What is the soul of an institution?
Where do you find the soul of Canada?
How does a documentary filmmaker give a little back to a society that has
given him so much?
In 1971, on my first morning in Canada, looking for a cheap place to stay,
I went to the Y just off Yonge Street. There was a reporter there with a
news camera. He was doing a feature on the number of young travelers Toronto
was expecting that summer. He interviewed me. I was on the CBC the first day
I was in Canada.
Some years later I ended up working for the CBC and being a member of that Y
on Grosvenor Street.
Quietly over the next 30 years I realized that the Y gave me more than a
place to exercise. Its ambience has always had an enriching and fortifying
effect on me. I came from South Africa; a society then at war across lines
of race and hate. While the annex neighbourhood I lived in, and the CBC of
that time, was pretty lilywhite, the Y always better reflected the racial
mix and sense of quiet fairness that was a better Canada, a future Canada.
Over the years that realization has grown into a conviction, built on
hundreds of visits to most recently this Y, that the Y, in its low key way,
through its minimal official intrusion, through the smiling support of its
staff, through the civility of its members, through the rainbow of languages
and origins of those members represents something very special in the great
story that is Canada.
So when Cathyanne White, the general manager of the West End Y asked me to
do something for the 100th anniversary, I was happy to do this film.
(With cameramen Mike Grippo and Colin Allison: sound men Mike Josselyn, Alister Bell and Alan Code; Editor Matt Campea, and my partner in production Christopher