Toronto’s Night of Ideas: Welcoming Speech by Tudor Alexis

Dear friends,

It’s with great pleasure that I’m here with you for the 3rd edition of La Nuit des Idées here in Toronto.

In a short space of time, the Night of Ideas has become a regular feature with the curious minds in Toronto.

I would also like to mention that 8 other Canadian cities are hosting similar events this year: Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Moncton, Montréal, Québec, Trois Rivières.

En effet, ces 9 villes canadiennes font partie des 120 lieux dans le monde où aura lieu la Nuit des idées, une initiative de l’Institut français, cette année entre le 25 janvier et le 2 février.


As you all know this year’s theme is “Etre Vivant”, which means “Being alive”.

I’m glad Art Museum has chosen to explore this theme by making us debate on the relationship between the body and the norm as echoed in Lorenza Böttner’s first North American exhibition, “Requiem for the Norm” that is curated by Paul B. Preciado.

I hence thank Art Museum and its vivacious team lead by Barbara Fischer for bringing the works of Lorenza here. I also wish to thank Hart House and all of John Monahan’s exceptionally gifted team and University of Toronto for being great partners of the Night of Ideas.

A word of thanks to our wonderful partners at the Goethe Institut, The Walrus, CIUT Radio et NOW Magazine.

My deepest warmest thanks will be to my other colleagues at the French consulate especially Tiffany Fukuma, who is my closest aide when it comes to defining policy and exploring new avenues to make my presence in Toronto more meaningful.

The Night of Ideas is about bringing people together.
I thank all those of you who crossed the Atlantic to be here with us tonight:
Paul B. Preciado who I already mentioned
People from Au Nom de la Danse, the inclusive dance company: Cécile Martinez, Elisa Martinez et Thomas Destombes, who I have affectionately nicknamed ‘Thomas le terrible’
My sincere thanks to Judith Nicogossian, the bioanthropobiologist, who will take us around later for a tour of Lorenza Bottner’s exhibition.
Thank you, Emma Becker, for your upcoming talk on sex workers and activism and thank you, Victoire Tuaillon, for your upcoming podcast here with CIUTFM.


Debates, discussions and, dialogues, that is what the Night of ideas is about.

My dear friends, from the Siècle des Lumières, aka Enlightenment, we have gone to the new obscurantism.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of freeing Concentration camps this year, I sadly note that we have become experts in building walls and putting up fences.

From perfecting the best lie detectors, we have gone to producing the best speakers in half-truths, the best orators in fake news, the toughest defenders of post truths… All these people who seem to set new standards of absolute truths. And they tell us, every day, that they are the copyright owners of these truths and that no discussions can be permitted.

I represent a country where the sons of Canada died at Vimy to give ME the right to question norms.
I represent a nation whose thinkers fueled a Revolution and gave the world the right to express doubt, anger or even DISGUST when confronted with people who profess to be the sole representatives of the truth.

When we see homes of indigenous populations in the Amazon forest destroyed,
When we see women’s right to choose being endangered,
When we see diversity being questioned,
And when we see intolerance towards sexuality of others,
it is our DUTY, as people enjoying these rights in the comfort of our armchairs and for which others sacrificed their lives, to speak up, debate, exchange ideas and collectively reflect.
As I speak to you, let us not forget that there are millions of other peoples who live in the fear of getting arrested just because they dared post a comment in favor of liberty on their Facebook page.

In the times we live in, my friend, we have to wage a war. Yes, me a diplomat, I think that only the term “war” can be appropriate when it comes to fighting against intolerance and ignorance.

And I believe the most lethal arm against cynicism or fanaticism is culture, meaning acknowledging the differences that unite us and not divide us.

And this war, we need allies. These allies are here with us tonight: writers, artists, thinkers, etc.

So, now that our enemies have gone to sleep, let us use the cloak of the night to sharpen our arguments, shape our thoughts and defend our ideals.

And let us be prepared when tomorrow dawns…


Last modified on 31/01/2020

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