First, we would like to acknowledge that we are gathering on the Traditional and unceded Coast Salish Territories of
the Musqueam, Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and for that we are very grateful!
We are privileged to have Chief Bill Williams perform the blessing.
Chief Williams has been an elected representative of the Squamish Nation Council since 1980 and in 1995 he became one of the 16 Hereditary Chiefs of the Squamish Nation. Chief Williams has many significant accomplishments and awards but it is his dedication and perspective that comes from his understanding of the importance of passing on knowledge of cultural and spiritual values in his work and everyday life that sets him apart.
Please welcome Chief Bill Williams.
Blessing given by Chief Bill Williams
Bradford: On behalf of AIDS Vancouver, Partner Organizers and Sponsors, welcome to the Vancouver International
AIDS Candlelight Memorial. I would like to extend a warm welcome to those who are attending for the first time".
Here with me, for American Sign Language Interpretation, is Lisz Keallen.
Bradford's Introduction: My name is Bradford McIntyre. I serve as Vice Chair, on the Board of Directors
of AIDS Vancouver, the first AIDS service organization in Canada, since 1983. I am the founder and operator of the HIV/AIDS information
and resource website, Positively Positive - Living with HIV/AIDS (www.PositivelyPositive.ca). As a long time survivor living with HIV for 28 years, it is my great
honour to participate in this Memorial. At 60 years of age, half of my life has been affected by HIV and AIDS.
I announced publicly on national TV, on the Dini Petty Show, World AIDS Day, December 1, 1994, that I was living with HIV.
For 18 years, I have been an advocate for creating HIV and AIDS awareness and for as long as I am able, I will continue to work at
breaking down the barriers, just like those who went before me! They made it possible for me to be out about HIV! Their early
battles for: human rights, stigma and discrimination issues, prevention strategies and access to care and
treatment have benefited my life greatly.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV is one of the world's
oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world. The first memorial was held in San Francisco, in 1983.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of
some 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries.
Around 100,000 people worldwide today commemorate the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to support those living with HIV and affected by its impact. AIDS Vancouver is honoured to be the host community organization for the Vancouver event, now lovingly returned to Alexandra Park.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is much more than just a memorial. The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS.
According to the most recent UNAIDS statistics, around 34 million people are living with HIV globally . Increasing access to HIV treatment has aided efforts to stabilize the epidemic, but still every year 1.8 million people die of AIDS related diseases , while some 2.7 million new people become infected . Annually at least 390,000 children are born with HIV , something which is entirely preventable with current medical knowledge.
Promoting Health and Dignity Together is the theme of this year's Memorial. The theme emphasizes that the health and well-being of an individual cannot be achieved without respecting a person's dignity and promoting and protecting the human rights of all . Promoting Health and Dignity Together is closely connected to the rights based framework, Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention , focusing on the health and well being of people living with HIV, which has been developed by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) and has informed national policies responding to the needs of people living with HIV around the world.
With 34 million people living with HIV today, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as an important intervention for global solidarity , breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination and giving hope to new generations.
The AIDS Candlelight Memorial is an ideal opportunity and event, which allows people who are affected or infected by HIV to gather together, to mourn losses, to celebrate lives and to give and receive comfort from others.
I often think about the countless people, who in the beginning of this epidemic worked tirelessly to break down the barriers of fear and discrimination in their own lives as well as for the sake of others. They worked successfully at preventing the spread of AIDS. Many died in the process! Globally, we are the beneficiaries of their pioneering efforts.
We come together on this day to honour the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS, people living with HIV/AIDS and to remember those we have loved and lost to HIV/AIDS.
To quote San Francisco Health Commissioner, Cecilia Chung, Cecilia Chung, who is HIV positive,
"We are all living with HIV whether we have the virus or not."
Bradford McIntyre: See We Are ALL Connected
I would like you to take a moment and look around.
See each other. See we are all connected!
Whether You are affected by, or infected with HIV, we must cross those boundaries of Fear and Discrimination.
To Join Our Hearts, in the realization we are ALL here to Love one another.
I join with you that we create a shift in thinking around HIV/AIDS and all disease!
Love is the way!
I am Positively Positive, says Bradford.
Bradford continues: With us, we have recording artist Michael Vincent singing "We Are All Of Us".
Known for his soulful vocals, Michael made approximately 100 TV appearances, recorded with Polydor and Atlantic and toured across the continent and around the world. Michael is here with us this evening to sing one of his original songs.
Please welcome, Michael Vincent.
Our first speaker is John Cameron
John has been living with HIV/AIDS since the very beginning of the epidemic. He is one of the founders of World AIDS Day in Vancouver, starting in 1994. In 2006, John Cameron received the Kevin Brown PWA Hero Award at Positive Living Society's bi-annual AccolAIDS Award event. Since 1984, John has and continues to work tirelessly advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS. Please welcome to the stage, John Cameron.
Our next speaker is Doreen Littlejohn
Doreen Littlejohn has been the nurse coordinator of the Positive Outlook Program at Vancouver Native Health Society. She single-handedly conceptualized, developed and implemented the Positive Outlook Program, with the full support of the Vancouver Native Health Society (VNHS), Aboriginal leaders and people living with HIV and AIDS in the Downtown Eastside. Doreen is recognized locally and nationally for her advocacy, fundraising ability and innovative programming over the past 12 years to support the health of First Nations and non-Aboriginal residents with HIV/AIDS, mental illness and addiction. Doreen is like no other," says Registered Nurse Lesley Cerny . "Several say that without Doreen and the staff at Positive Outlook Program, they would not be alive today." She is defined not merely by advocacy but by "love - her generosity, boundless energy, unwavering regard for people living in the Downtown East Side (DTES), and her willingness to always go the extra mile ". In 2008, Doreen Littlejohn received the Above and Beyond Award at Positive Living Society's bi-annual AccolAIDS Award event.
Bradford continues: Please welcome to the stage, Doreen Littlejohn, she is a dedicated and tireless advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Next I would like to introduce Heidi Morgan:Heidi Morgan is AIDS Vancouver's Grocery program coordinator. Heidi used to go with her late father, when he accessed the AIDS Vancouver grocery program. She has been involved with the HIV/AIDS community for many years. Heidi is also a musician, singer/songwriter, whom you may have heard at events and festivals around town. She has a song she would like to share with us this evening.
Please welcome to the stage, Heidi Morgan.
Heidi sings "Teach Us Love".
Bradford reads Shirley Young's Message
"Shirley Young, mother of Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, usually attends the Vancouver International AIDS Candlelight Memorial but she is unable to attend. She sends this message.
Shirley's message:"I am very sorry that I am unable to be with you this evening as you gather to remember precious loved ones. Please know that I will be with you in Spirit with Love in my Heart."
"She asks that I read the comforting words of Peter's affirmation", says Bradford.
Dr. Peter's Affirmation
"I accept and absorb all the strength of the earth
to keep my body hard and strong;
I accept and absorb all the energy of the sun
to keep my mind sharp and bright;
I accept and absorb all the life force of the ocean
to cleanse my body and bring me life;
I accept and absorb all the power of the wind
to cleanse my spirit and bring me life;
I accept and absorb all the mystery of the heavens,
for I am a part of the vast unknown.
I believe God to be all these elements,
and the force that unites them;
And from these elements I have come,
and to these elements I shall return;
Bradford McIntyre reads Proclamtion by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson proclaiming May 20th 2012 Vancouver International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day.
Ringing of the Tibetan Bell & Moment of Silence by James & Bradford
Our next speaker is James Johnstone.
James Johnstone has a long association with Vancouver's AIDS Memorial. He emceed and helped past organizers of this event for seventeen years. The Vancouver AIDS Memorial Society held its 27th and final annual observance in May 2010. James' first partner, Bob Tivey, was AIDS Vancouver's first Executive Director. James is a writer, editor, house history researcher, neighbourhood historian, heritage and community activist, neighbourhood history walk guide, and a proud Gay dad.
Please welcome to the stage, James Johnstone.
Ringing the Tibetan Bell by James Johnstone
"From ancient times, people of many faiths and many cultures have used the sound of bells to call people to prayer; to centre a community's attention on a significant moment or event; to call people to action. We ring bells on joyous occasions and we ring bells on sad ones.
Tonight we have a Tibetan bell, which we will sound three times before our moment of silence. Let us allow ourselves to be one with its sound. What do we hear in the bell's call? How do we answer?
During the moment of silence, let us meditate on why we are here. Who are we remembering?
Let us be aware how the persons we are remembering or who we are supporting here tonight have touched and changed our lives.
What can each one of us do in the fight against AIDS?
What do we need to give to ourselves in order to go on?
What steps are we taking to bring healing and wholeness into our lives?
As we think about this, let us also remember that as we heal ourselves we contribute to the healing of others.
That every little positive healing thing we do truly matters and adds up in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Every day we are given a choice, between love and fear.
When the bell calls us, let us choose love".
Moment of Silence by Bradford McIntyre:
The mosaic of our lives is enriched
By those we care for
And though time gallops
And distance widens,
Their presence is woven
Into the fabric of our being.
"Today we remember.
For a few moments let us pause and remember people, who have lost their lives to AIDS".
Bradford says: "Continuing to hold an annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial in Vancouver will enable us to remain connected to those who have gone before, to those who are affected today and in the future.
These are reasons for maintaining a memorial event:
to first and foremost honour and remember those who have died of AIDS
to demonstrate, through a public event, strong support for those living with HIV and AIDS
to raise our community awareness and involvement
to decrease the stigma related to HIV/AIDS"
LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES by James Johnstone
"Tonight, we light candles in remembrance of people we have lost to AIDS and for our family and friends living with HIV/AIDS.
We kindle a fire for remembrance and with the power of our love, transform it into a fire of healing and hope.
With this flame, we invoke compassion and support for all people living with HIV and AIDS.
Tonight, Bradford will light the first candle and then pass its flame among us".
Bradford McIntyre lights the candle. (Lighting of the first candle is reserved to honour the contributions/work of a community member in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Flame is passed out among the crowd)
Invocation by James Johnstone
"For all those who are here both in body and in spirit,
for all those who are in hospitals and hospices, special care units and prisons,
for all those too weak to leave their homes,
for all those for whom grief upon grief is too much to bear,
for the thousands of Canadians we have lost to AIDS
and for the millions on this planet who struggle daily with this disease, we light this candle.
We light this candle in witness to the daily struggle of those of us living with AIDS and those who care and support them.
We light this candle in remembrance, of those who have gone on before us, the fire of our undying love.
We light this candle in remembrance of those who have no one alive to remember them.
We light this candle in hope of the coming cure.
May the light guide our way towards bringing healing and empower us to make positive choices in our lives".
THE SUFI SONG
"I invite you to sing along with me. This song, written by the Sufi Islamic mystics, is a prayer and an affirmation. It speaks to our interconnectedness and our ability to heal ourselves and each other. Please join in singing the Sufi song. We will sing it four times" says James Johnstone .
The Sufi Song
I am the circle, I am healing you
You are the circle, You are healing me
Unite us, we are one
Unite us, we are one
CLOSING by Bradford McIntyre:
"Our evening together is drawing to a close.
I feel very fortunate to have spent this time with you!
Thank you for coming out and supporting the Vancouver International AIDS Candlelight Memorial.
Putting together this evenings program has been a labour of love.
Sincere thanks to the members of the memorial Committee: John Cameron, Brian Chittock, Grant Ito, James Johnstone, Doreen Littlejohn, Bradford McIntyre, Tuan Luu, Heidi Morgan and Norman Rossetti.
The work that goes into this event is volunteer in nature & we could not have done all this without the help and support of our sponsors: