Hon. Andree Champagne (Minister of State (Youth)):
First I would like to thank my fellow Members, who irrespective of their political affiliation, offered their congratulations on my
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The Address-Mrs. Champagne appointment as Minister of State for Youth. I can assure them of my full co-operation and dedication. I appreciate their support, Mr. Speaker, especially since I will need it to fulfil the mandate I have been given by the Right Hon. Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Mulroney) to help the young people of this country.
I also wish to say a word of thanks to the people of Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot for their trust in electing me on September 4. 1 want them to understand that despite my ministerial responsibilities, I will certainly be available to my constituents. I have also become a member of the rural caucus of my Party in order to serve the farmers in my riding more effectively.
I was very pleased that my colleague, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson), announced that the increase in the price of gas will not apply to the gas farmers' need for their operations and that the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Wise) informed us recently that the Farm Credit Corporation would be stopping most of its recovery activities until next January 15.
My responsibilities as Minister of State for Youth will be exercised within the parameters by which my mandate is defined. 1 shall get back to these as soon as I have indicated the key points of my speech. These reponsibilities arise from the high priority placed by the Prime Minister on youth, a priority that will remain, despite budgetary restrictions that have become absolutely necessary as a result of the financial situation left by the previous Government.
The support every one of us has shown for youth is a good sign. In fact, this support will make it possible for us to approach 1985, designated by the United Nations as International Youth Year, in a spirit of co-operation and enthusiasm. [English]
On September 4, the Canadian people clearly indicated their profound desire for a new approach. The Government has understood this message. We must all take it into account. [Translation]
I think it was Picasso who said that it takes a long time to grow young. The problem is that young people do not have time to wait. At a time when words are often more powerful than ideas, they would not understand, nor would the rest of Canada, if we wasted our time.
My philosophy is one of optimism and realism. My optimism is tempered by reason and arises from my experience with young people, starting with my own children. This common sense optimism leads me to believe, for instance, that the majority of young people who succeed in our society can, through appropriate activities, have a beneficial effect, a snowball effect as it were, on young people who are less fortunate.
My approach to Canadian youth which, I might add, is more to be envied than pitied, generally speaking, as I realized not long ago at the Conference of ministers for youth and
sports from French-speaking countries, held in Gabon my approach will, I hope, be a common sense one.
Mr. Speaker, in connection with the conference I just mentioned, 1 am pleased to announce, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for External Relations (Mrs. Vezina), that Canada will be hosting this conference in 1987. In Libreville the news was welcomed with enthusiasm by all participating countries.
I know my colleague, the Minister of Employment and Immigration (Miss MacDonald), will agree with me when I say that in programs aimed at solving youth unemployment, for example, we must discard the shortsighted formulae and those that fail to take into account the training and work experience already acquired by those involved.
My colleague, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson), reminded us the other day in his eloquent statement that we must attack the roots of the problems facing us and not just the symptoms. Let me add that we will devote our efforts to co-ordinating our activities on behalf of Canadian youth with those of the provinces, the municipalities and the private sector. We will do everything in our power to make our programs compatible with the long-term development programs of the various regions of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I intend to realize these projects as part of the mandate I have been given by the Prime Minister. At the Department of the Secretary of State, I am responsible for co-ordinating the national activities program within the framework of International Youth year and for acting as a spokesperson for youth and for those who work with young people within the Government and Cabinet.
I accept this mandate with enthusiasm. I fully intend to be the spokesperson for young people. I will actively promote their interests and aspirations in the preparation of the Government's political orientations and strategies. I am already committed to that policy. If I am to fulfil that role properly, however, I must also speak to young people on behalf of the Canadian Government. I am anxious to listen to them and learn more about their problems and their achievements. I want to make them see me as a privileged spokesperson who will uphold their viewpoints and aspirations. I want to establish a close relationship with them, with their associations, with the organizations which serve them and with their major social partners in the private and public sectors.
Overly concerned about seeking solutions to their own problems, adults are often wont to forget young people and to leave them on their own. Those young people must regain their rightful role in the activities and the conduct of the affairs of our society. Where there is no such role, they must create one, and it is up to us to help them. Young people have every right to education, employment and decent living conditions. They must have adequate means at their disposal to ensure personal
November 14, 1984
development and take part in the development of their community. It is imperative that they have their say in the decisionmaking process which involves them and has an impact on them. Those last three objectives are priorities for me and they will be the focus of my efforts in the coming months.
Youth in Canada today are really no different from their predecessors, even though living conditions have changed. Young people have always demonstrated their creative and innovative potential and have always played an essential role in the constant adjustments which our societies must make in order to adapt to new realities. In this way, they represent an active and positive force. Their unstinting contribution to society's institutions has two important benefits. On the one hand, it enriches the institutions and pushes them toward renewal; on the other hand, it represents one of the most fundamental investments in their future.
Youth's achievements are often more easily recognized in the highly visible areas of the arts, culture, sports and politics. Yet in the past they have contributed directly to our economic institutions, particularly in areas which have become central today, such as advertising, communications and high technology.
Young people represent a significant portion of our society. Almost one person in five is between the ages of 15 and 24. They generally enjoy good health and a physical condition that compares favourably with that of youth in a number of developed countries. They are more educated than they were in the past and benefit from the positive aspects of our age of communications. However, young people are affected by the insecurities, difficulties and restrictions facing our society as a whole. At a time when they are making plans for their future and the search for personal autonomy is a constant concern, all young people are extremely sensitive to the precariousness of world peace, the vagaries of the current economic situation and the significant shift in social values and behaviour.
Young people today are under an unprecedented amount of stress. For some, it becomes a source of innovation, exceptional achievement and excellence. For others, it is a source of serious problems that lead to isolation, use of drugs and alcohol, delinquency and even suicide.
A large minority of young people do not have equal opportunities to earn an income, nor equal access to jobs and training. Poverty is widespread among young people. As well, unemployment and underemployment among youth are particularly serious as they affect young people's confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Adults and especially our major political, social and economic institutions can do much for young people who are in difficulty. However, I believe that young people can do a great deal for themselves if they are given the means to gain a better self-understanding, to help each other and to use their knowhow and creativity to improve their circumstances.
The Address-Mrs. Champagne
Young people are not a homogeneous group. They are not as readily identifiable with specific ideological and political trends as they were in the past. They are students, workers, entrepreneurs and unemployed people. They live in urban centres and remote areas. They are men, women, natives, disabled and people of different ethnic origins. However, a single important characteristic unites them. Having lived in a state of dependence on their families and social institutions, they are beginnig, and in many cases completing, their transition to personal autonomy. At age 15, 98 per cent of young people live with their parents, while the proportion is only 65 per cent at age 20 and 23 per cent at age 24. The transition to personal autonomy is crucial for young people and for society because it shapes the way in which youth participate in society, now and in the future.
Youth form a unique pool of human resources in a society and this alone is reason to pay special attention to their development and to potential obstacles to it.
I was saying, Mr. Speaker, my philosophy is based on optimistic realism. Any society must be particularly attentive to every new generation of young people. The vigour, the health and the future of any endeavour, whether industrial or cultural, can be judged by the quality and the commitment of those who bring new blood to it. The same is true for a society. I invite my colleagues and every Canadian to look at our youth from that point of view.
There are two other principles underlying my actions: one is a sense of equity and the other a search for excellence. All young people do not have the same potential. However, every youth must have all the opportunities to develop his own potential fully whether rich or poor, male or female, native or immigrant, and so on. Moreover, as a social group, young people must not be viewed as a separate class entitled to fewer rights. For instance, it is no more acceptable to pay a young person less than the minimum wage for his or her work than it would be an adult.
On the other hand, young people must yearn for excellence in their field of activity. Youth is by nature idealistic. This idealism must be encouraged, especially when it leads to creativity, challenge and excellence. These are the major principles underlying my action plan, which is threefold.
First, I shall continue to get involved with young people, with the groups representing them and with our social partners for the purpose of listening to their projects and discussing them, whether they be their own or whether they be carried out by governments or the private sector. My involvement will make it possible for me to examine existing means of action, especially in the various federal departments and agencies. I shall see what they entail and check, in cooperation with my Cabinet colleagues, to what extent they can meet the needs of our young people and how their efficiency can be improved. I shall also identify with them present shortcomings and the
November 14, 1984
The Address-Mrs. Champagne possibility of taking new initiatives to help young people help themselves.
Finally, 1 shall continue to hold bilateral meetings with my counterparts in the provinces and the territories, who are responsible for youth-related matters. I shall attempt to define with them the objectives which we can share and to ensure the relevance and complementary nature of our programs.
Finally, I will endeavour to ascertain whether there is any unnecessary duplication of our respective endeavours. I will therefore be in a position during 1985, the International Youth Year, to put forward specific proposals. They will serve as the basis for long-term planning for the young and will truly help enhance their involvement in all sectors of our society.
The International Youth Year is indeed a unique opportunity for youth to strengthen their self-image and potential, to pave the way for future generations. For us adults, it is a privileged period for improving our awareness of the youth fact, to communicate with them and to foster their integration into society.
I specifically and cordially urge all our young people and all those who are interested in them to take an active part in the celebration of the International Youth Year.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that if I seem to dwell upon the young people who are doing all right, I also care for the minority of young people-a minority that is always too large, whatever their numbers-who are facing tremendous difficulties. I have in mind the young unemployed, the young faced with poverty, whether they are workers or students, the young whose emotional ties with their families have been severed, those who are withdrawn within themselves and have lost all hope of better days ahead. They deserve special and first hand attention, because without minimum standards a person cannot grow and fully contribute to society. Were we then to stress the lot of these young people only, this might have negative effects, discouraging the young, making them over-conscious of the obstacles confronting them, leading them to ignore the enormous potential of youth generally, with or without problems. This might emphasize short-term solutions rather than solutions that extend in the future, or create a ghetto for the young people whose problems frighten the adult population and deepen the generation gap. This is why, in my view, an approach to youth must also set aside an important place for their creative achievements and contribution. A youth policy must address all of the young, and increase the potential of each and every one.
To summarize, I see my role at various, closely related levels. First, I definitely intend to strive during the International Youth Year to look for solutions that can improve living conditions for all our young people. In that sense, it is my belief that most young people who succeed will help the less privileged within their rank. Second, as Minister of State for Youth, I am committed to direct all of my energy to influencing federal policy orientations pertaining to social, political, cultural and economic activities affecting Canadian youth.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY