The Concerns of Youth in Today's World
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Feb 1989, p. 223-233
Park, Jane; Hill, Daniel; Stewart, Tarum; Godsoe, Cynthia, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Jane Park: remarks about the need for more concern with regard to pollution and the decline of our environment. The need for leaders to deal with these problems.
Daniel Hill: remarks focussing on the problem of the diminishing rainforests in Brazil. Viewing the future with anxiety and apprehension. Consequences of inaction.
Tarum Stewart: remarks about the lack of security, especially in urban centres. The rise of violence, drug abuse, proverty. Some suggestions for solutions, especially with regard to education.
Cynthia Godsoe: remarks about problems with directly affect her peer group: street kids, crime by young people; runaways. Some suggestions for solutions of the disease, not the symptoms.
Date of Original
9 Feb 1989
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
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Full Text
Jane Park Daniel Hill Thrum Stewart Cynthia Godsoe
Chairman: A.A. van Straubenzee President


"Youth is a continual intoxication; it is the fever of reason"-so said the Duke Francois de la Rochfouco.

I think I know what he means.

One of my professional tasks in life is to undertake searches for Principals or Heads in the independent schools in Canada. In the course of this work we always talk at length with representatives from the many constituencies in the school community-namely parents, alumni, teachers, Board members, the search committee of course, and the students.

I have always been particularly rewarded by the meetings with groups of students whose input on the leadership they want for their school is insightful, dynamic and challenging.

Recently in a student group discussion with us, a Grade 7 boy told a Grade 10 student that she was crazy when she said: "I'd like to see someone who can inspire us in assemblies:" He said: "I want someone who doesn't just give pretty speeches but sets an example and really cares about people." Interesting.

And the humour they have! After we had advertised in the R.O.B. for a Principal, the boys at that school wrote up an ad in their own school newspaper for a number of positions asking all applicants to reply in strict confidence to Mr. A.A. VS-using our Logo. On the opposite page were the names of possible candidates for the Principal with the odds as to their chances. They threw in the school janitor at 3 to 1; Sinclair Stevens at 10 to 1; a former Prime Minister at 20 to 1 and the school mascot at even money.

At the Empire Club this year we have had, and will have, as our guest speakers some of the great citizens of the world as well as some very prominent Canadians. They are today's leaders.

Today we have tomorrow's leaders, and let me introduce them. Each one will be speaking for five minutes on a topic of his or her choice and the group will take two minutes to comment on each speech - there will be a wrap-up of one minute at the end for each individual panelist. Edmund Burke said: "Tell me what are the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of young people and I will tell you what is to be the character of the next generation."

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, let's find out.

Our first speaker will be Jane Park. Jane is going to graduate this year from Martingrove High School, where she has spent her entire secondary school career receiving averages in the 90s. She hopes to go into law. She has been actively involved in model parliaments, international affairs conferences, and she is president of her debating society. She is a writer for the school magazine-The Bare Facts. She enjoys playing the piano and is on the swimming team. She recently spent a summer in South Korea.

Our second speaker, Daniel Hill, is another student with averages in the 90s. He is on the Harbord Collegiate Reach for the Top team. He is destined for medicine and also hopes to do some writing. Daniel is second vicepresident of the students' council and enjoys travelling, playing tennis and singing in the choir. He is about to leave for a trip to Russia in March. Daniel has another year of high school before he goes on to university.

Our third panelist will be Tarum Stewart who has been at Upper Canada College since 1982. Tarum also hopes to end up in law. He is currently the vice-chairman of the World Affairs Conference put on at Upper Canada this February the 20th and 21st-where he has attracted such speakers as both Paul and John Godfrey, John Crispo, Bob Rae and James Laxer. It is a huge undertaking for that school and his involvement is a tribute to his leadership capabilities. He also has been a counsellor at Camp Tanaka and enjoys canoeing, skiing, windsurfing, and computers.

Our fourth panelist is Cynthia Godsoe who has been at Bishop Strachan School for 11 years and is a prefect. She is editor of the Spectrum, the school newspaper, and is on the swimming team. She hopes to get into international relations. This busy young lady has been a counsellor at

Camp Oconto; spent five months in France on an exchange last year and this year received the highest points overall in the Fulford Cup debates. She spent a summer in the Bahamas in marine biology and works parttime for the Hugh MacMillan Centre for Handicapped Children. Needless to say a very talented all-round person.

Jane Park:

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Empire Club and esteemed guests. I'd like to thank you, first of all, for inviting us here today. I know that we're all very excited about sharing our ideas with you because there are some very grave concerns that we, the youth of the 80s, have about our future.

Just reading the newspaper daily, it becomes evident that we should be actively worried about the kind of world we will inherit. For those of us who optimistically aspire to bettering our world, we face great challenges. It's frustrating to know that the ozone layer may be depleted beyond repair by the time we become adults and start worrying about the welfare of our children.

It's frustrating to think that over one billion people still suffer from malnutrition when there is a food supply in the world adequate to feed more than the present world population. It's hard to understand why the tropical rainforests are being cut down at a rate the size of Great Britain every single year. Most frustrating of all is the realization that all of these problems are connected and tangled together. They can't be solved one at a time.

The destruction of the oxygen-giving rainforests in Brazil and the increase in the rate of infant mortality are direct consequences of its massive international debt. How can the government be worried about social and environmental programs when it must spend over 50 per cent of its export profits just paying the interest on its loan? It just goes on and on.

The effects of these problems are exponentially larger when taken in the context of a shrinking world. All problems are inter-related and overlap. The search for any kind of a solution must begin with the realization that at the end of this tangled web, all problems affect us personally. We all breath oxygen and we all drink water.

It's not possible to feel safe and secure in our own isolated worlds ignoring the outside realities. Because of communication, trading patterns and technology, our world is getting smaller every day. In the 20th century, there really is no such thing as your problem and my problem when it comes to global issues. It's all our problem.

Today's leaders must think in terms of the global village and be worried about our future more than ever before. We have to educate ourselves and then take responsibility for our world. For instance, perhaps Canada would be more successful in halting the destruction of Brazilian rainforests if the banks re-examine international loans in addition to promoting preservation. Only by combatting the problem from all angles can the disease, and not just the symptoms, be diagnosed. Here in this room, we have some of the most powerful movers and shakers of our nation. Now in the era of free trade, the decisions made in the boardrooms and government offices of today will set an irreversible path for the future of Canada. As young adults, we are looking towards your generation for strong leadership and direction. We hope that you are concerned about the kind of world you are leaving us. What are you doing to make sure that we learn from your successes and from your mistakes? As we approach the 21st century, there must be a strong agenda for reform. We need tougher action against pollution. We need to see a greater respect for our precarious environment and, especially with our new Security Council seat in the United Nations, we need to promote international peace and justice more than ever before. In today's world, every decision we make as individuals, as businesses and as governments has an immense impact. Dante wrote that the hottest fires in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis remained indifferent. Presently, we might very well be on the verge of a moral, social, environmental, economic and political world crisis. Unless we are responsible enough to act today, the hot fires of the greenhouse effect, the third-world debt crisis and the challenges of an ever-shrinking world may destroy the world as we know it.

We, the youth of the 80s, are demanding a lot of our leaders, but as direct inheritors of the consequences of your decisions, I think we have that right. You have a critical role to play in determining our inheritance. We have pinned a lot of confidence, hope and faith in your leadership. Please, don't let us down.

Daniel Hill:

Our forefathers have tamed the land and the animals. They have adapted to the climate and endured its unpredictability. Humanity has survived throughout the centuries living in an honest relationship with the earth that there was no reason for it to revoke, but now the future looks uncertain. Mother Earth is rebelling against its children for the abuses they have inflicted upon it, for the garbage they put in the air and the water and for the destruction of the rainforest.

The most prominent and the largest of this type of forest in the world is the Brazilian rainforest, home to 50 per cent to 80 per cent of the planet species. Most are still undiscovered and many will never be known. Extinction is inevitable and, as the trees are slashed and burned at an accelerated pace, extinction is something we cannot reverse.

It saddens and angers me when some rare wild plants that might contain cures for still unconquered diseases are eradicated with indifference, dissipating our hope of ever defeating terminal diseases like cancer and aids.

Twenty per cent of the Brazilian rainforest is already gone and, should this kind of destruction continue at this rate, all will be gone in approximately 25 years. Brazil is a major contributor to the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Twenty per cent of the total amount of carbon releases from deforestation come from that country. Now we know that carbon dioxide is one of the factors in the development of the greenhouse effect. It is estimated that if we continue to view this crisis with total apathy and nothing is done to solve the problems, the earth will become increasingly warmer. This drastic change in the climate will be catastrophic. When that time comes, we will be helpless and our very livelihood will be in jeopardy. Trees that have been cut and burned will no longer be available to absorb this excess gas. This is why we must save the rainforests.

We do not have generations to solve these problems. Time is very limited. We have only years to turn things around to make this world a viable place to live in for future generations, mine and generations after that.

History has shown us that those who caused the problems were never there to suffer the consequences of these reckless actions. It was always the next generation who must suffer, who must bear the burden of solving the problems that they have never created. Let us hope that never happens. Let us hope that those responsible for the current problems have the decency to solve them instead of unloading them on others.

The reason behind the Brazilian government's policies are not trivial at all, although I do admit that those policies are ill-advised. Wiping out the precious rainforests might make that country temporarily richer but it will make a poor and harmful future for them, for all of us.

The improvement of the economy must make some environmental sense. Development and preservation must go hand-in-hand. They cannot be separated. Rich nations must reduce the debt burden of third-world countries like Brazil because we share a common problem and a common fate.

I view the future with anxiety and apprehension. If the present rate of the destruction of the rainforest were to continue, the greenhouse effect is certain in our future. Or is it here already? Was it or was it not the sign of the greenhouse effect that we have experienced the past summer? Whatever may be the answer, we cannot take a chance. We cannot sit idly by and wait to see if we were right or wrong. We must take precautions in dealing with and solving these problems that are facing us before the damages have become irreparable. Thank you.

Tarum Stewart:

Last Monday, there was a disturbing story in The Globe and Mail. A teenager was attacked by a group of boys on the subway and had his Nike shoes and Roots jacket stolen. Gang violence In Toronto.

Now I ride the subway every day and it made me realize how vulnerable we all are. The police shootings of Lester Donaldson and Wayde Lawson have added to our concern. Racial violence in Toronto. Those kinds of attacks only happen in the U.S., don't they? We've always been sure that our cities are clean and safe. You have heard, of course, that there are more murders in Detroit every year than in all of Canada. We share a huge border with one of the most violent societies in the world. We are bombarded by its culture and media. We've been safe so far, but are times changing?

We're entering into a new age of open borders with the United States, thanks to free trade. How can we avoid importing American violence? Well, I believe we have an advantage. The development of our cities is about 10 to 15 years behind that of American cities. If hindsite is 20/20, then the answer to many of our future problems should be clear.

Americans have accepted the fact that their cities are unsafe and that they must protect themselves. I want to be able to take the subway home at night. I want to be able to park my car underground and I don't want to have to buy a gun. The American level of violence is simply unacceptable.

Washington, D.C., has become the murder capital of the United States. The police chief said recently that there are two main causes of violence in his city, guns and drugs. He didn't mention poverty. I was sickened when I heard the Governor of California say that he remained opposed to any sort of restrictions on the sale of automatic weapons even after the Stockton massacre.

Who wants a society where you are in constant fear of being murdered in a drive-by shooting or killed because you weren't travelling fast enough on the freeway. The second amendment gives each American the right to own a gun. Once you give people this right, you can never take it away. Strict gun control is necessary to stop violent crime.

The problem of substance abuse is much more difficult. Drugs and alcohol cross all ages and social classes. People suggest stricter penalties for drug dealers, but this does not solve the problem in the U.S. In the long run, education is the only solution.

Poverty is the mother of crime. We must help people break out of the cycle of poverty. The answer to that problem again lies in education. Today, five million adult Canadians are functionally illiterate. Seventy per cent of students who leave high school do not get any university education or any skills training. These people will be stuck in dead-end jobs for the rest of their lives and the cycle of poverty will continue.

We must find ways to keep people learning. Let's look at Swedish and German apprenticeship programs as a way to teach these skills. While I don't support the idea of extensive public spending, I expect the government to protect its citizens. Canada's highly developed social programs provide a safety net against poverty and, therefore, against crime. The difference between rich and poor is smaller here and this leads to a more stable society.

Ghettos are the centre of crime. American cities like Detroit have allowed their inner cities to become run down. Here is an opportunity for us to learn by their mistakes. We must maintain a careful mix of commercial, industrial, and residential land in our downtown core. This will stop ghettos from forming and help fight crime. The problem of violence is growing. I don't want to accept it as an unavoidable aspect of urban life. I don't pretend to have all the answers. I'm just suggesting a few ideas that might work.

Martin Luther King said: "The choice today is not between violence and non-violence, it is either non-violence or nonexistence." Thank you very much.

Cynthia Godsoe:

Ladies and gentlemen, when I heard that I had to give this speech, my first reaction was total panic. My second, like any good teenager, was to phone all my friends. I found that, contrary to popular belief, young people do worry about more than homework, what's happening on their favourite soap opera, and Saturday nights.

We are concerned about many things, such as acid rain and nuclear war, equal rights and the homeless. However, many of these concerns are distant to us and it is sometimes difficult to see their effects on us. Thus, the problems that most concern me are those which directly affect people my age, or youth problems.

The number of street kids rises greatly each year. Juvenile crime has skyrocketed as have juvenile victims. From 1961 to 1981, the adult murder rate has gone up two times, while the murder rate for those under 18 has increased by six times. Teen gangs are becoming much more common and more powerful than ever before, committing over one-quarter of all juvenile crime.

Most of this crime is committed by young people lacking in education, for the majority are only at a basic Grade 9 level. The high school drop-out rate is 60 per cent in Ontario today and many of these youths will go on to commit a crime. Over three-quarters of all crime is committed by people age 14 to 30 and well over half will become repeat offenders. For many young people, crime seems to pay.

The number of kids forced to live on the streets homeless is 14,000 to 18,000 in Metro Toronto alone and these numbers are equally high in every major city. Young kids are forced to sleep on hot-air vents and pick through garbage to survive. Some are from foster homes or poor families, but the majority of these runaways come from middle class or upper class families. They have left home but cannot possibly support themselves or find a place to live in today's harsh world. This is especially a problem for kids over 16 who are thus ineligible for Children's Aid but cannot get welfare, having no fixed address.

One hundred children run away in Metro Toronto each week, mostly from the suburbs, yet very few youth shelters exist. And when the government attempts to build new ones, as was the case in Scarborough last year, local residents create an uproar and refuse to harbour these youths anywhere near them.

So what is our solution? The police sweep the kids off the streets, forcing them to take shelter in the more dangerous underground. Street kids must be encouraged to leave of their own volition and thus must have incentive, opportunities and some hope for their future. Often, to compensate for the lack of family and community, kids group together in gangs for protection and a sense of belonging. For many, gangs and crime are the only way out. Such gangs battle it out with submachine guns in LA, (gone is the switchblade era), or haunt Detroit where schools now come equipped with books, teachers and armed guards for protection. These terrorizing gangs have not yet hit Toronto but already the seeds are here. Teens hang around in shopping malls for hours on end where fights inevitably break out between various groups. This happened at Scarborough Town Centre just last September where one boy was brutally attacked by four others. What made them do it? Boredom was the only reply. These occurrences are becoming more and more frequent in Toronto, but most tend to ignore it and hope the problem will pass. These problems will not go away and are worsening each year. Despite the fact that poverty and parent/child disputes have always existed, these street kids and violent gangs are new and mainly a product of our generation.

Why is this happening to us? Why are so many young people, 14,000 to 18,000 in Metro Toronto alone, on the streets in a society that is richer than ever? Why are kids so bored they must turn to violence when we have more to amuse us, such as TV and video games, than any other generation before us?

We've been called a lost generation with no real identity, no common values and beliefs. For the first time, many doubt that they will live lives better than or even equal to the lives of their parents. Our role models are few and far between. Who can we look up to? Rambo - who solves his problems with AK4 machine guns? Corrupt politicians? Canadian heroes such as Ben Johnson? Therefore, the problem won't be solved by simply building more youth hostels or breaking up the teen gangs. For these are but symptoms of a much larger disease. We must revise our educational system and build up a sense of community and family through programs such as Neighbourhood Watch.

Most of all, we the youth must be prepared to face the future and try to solve our problems no matter how insurmountable they seem. Dropping out of society or turning to violence is no answer. We, like each generation before us, must have hope and belief in ourselves, belief that we too can change the world for the better.

The thanks of the meeting were expressed by Mary Byers, author, historian and a Director of the Empire Club of Canada.

Just remember you saw and heard them here first!

When, a few years down the road, you hear of the latest judicial appointment, or of the scientist who has made an environmental or medical breakthrough, or of the author who has written the latest Canadian novel, or the man or woman who has orchestrated the latest merger-that is if there are any companies left that have not already been merged - you may say "I saw that young person on the 9th of February 1989 at the Empire Club:'

Lovat Dickson said: "It is a pity that we ourselves can never see the promise that others see in us when we are young." Well we here in the dining room today have seen that talent and promise and thousands more will hear it and see it on television, so you should not be the last to know that you are very talented, that you have articulated your genuine concerns in an eloquent and feisty manner and we are very proud of you. You have also challenged us to look at ourselves and take action to correct some of the problems you have identified and not leave them all to you. Your idealism, your zest for life and your willingness to set out to solve these problems is clearly evident. Thank you very much for being here today. We will watch for your names in the papers.

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The Concerns of Youth in Today's World

Jane Park: remarks about the need for more concern with regard to pollution and the decline of our environment. The need for leaders to deal with these problems.
Daniel Hill: remarks focussing on the problem of the diminishing rainforests in Brazil. Viewing the future with anxiety and apprehension. Consequences of inaction.
Tarum Stewart: remarks about the lack of security, especially in urban centres. The rise of violence, drug abuse, proverty. Some suggestions for solutions, especially with regard to education.
Cynthia Godsoe: remarks about problems with directly affect her peer group: street kids, crime by young people; runaways. Some suggestions for solutions of the disease, not the symptoms.