Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this motion.
I want to begin by congratulating my colleague, the member for Papineau, for the work he has done in this field and certainly for bringing a real emphasis and focus on young people, something which, unfortunately, is sadly missed in the House, much to the great loss of Canada as a whole. Many of us would argue that to not discuss the issues that young people face in our country is to do a disservice to the population that we represent.
We in my party see this motion as a positive initiative. Certainly the focus on a national voluntary service policy is seen as something that is positive. It is something that could certainly contribute not only to recognizing the work that is already being done but also to strengthening the volunteer sector and the work that young people do or are interested in doing in making their communities, regions and ultimately Canada a better place in which to live.
The amendment moved by my colleague from Sault Ste. Marie was well considered with respect to the timing to allow the human resources committee to engage in its important work with regard to poverty. Poverty is a very serious issue that Canada faces and the House and the current government have been extremely negligent in dealing with it.
In terms of the national voluntary service, it is extremely important to examine the kinds of organizations and programming we have right now. It is especially important and extremely necessary to engage in consultations. We need the opportunity to hear from people in the field and on the ground, young people in this area or people who are at the helm of many of these organizations. We need to hear from them what exactly the needs are and what they see as the way to move forward. Any program we come up with in the House, unless it has the proper consultation, could be seen as ineffective and in many ways could prevent or stand in the way of some of the good work that people on the ground would like to engage in.
I would like to highlight some of the exciting volunteer work that already takes place in the riding I represent in northern Manitoba. I am proud to represent one of the youngest regions in Canada. The median age is 26. There are many young leaders all across the region that I represent. They are on school boards and city councils. They run for all sorts of elected positions on committees. They perform leadership roles, are the heads of organizations and community groups and start important campaigns.
I would like to particularly highlight some of the important work that some young leaders are engaging in and who usually do not get the recognition they deserve. A while ago we heard some glaring statistics about suicide on first nations reserves in northern Canada. While this is a stark reality that all of us and certainly the government should be dealing with, it inspires me that so many young people in communities that have been afflicted with such pain are actually taking a leadership role. They are engaging with young people and looking at proactive solutions in dealing with the needs for recreation, counselling and general support for young people so that they do not have to face such difficult situations. These leaders include Saul Harper, Bobby Monias, Frankie Manoawakeesic, Allison McDougall, D'Arcy Linklater, and the list goes on.
More recently, I had the chance to work with exciting young people in a campaign that we felt very strongly about to save our CBC station. I am very proud to say that that campaign was successful. Despite the economic difficulties that CBC is facing, it listened to our community and recognized that it is important. What was very exciting was the way in which young people who have grown up with such an important institution came out, donated their time and said they were going to show the outside world what CBC meant to their community. They took a leadership role in doing that.
I would like to highlight the important work of young people in the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre in Thompson, Club 53 in The Pas, and the Flin Flon friendship centre. Young people, including Amy Jackson, are playing a leadership role in making sure there are opportunities for young people to get together after school and engage in positive activities rather than looking elsewhere for support.
Something that we need to be supporting as a Parliament, but certainly something the government needs to recognize is the serious need to fund recreation and opportunities for young people to come together in positive and healthy ways.
I would like to recognize the important work being done by the Boys and Girls Club in Thompson, and the countless hours that volunteers put in year after year to maintain such an important club for young people, who are often disenfranchised and on the margins of the community.
I would like to highlight the work done by the Adams Lake youth council. Young people set out to march to Winnipeg from their isolated communities that have no roads, except for two or three months a year, to bring forward the need for attention to the issues that they, as young people, are facing.
I would also like to highlight the important work being done in our sports community by young people. Whether it is hockey, swimming, skating or soccer, the general sports community for us in northern Manitoba and certainly in northern Canada is so important, given our smaller communities and in many ways our lack of access to recreational opportunities. We need to make sure that we come together to promote healthier lifestyles, to bring the community together and in that way strengthen the community.
There are so many examples of the exciting work that young people are doing. Only yesterday I had the honour of attending the millennium scholarship dinner. I was surrounded by so many bright young people with so much promise, young people who in many ways were given these scholarships because of their volunteer work, because of their commitment to their communities. This is a fantastic example of recognition of that volunteerism. It is very sad to note that the millennium scholarship program is one of the programs being cut by the Conservative government.
In many ways it is so important that we look at all of our regions to learn about the exciting work that young people are doing, to be inspired by that work and to see how we can support that kind of work.
It is important to make some notes on the issue of the public hearings. There is no sense in engaging in a process if it is not thorough and if it does not recognize the diversity of our nation. I would like to spend a moment talking about the need to look out for that diversity.
I am proud and honoured to participate in the status of women committee in this House. It has been a very interesting exposure to the way in which issues of gender are sorely missed by many of our policies and obviously, in many ways it is to the detriment of achieving gender equality in our country. We need to ensure that those public hearings recognize the experiences of gender, for example, the women who volunteer in certain sectors rather than others. In many ways women volunteers would be seen in terms of child care, for example.
On regional issues, we are an area of Canada which, as I noted, has a great deal of volunteerism, but it is difficult to get to. I would like to hear that this consultation will happen in northern Canada and in rural Canada as well, where the voices of young people are often not heard. They certainly need to be acknowledged as part of these hearings.
There are a number of things that ought to be recognized as well as a number of issues that young people face on a daily basis in a country like ours, whether it is student debt, high unemployment, rates of poverty, discrimination, lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable child care and the list goes on. I would hope that not only would we look out for important initiatives such as this one, but that we would make sure that there are concrete measures, legislation, that support our young people and that we do not just pay lip service to them.