The Hon. James K. Bartleman
Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario
Annual Christmas Luncheon Season's Greetings from the Hon. James K. Bartleman, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario
Chairman: Dr. John S. Niles
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
David Edmison, Past President, The Empire Club of Canada, and Past Chair, The Empire Club Foundation; Rick Tobias, The Yonge Street Mission, and our Empire Club of Canada Community Service Award Winner; Gwen Harvey, Governor of the Royal Ontario Museum; Paul Mohammed, RSM, COPS, Cadet; Loretta Foster, The Military Family Resource Centre; Anita Hofstatter, Volunteer, The Sunnybrook Veterans Wing; Rudyard Griffith, The Dominion Institute; Major William A. Duncan, Veteran, and Honorary Director, The Empire Club of Canada; The Rt. Rev. Colin R. Johnson, Bishop of The Anglican Diocese of Toronto, and Honorary Chaplain, The Empire Club of Canada; Gareth Seltzer, Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Erin Adams, Dominion of Canada General Insurance; LCdr Albert Wong, Canadian Forces; Cpl Denver Williams, Canadian Forces; Stanley Lambe, The Yonge Street Mission; Lisa Cardile, The Yonge Street Mission; and Abdul Chaudhry, Supporter of The Canadian Forces, and Father of Ali Chaudhry.
Introduction by John Niles
It is now my pleasure to introduce the 27th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the Honourable James K. Bartleman. His Honour has worked non-stop since his appointment and particularly focused on eliminating the stigma of mental illness, the fight against racism and encouraging all youth, especially Aboriginal young people. His book program raised over 850,000 good used books for First Nations schools and Friendship Centres and in the past year he has expanded his literacy camps program to 28 fly-in communities. I can only guess that His Honour found the time at nights between midnight and 6 a.m. to write three outstanding books, including 2005's "Rollercoaster: My Hectic Years as Jean Chrétien's Diplomatic Advisor 1994-1998." This will likely be His Honours' last address to the club as Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, but I hope that we continue to hear from him as author and advocate. Please welcome the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the Honourable James K. Bartleman.
Thank you very much. Your Grace, Dr. Niles, Mr. Chaudhry, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I'm really happy to join you once again for this year's Empire Club Christmas luncheon. It is my fifth luncheon and it is really a great way to begin the holiday season because here on this occasion we celebrate heroes and organizations that do so much for our society as exemplified by the people who have just been introduced at the head table and others who are in the room.
This year the club has chosen to highlight the service, past and present, of Canada's military men and women as well as one of Toronto's most outstanding charity organizations. I applaud my fellow head table guest Rudyard Griffiths of the Dominion Institute for spearheading the successful drive for a state funeral for our last World War One veteran. It is the very least we can do to show our respect and gratitude for the sacrifices of all veterans. And it is our privilege for all of us to break bread today with Major Bill Duncan, a veteran of the Second World War, who has just been introduced, 91 years young, Ms. Loretta Foster of the Military Family Resource Centre, Corporal Denver Williams and Lieutenant Commander Albert Wong and Mr. Abdul Chaudhry, whose son Ali is serving with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. I think we should give them another round of applause.
It's really a poignant occasion. I can imagine the Empire Club back during the Second World War having similar luncheons to honour soldiers coming back from the front. Just before the lunch I met a number of the wounded veterans--such young men--and think of the sacrifices they have made and how important it is that we continue to honour them and remember to pay attention to them for what they are doing for our country. It is really so important and I don't think we really appreciate that until we shake their hands and see what they are still going through--physiotherapy and medical treatment. It is really a fantastic sacrifice for all of us.
Here at home the war on poverty and homelessness continues. I'm glad to be associated at the head table with Rick Tobias, Executive Director since 1989 of the Yonge Street Mission, and other members of the Yonge Street Mission who are here. Every year we honour people at Christmas who are thinking of others and I think what makes this job so wonderful is that I have an opportunity to see how Ontarians step up to help other Ontarians.
I have been focusing also on campaigns to help the disadvantaged, both in terms of anti-racism and mental health, and more recently I have given a lot of attention to the issue of the plight of young Aboriginal children in the north of the province. When you move north of the Trans-Canada Highway there is a land, which is almost entirely inhabited by Native people. You cross the border from the first world into the third world where about 75 per cent of the people are unemployed, where there is no work. People live on welfare and the children have no hope. They have no hope because they have no prospect of jobs. They have no hope because most of them, many of them, have never learned to read and write. They see no future for themselves in Canada or in their communities and as a result they have been killing themselves at an epidemic rate for years and years; 10 times the rate that you would find among any other group of young people in the country. It is really heartbreaking to see these 12 to 14-year-old boys and girls just walking around with pieces of rope in their pocket and when things get too bad they just hang themselves. What I have been doing is trying to introduce to the north of the province the same intervention on the part of civil society that we have here in the South.
Governments do what governments do but the real human touch comes from organizations like the Yonge Street Mission and the Good Shepherd, organizations that show a human face. The human face like the young lady here who receives so many people who are down on their luck and who bring a sense of compassion into the lives of the people up there.
North of the Trans-Canada Highway, civil society has not been involved at all and to a great extent it is because people haven't known how to get involved and how to connect with the Native people in that area. But I have shown that there is a tremendous amount of compassion in our society; a tremendous amount of desire to reach out and break down barriers. The first way of reaching out was to provide good used books so that the children would at least have books to read so that they could learn to read. How can you learn to read if you don't have books in a school library?
We established the libraries. To break down the barriers we twinned 100 Native schools with 100 non-Native schools in the province and all the schools in Nunavik with schools in Toronto. With that we were able to show the kids that everybody is a human being under their skin. And also the teachers were able to communicate with each other.
I'm going tomorrow to North Caribou Lake First Nation where they've had some really tough times in the past two months. I found out about the situation because the twin school in Toronto told me that the teachers up there told them how difficult things were. So I'm taking Santa Claus up. This time Santa Claus has delegated his responsibilities to a particularly well-endowed member of the Ontario Provincial Police who will be hiding his gun somewhere else and will be coming up. We have bags and bags of books and mandarins and toys and things, which we are taking up there to show that people in Toronto care. We are going to fly into that community which is about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay just to show them that we care about them and that they should have hope.
Last summer I launched 36 literacy camps in 28 communities with $6 million from teachers' organizations, universities, trade unions, DeBoers, plus help from the Ontario government. These camps will be running for five years. They are now endowed and now I am organizing a young readers' program run by the southern Ontario library service. I put together about a million dollars from ordinary people, citizens stepping up, teachers in particular, and all the children in these fly-in communities will receive brand new books and a children's magazine for Aboriginal kids. That is now funded for a five-year period as well. And so we are able to show that civil society can work in building bridges with the Native communities and help where needed in a non-political way.
And now I'm announcing we are going to launch another massive book drive for the month of January. If you have any children's books or young adult books or children's magazines in particular or the Beaver or the Canadian Geographic, drop them off at your local Ontario provincial police detachment any time in January. Commissioner Fantino has sent out instructions to all the Ontario provincial police detachments to receive these books. The military has offered the use of a hangar at Downsview and will be going around picking up books from the various police stations. I'm going to be asking retired teachers to sort books and we will be restocking libraries and bringing books into isolated communities of Native people in Nunavik, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Northern Quebec and other areas, as well as showing that Canadians care about the well-being of Native children. That is a message of hope and compassion at this time of the year.
So thank you for inviting me to address you today. In the name of the Queen, I bring you season's greetings and every good wish for the New Year. Thank you very much.
The Empire Club was then entertained by the Regent Park School of Music.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Gareth Seltzer, Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.