Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Papineau has brought an interesting issue to public attention.
As my hon. colleague is well aware, community service and engagement increases our skills and knowledge, whether it is learning to build houses with Habitat for Humanity or raising funds for a local charity. It builds social networks by introducing us to new people and strengthening our ties to our communities, while at the same time it strengthens our communities.
Our government firmly believes that the well-being of our society is a responsibility that everyone shares. We recognize and respect the efforts of volunteers across our country who give so generously of their time and talents to enhance the quality of life of Canadians of all ages.
According to the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, volunteer rates are highest among youth, and the average number of hours volunteered is highest among seniors.
Our society is aging and the high number of volunteer hours provided by our country's seniors must gradually be taken up by the younger generations. It is obvious that as a society we need to harness the energy of our young people, as evidenced by their high volunteer rate, by encouraging them to volunteer more of their time.
As members are aware, our government supports many youth programs that encourage our young people to use their talents in their communities, but of course the government is not the most important vehicle for volunteerism. For example, the Canada summer jobs program provides many young people with summer work experiences in the not-for-profit and community organizations.
The latest Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating tells us that nearly 12 million Canadians, or more than a third of the country's population, volunteer their time to charitable and not-for-profit organizations. Their contributions add up to almost two billion hours, or the equivalent of one million full-time jobs in a year.
These volunteers are helping their fellow Canadians in just about every facet of life, from teaching valuable and essential skills, including literacy and computer use, to coaching sports for children and youth. Volunteers are supporting the arts and culture in our communities. They are engaged in projects to protect our environment and helping those less fortunate than themselves, and the list goes on and on.
I want to emphasize that these millions of volunteers are from every age group in our society.
There are some very interesting numbers available to us. Thanks to our economic action plan, this program will receive additional two year targeted funding of $10 million per year to enable more employers to hire more summer students. Our plan also announced a one-time grant of $15 million to the YMCA and the YWCA to place youth internships in not-for-profit organizations, with a focus on environmental projects.
These measures will help young Canadians by providing them with both valuable work experience and earnings.
We know that in a tough economy it can be harder for many young people to find work opportunities. To improve these prospects, our government is also investing $20 million over two years into targeted programs to strengthen the student employment program in the federal public service.
We are not only helping students and youth find opportunities during the summer, this government supports youth participation all year round. Across the country, countless opportunities are being offered to help young people gain valuable skills while helping their communities.
For example, the youth employment program offered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is preparing the next generation of workers in the fields of agriculture, agri-food and veterinary medicine.
Parks Canada's Young Canada Works provides high school and post-secondary students with summer jobs in Canada's national parks and historic sites.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada's career focus program is designed to help post-secondary graduates prosper in the knowledge-based economy. It provides career-related work experience with Canadian employers. The goal is to help young people acquire hard job skills and become better leaders in their fields.
Under Industry Canada's community access program, young people are helping community organizations and small businesses get on the information highway. At the same time, young people are acquiring the computer skills needed to compete in the knowledge-based economy.
The housing internship initiative for first nations and Inuit youth provides on the job training for first nations and Inuit youth, paving the way to rewarding careers in the housing industry. This program is offered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Other federal departments also offer programs for youth services, including the junior rangers and the valuable and rewarding cadets programs of the Department of National Defence, programs that often inspire young Canadians to serve our country in the armed forces.
Our government has also recognized the need to support volunteerism by young people by changing the Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award to include a youth category.
It is clear we are doing our part to promote the spirit of community service and engagement among Canada's youth. Our government is already taking action to engage young Canadians in their country and their communities.
As all members know from experience, there is no shortage of good causes in need of good people to help out within our communities. In fact, the diversity of youth service options supported by our government is a strength in itself, which encourages young Canadians to serve their communities in many different ways, according to their tastes and skills.
There is no question of the value or of the necessity of volunteering to our country. Nor is there any doubt about the need to bring new blood into the ranks of Canada's volunteers. That is why our government is investing in a number of youth programs, to encourage the participation of young Canadians in their communities.
Our government recognizes the value of volunteering and serving in the community. It is an important reality that this government takes to heart. Canada has always enjoyed a strong volunteer spirit. Volunteers are on the front lines of many of our community services, helping the sick and the elderly, helping the fight against crime and violence, celebrating our culture, coaching minor sports, building new economic opportunities in our neighbourhoods and the list is endless.
Simply put, volunteers are Canada's great unsung heroes. Every day volunteers are working quietly behind the scenes to make our lives better.
For example, in my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook, I think of Christine Kerr from Fonthill, who has been involved with a number of volunteer organizations helping to raise money and doing many things. In 2005 she was honoured with a Governor General's Award of Caring Canadians, which goes a long way. I also think of Kees Van Leeuwen in Grimsby, who passed away last Sunday. He was very involved in the community, not only through volunteering his time but his money as well. I know he will be greatly missed.
These constituents of mine are making a real difference in our communities and I want to thank and commend them for all their efforts.
I also want to recognize the selfless efforts made by countless other Canadians whose voluntary and charitable actions and contributions have assisted untold numbers of their fellow Canadians.