Celebrating together — while apart

Carolyn Bennett logoCelebrating graduations, PRIDE, Indigenous history, Portuguese, Italian and Filipino Heritage Month and Canada Day are all very, very different this year. We are celebrating together – while apart.

This month, we have all been able to be inspired by virtual graduations. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to all the 2020 grads praising this generation’s resolve to be better: marching for climate change, courageously stating #MeToo, demanding reconciliation, standing up to declare that #BlackLivesMatter, and ensuring that we all understand that #LoveIsLove and that people need to be free to be who they are.

I recorded a message to share with all of the graduates of Toronto-St. Paul’s.

Former US President Barrack Obama reminded us that our society and democracy only work when we think about not just ourselves, but each other.

Never have nations’ leaders been able to speak directly to so many on their special days. Whether students are graduating kindergarten, Grade 8, Grade 12, college or university, COVID-19 has meant that the celebratory gatherings — all the hugs and tears and goodbyes — have been replaced with online attempts to ensure that the grads can feel the importance of this milestone, bask in the pride of their families and friends, and know that their ‘commencement’ at this historic time has signified their ability to be part of #BuildBackBetter. I love seeing all the lawn and window signs placed by proud parents celebrating the graduation of their sons and daughters.

Cultural celebrations online

This month, we miss celebrating Italian heritage in person at Casa Loma. We will not be at the Portuguese Parade on College. Nor with the Filipino communities at their cultural celebrations. We will be celebrating with them while apart. It may be online or with delicious take-out, but their contributions to Canada will be celebrated.

It is hard to understand how we can possibly replicate the pride of PRIDE virtually. No Trans March, or Dyke March. No Church on Church. This year will be celebrated without the million people lining Yonge Street chanting “Happy Pride!”

For Indigenous History month we can still celebrate #IndigenousReads as we and our book clubs read and discuss a book by a First Nations, Inuit or Métis author.  I had the honour of having a conversation with the inspiring Métis author and professor Jesse Thistle about his best-selling, heart-warming and heart-wrenching memoir From the Ashes. Re-watch the Facebook event:

And then read the book. The dust jacket describes it as an “eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism.”  I wish I could prescribe it to all Canadians as an important step towards a better understanding of the damaging effects of colonial policies and abuse.

Reading Indigenous authors helps us fill in the gaps about the true history of our country and the effects that colonial policies and intergenerational trauma have played in the lived experiences of the first peoples of Canada.  Their stories describe the reality of systemic racism.

It is impossible to read Richard Wagemese’s Indian Horse or Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian or Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s The Right to be Cold or Marilyn Dumont’s A Really Good Brown Girl without recognizing how much more we all need to know about Indigenous teachings, and why we will need their leadership as we chart a sustainable path forward.

Virtual town hall

On June 28, our amazing Toronto-St. Paul’s Youth Council will be hosting a pre-Canada Day Virtual Town Hall on #BuildingBackBetter. The inspiring Kehkashan Basu will host guest panelists Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief of UNCTAD; Dr. Irene Henriques, Professor of Sustainability and Economics, Schulich School of Business; and Dr. Charles H. Cho, Professor of Accounting, Erivan K Haub Chair in Business and Sustainability, Schulich School of Business.

They’ll be discussing how we ensure we don’t go back to normal, but spring forward onto a better path. You can watch the townhall on June 28 at 3 p.m. on our Facebook page here.

Canada Day

This year in Toronto-St.Paul’s, we are planning to celebrate Canada Day while apart. We can’t be together at Wells Hill Park. We won’t be able to gather for a Sunrise ceremony. We won’t be able to sing “O Canada” together. We’ll have to cook our own hotdogs and plan our own games for the children.

So instead, we want to hear your Canada Day stories, recipes, and art to post on our website and connect our community.  Send them to us at and we’ll share them on social media and post them to our website.

We also wanted to help our riding show our Canada spirit, so our office has created complimentary Canada Day Lawn signs available to anyone in the riding.  Fill out the form here to request a complimentary sign. We will arrange a physically distanced drop-off.

We want this to be the best Canada Day ever, #CelebratingWhileApart.

We are all learning new ways of being together while apart.  It seems like months ago that we took the decision to replace “social distancing” with physical distancing. We knew that it was important for us all to be socially together while physically apart.

Never before has it been more important to stay together. We have lots to celebrate and lots of work to do to make this an even better country.