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Haitian reconstruction the focus of University of Toronto symposium


by Mary Ann Gratton

Issues related to the recent earthquake in Haiti, future reconstruction and the role of the Haitian diaspora will be the focus of a weekend symposium to be hosted by the University of Toronto on April 16 and 17.

Thinkers, speakers and musicians from Haiti and the Haitian-Canadian communities of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal will be in attendance for the free public event, taking place at the St. George campus and at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). The title of the symposium,“Tèt Ansanm: Dyaspora e avni Dayiti” translates from Creole to mean “Putting our Heads Together: The University of Toronto Symposium on Haitian Reconstruction and the Diaspora.” The event has been organized and co-sponsored by all three campuses of the University of Toronto.

Members and friends of the Haitian community, students, staff and faculty of the university, and the community of Greater Toronto are all invited to attend the event, which is free and open to the public, but advance registration is strongly advised. The event will take place on two U of T campuses, the St. George campus -- opening with a concert featuring renowned Haitian musician and political activist Manno Charlemagne on the evening of April 16 – and the U of T Scarborough campus, which hosts an all-day symposium on Saturday, April 17.

“In order for reconstruction to be successful and to work in the interests of Haiti’s people, the country needs Haitian expertise, at home and in the diaspora, to play a central role in the public discussion of the priorities and strategies for rebuilding,” says University of Toronto history and Caribbean studies professor Melanie Newton, a member of the event organizing committee. “While there are many high-level and important policy discussions underway, we are seeking to strengthen these discussions with an emphasis on Haitian voices and ideas.”

The organizers note that the event has been designed to provide a forum for the expression of Haitian-Canadian ideas and strategies. The response of Haitian-Canadians to the catastrophe in Haiti will also be examined. “This symposium will be a safe and productive space for members of the community to share their views regarding the role of the diaspora in shaping engagements between Canada and Haiti,” says history professor Christine Berkowitz of UTSC, an organizing committee member.

The event schedule is as follows:

Friday, April 16 at 8:00 p.m. - Concert featuring Manno Charlemagne, a Haitian political folk singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist, lifelong political activist and former politician, U of T St. George campus, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, G-162 auditorium, 252 Bloor St. W., first floor.

Saturday, April 17 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Public symposium and community discussion to take place in the Science Research Building, SY110, at the University of Toronto Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail.The day features an art exhbition in Gallery 1265 in The Meeting Place (next to Tim Horton's) with two exhibitions, a poster exhibition on the history of Haiti by local Haitian community member Tonia Dyer, and a photography exhibition of Haiti by artist and radio host Claudette Gravel. Haitian music will be played all day in the gallery.

Speakers for the include:

Jean Saint-Vil, activist, journalist and member of the Ottawa Haiti Solidarity Committee (Kozayiti) and founder of the Haitian organization, AKASAN.

Frantz Voltaire, Director of the Centre International de Documentation et d’Information Haiïtienne, Caribeenne, et Afro-Canadienne (CIDIHHCA) in Montreal.

Martine Duviella, Director of the National Film Board film, A Memory Forgotten: A Generation Sacrificed (Une mémoire oubliée…une génération sacrifiée.)

Marlène Thélusma Rémy, social science professor, College Boréal, and the Toronto-based author of the book, Contribution de la femme haitienne à la construction et à la survie de son pays (The Contribution of Haitian Women to the Construction and Survival of Her Country.)

All events are free and open to the public, but seating is limited, and advance registration is highly recommended. Child care can be provided. To register for the concert or symposium, please email or call Melanie Newton or Kate Creasey at (416) 978-4054.

© University of Toronto Scarborough