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A Dream Worth Fighting For
09 August 2019, 12h00 EDT (UTC-4)

My Address to the Mosaic Peace Patron Gala
Click image to see the video

More than 250 guests attended the Mosaic Institute’s annual gala, to see us formally invest General John de Chastelain as our 2019 Peace Patron.

A former Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff, Gen de Chastelain is best known for his critical role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. He persuaded Loyalist and Republican paramilitary organisations to give up their weapons, and to join hands in the Good Friday Agreement.

I addressed the proceedings to welcome Gen de Chastelain, and to give a brief overview of the Institute’s mission: bringing together people, communities, and nations, to resolve global conflicts and to strengthen national pluralism.

* * *

Good evening. I am Akaash Maharaj, the Mosaic Institute’s Chief Executive Officer. I should like to begin by thanking General de Chastelain for doing us the great honour of becoming our 2019 Peace Patron.

As we heard, he has had an epic career across the military, diplomacy, and peacemaking. And thanks to the creators of our video tribute —

Hilary Doyle, Damian Kearns, and Philip Street — we can also now think of him the real-world offspring of James Bond and Emma Peel.

Of course, it is his work in the Northern Ireland peace process that most speaks to Mosaic’s mission.

Our founders created Mosaic to advance pluralism in societies and peace amongst nations. Our work begins with diaspora groups in Canada and reaches across the globe, to bring together people, communities, and states, to foster mutual understanding and to resolve conflicts.

We were built on a simple but defiant article of faith: that we are all stronger, wiser, and better off together, not in spite of our differences, but precisely because of our differences.

In 2007, this was perhaps an idea ahead of its time. But there is no denying that today, our time has come.

Everywhere in the corridors of power, political leaders now mouth our words of inclusion, diversity, and respect. But too often, they have learned to speak the language of virtue, while practising the art of inaction.

Over the past twelve years, the Mosaic Institute and our allies have won the argument in the debating chambers of the world. But it remains for us to complete the task of pressing words into deeds.

During this time, Mosaic convened Jewish and Muslim Canadians, to work together on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We published landmark research on the perceptions and realities of imported conflict amongst new Canadians.

We established our U of Mosaic programme in universities and our Next Generation programme in high schools. Between them, these programmes have developed more than six-thousand students to become Canada’s future leaders in conflict resolution and pluralism.

I am grateful to Mosaic’s Board, Advisory Council, Fellows, volunteers, and professional team, many of whom are here tonight, for their passion and toil, which made these and our many other initiatives possible. And as a new Chief Executive, I hope you will indulge me if I offer special thanks to my predecessors, of whom John Monahan, our inaugural ED is with us.

I believe Mosaic has much to be proud of. But I know the need is much greater still.

In the coming year, we will extend our work with Chinese-Canadian and Tibetan-Canadian youth leaders, on peaceful co-existence on the Tibetan Plateau, a subject that has only become more complex, as its Canadian social dynamics are shaped by international actors.

We will mediate talks between rural and urban Canadians on measures to curb the epidemic of gun violence in our country. There have been far too few opportunities for a meeting of minds between these communities, and far too much wilful polarisation on this issue.

We will muster Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, on implementation of the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. These are deep wounds, which have festered for centuries, and candidly, it is well beyond Mosaic’s capacity to heal any of them completely. But we will pour our hearts and souls into doing everything we can.

We will expand our research, by drawing together experts on the Iran Nuclear Agreement. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has not been undone, but it has been seriously undermined, and it is no exaggeration to say that the very survival of the human race may hang in the balance.

We will deepen our work nurturing public reflection and debate on pluralism and inclusion. Because if we as Canadians are to be equal to our calling to change the world, we must have the humility to begin by changing ourselves.

I am grateful to everyone here tonight for making these initiatives possible. And I thank our volunteers and professionals for organising this evening.

None of the work ahead of us will be easy, and some will be beset by heartbreak.

The arc of history may bend towards justice, but there is nothing inevitable about progress. Societies can and do regress as well as progress. They can be dragged backwards by their lowest fears, as well impelled forward by their highest ideals.

The hard reality is that everywhere, new political figures are picking up the old weapons of xenophobia, demagoguery, and authoritarianism, to divide us for their own purposes.

They are trading on our most unworthy impulses. That we must be afraid of anyone different from us, to protect our liberties. That we must exclude anyone different from us, to preserve our identity.

These are all lies.

Fear has set no people free, and hate has made no nation great.

Notre responsabilité est de détruire leurs mensonges avec la vérité. Ce n’est pas un trajet facile.

J’étais inspiré à rejoindre le mission de l’Institut Mosaïque par l’exemple de personnes meilleurs que moi, que je connaissais dans ma carrière précédente, des gens de conscience ordinaire mais d’une détermination extraordinaire.

Because the path to peace is not for the faint of heart.

Those who would turn us against one another seem to have all the time, all the money, all the power. They have the energy of rage and a ruthlessness unrestrained by higher principles, and it is easy for us to feel overwhelmed and exhausted and hopeless.

But that is exactly how they want us to feel.

Because the truth is that they are the weak ones.

If there is one lesson I have learned, it is that demagogues who divide populations do so because they fear the strength of the people united.

And they fear us with good reason.

During the Arab Spring revolutions, I saw autocracies that had endured for generations, swept away in hours, by the force of ordinary people who found the courage to stand together and to stand up, though they often paid a terrible price for doing so.

All of us in this room wield a power that those who would divide us will never know: an ability to make common cause out of our common humanity and our common dignity, and a determination to join hands across the divisions that beset the human condition, to create a better world in the image of the better angels of our natures.

Together, we are stronger than powers and principalities, and we are mightier than fire and the sword.

There are those who will never tire of telling us that the world we are trying to build is just a dream. But it is a dream worth fighting for, and it is a fight that together, we are going to win.


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