Thursday, November 17, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
- Co-Chair of the West End Mayor's Advisory Committee
- Legislative Assistant to federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh
- Account Director with a leading global public affairs firm
- Advisor to the Doctors Without Borders Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
Friday, October 29, 2010
People keep asking me how my trip to
Earlier this month I went with seven other volunteers to
We didn’t have a lot of details before we left, but our team was comprised of 3 leaders from the construction industry, a woodworker with electrical experience, and four of us with various contributory skills like the ability to speak French, to work well with children, to lead teams, and experience working in developing countries.
We went with our church, whose pastor has known the head of the NGO for 30 years, and so we were readily plugged in to, not just a local NGO network, but also a network of churches and pastors on the ground.
We started each day with devotions. Much like the daily assemblies of my high school days, there was a reading, discussion, and if energy was lagging, maybe some singing. None of us knew each other before the trip. We slept doubled up and in bunks, ate meals together, sweated in the sun together, talked about spouses back home.
There were some Lord of the Flies moments. Some struggling to determine who the alphas were, who would follow, who could be trusted as a lone wolf. There were days when sexual tension kinda wrecked the flow. There were breakthrough moments when people were brought to tears. There were angry moments when we lashed out about how much more work there was to be done.
In short, we were a microcosm of the relief effort as a whole.
"And that's just two buildings - in the richest country in the world, using the most sophisticated equipment. We are almost ten years on from September 11th and they still haven't rebuilt."
The reconstruction in
But our biggest successes came in connecting to individual people.
There was the young adult we befriended who relied on that trust to reveal a health problem. We raised money to pay for surgery that got scheduled the same week. There were kids we met that we could help with homework or tell about how opportunities for education had opened doors for our parents or ourselves. There were congregants on Sunday who came forward asking for prayer. There was the relief worker we connected with and helped re-buoy after burnout.
As a black ‘Caribbean-Canadian’ who speaks French travelling with a group of mainly white anglophones, I sometimes felt I was on a different trip than everyone else. Of course as a policy wonk as opposed to construction expert, I could expect no less.
Such contradictions have followed me on visits to developing countries and in work with development organisations before. The gaps between advocacy at the systemic level and relief work on the ground never stop being frustrating.
But there is a restorative power that can’t be denied in building bridges - person to person, smile to smile.
* post updated Nov 26 with news clip above
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
What’s historic about this election is not just the colour of President Obama’s skin, but the scope of his values and the focus-on-the-positive approach he took to his campaign. A new paradigm has been struck.
When you consider the West’s strongest archetypes, and even heroes from the modern age, rarely does a person of principle win out over an evil-doer with dirty tricks. The Torah tells us that the Israelites were chosen to be a light unto the world. To be a living embodiment of God’s teachings. But they were enslaved, spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, and then their leader was denied entrance to the Promised Land.
Jesus taught his disciples to turn the other cheek. To embrace generosity over greed. And that the greatest of the commandments is to love, love, love. He was betrayed by one of his inner circle, nailed to a piece of wood, and hung out in public until he died.
Joan of Arc led France to victory in a series of battles against England and its expansionist ambitions. She was captured, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake at 19.
Ghandi fought tyranny, colonization, class, race, and religious persecution through a disciplined campaign of non-violence and said the search for God is the same as the search for truth. He was assassinated by a fellow-Hindu. Martin Luther King was assassinated for his racial and economic equality campaigning. And just as Malcolm X began calling for a more inclusive approach to the Nation of Islam’s civil rights movement, he, too, was murdered by one his own.
And so the idea of a political candidate who dismisses smears and negative attacks from his opponents by invoking Jay Z’s “brush your shoulder off” shouldn't have inspired too much hope. Leading a two-year campaign based on the politics of inclusion, a resolve to advance ideas over attacks, We over They - well, given our cultural references and our history, a campaign like that shouldn't really have worked.
Hillary Clinton was not alone in her assessment that, generally speaking, when you can’t beat 'em, you’ll probably have to join 'em.
Many of us had succumbed to the idea that the path to governance requires a certain collusion with special-interests funders, negative campaigners, and the support of those media-recognized leaders from the most powerful demographic groups who have crowned US presidents in the past.
Obama’s two-year assertion that individual citizens, anonymous voters, and everyday residents could fund, mobilize, and transform the actual political process was an unlikely strategy in light of the examples from our past.
And so the historic significance I’m taking from this election is not just that a majority of Americans voted for a black man.
It’s that after decades of insiders – women’s groups, labour leaders, social justice lobbies, sitting politicians, the private sector, and more – telling us that we wouldn't be able to achieve political power unless we learned to play like the Big Boys, President Obama has come along to tell us that:
Yes We Can.