Tom Jackson coming to Waterloo church for peace festival
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.”
"My message is one of joy," Tom Jackson says.