Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award

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29 May 2014 - Bruce Cockburn has been honoured with the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award on May 7, 2014, at the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards gala in Toronto, during Canadian Music Week. Throughout his forty year-plus career, Bruce has expressed his core beliefs through his songs, philanthropy, social activism and support for humanitarian causes. This is evident in songs like "If I Had A Rocket Launcher", "Call It Democracy" and "Lovers In A Dangerous Time", his activism alongside The David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International, OXFAM, Friends of the Earth and others, along with his performances in aid of such groups as UNICEF, Bring Leonard Peltier Home, and Music Without Borders.

This honour, following a Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction, a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, an Order of Canada induction and 13 Juno Awards, including being named the Sustainability Ambassador for the 2013 JUNO Awards, Is an expression of the respect that Bruce has earned both nationally and internationally, as he continues to "kick at the darkness, till it bleeds daylight."

Here is the video of Bruce receiving this award and his speech .. do give it a listen.
"There's only one boat and we're all in it together."

Below is a transcription of Bruce's speech upon receiving this award. Many thanks to Joanie Jacobs for the transcription work.

BC (upon being introduced at the recipient of the Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award), Thank you very much.

*Holding up the glass trophy* , BC says : A tiny mountain or an iceberg broken off from some where. Umm.

Thank you guys for the kind words. I'm greatly honored to be the recipient of this year's Humanitarian Spirit Award. I think it's wonderful that there IS such an award, honoring the spirit of our concern for each other's well being.

That spirit is easily eclipsed by the less kindly things we humans get up to. The more we can do to nurture it the better. The honour is real. And I'm very pleased that you saw fit to think of me, to allow me the privilege of directing where the monetary part of this award should go. [Bruce gave $20,000 to USC and $10,000 to Unison]

I'm not sure I've done anything special to merit this. I think each of us has a moral responsibility to share what we can of our material and personal resources, especially those of us for whom life is less precarious than it is for many of our sisters and brothers. The world is full of pain, and anything we can do to lessen the amount of it is to the good.

When I was young, I didn't think much about it, other than to feel sorry for people going through hard times. As I traveled though, and saw up close how hard tim can be, that started to change. The human condition has a build in misery quotient, but there is often an identifiable cause and effect as well. In the developing world, I found over and over again that the economic structure that allows me to live as I do is built on the requirement that the poor live as they do.

It was a disturbing discovery. I understood that I had to make a choice between ignoring that fact and doing what I could to offset it. Ignoring it seemed just plain wrong. My parents provided me with a pretty strong moral framework.

The first time I received a sizable amount of money, it was clear that I had to share some of the bounty. I looked around for some trustworthy entity to give it to. My then mother-in-law was very close friends with a woman who a headed a charitable agency called the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, Dr Lota Hichmonova. She was a colorful, warm and utterly committed person of great intelligence and energy. I felt I could rely on USC to put my ill-gotten gains to good use. That was in 1970. Things just kinda went on from there.

From periodic donations, my relationship with the NGO community evolved to where it included travel to some to the places where money becomes action, Central and South America, parts of Asia and Africa.

I had adventures, encounters which beget songs, which led to more travel. Now and then, I get asked what current issue I'm working on. Well, for one thing, I am not the one doing the work. I just try to say what I see. But in any case, there's really only one issue - how we treat each other and by extension, how we treat the planet that gives us life. Everything, *interrupted by applause*, Thanks, everything, all the specifics flow from that. We are under orders to love our neighbor. Can we tell ourselves we are doing that, if we stand by and watch her starve because of climate change? Or be victimized by repressive or corrupt leaders raking what they can off the system? There is only one boat and we are all in it together.

Thank you Canada Music week, thank you Slaight foundation, and thanks Canadian Radio for allowing the songs to get out to be heard. And last but not least, thanks Bernie for allowing all the extracurricular activities.

Have a good night everybody.

~ from

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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.