By Emilija Dimitrievski, UMD Generation M member
Photos courtesy of Zoran Karapancev and Oliver Lozanovski
On Friday, November 11, 2016, the Canadian chapter of Generation M, the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD)’s young leadership development program, held a reception to launch the 3rd Annual Canadian-Macedonian Leadership Conference (hereinafter, referred to as CMLC2016) at St. Clement of Ohrid Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral in Toronto, Canada. It was a great way to start off an empowering weekend attended by people from all over Ontario, Canada as well as various places from the United States of America. Honoured guests such as the Macedonian Ambassador to Canada Toni Dimovski and Consul General Jovica Palashevski were in attendance.
Check out the video HERE.
Early morning on Saturday, November 12, 2016, CMLC2016 officially commenced at the University of Toronto. There were many distinguished guests in attendance that participated in well-rounded panels that took place over the course of the day. The conference began with the inspiring words of UMD Canada Director Jim Daikos displaying his excitement for what was going to take place that day: “We cannot give up, nothing is impossible” said Daikos as he closed his opening remarks.
Ambassador Toni Dimovski also made an appearance as one of the keynote speakers at the conference and gave his words of encouragement and praise to the Canadian-Macedonian community, stating “the work our Canadian-Macedonian community inspires the Macedonian community back home.” In his closing remarks, Ambassador Dimovski emphasized that, “what connects us is long lasting friendships.”
Shortly after the opening speeches, Generation M Global Chair Filip Jotevski and Vice-Chair of Canadian Operations Trajce Nikolov spoke about the community response to the floods that hit Skopje in August of this year, as Jotevski and Nikolov volunteered in the villages of Stajkovći and Čento after they flooded. “Once we got the call to action, we were there.” said Jotevski. “You feel like you are experiencing it (the floods) in the moment, when really, it happened three weeks ago.” said Nikolov. These were just some of the volunteer experiences during the flood damage clean up.
In the afternoon, Vonna Bitove, Bitove Foundation Executive Director and UMD Advisory Council member, gave a keynote speech. She spoke of her involvement in the Macedonian community, and inspired Macedonians of all ages to advocate for their heritage, to not forget their roots and encouraged all Macedonians to keep fighting and never give up - "Never listen to negativity, never allow anyone to put you and your goals down," stated Bitove. Click HERE for full remarks.
After a short coffee break, the conference began with the first panel – A Network of Macedonians. This panel consisted of two of Generation M’s youngest members Emilija Dimitrievski and Elena Temelkova. Also on the panel were Generation M Global Chair Filip Jotevski, UMD Canada Director Jim Daikos, and Ginny Evans, Founder and Executive Director of the Macedonian Film Festival in Toronto. Everyone shared their opinion of what could be improved in connecting Macedonians and what has been proven to work to connect with each other.
Evans, comparing how community involvement has changed, stated, “Now, things are different, we need to find a new approach to how we connect with each other.” The youngest member of the panel, Temelkova recalled her fondest memory of uniting Macedonians - the Heritage nights when Macedonian basketball player, Pero Antic, would come to Toronto and play at the Air Canada Centre, bringing many Macedonians together, and inspiring her to continue her work. UMD Canada Director Jim Daikos stated “My children understood why I was talking about Macedonia when they visited their homeland for the first time, they knew what I was talking about.” This shows how important it is to keep Macedonian youth connected to each other and to their roots.
A continuation of the conversation that began at the 3rd Macedonian-American Leadership Conference in June turned into a panel of Women’s Empowerment for CMLC2016. This panel included women of all generations of immigrants and of all ages. Lovisa Owen, senior project manager at Branttel Network, Natasha Denkoski, top sports shooter and former Macedonian Top model and Elena Temelkova and Emilija Dimitrievski, two very active young women in Generation M were speaking on the topic of women empowerment. Macedonian-at-heart, Slavic and Balkan languages professor Christina Kramer moderated this discussion.
It was very insightful to learn about what could be done to bring the values of Macedonians and how they see women into the progressive ways of the Western society. “It goes both ways, a woman is just as capable as a man. We all need to support and encourage each other to be as successful as possible regardless of our gender,” stated Dimitrievski. Elena Temelkova said that many Macedonian women inspire her in her life and empower her to pursue a career. She believes the new generations of Macedonian women are more focused on education than marriage and children.
The last item on the CMLC2016 agenda was a panel on bringing Macedonia to the 21st century, moderated by Generation M Canada Vice-Chair Trajce Nikolov. This was a panel of well-established economists, lawyers, businessmen, and political experts on what’s next for Macedonia. These distinguished panelists were Ambassador Toni Dimovski; Consul General Jovica Palashevski; UMD Canadian Director Jim Daikos, Canadian Green Fund CEO John Kourtoff; Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP Chris Paliare founding partner; criminal lawyer Alexander Karapancev; and UMD President Metodija A. Koloski.
The conversation led to how law, politics, and economy have all come into play in Macedonia’s development and what can be done about these factors to improve our homeland’s current state. "No country can be sovereign without energy sovereignty,” said Kourtoff. Kourtoff elaborated on Green Funds and the need for Macedonia to get on the bandwagon and be a leader in the region in energy security.
“The bedrock of our system is the independence of the judiciary,” said Paliare as the conversation turned to the law approach. Karapancev provided a full lay of the land of the Canadian legal system and the importance of accountability and transparency, and how that can be relayed to Macedonia’s society. Koloski stressed, "If we don't support ourselves, we won't succeed as a nation.” Consul General Palashevski reviewed the electoral system in Macedonia and focused on the Diaspora right to vote, especially in the upcoming December 11th Parliamentary Elections.
"We had the honour of listening to Ambassador Dimovski's speech on Canadian-Macedonian relations and the current economic and political situations in Macedonia on our panel focusing on bringing Macedonia to the 21st century. He was able to give us a diplomatic perspective, which I found to be extremely valuable and important to have when discussing such serious topics concerning our country. We are very thankful that Ambassador Dimovski could take some time out of his busy schedule to attend our conference,” said Kristina Dimitrievski, Generation M Canadian Chair.
“This year's CMLC once again proved that our community's future is destined to accomplish great achievements. The youth were well-represented throughout the entire weekend and executed an excellent Leadership Conference that they organized themselves. With the continued support of UMD and the rest of the Macedonian community, there are no limits for the ambitious, driven, and passionate Macedonian youth,” said Generation M Global Chairman Filip Jotevski.
All in all, the conference was very empowering, informative and encouraged change in the Macedonian community. It inspired many ideas to come in the near future for Macedonian youth. UMD, and its young leadership development program, Generation M, thank all of those who came and participated in this event and there is hope for an even better one in the near future.
In conclusion to CMLC2016, UMD Canada and Generation M members joined UMD President Metodija A. Koloski and UMD Canada Director Jim Daikos for the 25th Anniversary Gala of the Canadian-Macedonian Historical Society at St. Clement’s. The Gala, emceed by John Evans and Helen Giffen, featured speakers such as National Erskine-Smith, M.P. Beaches-East York who read a congratulatory note from the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; keynote speaker Professor Christina Kramer, CMHS President Tony Markovski, and UMD’s President Metodija A. Koloski. CMHS Founders Award went to Pete Kondoff and long-time UMD member Virginia Stoymenoff, and the CMHS Silver Shield Award went to the renowned Macedonian historian, Risto Stefov. Boys from Bouf ended the night playing Macedonian oros well into the night.