January 19, 1973 (29th Parliament, 1st Session)


Reginald Cyril Symes

New Democratic Party

Mr. Cyril Symes (Sault Ste. Marie):

Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear the remarks of the hon. member for Humber-St. George's-St. Barbe (Mr. Marshall). When I first read his private members' notice of motion I thought his proposal was more comprehensive than his detailed explanation suggested. According to his motion, he wants the government to consider the advisability of establishing a ministry of state to formulate new and comprehensive policies in relation to youth affairs. When describing the ministry of state that he wished to see set up, he tended to concentrate more on sports, on the development of the bodies of young people, on the development of healthy Canadian citizens, and he seemed to put the emphasis on the primary school level.
I think his motion has merit, but needs expanding. May I give a few reasons for my opinion. My background, before becoming a member of this House, was that of a high school teacher. I was greatly concerned about the increasing disillusionment on the part of many young people, especially my senior students. I would see many of them walking the streets after they had graduated from grade 13, and would be puzzled as to why students of such ability and intelligence had not gone on to university. They would say to me, "What is the use?" They became disillusioned over their prospects of finding a job and their future prospects in a country governed by Liberal and Conservative governments which seemed to do little to alleviate unemployment. This alarmed me, because I can think of no more dangerous or frightening prospect for our country than that of our young people becoming disillusioned.

January 19, 1973
Youth Affairs
I think the government began to realize this back in 1967. In that summer we began to witness the phenomenon of alienated youth. We saw thousands of young people forsaking their traditional role of working, and hitchhiking, instead, across the country. Also, the public became aware of the increasing incidence of drug use. In 1967 and in following years we saw college disturbances. There were riots in United States colleges and at Sir George Williams University in Canada. Learned gentlemen in the press and through the media spoke of the generation gap. We heard this often.
People began to wonder what was happening to young people who embarked on the new lifestyle and harboured new attitudes toward pollution. The government became worried. I would like to think it became worried out of a sense of genuine concern for young people. Perhaps there may have been concern on the part of some hon. members, but there was also the fear of social unrest. So something was done to placate these young people who seemed out of place in our society.
In 1969, the then secretary of state set up a committee on youth to investigate the problems I have just described. As the committee was investigating these problems it became apparent to all that rising unemployment involving young people had to be cured. In 1972, 11 per cent of those between 14 and 24 years of age were unemployed. So when we were witnessing this problem of alienation and unemployment the Department of the Secretary of State came forward with a program called Opportunities for Youth. On examining the history of that program we find that it has merit, although there are some great flaws in it. One of them is this: it has become an opportunities for students program, not necessarily an Opportunities for Youth program.
I am glad to see the Secretary of State (Mr. Faulkner) and the parliamentary secretary present in the chamber this afternoon. A few days ago, during the question period, I asked the Secretary of State a question about the Opportunities for Youth program. Was it designed for students or was it designed for youth? In my opinion, I did not receive a satisfactory reply and intend to pursue this matter further on the "late show" in days to come. On examining the Opportunities for Youth program, we notice that the acceptance rate for projects submitted by university students is 31 per cent, or thereabouts, whereas the acceptance rate for programs submitted by non-students falls to about 18 per cent. One can appreciate what has been happening.
We should have a program that stresses youth of all income brackets and all backgrounds in life. As the program is now constituted, I am afraid the Liberal government is preoccupied with providing assistance to upper and middle-class students. Why is this, Mr. Speaker? The reason, I am afraid, is that upper and middle-class students are most articulate in designing their programs. They have a distinct advantage, therefore, over young people from disadvantaged families or socioeconomic environments. We may also surmise that it is the articulate, educated young people who will react most demonstrably if something is not done to alleviate the problems I mentioned earlier.

Therefore, I suggest that the motion proposed by the hon. member for Humber-St. George's-St. Barbe for setting up this ministry of state ought to be comprehensive enough to include all youth, not just youth at the primary youth level on whom he seemed to concentrate. The motion should include young people of all ages right up to university level and from all social and economic backgrounds. If such a ministry were established, and if its activities encompassed all our youth as I suggest it should, then I think we should be going a long way toward dealing with the problem of alienation that affects so many of our young people.

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