Fabrice Vil is founder and executive director of Pour 3 Points, an organization that transforms sports coaches into life coaches for youth in low-income neighbourhoods in Montreal. He is also an Ashoka Fellow, a columnist at La Presse and was a lawyer in civil and commercial litigation from 2007 to 2013. He will be appearing at 6 Degrees Toronto.
I have been writing for publications in Quebec for the past three years. The idea of writing for an anglophone national newspaper has always excited me.
But now that I have this opportunity, I am speechless. Why? Honestly, it’s because I do not know you well, let alone know what to say to you.
Like you, I do identify as being Canadian. I know all the words and sing along bilingually to the national anthem, and I proudly bounce around to Drake’s music. Though I have not yet visited any of the territories, I have spent time in half of our provinces. And, like many of you, I too lost my voice from sheer joy, in 2010, when Sidney Crosby scored against the United States to win the Olympic gold.
And yet, the fact remains: I wish that I could feel more connected to the rest of Canada.
Canada’s geographical size makes it difficult for us to physically connect but, distance aside, many other obstacles and disparities exist that contribute to my perception that we’re foreign to one another – Quebec’s distinct status as a nation and its official language being French being just two of them.
This divide is also increased by the polarization of left and right on the political equilibrium, which has replaced Quebec’s independence as the main theme dominating Canadian politics. Add the (albeit modest) rise of right-wing populism, and there is little room left for Canadian unity.
Despite all our differences, I nevertheless do believe that we share universal ideals upon which we can build common ground. Can we Make Canada United Again?
The year in sports has proven that we are all able to rally together behind something that we care about and believe in. Canadians who have never even touched a tennis racket in their life tweeted #SheTheNorth, celebrating Bianca Andreescu’s success at the U.S. Open. And can you believe that last June, Montrealers from all walks of life jumped on the Raptors bandwagon and cheered for a sports team from … Toronto?
Nelson Mandela said that sport “has the power to unite people in a way that little else does." As the founder of an organization that leverages sport for educational and social purposes, I do believe that just like our dearest champions, any topic that matters to us has the potential to mobilize entire movements.
So my question for us today is: what do we all care about, and what can we all get behind, together, as a nation?
One thing should be reconciliation. A politician once told the Indigenous peoples of Canada, on behalf of the Canadian government and all Canadians, that “[t]here is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.”
That man was prime minister Stephen Harper, in 2008.
The importance of reconciliation, which is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this country, is not disputed. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued 94 calls to action to implement if Canada is to reconcile with Indigenous peoples. As a country, we should rally around reconciliation, together.
We should also rally around Canada’s youth. I take inspiration from ancient Iroquois teachings to suggest that the decisions we make today should benefit humans seven generations into the future. If we want to thrive, we need to invest in youth. I must say that as a second-generation immigrant originally from Haiti, my career as a lawyer, succeeded by the launch of a social enterprise and my involvement in media was unlikely. But Canada, notably through its education system, has prepared me for a fulfilling adult life. This is what I hope for all children.
Finally, the next generations actually need a healthy planet to live on. The world expects Canada to be a leader in the protection of the environment. On Sept. 27, young people will take the streets to demand climate justice for everyone.
Let’s join them, all together, as a country.
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