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Let’s Talk, Get To Know Each Other Better, We Are All Human

Introduction

The AGO Youth Council's third project of 2008 was an effort to understand the impact of immigration in our daily lives as residents living, working and going to school in Toronto.

Led by guest-artist Srimoyee Mitra, the Youth Council researched Canadian immigration processes and issues related to immigration status in Canada. They also conducted research into the newly passed Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the Toronto District School Board. The Youth Council's thought-provoking installation - which weaves in personal stories, anecdotes and memories - provides visitors with a contemplative space to consider their own relationship to home, status and Canada.

For this project, the AGO Youth Council and Srimoyee Mitra partnered with No One Is Illegal Toronto, an organization that advocates for the right of all migrants to live with dignity and respect. The AGO Youth Council is part of the Teens Behind the Scenes program at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Council and Srimoyee wanted to know: What would happen if we all took the time to Talk, Get to Know Each Other Better, and realize that We Are All Human?

Use the links to the right to browse this presentation.

Contributor

The AGO Youth Council is a group of people aged 14-25 from across the city that meets every week to discuss and design art events and work on large-scale artistic projects with local and international artists. The AGO Youth Council promotes youth participation in, and exposure to, the arts through diverse educational and creative events. Plus it's hella fun!

Sharing Experiences

This installation maps out the journeys made by the Youth Council or their family members to Toronto. Over the last two months, the Youth Council and Mitra have shared stories from their family histories and heritage, memories from their childhood of growing up in Toronto and abroad. In this way, tracing out common and different factors from their shared and diverse experiences enabled all the participants to develop a better understanding of each other and unpack the themes of home, safety and belonging.

No One Is Illegal

An important aspect of this installation stems from the Youth Council’s partnership with No One Is Illegal, an organization that advocates for the right of all migrants to live with dignity and respect. Migrating from one country to another, one city to another from the country to an urban centre is a global phenomenon that has been taking place for generations. People have emigrated and immigrated for various reasons – as indentured laborers, slaves, working in plantations and the prospects of having land during the times of colonialism. More recently the forces of globalization civil war, political instability, better job opportunities, a stable future for the next generation children and lucrative careers are just a few of the reasons why people migrate. In the vibrant, multicultural city of Toronto migrants and immigrants from different parts of the world and the country have transformed the culture of the city irrevocably. Let’s talk, listen and get to know each other, we are all human is an effort to understand the impact of immigration in our daily lives as residents living, working and going to school in Toronto.

Moving Beyond Cuisine

Too often the consequences of immigration are reduced to the different cuisines available to all of us at our doorsteps. While it is a privilege to have access to such a variety of cuisines - Chinese, Vietnamese or Ethiopian food, Korea town, Little Italy or Little India to list just a few – The Youth Council and Mitra wanted to get beyond merely celebrating our different skin colours and cuisines without engaging in deeper questions. What is it really like to be a first generation immigrant? Is it lonely? Why do some people get rejected and some welcome? What happens to all those whose applications are denied even after being a resident of the city?

A New Oath

Part of the process for developing the installation involved re-writing new oaths to this place where we live; turtle island, Canada. Here is a sampling of some of the oaths created by the Council:

Youth Council OATHS

Bailey’s Oath: I swear to observe the laws of Canada, remain an active citizen, and respect my fellow Canadians.

Nusrat’s Oath: I swear allegiance to the people of Canada and promise to fully observe the laws of Canada as well as fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen. I pledge to help others, be non-judgmental, enjoy living in a diversified society and better myself.

Srimoyee’s Oath: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen

History and Community

Charu’s Oath: I would want to change the part of the oath where it says: “bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors.” I feel that because Canada is no longer a British colony, we should no longer ‘bow’ down to the queen. I don’t think most Canadians even respect the queen, contrary to what the oath suggests - they’re just empty words to me. In fact I don’t think we should be pledging allegiance to any one person, if we are going to pledge allegiance to people, it should be our fellow Canadians - not someone who lives across the pond.

Syrus’ Oath: I swear to try to help build a community that is founded on social justice, self-determination, creativity, peace and love.

Last modified on April 15, 2013