Justin Trudeau: “With hope and audacity, we can have the Canada we want.”
Marilyn Field, DAREarts Founder and President and Vice-Chairman J.C.Pennie attended an evening with Justin Trudeau hosted by Torys LLP’s Mitch Frazer, on Thursday, June 27, 2013. This was Mr. Trudeau’s first major fundraising appearance in Toronto since his election as Leader for the Canadian Liberal Party.
He had a Canada Day message: “Democracy, freedom, compassion and equality”
Marilyn held in her hands a special gift for Justin.
He graciously accepted the gift and Marilyn had the opportunity to tell him about DAREarts and their common concerns for Canada’s kids and their futures. “I brought the children with me tonight,” Marilyn said, as she handed him a beautiful Dream Catcher inspired work of art. On it was a message from 11 year old Martha. “My Wish is that you make wise decisions.” It was the result of an Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal bridging program which created empathy among Canadian children of different cultural backgrounds to dare to dream together.
It was an informal gathering in which Trudeau spoke with passion about his party’s vision for Canada. He had, according to Marilyn Field, “an eloquent practicality. An ability to engage us all in dreaming big for our country and bring us hope.” This is something that DAREarts believes in, too. 170,000 kids across the country now have hope of a great future in their worlds through DAREarts. They too believe that there is something wonderful to achieve, to believe in. With the audacity to hope, they are opening themselves up to greater possibilities in themselves, their communities and their world.
There was a question and answer period, in which John C. Pennie had the last chance to ask Justin about his vision for Aboriginal youth in Canada:
“In view of the need for education and training for the exploding First Nations young population, to address this and other issues, First Nations leaders have proposed to scrap the Indian Act and start over. How do you feel about scrapping the Indian Act?”
What Mr. Pennie refered to is the fact that with nearly half of the Aboriginal population under age 25, the First Nations are Canada’s fastest growing demographic group. The Aboriginal population, according to Statistics Canada, reached 1.4M in 2011. The education for this population is lagging far behind. According to the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, Canada could lose billions of dollars in productivity and that more than 170 billion dollars could be pumped into our economy by 2026 if Aboriginal students could achieve the same levels as their non-Aboriginal counterparts. We’re facing a labour shortage. Why don’t we see that there is a colossal human resource in our own back yard?
Mr. Trudeau replied that he agreed that we must address the education needs of First Nations but he was not in favour of arbitrarily scrapping the Act. Rather, he proposed that we look back to the 250 year old Royal Proclamation of 1763, as well as the Kelowna Accord, as initiated by Prime Minister Paul Martin.
There seems to be a genuine desire to move forward in a good way with Canada’s Aboriginal youth, and bring them into the present and future economy as a passionate workforce. There is a need to address the parcel of challenges that Aboriginal, First Nations, Metis and Inuit children and youth face every day. The suicide rate is, depending on their location in Canada, 3 to 6 times the rate of non-Aboriginal youth. The education funding is 30% is less than the rest of Canada.
In partnership with Aboriginal communities, schools, individuals and corporations, DAREarts is giving kids the tools they need to build self-confidence, pride in their cultures and the path to excellence and leadership. Justin Trudeau is suggesting that all Canadians dare to dream along with us.
We can dare to have the Canada we want.