Tom Jack­son com­ing to Water­loo church for peace fes­ti­val

Waterloo Region Record - - ARTS & LIFE - Valerie Hill, Record staff

WATER­LOO — It’s not of­ten that an in­ter­view sub­ject ends the con­ver­sa­tion with “I love you.” Tom Jack­son does. The Métis ac­tor/singer/song­writer, be­stowed with the Hu­man­i­tar­ian Award for his so­cial ac­tivism by the Canadian Academy of Record­ing Arts in 2007, will bring some of that love to Water­loo at the free Sing Fires for Jus­tice Fes­ti­val at First United Church on Sun­day.

In a phone in­ter­view from his home out­side Cal­gary, where he spends a lot of time look­ing out at trees as they look back at him, it’s ob­vi­ous Jack­son is a poet.

He is al­ways seek­ing in­spi­ra­tion in ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one around him and in this time of truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with First Na­tions peo­ple, Jack­son be­lieves that aside from talk­ing about the prob­lems, we also need to cel­e­brate.

“My mes­sage is one of joy,” he said. “We need to rec­og­nize the ac­com­plish­ments of na­tions.”

That’s not to say Jack­son, whose mother was Cree and his fa­ther English, is be­ing naïve or dis­mis­sive of the is­sues that have faced First Na­tions. In fact, he sees that ev­ery­one in Canada has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to work to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion by first open­ing di­a­logue and, frankly, just be­ing kind to each other.

“We’re all Cana­di­ans, we’re all hu­man be­ings and we need to ap­pre­ci­ate, acknowledge, cher­ish and love,” he said. “We need to do that to rec­og­nize the value of it.

“We need to unify our­selves as a fam­ily.”

Jack­son sug­gested ev­ery­one can take small steps: rush to a door in front of some­one to hold it open for them, in­vite a per­son you re­ally don’t like to lunch, greet some­one who looks dif­fer­ent than you.

The per­former has 16 al­bums to his credit, count­less awards and con­tin­ues to be an in de­mand as an ac­tor as well as a con­cert per­former, but for this event it’s mostly his hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism that will be on the stage.

The 68-year-old Jack­son has lived the ugly side of life so he comes from a place of gen­uine con­cern and un­der­stand­ing. Af­ter drop­ping out of his Win­nipeg high school, Jack­son lived on the streets for seven years be­fore turn­ing his life around.

It was as a young per­former that Jack­son quickly re­al­ized he could at­tract more at­ten­tion with a song than vi­o­lence. The bari­toned-voiced singer’s ca­reer and his so­cial ac­tivism fol­lowed a par­al­lel tra­jec­tory and he was made Of­fi­cer of the Or­der of Canada in 2000.

Jack­son is best known on tele­vi­sion for the CBC-TV drama “North of 60” in the 1990s and he will be re­turn­ing for sev­eral episodes of “Car­di­nal.” He is also star­ring in an up­com­ing Liam Nee­son film to be shot in Bri­tish Columbia.

As an ac­tivist and Red Cross Am­bas­sador, Jack­son sees hu­man­ity as a whole, with­out the di­vi­sions that have caused so much grief over the gen­er­a­tions.

He thinks of the truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion de­bate as an is­sue that won’t be healed overnight but com­pares it to the old days when peo­ple want­ing to make a valu­able pur­chase would do so by lay­away, pay­ing a lit­tle at a time as cash be­came avail­able. There was no in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion — ev­ery­one had to put a lot of ef­fort into get­ting what they want.

The same goes for the dis­cus­sions on Indige­nous is­sues but by hav­ing open dis­cus­sions, per­haps there is a chance to heal. Jack­son has said pub­licly that when you see some­one as your brother, colour tends to fade away and we become a fam­ily.

This will be his mes­sage on Sun­day, the first event he’s been in­vited to like this, where it’s not quite a con­cert and not quite a key­note speak­ing en­gage­ment.

The an­nual fes­ti­val is or­ga­nized by a coali­tion of spon­sors sup­ported by Water­loo Lutheran Sem­i­nary and the Lau­rier Cen­tre for Mu­sic in the Com­mu­nity, fea­tur­ing lo­cal musicians as well as Jack­son. He said he wants to en­gage with the au­di­ence, see what they have to say but he also has a mes­sage.

“Start a move­ment,” he said. “There is no sin­gle an­swer.”

BILL BORGWARDT

"My mes­sage is one of joy," Tom Jack­son says.

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