The First Principles of Health and Learning:
Making the right connections
Executive Vice President
Government Affairs & Business Development
RBC Financial Group
Developmental Conference on Health and Learning
Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University
Vancouver, British Columbia
Monday, June 6, 2005
In April 2002, as part of a Submission to the Romanow Commission
on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the Federal Provincial
Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health stated
that: "Taking positive action to provide all Canadians
with the opportunities they need to obtain a solid education
and achieve adequate literacy skills is one of the best ways
to foster healthy citizens and a prosperous, competitive
nation." Talk about making the right connections between
the first principles of health and learning.
I'm convinced that the principles of health and learning
are nurtured in the early years. This is one of the reasons
I'm involved with the Council for Early Child Development
in Ontario (spearheaded by Dr. Fraser Mustard). The Council
"promotes the application of knowledge about human development
to create a system of early child development and parenting
programs for all children." This initiative involves
school boards, as well as public health, municipal government
and community groups. An investment in early years development
(learning) and child care, is also an investment in good health.
As many of you are aware and as part of HELP (the Human Early
Learning Partnership), the Consortium for Health, Intervention,
Learning and Development (CHILD) "is a dynamic team of
academic researchers and community professionals from across
British Columbia. They have formed a partnership to conduct
research on early childhood development (ECD) within a wide
spectrum of community contexts." As the Honourable Linda
Reid, Minister of State for Early Childhood Development says:
"The Human Early Learning Partnership links university,
government and community programs throughout the province,
that are concerned with early childhood experiences, health,
development, education and family well-being." Again,
talk about making the right connections between the first
principles of learning and health.
And here's another quote: "We believe that by contributing
our funds, our network, our leadership and, most importantly,
by encouraging and celebrating the involvement (learning)
of our people, we can make a difference in helping to build
a strong and healthy society, with a prosperous future."
That's Gord Nixon, RBC Financial Group's President and Chief
Executive Officer and his comments are also about making the
right connections between the first principles of learning
When it comes to the first principle of health
commitment means supporting health care, research, as well
as a healthy workplace and healthy communities - improving
community services and enhancing quality of life. RBC employees
are active volunteers for all sorts of health-related causes
in their communities. And when it comes to the first principle
RBC's commitment means enriching
our children's lives and building the human capital that will
ensure the future health and prosperity of our communities.
We support lifelong learning, helping people of all ages make
the most of their lives - from pre-school to post-school -
as well as the training and career development of our employees.
Investing in a learning workplace is investing in a healthy
Here are some of RBC's commitments to the first principle
of learning, with a healthy connection:
- RBC's after-school programs provide children with opportunities
to build social skills and self-esteem through structured
activities in safe environments. These programs are making
a difference: 40% of the after-school programs we've supported
have noted a marked improvement in participants' social
skills, academic performance - all part of healthier attitudes.
- Do you know about the Historica Fairs program that's based
on the premise that engaging children in the history of
their communities helps them develop into responsible, well-informed
citizens? Students explore their own histories and share
those histories with students in the rest of Canada. RBC
supports this program, with a focus on expansion, specifically
to increase aboriginal student participation by taking the
Fairs into aboriginal schools across Canada.
- Do you know about the Thinking the World of Our Future
Campaign at the University of Saskatchewan, a campaign
focused on the Community Development Program at the College
of Nursing? This program promotes healthy and self-reliant
communities across the Prairie Region with an emphasis on
aboriginal populations, agricultural, rural and remote populations.
It empowers communities to work on their own agendas of
health issues, raise awareness and support change. RBC's
support is centred around the development and implementation
of this program, including research, plus contributions
to policy development and a much-needed new PhD program
- Do you know about the first ever Professorship in entrepreneurship
at University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business?
"The future development of a (healthy) economy is dependent
on our ability to help promising companies thrive and prosper."
That's why RBC has made an investment in this initiative.
- Do you know about a new professorship endowment that strengthens
Simon Fraser University's business leadership in the field
of innovation and technology - an endowment that supports
specialized research and educational initiatives at the
Segal Graduate School of Business? RBC's partnership support
provides graduate students with hands-on work experience
and mentorship from seasoned managers.
Here are some of RBC's commitments to the first principle
of health, with a learning connection:
- We support the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Foundation, affiliated with the University of Toronto. The
original donation (in 2001) funded a new, uniquely focused
research chair in children's mental health, the first of
its kind in Canada. At the time, our employees across Canada
told our donations committee that they wanted the company's
contributions to be made to help children at risk, particularly
in the field of mental health.
- RBC is a strong supporter of breast cancer awareness and
education programs, along with the Canadian Breast Cancer
Foundation. In this region, we also support an educational
radio campaign that addresses the myths related to this
disease and emphasizes the importance of early detection.
- This year In Prince George, B.C., RBC is supporting Street
Spirits - a youth-driven theatre company that uses drama
to help youth identify solutions to problems they might
face. RBC's donation will be used for educational programming
that addresses the impact of alcohol misuse on families.
This is just one more example of tackling a health issue
through a learning device.
At RBC, being socially responsible starts right in our own
Canadian and North American backyards, where supporting our
own people makes the difference in promoting and sustaining
a healthy workplace and healthy communities. We're strongly
committed to investing in our people by investing in learning
and education - and by supporting diversity as well as work/life
initiatives. We're also committed to staying on the cutting
edge of trends in the workplace. We partner with leading Canadian
survey/research companies and academia to remain leaders in
people management and to contribute to the body of workplace
knowledge - assisting other companies and organizations in
developing the Canadian healthy workplace and workforce -
today and in the future.
On April 25 of this year, a "report on aid to basic
education called "Missing the Mark" was released
in Toronto -- Canada scored 65 out of 100 (a C rating, seventh
among donors) on its aid to education in a "report card"
by the Global Campaign for Education, a coalition of development
organizations and unions in over 100 countries." One
of my colleagues on this panel, Harvey Weiner will be acquainted
with this quote from Terry Price, president of the Canadian
Teachers Federation: "Three years ago, world leaders
promised to provide the funding needed to get every child
Canada has done well on some fronts, but
falls far short of the goal." The report shows progress
has been made since 2000; (however) "both rich and poor
countries will need to substantially increase their efforts
in order to ensure that the universal primary education goal
is not missed, says the report. Over 100 million school-age
children are not in school today; two-thirds of them are girls."
Simply unbelievable and unacceptable!
My point is to emphasize that our collective responsibility
transcends local and national health and learning issues.
The Canadian Council on Learning - this forum for dialogue
and action - goes a long way in opening eyes, ears and doors
- engaging people, opportunities and partnerships. And it's
also about health and learning leadership on the international
stage. Right here in this room, there are promising practices
to share, promising models to apply and promising new ideas
to be discovered and explored.
Thank you for inviting RBC and me to participate in this
strategically important initiative - to share some thoughts
on the first principles of health and learning and making
the right connections. As Audrey McLaughlin, former federal
NDP leader once said: "When you listen, it's amazing
what you can learn. When you act on what you've learned, it's
amazing what you can change." Now that's a healthy, learning