ISNA Canada hosted its 40th Annual Convention from May 16th-18th. With over 25 wonderful and unique speakers to gain knowledge from, a traditional merchants’ bazaar, and a set of fully-equipped facilities, services, and amenities, this year’s Convention really rocked the Victoria Day Long weekend. The vast majority of attendees, coming in from all corners of the GTA and beyond, had nothing but great things to say about the 3-day long event.
The number one reason for attending the convention was definitely the lectures. With speakers like Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury, and many others, the convention was filled with an abundance of knowledge and wisdom.
The program covered a wide range of topics, from environmental stewardship, mental health issues, and political activism, to Islamophobia, gender interactions and the idea of open spaces for youth. There was also a community board which encouraged attendees to write “What the ISNA Canada Convention Inspired” them to do. By the second day, the board was full of writing, and sticky notes overflowed on to the wall with humorous and inspirational thoughts left by the attendees.
ISNA Canada strived to make the convention as accessible as possible, with full ASL interpretation offered throughout the weekend. A fully accessible children’s program and a dedicated accessibility service booth ensured that everyone was welcomed to enjoy this milestone event.
Another great feature was the green initiative at the convention. Each attendee received a reusable stainless steel ISNA Canada water bottle to encourage less waste. The convention reduced its paper usage by not including flyers in the totes, reducing the program booklet by half, and offering a full version of the booklet online.
Outside of the lecture halls, most attendees found themselves drawn in by the bazaar. By the mercy of Allah SWT, this year’s convention had over 50 unique merchant vendors who offered clothes, services, perfumes, cakes, and much more. Speaking with the vendors themselves, the majority summarized that their experience in the bazaar was extremely pleasant, with a nice and steady flow of customers. All the vendors who were interviewed expressed that, given the same opportunity next year they would gladly put up shop once more.
As with every year’s convention, BeaverTails were one of the hottest-selling items—a real crowd-puller. In fact, some of our City’s finest, our police officers, stopped by to have some. Hero Burger, with its ever-popular barbeque burgers and poutine, is always a crowd favorite. The brothers and sisters of East Meats West delighted those looking for a touch of traditional cuisine. The booth’s most popular item, the classic pastrami on rye sandwich, had sold out within the first day of the convention. There were savory and sweet concession stalls, from samosas to cupcakes and milkshakes. In short, the food court had something for everyone.
Another one of this year’s new features was the free admission to the Children’s Program. This in particular drew the most positive reaction. Attendees all over were extremely pleased by the level of service they received from the dedicated team. All who were interviewed felt that their children were extremely well taken care of. Most attendees were able to spend much more time enjoying and learning from the Convention because of the free Children’s Program. The program featured Dawud Warnsby Ali for nasheeds, John Andrew Morrow for green spaces, and Rukhsana Khan for story time. Other features included art, scavenger hunts, gardening, and a mini-carnival.
Additionally, it was great to see community organizations coming together to provide the various workshops, information booths and services, and outdoor activities. Some of the collaborating organizations were MYNA, CIRC, CAM-D, Global Deaf Muslims, SMILE, Greening Sacred Spaces, the Muslim Seniors Circle, and DawaNet.
Lastly, it was great to see that the ISNA Canada Convention was organized and operated by volunteers. Without their relentless efforts, diligence, and dedication, this convention (and all its activities) would not have been possible. This year, more than 200 volunteers, under the guidance of an incredible and dynamic team of over 40 lead volunteers, came together to provide a substantial and beneficial experience for the community. May Allah SWT reward these volunteers for their dedication and effort.
The closing ceremonies personified the magnificence of this event. Fireworks lit up the sky while Sh. Hosam Helal, Sh. Abdalla Idris, and Sh. Alaa Elsayed sang Tala’ Al Badru Alayna. It was truly a magical end to one of the most successful conventions yet.
If you had the pleasure of joining us for the ISNA Canada Convention, and have something to say about it, or if it seems like something you would have enjoyed, please let us know in the comments below.
By the Will and Mercy of Allah SWT, we’ll see you this time, next year.