Launch of the Heart Gallery of Ottawa

Ladies and gentlemen, guests, friends, thank you so much for including me here today.  I am so proud to welcome you all to Parliament Hill and to this extraordinary photo exhibit.

Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dirt of everyday life.”  So thank you to the Adoption Council of Canada for bringing this exhibit to Parliament Hill where politicians, who do indeed get caught up in the dirt of everyday life, can look at these portraits and feel good again.

This exhibit is the first of its kind in Canada and is modeled after the U.S. experience where photo exhibits such as this one, of children needing families, have been so successful connecting children and families.

But this exhibit reminds us that adoption isn’t just about babies.  We know that older children who need forever families very often wait … and wait… and wait.  What makes the Heart Gallery so special is that it challenges people to change their conception of what it is to create a family.  We often think of adoption as a process of giving – of a family giving a home to a child.

But the Heart Gallery instead invites families into the lives of children.  Potential parents see the faces that say, “This is who I am.  This is what I bring to YOU.”  All of a sudden, adoption is a reciprocal process.  It’s as much about receiving as it is about giving.

When families see these faces they start to imagine a new narrative for themselves as well as for the child. They see the faces of children with a story to tell, often a very sad and difficult one, but they also see smiles and eyes that shine with promise and hope.

In the U.S., after one Heart Gallery exhibit, one in four of the children whose portraits were displayed found a forever home afterwards.  That’s a success rate we must hope to repeat here in Canada.  There are children waiting.  There are families waiting.  Let’s use art to bring them together.

Merci beaucoup.