The Youth and Children's Agenda: The
business / community imperative
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
London Convention Centre
Monday, April 15, 2002
Thank you for the introduction Gordie...and good morning!
I'm delighted to be co-hosting this breakfast and equally
pleased to visit "the Forest City" once again. Since London
is a "caring, responsive community", with a "healthy, diverse
economy", strongly committed to enhancing the quality of
life for future generations, it's a special treat to join
you today and to share some business perspectives on an
investment, that's close to my heart and very much about
our future. The investment I'm referring to is the youth
and children's agenda: the business/community imperative.
From meeting many of you earlier and now looking around
the room, it's clear I'm speaking to a group of leaders
who are already pushing the envelope on this investment
- who are already spreading the word in the community -
and who are already leading the call to action. From Jan
Lubell and Anita Gilvesy of Investing In Children, Linda
Hebel of the Thames Valley District Health Council, and
Rosita Johnson of the City of London, to Sister Carolyn
Bering of the Sisters of St. Joseph's, Don Jamieson of the
Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network and of course
Shelly Siskind and the Wraparound Community Team (I wish
there was time to single out each and every one of you by
name), you're an outstanding group that instinctively knows
the difference between watching things happen and making
Now the question becomes, how do we all become more engaged?
How can we convince the business world to become truly engaged
in the youth and children's agenda? How can the public,
private and voluntary sectors work together more effectively?
Let me start by telling you about my personal involvement
in supporting early years, (0-6) development and young people.
A few years ago, I served on the Ontario Government's Early
Years Study. We looked at ways to prepare children for scholastic,
career and social success - from all socio-economic groups,
not just at-risk youth or those with special needs. The
study co-chairs were the Honourable Margaret McCain and
Dr. Fraser Mustard.
After the McCain-Mustard study, Dr. Mustard and I assembled
a group to look further at how the private sector can become
involved in the early years challenge. This included groups
like the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses,
the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Auto Workers,
and several other businesses.
I continue to champion the early years, through Ontario's
Promise: The Partnership for Children and Youth. More recently,
my involvement has been through the Early Learning and Child
Care Commission for the City of Toronto. The Honourable
Margaret McCain and I were appointed co-chairs of this Commission
last October. We've been energized about raising the profile
of Toronto and other cities as centres of human and economic
development, proud to be supporting the need for increased
funding to early learning/care services and determined to
help advance national/provincial policy and action on the
early years/children's agenda.
We've met and consulted with over 100 federal, provincial
and municipal officials, business and community organizations
as well as addressed the federal government's National Children's
Agenda Caucus Committee and a Sub-Committee on Children
and Youth at Risk. Our Report (to be released shortly) contains
recommendations for all three levels of government and the
community. It will hopefully be beneficial to communities
at large, including London.
When it comes to young people, I continue to promote and
support youth organizations, educational institutions, young
entrepreneurs, Junior Team Canada. And I have a special
affinity to Trent University, where I'm co-chair of the
University's Friends of Native Studies Council.
Some of you may recall that the report of the Ontario Government's
Early Years Study, released in 1999, was called "Reversing
the Real Brain Drain". What did we mean? It's clear that
society bears a great cost if it fails to provide our young
people with the learning and development needed to succeed
- not just at work, in life. We all know that learning is
shaped by early childhood experiences. Because of the great
work in studying and publicizing the links between early
childhood education and subsequent success, the business
community is much better informed about this business imperative,
or should I say opportunity, than ever before.
Clearly, a lack of investment in the early years and young
people can contribute to behavioural and learning problems.
Dysfunctional relationships. Academic failure. And all of
the associated problems.juvenile delinquency and criminal
behaviour.teen pregnancy.substance abuse.chronic unemployment.poverty...health
Research from the Child Care Education Foundation, says
that today, it costs Canada $2.5 billion every year for
remedial education because of delayed interventions or negative
early experiences. Work-family conflicts cost businesses
another $4.7 billion a year.
That's the kind of language that business understands.
It says that we all bear a burden for failing to provide
the "right start" to our children. We bear it not only as
parents but also as taxpayers and as businesspeople. Quite
frankly, I don't hear enough of my corporate colleagues
talking about their support of early childhood development
and youth programs. Perhaps more would, if we framed this
discussion in a language that the business community can
As Dr. Mustard says, if you want an idea of what your economy
will look like in say 20 years - if you want an economy
that's vibrant, citizens who are productive and not a drain
on taxes.think about the investment you're making in young
people today. And if you want to know about return on investment,
consider this. Research also shows that for every dollar
spent on quality early education services, two dollars comes
back through increased tax revenues, and decreased social,
education and health costs.
So what are some of the tangible steps business can take?
First, it starts with having a point of view on the children's/youth
agenda. At RBC Financial Group, the underlying goal of all
our corporate citizenship programs is prosperity for Canada
and her people. To achieve this, we simply must support
education and learning. We must support our young people
- our future. There really is no option. We believe wholeheartedly
that ongoing prosperity depends on well-developed minds
- intelligence, imagination, ingenuity and innovation. That's
the payoff. When RBC invests in young people through initiatives
such as our After-School Grants program and Native Students
Awards program, we're really investing in keeping our economy
strong and competitive. By investing in children, we're
investing in a strong and healthy Canada. Investing in youth
is an investment in the future.and it simply makes sense.
RBC wholeheartedly supports groups like the Canadian Institute
for Advanced Research. Over the past 13 years, a large part
of our funding to the CIAR, some $2.5 million, has been
aimed at research into early childhood development - that's
how important we think research is.
Corporations can also support policy development. For example,
we fund the Canadian Institute of Child Health. It's done
key work in encouraging government to create the right policies
for childhood development, and creating material to help
parents give their kids the best start.
And we must support partnerships that work towards these
ends. I can't say enough about the value of partnerships
between business, community groups and government. I firmly
believe that when it comes to making a difference for our
children and youth, we all have a shared responsibility,
and corporations can play an important role.
Partnerships - it's amazing what can happen when the private,
public and voluntary sectors put their heads together.when
a business can be a catalyst for change. What a great way
to build a civic and civil society, plus promote social
development. Everybody wins!
And we can't say that investing in children and youth is
the domain of the public sector. For one, governments don't
have the resources to do it all.
That's not to say that governments aren't committed. In
the fall of 2000, the federal government announced new investments
of $2.2 billion over five years for early childhood development,
as part of the National Children's Agenda. And this provincial
government is also committed. A few months ago, the third
phase of the Ontario government's Early Years Plan was announced
for 2002 - the locations of the first 41 Ontario Early Years
Centres in 15 communities, with an additional 62 Centres
to open in 2003. I was pleased to read the announcement
in the London Press about the opening of three Early Years
Centres last week (plus others in nearby areas) - it's great
to see Susan Ryans, Jane Powers and Ailene Wittstein here
this morning, as Childreach, the Merrymount Children's Centre
(along with London Children's Connection), are running the
Centres. I also discovered that the province has approved
a plan for the Centres' to pool some of their money and
test a citywide system "to address common issues such as
transportation, literacy and analysis of how well they're
doing". I understand this systems approach is unique to
London, so I'm not surprised that Jan Lubell is overseeing
this collaborative test system.
That's why partnerships involving the private sector are
so essential. Corporations are part of the community. And
the best solutions are community-based. When it comes to
children and youth, let's open our minds and talk about
all sorts of possibilities.
Let's talk about how companies can create early child development
and parenting centres for their employees and receive a
tax credit for opening them up to the community. Let's talk
about ways to ensure that all families have access to child
development, parenting and youth programs.
Let's talk about childcare centres that are supported
by employers. These can be either on-site or near site,
in a local school or community centre. Not only do the best
centres offer kids great support, their convenience alleviates
the stress of the company's employees.
Let's talk about broadening family-friendly arrangements
in the workplace. Here's our approach at RBC Royal Bank.
A family friendly program doesn't just mean maternity or
parental leave - which, in our case, has always exceeded
the minimum - but a host of other policies. Job-sharing,
flex hours, and paid leave for family responsibilities are
all ways that we help our people meet their personal needs,
including the nurturing of young babies. We have more staff
in job sharing arrangements than any employer in Canada
(about 1,000 people). Many are mothers with young children.
We know that helping employees deal with the challenges
of the early years, through family friendly programs, is
a sound business strategy. We also take pride in knowing
that our programs help attract and retain employees across
Let's talk about how the private sector can serve as a
resource for questions/concerns on family issues, children
and youth. A RBC, our staff can access professional consultants
who provide information and referrals regarding work/life
issues. This includes support with: child development, effective
parenting skills, childcare arrangements, school selection,
and special services for children and youth. This information
is available over the phone, online, or face-to-face.
And let's talk about private sector advocacy for financing
of early child development and youth initiatives. We need
to make the link between the financial well-being of corporations,
shareholder value and the need to invest in children/youth.
Now let's take a quick look at the London scenario and
the WrapAround community initiative.
I reviewed Investing In Children's Snapshot of London's
Children and Youth: a community report card, with great
interest: Since "18% of London residents are children 12
years of age and under" (a fairly sizeable chunk of the
future of your community), the investment opportunities
are clear. And since "the strength of corporate interest
and support is substantial", the call to action is also
All one has to do is look at the WrapAround process both
within the London area and across various communities in
southern Ontario to better understand why we're talking
about the business/community imperative - why business should
wrap itself around these type of initiatives.
Most of you are aware that WrapAround (associated with
the Community Services Coordination Network), "is a process,
which develops and carries out plans for children, individuals
and their families who have very complex needs". WrapAround
1. Nurturing a "Families Know Best" philosophy - the family
knows what its needs and strengths are and can best ask
for the support it requires;
2. Building a Network - the network that supports the family
is put into place jointly by a team, which develops and
3. Creating a Community - the community is developed around
the family.and in strengthening that family and its community,
the community at large is enhanced.
WrapAround is an initiative, not a program. As Shelly says,
"we give families what they need, not what we have - we're
strengthening community one child at a time". As such, I'd
like to share a WrapAround story about strengthening
the community one child at a time with you right now.
This story involves a 16-year-old with a social phobia.
Steven Johnstone's phobia forced him to remain in his home
for well over two years. He didn't attend school or any
social gathering that required him to leave his house. When
the WrapAround team (consisting of the church minister,
a family friend, cousin, Mom, Dad, Steven and a WrapAround
facilitator), started working with this family, Steven expressed
a desire to play hockey.and as a result of incremental steps,
his desire became a reality last summer.
Steven joined a summer hockey camp and with the support
of the WrapAround team, he flourished. He also joined a
baseball team, started roller-blading, walked the family
dog, and even acquired a part time job delivering the local
newspaper. Now Steven has returned to school and is currently
enrolled in two classes per semester. With the continued
support of the WrapAround team, he plans to return to school
full time in the fall of 2002. We're very pleased that Steven's
mother, Sherry Johnstone is with us this morning. Please
join me in extending a special welcome to Sherry. Thank
you Sherry, for allowing me to share Steven's story - your
family story - with everyone today.
Speaking of saying thank you, I want to acknowledge Elley
Graham and Shannon Theriault of the Community Services Coordination
Network - the WrapAround team - for all their support in
organizing this breakfast. And my thanks also goes to the
RBC team right here in London, namely Gord MacKenzie and
Dianne Czykas who were equally supportive in planning this
event. And of course, special thanks to my co-host, Shelly
In closing, given the economic benefits down the road,
an investment in children and youth is very much a strategic
initiative. It's in the national interest to do more. It's
in the business interest too. At RBC Financial Group, we'll
continue to make children and youth one of our priorities
and give even greater focus to the early years.
I urge my colleagues in business to look for more ways
to partner with the public and voluntary sectors and to
speak out on the importance of the children's/youth agenda
- to help get this agenda on the table in more boardrooms
in London and across the country. I urge you to encourage
your business colleagues to attend more functions such as
this one - to be more aware - to get involved with projects
like the Early Years Challenge Fund. I urge Bernie Zaifman,
Bob Siskind, RBC's Gord MacKenzie and Lesley Cornelius to
capitalize on their connection with the London Economic
Development Corporation - the LEDC, to help the private
sector see the light. And I also urge Libby Fowler of the
London Community Foundation, Liz Prendergast of the CSCN
and all community representatives to make yourselves more
visible at events that include the business community -
such as LEDC events, to do your networking and lobbying.
Remind people in the private sector of the strategic importance
of this investment - not once, but over and over again.
Make a connection before you leave today, if you haven't
The more we all invest in children and youth, the better
off we are as a society. It's a marvelous feeling to be
among dedicated champions of children/youth this morning.people
like Joel Wittstein of Temple Israel, Helen Connell/Ruth
Young of United Way and Angie Killoran Wood of The Lawson
Foundation - plus everyone in this room. So let's act. Let's
make sure that all of us, especially the business community
- put the youth and children's agenda on our agendas.