Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa Buddy Up Campaign

Good morning everyone.  Thanks so much for inviting me to be with you today.  It’s a great pleasure to be here with all of you and also with our police chief and deputy police chief and with my fellow parliamentarian, Paul Dewar.

I think it’s significant that the “Buddy Up” Campaign is being championed by the Chief of Police, Vern White.  It demonstrates what we know to be true – that safe streets and safe communities start with kids who are happy, healthy, and engaged in their families, schools and communities.

I love the simplicity of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters approach.  It ensures that young people have a friend, an important friend.  Someone who will listen, who will respect them, who will ask, “What do you think?”  Someone who will say, “Yes, you can.” And “I can help you”.

All of us can look back at important adults in our lives.  I remember my teen years when my family moved from New Brunswick to Montreal.  I went from a small town where I knew everyone to a big city where I didn’t know a soul.  I was scared and lost and desperately unhappy.  But at my new school there was a football coach.
He saw me and decided I should be a football player and invited me to come out for the team.  What a difference that made.  All of a sudden I belonged.  All of a sudden someone believed in me.

That memory is one of the reasons I’m here today.  I also can tell you that I was a Big Brother to a kid back in 1972.  I was a reporter in Montreal, working at CKGM and I noticed a street kid hanging out at the Forum, asking for money.  He was from St. Henri, a rough part of town.  And he was tough too.  A miniature Mohammed Ali.
He became my Little Brother and we had some great times.  We went camping and did all kinds of things together.  I learned that the relationship between a “big” and a “little” goes both ways.  The “bigs” get as much, if not more, out of the relationship.

Now, many years later, in the Senate, I have devoted my efforts to children and people with disabilities.
I am a proud Ambassador for Special Olympics Canada, I have sponsored a bill to make April 2 World Autism Awareness Day, and in November, as I have done since being appointed to the Senate in 2003, I will invite school groups from across the City to sit in the Senate Chamber and celebrate National Child’s Day with us.

I also work with SOS Children’s Village, an international charity that helps orphans find families and Child and Youth Friendly Ottawa.
This is the work that really makes me happy because it’s about making sure everyone is included, especially children.

Whenever I hear that old cliché – children are our future, I answer, yes they are our future, but they are also our today.  It`s today that children need to be included and engaged and respected.

So I hope everyone here will contribute to the Buddy Up Campaign so that more kids can take part in Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa – a great organization that serves everyone – big and small – and contributes to a better city for us all.

Thank you very much.