Delegate: Julia E. Garant (24 years)
Ms. Garant (Canada) (spoke in French): Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the youth of Canada. It is a great honour for me and my delegation to be here today to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond. But it is much more than a celebration. It is also a time to reflect on what has been done, what is being done and what should be done for young people around the world. How the global community responds to those challenges will determine how well its young citizens will be able to fulfil their potential.
Canada recognizes the need to invest in its youth. Such investments have contributed to Canadas diversity, as well as to one of the highest standards of living in the world.
As my youth colleague Mathew Whynott likes to say, the young people of this world are the future, but we also have to remember that they are the present. Canada therefore views the policies and programmes we initiate for youth today as a means to help us with the demographic challenges of tomorrow. With an ageing workforce, we must maximize the participation and well-being of all Canadians.
In 2003, there were more than 4 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24, representing 14 per cent of our total population. Approximately 4 per cent of those youth are aboriginal or indigenous, and they often live in rural and isolated areas and face serious socio-economic challenges, especially related to the lack of education and skills. Immigrants and members of visible minority communities, who make up 28 per cent of Canadian youth, tend to live in major urban centres and face linguistic and cultural challenges. While half of our youth are in postsecondary education, many without advanced education will face problems when entering a workforce where almost all jobs are now highly skilled. Those issues are of major concern for Canada as it faces the impending retirement of its baby boomers and feels the increasing impacts of globalization.
Literacy is a crucial concern. Consider only one statistic: those with the lowest literacy have an unemployment rate of 26 per cent as compared with 4 per cent for those with the highest. Recent immigrants now take seven or eight years to catch up to the literacy levels of Canadians in their same age group. As a result, they may face long-term incomes up to 20 per cent less than those born in Canada. A recent [*10*] report by Statistics Canada has revealed that a mere 1 per cent increase in the average literacy rate in Canada will lead to an increase of $18.4 billion in the gross domestic product. It will drive prosperity, cultural inclusion, and social advancement.
Economic growth is another outcome of prioritizing education. With literacy and proper skills training, a young person can go on to obtain a secure job that will contribute to the economic advancement of his or her community.
(spoke in English)
The Youth Employment Strategy is the Government of Canadas commitment to helping young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment. That strategy was initially introduced in 1997 to address some of the challenges faced by youth in making a successful transition from school to work. In 2003 it was realigned to focus on the value and need for skills, work experience and information to make sure that youth were ready to compete in the labour market of the twenty-first century, including through the acquisition of further education and skills development.
The Government of Canada is actively involved in engaging youth through consultations. For example, youth were consulted on a Government online initiative that resulted in the youth.gc.ca website, designed specifically for young Canadians. I happen to be living proof of how the Government of Canada partners with its youth: I was chosen as a United Nations delegate for this weeks meetings through an online essay writing competition. There is a strong support for young Canadians to take an active role in policymaking through online and in-person consultations and that support continues to grow.
As we move into the future and as globalization progresses, Canada recognizes the international challenge of addressing the welfare of youth. And while we address youth issues nationally, international links must not be ignored. The Canadian International Development Agency supports an array of initiatives to ensure equitable, inclusive and sustainable development, as well as pragmatic improvements in the lives of people around the world, including youth. The Agency engages Canadians abroad in missions that work to meet the goals of the World Programme of Action for Youth in the area of education. Canadian international efforts focus on four main areas. The first is improving the quality, safety and relevance of basic education, so that student enrolment and motivation remain high. The second area of focus is removing barriers to resolve gender inequality in education and strengthening the programming in girls education. Another focus is providing education on HIV/AIDS prevention and supporting the better integration of such programmes in the curricula. The fourth element provides education for girls and boys in conflict, postconflict or emergency situations to introduce stability and protection in emergency settings. That work allows Canada to contribute to the efforts of countries around the world.
Clearly, much needs to be done to ensure the well-being of the worlds youth. We will continue to work towards improving the outcomes for youth in Canada and around the world. We ask for the recognition and involvement of youth; we ask for tolerance and understanding; and we ask for implementation. It is time for action. We all know what to do. Now, please let us do it.
UN Doc.: A/60/PV.28