WE Day kicks off in Toronto

The 2016-2017 season for WE Day opened with two inspirational events
Lilly Singh speaks at WE Day Family 2016 Comedian, actress and YouTube entertainer, Lilly Singh, inspires 20,000 attendees at the first WE Day Family last night in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. (Photo: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day)

Yesterday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the new season of WE Day kicked off. The event featured a massive list of performers, activists, and speakers—singer Nelly Furtado, Olympic swimmer Penny Oleksiak, rapper Macklemore, YouTube comedian Lilly Singh, astronaut Chris Hadfield, photographer Hani Al Moulia, EveryChildNow CEO Vishal Vijay, rock band Hedley... and we're not even close to finished! It was one huge deal.

As always, the focus was on what co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger call youth empowerment. It was inspiring, funny, touching, meaningful, and, above all, fun!

Bring the whole family

This WE Day was also special because it lasted all day and featured two separate events. WE Day was first—a day-time event jam packed with students who earned their way there with good deeds. For example, some students collected food for homeless shelters while others raised money to build classrooms in underdeveloped countries.

The second event was WE Day Family, which took place in the evening. Families were invited to listen to inspirational speakers and performers, plus learn how to become a WE Family. It starts with taking a pledge as a family to make a difference through everyday actions. Discuss world issues together at the dinner table, volunteer as a family in your community, start a change jar to support a local charity, or perform a random act of kindness everyday. There's a whole lot you can do to make the world a better place.

WE Day history

WE Day co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger at WE Day Family 2016
International activists and WE Day co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger at WE Day Family. (Photo: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day)

WE Day first happened on October 19, 2007. It was started by Craig and Marc Kielburger, two brothers who have been activists since they were kids. At first, the Toronto event was the only one. But since 2007, the event has grown steadily. Now there are 14 separate WE Days across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.! Pretty impressive.

All throughout these events, WE Day has found a way to bring important issues and people to its audience. In fact, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's first public appearance after he won the election last year was at a WE Day in Ottawa. That's amazing when you think about it!

The spirit of change in Canada

Gord Downie performs at WE Day Family 2016
The Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie performs at WE Day Family. (Photo: Maria Gagliardi for WE Day)

This year once again delivered plenty of reasons and ways to get out there and change the world for the better. Margaret Trudeau, Justin's mother, spoke about Canadian identity and being a role model to her country. Model Winnie Harlow, who has the rare skin condition vitiligo, talked about her activism and message of individuality.

But the biggest theme of the day was Indigenous activisim. A Toronto high school soccer team, the Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School Royals, talked about travelling to Attawapiskat in northern Ontario to share their sport with the community. Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie also discussed the need for Canadians to repair their relationship with First Nations. His new album and book, The Secret Path, tells the sad true story of a young Indigenous boy, Chanie Wenjack, who tried to escape a residential school in 1966. For 120 years, First Nations children throughout Canada were forced to leave their communities and attend residential schools to learn English and Canadian customs. The last one closed in 1996.

Where to next?

WE Day logo

WE Day fever will continue across Canada for the rest of the year. Here are the dates:

  • October 26:  Calgary, Alberta
  • November 3:  Vancouver, B.C.
  • November 9:  Ottawa, Ontario
  • November 18:  Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • November 30:  Halifax, Nova Scotia

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