Christmas Luncheon
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Dec 1999, p. 203-208

Weston, The Hon. Hilary M., Speaker
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Some heroes among us. Social work. Listening to young street kids. Celebrating the new century and millennium by investing in all young people who will take Ontario and Canada into the future.
Date of Original:
16 Dec 1999
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Full Text

The Hon. Hilary M. Weston Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario CHRISTMAS LUNCHEON Seasons Greetings from The Hon. Hilary Weston and Special Performance by the Royal St. George's College Choir Chairman: Robert J. Dechert President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Douglas L. Derry, FCA, Corporate Director, Poplar Lane Holdings, Chairman, The Empire Club Foundation and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Carolyn Burnett, Senior Student, Orchestra Member, Riverdale Collegiate Institute; The Rt. Reverend Terence E. Finlay, Bishop of Toronto, Anglican Church of Canada and Honorary Chaplain, The Empire Club of Canada; His Worship Arthur Downes, Justice of the Peace in and for the Province of Ontario and Honorary Consul General, Republic of Guinea; LCol. J. R. Forestell, CD, Commanding Officer, Queen's York Rangers, First American Regiment, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps.; Andy Donato, Cartoonist, The Toronto Sun; Roger Lindsay, OStJ, Treasurer, St. John Ambulance for Ontario and Immediate Past Moderator, Presbytery of East Toronto; Hal Hannaford, Headmaster, Royal St.

George's College; The Hon. Henry N.R. Jackman, CM, KStJ, Chairman and President, E-L Financial Corporation Ltd., Former LieutenantGovernor of Ontario and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; David A. Edmison, Senior Partner, Martin, Lucas & Seagram Investment Independent Counsel, Chairman of the Board, Bloorview MacMillan Children's Foundation and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Doris Lau, Vice-President, Nesbitt Burns and Recent Recipient of the Order of Ontario; Priscilla Wright, Award-winning Entertainer and First Canadian female vocalist to have a number-one charted hit on Billboard's Top 100; Bunny Segal, Director, Canadian Council of Christians and Jews and a Director, Breast Health Centre of Princess Margaret Hospital; Walter Gretzky, Father of the Year, Variety Village; and Jack Nederpelt, Managing Director, Heidrick & Struggles.

Introduction by Robert J. Dechert

Honourable head table guests, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you our guest of honour-The Honourable Hilary M. Weston.

Hilary Weston

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. As Honorary VicePresident of The Empire Club of Canada, I am truly delighted to join you here today for your annual Christmas luncheon. And what a pleasure it is for me to be lunching with Walter Gretzky who is with us here today as Father of the Year. To hockey fans Walter you are the father of the century if not of the millennium for having given us The Great One. Acknowledged the world over as the greatest hockey player ever, Wayne Gretzky is a hero to Canadians. And we must celebrate our heroes. From all that I've heard, Wayne Gretzky is a very modest hero and would be the first to say that he's just doing something that he loves to do.

And maybe that's what heroes are all about-people who are doing their jobs in the very best way they can or folk who are just trying to survive in a harsh world. If that is the case then there are many heroes among us and during my tour of duties I have met my fair share of them.

Since this is Christmas in keeping with the theme of giving I would like to tell you about some of those heroes-people who are not as well off as we are and whose chances of enjoying a nice lunch as we are doing today is very remote at this time or at any other time of the year. They are heroes, as Victor Hugo reminds us in "Les Miserables." Life misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, and poverty are battlefields which have their heroes.

Earlier this year I spent some time in the company of some young social workers who care for Toronto's street folk and they took me to visit a relatively small area underneath the Gardner Expressway. I learned that as many as 500 people were living there, ranging in age from a person of 60 to a boy 11 years old. They told me that the boy was a runaway from a hospital in Montreal where he was being treated for fractures of both legs. When he learned that his father was coming to see him, he fled from the hospital because it was the father who had inflicted his injuries. Despite his broken legs he managed to beg, borrow or steal enough for the bus fair to Toronto. He is now trying to survive as a squeegee kid.

I've come to know one particular social worker called Ted who knows all 500 of the Gardner's residents by name and who worries about them constantly. During the great Toronto snowstorm of last winter this young man woke in the middle of the night knowing exactly where some of his young charges would be sheltering from the elements-in an unused hydro bunker. He also knew that the bunker would be buried by the blizzard and that it would be very unlikely they would manage to get out. So at three o'clock in the morning, armed with a snow shovel, he went to dig them out. And I have to say as the first winter's storm passed earlier this week I found myself thinking about that young man and hoping that he and his friends were warm and safe.

From listening to those young street kids and those who work with them, I know that many would work if they could. But as one young man said to me: "If you want a job, you have to have a place to live. If you want a place to live, you have to have a job." In fact it is the classic catch-22 situation.

Whilst there are training and employment programmes available, funded by all levels of government, most street kids are largely unsuited to the traditional career development programmes even though as a result of having to live by their wits they are resourceful and creative. In fact these are the typical characteristics of an entrepreneur. And the answer to getting these kids off the streets may 'lie in helping them to develop these traits.

There are groups like Evergreen and the Yonge Street Mission and another group that I have learned about recently called Eva's Phoenix that, with the help of social services, are setting up innovative programmes to teach street kids real skills in fields such as catering, landscaping, construction or printing. Eva's Phoenix is building a new home here in downtown Toronto-a home and a training centre for homeless young people-and involving the kids themselves in the construction of the project so that they can learn the various building trades.

But these are really fledgling programmes and street kids do not have the resources to deal with all the challenges facing them. In order to succeed they need the support of the business community and of people like you and me. Such support should not come under the heading of charity but rather be motivated by social entrepreneurship transforming street kids from a community problem into contributing members of society through investment in programmes that foster the skills that will in turn enable them to build micro-businesses in our inner cities.

The Empire Club of Canada is one of Canada's oldest and most respected clubs and its members espouse the traditions that connect us to our past. John Buchan, the author of "The Thirty-Nine Steps" and Governor General of Canada once said: "We can only pay our debt to the past by putting the future in debt to ourselves." And I can think of no better way to celebrate the new century and millennium that are almost upon us than by investing in all young people who will take Ontario and Canada into the future. It is in this spirit that I bring you the season's greetings and best wishes for the new year filled with peace and joy for everyone.

Thank you.

Robert J. Dechert

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Your Honour, for your very gracious remarks today and for joining us at this special time of year. Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen we have a special musical treat for you now. It is one of the many fine traditions of the Empire Club to share some of the joys of this season by showcasing the tremendous musical talent of our young people. This year we are very privileged indeed to have as our very special guests-the Choir of Royal St. George's College.

Royal St. George's College was founded in 1964 as a school dedicated to choral music. The celebrated Canadian composer Healey Willan was one of the founders and the inspiration for the college.

Since its first carol service in December of 1964, the choir has been delighting audiences around the world. The choir has toured England where it performed in Westminster Abbey, as well as Hungary, Yugoslavia, Germany, Italy, China, Spain and France.

The choir is led by the director of choral music, Mr. Doug Jamieson, and includes over 40 choristers. The choir's accompanist today is Mr. Christopher Dawes, who is the organist, choirmaster and director of music at St, James Cathedral in Toronto.

Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the Royal St, George's College Choir.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by The Hon. Henry N.R. Jackman, CM, KStJ, Chairman and President, E-L Financial Corporation Ltd., Former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Christmas Luncheon

Some heroes among us. Social work. Listening to young street kids. Celebrating the new century and millennium by investing in all young people who will take Ontario and Canada into the future.