Photo by Ryan Johnson | We Day Vancouver
On the morning of November 19, 20,000 students from across the province came together at Rogers Arena for WE Day. Featuring renowned speakers, innovative thought leaders, inspiring youth, and live performances; WE Day is the world’s largest youth empowerment event of its kind. WE Day is part of WE – a family of organizations that include WE Charity. Founded in 1995 by then-12-year-old Craig Kielburger with a mission to fight child labour, WE programs have since empowered over one million people with clean water, built 1,500 schools overseas, and have supplied more than 200,000 children with access to education.
Photo by Ryan Johnson | Craig Kielburger at We Day Vancouver
There was a theme for WE Day 2019: Superheroes. In the past year, WE Schools students and teachers across Canada volunteered their time and raised millions of dollars in support of thousands of local and global causes or charities, so it was only fitting that those in attendance Tuesday be hailed as superheroes. The day was broken into six “missions”: WE Are Mindful; WE Are Innovators; WE Are One Planet; WE Are Community; WE Are Global; and WE Are Leaders. With each, speakers would share stories of their own relating to the mission’s message and encourage the students to continue building towards positive change in each category. Amidst on-the-rise names like Anna Cathcart (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) and Jay Shetty (award-winning storyteller), arguably the most hard-hitting speech of the whole day came in Mission One from WE well-being advocate Lorna Rassmussen. The young lady stood on the daunting stage in front of the thousands of watching eyes and told the story of a girl who suffered from social anxiety and depression and how that girl used writing to help develop a voice to express what she was feeling.
Photo by Ryan Johnson | Lorna Rassmussen at We Day Vancouver
That girl was the speaker herself, and by the end of the speech, she was proudly relating her struggles to the audience. “I’m hear because mental illness isn’t something any of us should ever have to stay silent about, because I refuse to be ashamed, I refuse to be silent!” The energy in the room was extraordinary. It was a truly beautiful moment and the inspirational young lady left quite the mark.

Among the artists performing at WE Day was six-time JUNO Award winner Serena Ryder. Known for hits such as “Got Your Number” and “Electric Love,” the singer-songwriter has performed at WE Day for the past several years. Vancouver Weekly had the opportunity to sit down with Serena and ask what WE Day means to her.

“It’s about empowering everyone, especially our youth generation, to make sure that they know that they have the power to change the world.”

Serena Ryder is beginning her ‘Christmas Kisses Tour’ this Saturday in Vancouver at the Centre for Performing Arts. It’s an early show, with Ryder set to hit the stage at 7:30. The tour takes its name from her first ever holiday album, Christmas Kisses, released last year and produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd’s The Wall). The show will have her performing both her Christmas songs as well as original material, and is sure to be a very special Canadian tour for the singer.

Photo by Ryan Johnson | Serena Ryder performs at WE DAY Vancouver
Other exciting and inspiring presenters and guests at WE Day included NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; climate change activist Rebecca Hamilton; indigenous youth speaker Laura Grizzlypaws; Toronto Raptor’s superfan Nav Bhatia; and Canadian icon and Paralympian Rick Hansen.
Photo by Ryan Johnson | Darci Lynne at We Day Vancouver
Towards the end of the day, 15-year-old ventriloquist and singer Darci Lynne proved why she won America’s Got Talent with a beyond stunning performance with her adorable sidekick, Petunia. Darci Lynne is a star and it was amazing to witness her talent in person. One of the final speakers of the day was human rights and equality advocate Tru Wilson. The young woman from Vancouver spoke about her experiences as a transgender youth and the struggles she faced as a child. It wasn’t until she moved schools that she began receiving the support she deserved for her gender expression and was able to embrace the person she was. From there she became an advocate for trans youth by speaking at LGBTQ events and talking to teachers about how they can support trans kids at school. “When we accept ourselves – our true selves – something beautiful happens. It creates a community full of people who are resilient, courageous, kind, and fierce; people who accept themselves and encourage others to do the same.” It was one of the many wonderful messages to be taken away from WE Day Vancouver 2019, where today’s BC youth celebrated an unstoppable force for good.