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Do meetings matter?

The discussions that take place at the World Religions Summit, the G20 meeting and the first national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will demonstrate whether talk can transform us

By Samantha Rideout

As I book my tickets to attend three high-profile meetings scheduled for this month, I wonder what each will accomplish.

Meetings are the target of many a joke, from Dilbert comic strips to fake motivational posters (“Meetings: The Practical Alternative to Work”). The truth behind these jokes is that meetings often involve too much talk and not enough action or decision-making.

But talking has its power and its place. The upcoming World Religions Summit at the University of Winnipeg is a good example of this. Religious leaders from the G8 nations and Africa will meet from June 21 to 23 to discuss an interfaith statement they plan to release to the G8 and the G20 leaders.

The statement, called “A Time for Inspired Leadership,” demands that the G8 leaders make concrete efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals adopted back in 2000. These goals include reducing the global child mortality rate by two-thirds, eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education and halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, all before 2015.

In this way, the religious leaders hope to speak out for the world’s most vulnerable people: the poor, the hungry, the undereducated, the sick and the very young.

I’ll also be hearing from some of the world’s most powerful people when they meet for the G20 summit in Toronto on the weekend of June 26 to 27. The delegates’ main goal is to improve the global economy by working out a strategy that will include financial regulation and the control of national debts. Climate change, nutrition and natural disaster relief will also be on the agenda.

But the importance of talk will perhaps be demonstrated most clearly at the first meeting I’m planning to attend. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first national event will take place from June 16 to 19 at the Forks in Winnipeg. It will be a chance for survivors of Canada’s residential school system to share their stories if they wish, so that we can all acknowledge the harm that was done and start building a historical record.

The commission’s hope is that talking about the residential schools will help both survivors and the rest of Canada edge a little bit closer to healing and reconciliation.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the talk from all three of these important meetings on this blog. I will start posting on June 17, the second day of the TRC event, and continue with updates until the G20 summit wraps up on June 28. Some of the statements made, stories shared and truths revealed may well shift our thinking and change the world. So let’s pay attention.
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