We are a nation of storytellers. From the creation stories told by Indigenous elders, to Dan Yashinsky’s wonderful storytelling tent at Wychwood Barns, to “Come From Away”, the Tony Award winning story of 9/11 in Gander. Telling our stories and sharing our narratives is a truly important part of creating the proud and inclusive society that Canada aspires to be.
There is no question that the fear of ‘the other’ is a root cause of the problems that challenge our communities and countries around the world. There is no question that interpersonal relationships that expose us to diverse communities are the best possible way to break through the barriers that divide us.
I grew up in a flower shop where the same-sex partners who came to our Christmas party were normal to us. My new First Nations, Inuit and Métis friends have changed my understanding of Canada and inspire me every day on our journey of reconciliation.
But even in our wonderful multicultural communities, we are often missing the opportunities to learn more about some of those ‘other’ groups – francophone, Muslim, LGBTQ2 – that remain relatively invisible in the leafy neighbourhoods of Toronto-St. Paul’s. That’s where ‘storytellers’ step forward. In books and on screens across our country, we learn that the ‘others’ are smart and funny and that what we share dwarfs any differences. We learn about communities and neighbourhoods from coast to coast to coast.
This summer I was privileged to meet with the inspiring writers representing the Writers Guild of Canada. They were passionate about the importance of their work – not only in telling our stories, but also in their contribution of nearly $3.6 billion in GDP to our economy, generating 59,500 full time equivalent jobs. They explained how important regulation and public broadcasting are to getting our stories to the screens in our communities and in our homes. We recognized that scripts like CBC’s Kim’s Convenience and Little Mosque on the Prairie and APTN’s Mohawk Girls are part of the glue which keeps our country together. They remind us of the diversity that makes our country strong. Amidst the 1000 channel universe and the ‘click bait’ on the Internet, it is possible for citizens to expose themselves only to people who are like them and who agree with them. Public broadcasting serves as an important antidote to harmful isolation and as an invaluable avenue to tolerance and inclusion.
The mandate of the CBC was always to promote Canadian talent and culture, and to reflect the different parts of Canada to one another. TVO’s Hard Rock Medical is beloved for its portrayal of the challenges of delivering medical care in Northern Ontario. We have so much more to learn about one another, especially on our shared journey of reconciliation. We have so many more stories to hear and so many more young people to be inspired.
Support for arts and culture creators and public broadcasting has been unwavering in Toronto-St. Paul’s. Following requests from many constituents, I am pleased that on October 29, we will once again host a Town Hall meeting on the importance of Canadian content and the role of Public Broadcasters. This time, we will join Minister Chrystia Freeland and MP Adam Vaughan at the Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West. We would love to see you there, so we can hear your views on ensuring the future of ‘Telling our Stories’.
(Full disclosure: My husband, Peter O’Brian, has served as Chair of the Board of TVO since 2005.)
*Published in the October issue of Streeter Newspaper (formally the Town Crier).