Annual Christmas Luncheon - Seasons Greetings from the Hon. James K. Bartleman, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Dec 2004, p. 146-155
Bartleman, The Hon. James K., Speaker
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Item Type
The speaker presents the year's Empire Club Community Service Award. Personal reminiscences from the last year. A focus on Ontario Society in three particular areas: anti-racism, mental health, and support for Aboriginal youth. The speaker talks about each of these and efforts and progress being made. The speaker relates his own efforts in these areas, and how they relate to personal experiences in his life. Looking for support from the members of the Empire Club. A wish for the very best of the season. The Empire club was then entertained by the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir.
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16 Dec 2004
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Full Text
The Hon. James K. Bartleman
Lieutenant-Governor, Province of Ontario
Chairman: Bart J. Mindszenthy
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests

David Edmison, Past Chair, The Bloorview MacMillan Children's Hospital Foundation, Chair, The Empire Club Foundation, Chair, Empire Club Community Service Award Committee, Past President, The Empire Club of Canada and Partner, Martin, Lucas & Seagram, Investment Counsel; Reverend Rodger Hunter, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Toronto and 2004 Recipient of the Empire Club of Canada "Community Service Award"; Isaiah, "Wish Child," The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Toronto; Eden Rosen, Grantor, The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Toronto; Don Harris, Executive Director, The Good Neighbours Club; Caroline Owen, Communications Co-ordinator, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company; The Most Reverend Andrew Hutchison, Primate, Anglican Church of Canada; Gareth Seltzer, Volunteer, Breakfast for Learning Foundation and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Margaret McConnell, Fund Raising Committee Chair, Halton Trauma Centre; Staff Superintendent Tony Corrie, Toronto Police Service, ProAction Cops & Kids; Tamur Khan, Grade 12 Student, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute; Thomas Canning, "Artist in Residence" and Volunteer, Daily Bread Food Bank; and Sue Cox, Executive Director, Daily Bread Food Bank.

Introduction by Bart Mindszenthy

I am now especially pleased to introduce our Lieutenant-Governor.

The Hon. James Bartleman was sworn in on March 7, 2002 as the 27th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, following 35 distinguished years in Canada's Foreign Service.

Mr. Bartleman was born in Orillia and reared in Port Carling. He is a member of the Min-Jik-Ning Nation.

An accomplished author, Mr Bartleman's first book, "Out of Muskoka," was published in October 2002. This memoir of his early life won the Ontario Historical Society's Joseph Brant Award in 2003, presented for the best book on multicultural history published in the past three years. Mr Bartleman has donated all royalties to the scholarship fund of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, whose new CEO addressed us just two weeks ago.

His Honour's second book, "On Six Continents," was published by McClelland & Stewart in March of this year. A vivid description of an adventurous life in Canada's foreign service, the book chronicles postings that took Mr. Bartleman around the world.

Royalties from that book fund the Lieutenant-Governor's Lecture Series on Shared Citizenship and Mental Health at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

His Honour has identified three key priorities for his mandate: to reduce the stigma of mental illness, to fight racism and discrimination, and to encourage Aboriginal young people. He launched the Lieutenant-Governor's Book Program in 2004, and collected over one and a quarter million used books, donated by generous Ontarians to stock school libraries in First Nations communities in Northern Ontario.

On a personal note, I must share with you my impression of His Honour. Not only has he had an impeccable career in the service of his country, but he also has demonstrated beyond any doubt his ability to captivate us with his written words--a skill so few possess.

And even more than that skill, we have in our Lieutenant-Governor a gentle and genuine, kind, caring, compassionate role model whose values are deep and true, and in whose footsteps it would be hard to follow because they are firm and sure.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are honoured to present the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Ontario, the Honourable James K. Bartleman.

James Bartleman

Thank you very much Mr. Mindszenthy. Archbishop Hutchison, Mr. Seltzer, ladies and gentlemen, I am really delighted to join you once again for this year's Christmas luncheon. In this season of goodwill, it is fitting that we recognize those who work to make life better in our communities. I am honoured and humbled to be in the company of head table guests from such impressive leading charities and look forward to presenting this year's Empire Club Community Service Award.

It's been an eventful year since I last spoke to you. I have travelled the length and breadth of Ontario from Port Severn in the North to Amhurstburg in the South, from Poplar Hill on the Manitoban border to Ottawa in the East and it has been my privilege to meet people from all walks of life--from royalty to students working to eliminate racism, from the President of Mongolia to the Anishnawbe Street Patrol that brings hot food and comfort to the city's homeless. I have focused very much on my three priorities, which have already been mentioned--anti-racism, mental health, and support for Aboriginal youth. My focus is on Ontario society as a whole, but I find a personal satisfaction given my own background to do what I can in those three particular areas.

We are fortunate to live in a free and open society in which all races and creeds are respected. Here in Toronto, the most multicultural city on earth, we view our ethnic and religious diversity as a source of strength, but we have no reason for complacency. There was a rash of anti-Semitic incidents earlier this year, for example, which was a reminder that we must never turn a blind eye toward racism. As a response to these anti-Semitic incidents, I convened a gathering of representatives from multi-faith organizations and members of the Jewish community to issue a statement against the state of racist activities. There have been other racist incidents affecting the Black community and other minorities within our community. We should always remain vigilant.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that, particularly at this time of the year, we should not forget those members of our society who suffer from mental illness. I'm very proud to serve as honorary patron of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation, the Institute of Mental Research and Moods Disorders Association of Ontario and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario. I've been very happy to speak at many of their events last year and in other events as well, such as those for the Global Economic Roundtable on Mental Health, the Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere and the A-Way Express.

I am someone who has been suffering from a mental illness for a number of years and I point out to everyone I speak to that one can, if they seek help and take proper medication and take advantage of the facilities offered in society, function quite well. They can even be a Lieutenant-Governor of the province.

I have made the point in all these occasions that we have to combat the stigma that society has put up, a stigma that goes back probably throughout history, that fear is the greatest barrier to the successful treatment of mental illness. Too may people suffer needlessly because the fear of social stigma keeps them from seeking help. They miss out on early interventions, that can and do transform illness into recovery.

In a Canadian community health survey released last year, it was pointed out that as many people suffered from major depression in this country as from diabetes or heart disease and almost one out of 10 Canadians over the age of 15 suffered from an addiction or a mental illness in the course of the year. And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. If there are 500 people in this room, there are 50 fellow sufferers of mental illness in here and I wonder how many have been able to feel they are able to speak freely about their illness, because when you are able to do that then you are on the road to recovery. The survey also revealed that only about one-third of those suffering actually seek professional help, largely due to the stigma attached to their illness. That is a tremendous waste in terms of the individual's personal health and in terms of the loss to society as a whole. We have a long way to go to eliminate the stigma of mental illness and all of us have to work together to tackle the illness.

I would now like to bring you up-to-date on what I have been doing to assist in the third area and that is working with Aboriginal youth in the course of the year. Last year I mentioned at the 2003 Empire Club Christmas luncheon that I was really hoping to be able to collect some books for the disadvantaged communities in Ontario's North. The reason was that I was very fortunate when I grew up. Even though my parents had only a grade four education, we lived in a community where there was an excellent village library. I think if it wasn't for that village library I would've followed in my Dad's footsteps and been a casual labourer because I was completely useless at being an experienced labourer or a cabinet maker or an electrician or anything like that. The only thing I could do was wheel cement and that would've been my fate. However, with access to the village library in Port Carling, going with my father who despite his lack of education was an avid reader, I got a leg up on the other kid from the village to some extent because I was exposed to worlds that existed beyond the Muskoka of the 1940s and early 1950s. I was exposed to great literature and poor literature, all sorts of literature, to the magic of the written word, and discovered as a consequence that my grades in school suddenly went up.

I flunked grade two. How many Lieutenant-Governors in this country have flunked grade two? I tried hard but all that stuff was awfully hard for me. After being exposed to the written word I went to the top of the class. Maybe there were only two of us in the class, but I went to the top of the class. I won the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire $5 award for being the best student in grade eight. There were only four of us in grade eight, but then in grade 12 I won another award which I think was $10, because the village was getting richer, for being the best student to graduate in grade 12. Of course I was the only student who graduated in grade 12. There are certain advantages when you go to a four-room continuation school that starts in grade one and goes to grade 12. Every year more and more of the students drop out because in those days you had to take French and Latin and the guys in Port Carling were not keen on Latin. By the time you got to grade 12, it was the person who had been to the village library and who had read about Horace and Ovid and the exciting life of ancient Rome who made it to grade 12.

I then joined the Foreign Service and was gone for 35 years. Twenty-five of those years were abroad. When I came back as Lieutenant-Governor, I wanted to support Aboriginal youth because I realized how important education was for everybody. I saw the statistics, which showed that Aboriginal people were at the bottom of the social economic scale, that the number of graduates from the Aboriginal community was very low compared to other groups, and I wanted to see what I could do about it.

It was a learning process and as I travelled across the province I visited First Nations communities and also Friendship Centres in the urban area. I discovered the growth of an Aboriginal, middle-class in the cities with thousands of university graduates and a small urban middle-class. There was a huge urban class of individuals who were at the bottom in terms of their per-capita income and a tremendous amount of child poverty. Then you had the reserves in Southern Ontario which were not too different in terms of the number of students that they were producing going on to post-secondary education who were feeding this middle-class which was growing up. When I went to the North my eyes really opened. There I found that in two-thirds of the land mass of our province we have a third world. Statistically that area ranks about 62 on the United Nations Human Development Index which would place it somewhere in the middle of Africa; a place, which is also out of mind to a great extent to the rest of the people of the province.

The population was low in these areas but it was growing the fastest in terms of the number of children being born and the unemployment rates were 95 per cent. Despite the figures that I'd been given by Indian and Northern Affairs in Ottawa, that 27 per cent of those kids were going on to post-secondary education, I didn't find a single community in those upper reaches of our province where you had more than 1 or 2 per cent who were going on to post-secondary education. In many cases the quality of the education they had received was so poor that they were put back several years for retraining.

When I went into these communities I discovered that there were no libraries. Taken from my experience, how can you get an education if you don't have books to read? There were textbooks in the schools but there were no books for the children to read. In the communities there were no books. There were no bookstores of course in these places. Three litres of milk cost $12 in the local store. People didn't have money to buy books and the budgets were so tight for the schools as a whole they couldn't afford to buy books.

Therefore I launched a campaign to collect books for the children expecting to get about 60,000. We received 1.2 million books, which shows the generosity of the people of Ontario. The first big shipments of books that came in were from Northern Ontario from non-Native communities so it showed that attitudes were changing as well in terms of the relations between Native and non-Native people in the North. There was a tremendous desire to help out.

So with the help of the Ontario Provincial Police, the Army, and my 60 or 70 highly paid aide-de-camps, we sorted those books down to 850,000. With the help of Native airlines that flew books into the North, with the help of trucking companies largely in Manitoulin Island who provided trailer trucks, and with the help of the South Asian business community that raised money for the transport of books through a fundraising dinner and other generous people, we delivered all those books. In addition to doing the North we were able to do all the Native communities in Southern Ontario that wanted books and 26 Native Friendship Centres which serve the urban Native population of our province. And so $15-20 million worth of books were distributed without one cent of government money being spent and within a six-month period. I think that is a tremendously good news story to bring to you at the end of this year.

Now I'm moving to the next phase and I hope the people watching on television, if I haven't talked too long and they haven't shut it off already, will be interested. I am now in the process of twinning all the Native schools in Ontario that want to be twinned, plus the schools of Nunavit, because Nunavit is in very bad shape as well, with non-Native schools. So far 75 per cent of all the Native schools in Ontario have signed up, their Chiefs have all given me support, and with the Principals' Council of Ontario we'll be twinning all those schools with non-Native schools. In the next two or three months every non-Native school that's twinned with a Native school will run a small book campaign just to get 300 or 500 children's books. They will work with the Canadian Legion, the Rotary, the IODE, and other organizations to raise the funds to send books to maintain those libraries.

They will also establish pen-pals between Native kids and non-Native kids. There will be an Aboriginal awareness week and there will be other curriculum activities between the Native and non-Native school teachers as they look at working together. This phase is focusing on literacy and also bridge-building between Native and non-Native communities.

The third phase which I hope will start next summer will be focusing on three things--literacy, bridge-building and helping to tackle the problem of Native suicides because five to seven times as many Native kids kill themselves than non-Native kids and the issues are boredom, the lack of summer camps and the lack of contact with people in the outside world. What I will be doing in the third phase is trying to establish summer camps in all the Native communities in the North for July or August. What I would like to see would be school teachers and grade 11 and 12 students going up to these isolated communities and running summer schools for elementary school kids with the grade 11 and 12 students of those communities, so that they can keep up with the three Rs, have sports activities and also focus on literacy. They will have things to do other than think about self destruction.

I'm hoping that this can happen as well at the non-governmental level and that I have the support of the people of Ontario as we move into that next phase. There is no magic bullet for the solution of suicide and literacy and the rest of them but this is about as good as I think you are going to get--summer camps, literacy emphasis, and a sustainable long-term approach. My approach is to look at the problem we have in front of us. Leave it to others to worry about issues of guilt and the history and all the rest of it. There is a concrete problem out there. Let's resolve it. There is goodwill in both the Native community and the non-Native community to work at this.

That's my message, that's my pitch, and I look forward to the support of the members of the Empire Club and the people of Ontario as I move into phases two and three of this campaign. I still do not wish government money. I just wish to have the goodwill of individuals and I'm sure I'm going to get it.

In the name of the Queen I would like to wish everyone the very best of the season. It has been a real privilege to be here with representatives of so many charitable organizations and individuals who are doing so much for the disadvantaged in our community at this time of the year.

Merci beaucoup. Thank you very much.

The Empire Club was then entertained by the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Gareth Seltzer, Volunteer, Breakfast for Learning Foundation and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Annual Christmas Luncheon - Seasons Greetings from the Hon. James K. Bartleman, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario

The speaker presents the year's Empire Club Community Service Award. Personal reminiscences from the last year. A focus on Ontario Society in three particular areas: anti-racism, mental health, and support for Aboriginal youth. The speaker talks about each of these and efforts and progress being made. The speaker relates his own efforts in these areas, and how they relate to personal experiences in his life. Looking for support from the members of the Empire Club. A wish for the very best of the season. The Empire club was then entertained by the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir.