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Webcast: Videos and transcripts of the Panel Discussion, December 3, 2008

Presentation by Mr. Euclid Herie


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--- Beginning of the presentation

MR. HERIE: Good morning to all of you.

I will speak about Louis Braille, but I do want to just make a couple of other remarks respecting this whole Task Force.

Everything Roch told you is absolutely true, but there was also a second lunch. And the second round of martinis he may have forgotten about, but that's when we took Jim Hugessen to lunch and got him in this.

--- Laughter

MR. HERIE: So after that the rest is history.

When Mary Frances called – you know, when you have been retired seven years, you are not sure anybody has your phone number anymore – I was absolutely thrilled. Thrilled because we were going to be here with friends. Excited to see Roch and Jim and so many of my good friends. And in some way absolutely humbled by the fact that some things really do work, 10 years later.

This is a journey to today which I reflected on, on the train coming up yesterday, that really starts in 1980. It was 28 years ago. When Monique Bégin, the minister of the day, invited some of us to be on the International Year for Disabled Persons (IYDP). Some people weren't even born then.

From that we had the obstacles report. Then we had overcoming obstacles. And on it went. The legislation, the amendments, the 1982 Charter that enshrined certain rights, and so on.

This has been a generational struggle, in fact almost a life struggle, to get equitable access to visual materials.

The train is definitely out of the station and well down the road. I have absolutely no doubt. The legacy to the generations that will follow is well in place, and I am thrilled and pleased, Mr. Wilson, that you and your staff have organized this today and that you have kept faith with the access project and acted on the report because the cynicism of so many is we have all had reports that end up in the bottom of a shelf somewhere.

But this did not. The country could not allow it, and nor would the pride of our nation in accessibility for disabled persons.

I am very pleased.

So now I'm going to say a few words to you about the bicentennial of Louis Braille's birthday. He was the genius, the patron, who invented the six-magic-dot system that revolutionized literacy for all the blind people of the world.

On January 4, it's going to be an honour to be invited to Paris when they are going to have an international colloquium to promote access to Braille and literacy. Also, we are going to celebrate the bicentennial of Louis Braille's birthday starting on January 4.

The next day, January 5, I have the honour of giving the opening conference of the congress on the presentation, which is on the website. So I'm going to introduce it to you.

So, that's the initiative.

I do want to thank Jim Sanders of the CNIB and the Canadian Braille Literacy Foundation for having worked with the World Braille Foundation and made the funds available to establish the 200th anniversary program to celebrate the birth of Braille that will take place, and the Canadian effort, which we have called Braille 200.

There is a little brochure called Braille 200. Barbara Marjeram, who is here, does not have them here today. But she's at the CNIB offices in Toronto. We have all sorts of material.

We set aside January 16 – so you can reach for your blackberries and mark that – where in communities and CNIB offices and city halls in Canada we will all share in some celebration on the birth of Braille.

Tomorrow I am meeting the French Embassy here to invite them to celebrate in Canada the life and contribution of the gift of Louis Braille, the famed son of France who is buried at the pantheon among all the great heroes of France.

Many of you know of Louis Braille and the history of braille. However it's not a subject that is complicated, but it's an exciting journey.

If you go to, which is the website, the program that I have here – this is a 12-minute presentation, which I will not give you today, but it's on the website.

I presented this in Geneva at the World Blind Union's seventh general assembly to launch 2009, because the blind of the world met there on that occasion and they will not meet in 2009. We had 130 countries there.

Then on January 5, in Paris – Jacques Côté and others I am sure will be there – we will all celebrate. I will give the opening address to a three-day conference on the future of braille.

Because if you read my little presentation that is called Six Dots That Changed the World: In Remembrance of Louis Braille, I want to say that in this little journey you will find that there are some, surprisingly, who still believe that braille has no future.

I am here to tell you that it is the only future. I hope that these 12 minutes in this presentation have documented the case.

January 16, in Ottawa, here, I am sure there will be a program. If we convince the French Ambassador tomorrow, hopefully we will have a second opportunity.

The reason we chose January 16: his birthday is January 4, but because a number of us are in Paris at that time and it really is the Sunday of the weekend after the New Year, it just didn't seem practical to try to get the sort of attention and interest that we want to get from this.

Now the program goes on for all of 2009. There will be other events, like in Quebec, l'Union de la francophonie des aveugles (which is all the French-speaking countries) will meet in Montreal, I think, in September. They will hold their world congress there.

André Vincent and la Grande bibliothèque du Québec are putting on a two- or three-month program in the spring.

Tomorrow with Bernard Newnan and Cathy Moore we are working with the Museum of Science and Technology here in Ottawa, who are also putting on a program, and so on.

It's rolling itself out and, for those of us who operate this on a retired basis, it's heavy lifting. But thanks to Jim Sanders and his CNIB staff, we have at least got a work crew that we can refer to.

So thank you again, and I hope we will see you all on January 16 eating birthday cake.

Thank you very much.

--- Applause

MR. MANNING: Thank you very much, Mr. Herie.

Certainly I hope that many of you will be able to take advantage of some of those events. I think it's absolutely wonderful that so much that affects all of us is unrolling and that some of the issues that we are facing are given more visibility to the Canadian public.

I would now like to introduce the Honourable James K. Hugessen, who you have already heard about in a couple of the presentations, and give him the opportunity to say a few words now.

HON. JAMES K. HUGESSEN: Can I stay here?

MR. MANNING: You may stay there.

--- Presentation by the Honourable James K. Hugessen