NOTES FOR REMARKS BY SENATOR JIM MUNSON AT THE SPIRIT OF THE CAPITAL YOUTH AWARDS

Thank you ladies and gentleman. And thank you to the young organizers of this very special event.

 

I am honoured to present the awards for Community Contributions.  I believe, and I think the award winners here with us believe, that no matter what our abilities – our strengths and weaknesses –  we all have an opportunity – a responsibility even – to contribute to our communities.

 

This year’s recipients, through their generosity and commitment to the public good, show us that at all ages, we have skills and talents that can make a difference to the lives of others.

 

This is something I learned at an early age from my father, the late Reverend J.E. Munson.  He was a man who believed in service for the greater good, a man who believed in the responsibility we all have toward making our communities and our country places of peace, goodwill, and shared prosperity.

 

My father took me with him to deliver hampers on Thanksgiving and Christmas as he visited families across the tracks from our comfortable home.  He wanted me to learn that we all have a responsibility to help those in need.

 

Later, as a journalist, the lesson was re-enforced.  I covered a story about a community centre for kids in Whitney Pier, Nova Scotia near Sydney.  This community centre offered a breakfast program, an exercise room, a library, and a place for kids, for teenagers – to hang out.

 

Times were hard and because of lack of funds, this community centre was going to close.  That was the story I told as a journalist.

 

But that story touched someone as far away as Toronto – an entrepreneur who donated $50,000 toward keeping the centre’s doors open.  I learned then that as a journalist, I could make a difference – that my stories could help make change for the greater good.

 

Even though in my career I have covered many exciting stories:  Tianamen Square, the assassination of Indira Ghandi, Beirut, Belfast, and others, the Whitney Pier story remains my favourite story for the direct impact it had.  And the impact of young people is what tonight is a lot about.

It is often said that our kids are the future and indeed they are. But let’s not forget that they are also the present. They are citizens with rights and entitlements.

 

They have skills and talents, and perhaps most important – ladies and gentlemen, they have much to contribute to our communities across this great country.

I sometimes regret that we do not always promote the participation of youth as contributors. The young people in our audience and those across Canada will become our future doctors and scientists, lawyers and accountants, they will pilot our aircrafts, build our homes, write our newspapers and serve as politicians. We need them and we need them now.

 

If we are to build a strong nation in this fast changing global community, we need to recognize the capacity that young people have to give back, and give back big time to their communities.

 

And if we want examples of giving back big time, we have only to look at the accomplishments of the young people we honour here tonight.

I am privileged to present the runner-up award for Community Contributions to Ms. Florence Laplante-Lamarche.

 

Florence represented Canada at UNESCO’s International Children’s Conference on the Environment.  She has also worked as a broadcast journalist by hosting episodes on TFO that promote environmental awareness.  Florence recently was awarded the Arbour Prize for her commitment to the environment, and is currently lobbying the Prime Minister to stress the importance of a clean and healthy environment for kids.

 

Unfortunately, this young 12 year old was not able to attend this evening’s gala due to travel obligations.  However, thanks to the young people at the University of Ottawa’s TV Zoom, Florence has a brief message for us this evening.

 

Florence’s mother will be receiving the award on her behalf this evening.

 

I am now pleased to introduce to you the winner of the award for Community Contribution, Ms. Kyla Weinman.

 

At the age of 11, Kyla traveled to Egypt with the Children’s International Summer Villages Program and discussed finding peaceful solutions to global problems.

 

Kyla has actively lobbied the Premier and various levels of government to prevent the legalization of Pen Hunting and has been featured on CBC.

 

Kyla founded the “Kids Can Free the Children” chapter at Glashan Intermediate School, and has raised thousands of dollars in order to abolish child slavery and prostitution.  Kyla has also traveled to Ecuador in order to build a school for children who would otherwise not have the opportunity of receiving basic education.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Kyla Weinman.