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'Change your world, the rest will follow:' Tom Jackson reflects on career, humanitarian work

Last Updated Jun 12, 2020 at 9:46 am MDT

Musician, actor and activist Tom Jackson. Photo credit: Rafal Wegiel

June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians — Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomers — to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Throughout the month of June, CityNews will profile Indigenous people, and share their stories and voices, so that we can celebrate the difference they have made in their communities and to our country.

June 3: Today, we celebrate Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson comes from the One Arrow Reserve in Saskatchewan. At the age of seven, Jackson moved to Namao, Alberta with his family and then to Winnipeg at 14. A year later, he droped out of high school and lived on the street for many years. At 17, Jackson began playing coffeehouses and soon became one of Canada’s top singers. Five decades later, Jackson continues to be a triple threat actor, musician and humanitarian and is one of Canada’s favourite and most honoured Indigenous performers.

“You don’t have to change the whole world, you just have to change your world, and the rest will follow.”

As an actor, Jackson is best known for his starring role in North of 60 and Shining Time Station as “Billy Twofeathers.”

Jackson is proud of his performing career: however, it is his extensive charitable work and activism that are arguably his crowning achievements.

Jackson created an annual series of Christmas concerts called the Huron Carole. Jackson, alongside other Canadian singers and performers would travel across the country raising money for the Canadian Association of Food Banks. He has raised over $200 million combined for his causes. In 2000, Jackson was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada. He received the 2007 Juno Humanitarian Award and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2014.

“Awards raise the profile of the work, which is really the point. Being an Officer of the Order of Canada is awesome and it has helped me create a lot of change.”

“But when I got the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2014 … I don’t know that there’s anything greater than being acknowledged by the people who were in that room and in my life at that time.”

Time Magazine named Jackson one of Canada’s best activists and it’s a role that comes easily to him. From his early years growing up on air force bases, he was often the guy who prepared food for his friends and, following in his parents’ footsteps, made himself available for anyone in need.

Jackson did some work for the Red River Relief Benefit in 1997 for Manitoba flood victims, where $3-million was raised for the Red Cross. He assisted once again in 2009, when the river flooded again. In 2011, he produced a special fundraiser for the fire victims of Slave Lake. Today, Jackson is an ambassador for the Canadian Red Cross.

Click here to listen to Jackson’s latest album.