Les lilas de Cassandra  

The“Gentle  the  condition”  Concert

By Beryl Wajsman

“This story shall the good man teach his son; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; This day shall gentle the condition
Henry V

The most satisfying thing for me about combining the social activism of the Institute for Public Affairs and the journalistic advocacy of media is the ability to help more people more effectively. It has also brought many more people together to do well and gentle the condition. Among the cases and causes we have been able to tackle, no issues are as poignant as those that deal with the 3-H’s of society’s ills: health, hunger and homelessness. As much as the Institute has done – particularly in expanding Moisson Montreal’s capacities, sending paramedics to the SCLC’s Delta Relief Project during Hurricane Katrina, assisting Toronto’s “Lawyers feed the homeless” program, helping defray expenses for poor kids who needed surgery – there is always more to do. And when a plight is brought to your attention, you cannot remain idle.

Au cours de la dernière année, l’avocate et activiste Brigitte Garceau a porté à mon attention trois organisations, de même que leurs besoins. J’ai d’abord pu focusser l’attention des médias sur les besoins urgents de ces organisations et, en oeuvrant de concert avec notre réseau d’activiste sociaux, nous avons été en mesure de fournir les moyens moraux et matériels requis. Brigitte croit, à mon avis et avec raison, que non seulement ces groupes excellent dans ce qu’ils accomplissent, mais aussi que, considérés en un tout, ils sont emblématiques des préoccupations les plus criantes en matière de justice sociale dans notre communauté.

Dr. Nicholas Steinmetz’ and Dr.Gilles Julien’s Fondation pour    la  promotion  de  la pédiatrie     sociale tackles the health needs of poor children. Helping thousands        in  Montreal’s poorest areas of   Côte-des-Neiges and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, the Fondation cares for the physical, psychological and educational needs of children who are products of underprivileged homes. It not only provides immediate help, but follows the children through years of schooling to ensure that the work is having an effect.  It is a totally holistic approach to childhood development

La Maison du Partage d’Youville est une cuisine communautaire et une banque alimentaire qui, depuis vingt-cinq ans, oeuvre dans les quartiers Pointe-Saint-Charles, Verdun et Petite-Bourgogne. Cet organisme dessert en besoins alimentaires des centaines de personnes à chaque semaine. Actuellement, La Maison doit faire face à un manque d’espace et de ressources. Elle a désespérément besoin des fonds pour des locaux plus grands, mais plus économiques, afin de poursuivre son œuvre essentielle.

De la Rue…à la Réussite, takes homeless men and women and provides them with the necessary tools and employment opportunities to reintergrate into the workforce. This remarkable organization, founded by the indefatigable Sue McDougall and her late husband Jean-Pierre Chartrand, doesn’t just get people on their feet, it gets them back into life. It understands that it’s about more than just getting people a paycheque; it’s about giving them back their purpose.

Brigitte Garceau wanted to give structure to the help we were bringing to these groups. She realized that many were missing the kind of professional skills she was able to organize and channel. Elle a créé La Fondation Garceau afin de fournir un appui financier, professionnel et organisationnel à l’action communautaire et aux associations de services sociaux qui font face à d’importants défis comme la santé, la faim et l’itinérance. Chaque jour, ces groupes, qui œuvrent déjà des conditions précaires, doivent faire face à des besoins de plus en plus pressants.

Ours is a nation of wealth, but with only a thin veneer of affluence. Recently released government studies demonstrate that one-third of our urban households live below the poverty line and that the median household income in Canada has increased just slightly more than $100 a year over the past twenty-five years. Government programs do not always meet local needs and more and more non-governmental organizations are filling the gaps with more and more Canadians turning to them for help.

Brigitte croit qu’aucun parmi nous ne peut rester inactif devant ces réalités. C’est pourquoi, Mme Garceau met ses années d’expérience dans le réseautage politique et commun-autaire, de même que dans les campagnes de financement, au profit de la Fondation Garceau. This evening is the Foundation’s first major project, produced in co-operation with the Institute. The “Cassandra’s Lilacs” concert.

Inspired by a real-life Cassandra - Garceau’s ten year old daughter - who wanted to do something to help the underprivileged, the symbolism of the lilac is poignant and pithy. Like children, the most vulnerable and fragile among us, each lilac flower alone is beautiful but fragile. But together in a bough, lilacs are not only fragrant, but strong. Each child alone is fragile. But if we look at them together, we are compelled by their needs and find the strength to accomplish the unimaginable. Together, we can gentle the condition.

This concert seeks to raise money for, and awareness of, the three unique organizations in the Montreal community that I have outlined above. I am proud to have helped the Garceau Foundation make this special evening a great success.

This concert is not only about entertainment. You will meet the people behind these groups and you will meet the people they help. We hope you will be touched as you meet the most humble among us who cannot secure the preferences of the privileged for themselves. We hope you will be touched enough to give of your time and talent as well as your treasure.

I assure you that the music, the words and the images of this concert will pierce your heart. We want you to take away from it a greater ability to see the world through the eyes of its victims. And to understand, intuitively, that the less educated are not less intelligent and that the less affluent are not any less human. That is what Cassandra’s Lilacs “Gentle the Condition” concert is all about, and what the Garceau Foundation seeks to achieve.