Communications then spoke passionately about his own life, growing up as a racialized minority, immigrant and queer youth in Montreal. He discussed how the arts, his family, community and faith-based organizations as well as his public school, were instrumental in nurturing his potential, enabling him to overcome challenges and transforming him into a young leader. He described how the Michaëlle Jean Foundation was allowing him to use his love of the arts, community activism, and human rights,  to help underserved youth to transform lives and revitalize communities across Canada.

Flegel concluded by addressing youth in the audience, “Please believe in yourselves. Please know that no matter who you are, you can affect change. Please take advantage of the support offered by organizations like the Vancouver Foundation, MOSAIC and the Canadian Council for Refugees. They can give you the skills, the capacity and the contacts hat can enable you to fulfill your highest aspirations.”

Elissa Abboud Credit: Vancouver Foundation

Elissa Abboud
Credit: Vancouver Foundation

Audience feedback was substantial. Michelle Owusu-Ansah, a young immigrant from Ghana, exclaimed, for example, “I was really inspired by your life story and now I have collaborated with a very good friend of mine to start an initiative called Inspiring Canada which will inspire ideas, build capacity and sustainable development for youth.”

The Michaëlle Jean Foundation looks forward to continue collaborating with the Vancouver Foundation and organizations serving refugee, immigrant and migrant youth across British Colombia, to empower newcomer youth use the arts to improve their lives and communities.

You can meet Peter Flegel and Foundation bursary recipients at the upcoming Power of the Arts National Forum, taking place in Ottawa, between Nov. 6 and 8, 2015. To register, please visit this place.

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