Margaret Trudeau speaks at WE Day – Elijah Woods x JamieFine – “We’re here today to celebrate the thousands of local students joining us from across Quebec, and the massive impact they’re having both at home and around the world,” said the Canadian pop duo. “Together, they’re committed to changing the world for themselves and future generations, and we’re so excited to perform today and be a part of such a powerful movement of change.”
Margaret Trudeau was in Montreal to speak to two-thousand students and educators at Théâtre St-Denis for WE Day, an annual youth rally that celebrates young “change-makers” – high school students who volunteer in service-learning programs at school run by WE Charity with the goal of making the world a better place, both at home and abroad. With two of her grandchildren by her side, she talked about her visit to a development project in Kenya which helps people access clean water. “My strongest belief is that a necessity like water is a human right,” she said to the cheering crowd.
“At WE Day, we talk about being givers, doers and world changers. This past summer I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit WE’s development projects in Kenya where I saw firsthand the huge difference WE is making in the lives of people in rural Kenya. I saw firsthand the power of education, especially when it came to clean water.”
WE Day is part of the WE movement, formerly Free the Children, a Canadian charity founded by brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger. Students who participate in WE Charity programs earn their tickets to a WE Day rally in their city by taking up one local initiative, and taking on another global issue. Students often collect canned goods or raise funds for food banks in their own communities. At the same time, they commit to doing something globally, like participating in WE Walk for Water which raises funds for safe drinking water and sanitation systems for people in developing countries. WE Day events are held in over 15 cities across the United States, Canada, the UK, and the Caribbean—bringing together world-renowned speakers, A-list performers, and social activists to inspire youth to take action.
WE Charity may have lofty goals of eradicating poverty and improving the standard of living of people in poor countries, but WE Day also speaks to kids where they live. WE Day Montreal 2020 featured a superhero theme with a “mission” statement with graphic projections on an overhead screen. “You may not always feel like a superhero,” Craig Kielburger said. “That’s why the WE organization has got your back.” He asked the youthful participants to think about what it would mean to make a promise “to be a friend when a student in your school reaches out because they are going through a rough time, and they need your help.”
Mental health and anti-bullying are core components of WE programs so Kielburger asked for a show of hands as a pledge that WE Day students would stand up for their friends and fellow students. Team Canada’s world junior hockey championship captain Maxime Comtois has taken a stand against cyberbullying and is urging any victims to speak up. He spoke to the crowd via video about his own ordeal of online bullying. “I took my shot, then I became the target,” he said. “I never thought that I would become the target of online bullying.”
It was a family affair and Sophie Grégoire took to the stage about an hour after her mother-in-law Margaret Trudeau spoke. Grégoire, a mental health advocate, talked about her struggles with eating disorders when she was an adolescent, how she’s moved on, and learning to develop a healthy lifestyle. She talked about being yourself, and not buying into what others think about you. She drew on her own life as a mother, relating anecdotes about her children. She said that while she may be married to the prime minister i.e. PM Justin Trudeau as parents they encourage their children to do their best and feel good about themselves even when they don’t always succeed.
Feature image: Stage – WE Day Montreal 2020 – Théâtre St-Denis Photo: Annie Diotte
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