Macedonian Youth Engagement Primary Focus of #CMLC2015

On November 6-8, 2015, Toronto, Ontario hosted the 2nd Canadian Macedonian Leadership Conference (CMLC2015).

Organized by the United Macedonian Diaspora (Canada), and its next generation program for young leaders, Generation M, CMLC2015 brought together Macedonian-Canadian leaders of various Macedonian cultural, business, and faith-based organizations from throughout the Greater Toronto Area. UMD (Canada) thanks the Stanwyck family for generously sponsoring CMLC2015.

CMLC2015 kicked off with an opening reception at St. Ilija Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral in Mississauga, Ontario, to celebrate the Canadian release of “Playing ‘Til Your Soul Comes Out! Music of Macedonia.” The album was the first Macedonian Music CD produced by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and is a collection of field recordings made by Martin Koenig in 1968 and 1973. The Sonja and Oliver Band provided the entertainment for that Friday evening.

November 7 was the focal point of the weekend with several presentations and discussions on a wide array of topics.

Held in the Father Madden Hall of St. Michael’s College, at the University of Toronto, CMLC2015 opened with remarks from UMD’s Director of Canadian Operations, Jim Daikos. Following Daikos’s remarks, UMD President Metodija A. Koloski, Generation M Canadian Chair, Kristina Dimitrievski, and UMD Advisory Council Member, Chris Stanwyck spoke about the work and goals of UMD and Generation M as well as the importance of such conferences to strengthen the Macedonian community. Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias, spiritual leader of the Macedonian Orthodox community in Aegean Macedonia, in current day Greece, also offered welcoming remarks.

The first presentation included UMD President Koloski giving a brief overview on the history of the United Macedonian Diaspora and how it has become the largest voice for the needs and interests of Macedonians worldwide. Koloski commemorated the 11th anniversary of UMD’s founding by highlighting the tremendous success and support that UMD has garnered over the years, with programs such as educational advocacy, UMD’s internship, and student scholarships.

Leaders in UMD’s new youth initiative, Generation M, continued the presentations. Mario Hristovski, President of MASO and Chair of United States Operations of Generation M, Filip Jotevski, Global Chair of Generation M, and Kristina Dimitrievski, Chair of Canadian Operations of Generation M, discussed how young Macedonians can unite and get involved in their communities, and why this is a crucial time for both the youth of Macedonia and the Macedonian community as a whole.

The next set of speakers included George Tasevski, a financial advisor, and Peter Dallas, founder of UMD’s Birthright Macedonia program. Tasevski spoke on the importance of bringing Canadian-Macedonian youth interested in finance and economics to the table and taking an active role in the growth of Macedonia’s economy. To illustrate the success of youth involvement, Dallas highlighted the fact that this summer, four members of Generation M participated in Birthright Macedonia where they interned in Macedonia for three weeks while staying with host families. This once-in-a-lifetime experience allowed them to see new sides of Macedonia, while simultaneously providing them the opportunity to develop a stronger understanding of Macedonian culture and language.

The next presentations continued the topic of youth involvement. Jotevski spoke again, this time on the topic “#GenerationM: Has the Rise of the Twitter Generation Helped Our Culture, or the Opposite?” Following Jotevski, Mario Hristovski presented on the important subject of defending the Macedonian identity in the 21st century.

Later, the attendees at the conference participated in a discussion on GenM’s newest initiative called “Taskforce Macedonia” and the importance of intergroup and international relations, leadership, and advancement. Dr. Christina Kramer, a Slavic and Balkan Linguistics professor at the University of Toronto, who spoke on the topic, “Imaging Skopje 1899-2015”, followed this group activity. Martin Koenig, founder of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, and producer of “Playing ‘Til Your Soul Comes Out! Music of Macedonia”, followed Kramer and spoke about the process of working with the Smithsonian Institution to produce its first traditional Macedonian Music album based on his recordings and all the support the project received from the United Macedonian Diaspora and its global membership.

The last event of the day was a panel discussion that was focused on the subject of the Canadian response to the refugee crisis facing Europe. The panel consisted of Chris Paliare, founding partner of Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP, Metodija A. Koloski, UMD President, and Brenda McCabe, Professor at the University of Toronto’s Civil Engineering Department. An emphasis was placed on what the Canadian-Macedonian community can do, particularly the Macedonian Orthodox Churches in Canada, to assist incoming refugees into Canada.

After concluding remarks, which were provided by Chris Paliare and Trajce Nikolov, the attendees engaged in private discussions about the numerous important issues that were covered throughout the presentations they had just witnessed. The conference was then followed by a reception at the St. Clement Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral with music provided by the Groove Monks.

The 2nd Canadian-Macedonian Leadership Conference as a whole served to inspire Canadian-Macedonians to get active and build upon the groundwork that many before them have worked tirelessly to establish. The conference ended on one final note: united, our diaspora can be a powerful instrument to achieving the values and goals so dear to our community.

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