The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Converge 2017

The next 50 years

A Q&A with the Prime Minister of Canada

View Storify page of Q&A with the Prime Minister

Transcript

Text on screen: [Canada 150 logo]

Text on screen: [Converge 2017
Bright Minds. Bright Future.]

Text on screen: [Carrefour 2017
De l’esprit de l’avenir.]

Text on screen: [What kind of Canada do we want in the next 50 years?
Quel avenir souhaitons-nous pour le Canada d’ici 50 ans?]

Text on screen: [February 6-7, 2017
6 et 7 février 2017
Ottawa]

Le très honorable Justin Trudeau, premier ministre du Canada :

Merci beaucoup.  Bonjour tout le monde.  Quel plaisir de voir tant de jeunes leaders assemblés d’à travers le pays.  Mais comme vous le savez très bien, je refuse de penser à vous comme étant des leaders de demain.  Vous êtes des leaders déjà aujourd’hui maintenant, et c’est de, c’est ce dont on a besoin de vous.

We need young people to be engaged, to be active to be asking questions, to be challenging, but also to be participating in the decisions that we’re taking as institutions, as organizations and as a government to shape the coming 50 years, to shape the future of our country; because if there’s one thing we’ve seen over the past while, it’s that the pace of change has accelerated so much over the past decades, over the past years, over the past months, it seems, that we’re constantly trying to keep up or catch up or predict where things are going.

And the one thing that we need to do as society is draw on people for whom change is more comfortable than others.  And when you think of where someone is when they’re in a job of importance and influence, whether it’s community leadership or economic leadership or even political leadership, they’ve reached a point of stability in their lives where when they think of the future, they think of it as a predictable extension of the short term.  Right?  I mean, you deal with okay, if I set aside this much of my income every month, then I’ll be able to retire at the end of X number of years, and we think about the future as being very predictable when we’re in positions of influence and stability.

But we know the future is going to be unpredictable in a lot of ways.  And we know that if we’re going to draw on all the different voices, the young people’s voices are really important because for you, the transitions you go through from high school into college and university, from living at home to living in res, to eventually buying your own home, to starting in your own career path, to starting your own family, your lives are about total transformations.  And that acceptance of change, of transformation in everything around you is something that is useful for us to draw on.

What’s more, you are naturally thinking more long term than immediate because of that instability.  You are aware that decisions we’re making now might have an impact on you 20 years from now, 30 years from now, 50 years from now.  And drawing on that mind set is really, really important.  That’s why it’s been so important to me to put forward a Prime Minister’s Youth Council, seven of whom are here today, and it’s great to see you all, which is a way of drawing in young voices so I can directly listen to, be challenged by, engage with young people from all sorts of different backgrounds from right across the country.

But the big one is we had close to 16,000 young people from across the country apply for those 25 places, which mean there 16,000 young people who actually wanted to step up and get involved and have their voices heard.  And one of the things we need to do as a society is ensuring that we are reaching out to as many different young people as want to be engaged and give them opportunities to do so.  Because we know that folding you all into how we build the future is going to be essential.

But there’s a lot of things that we know we need to do, you know, without having to ask you directly about it.

On sait, par exemple, que s’assurer que vous avez la capacité d’obtenir la meilleure éducation possible, qu’on réduit les barrières à l’obtention de cette éducation, qu’on vous permet de vous épanouir aux études, de trouver de bons emplois, c’est essentiel.  C’est pour ça que par exemple, on a fait des changements aux bourses étudiants pour donner plus d’argent aux jeunes de familles à faible et à modeste revenu, alors que vous puissiez accéder plus facilement aux études.

On a fait en sorte que vous n’avez pas à repayer vos emprunts étudiants avant d’avoir $25,000 en revenu par année.  On s’est engagé à prendre, à consulter des experts sur comment on peut améliorer le système de travail pour vous autres.

Our expert panel in youth employment will specifically look into the barriers that exist, the opportunities that need to exist, and how as a society, we can help young people get those good jobs that we need you to have as a society, as we look at an aging population, its shifting demographics, we know we need each and every one of you to fulfil your potential, to have the biggest impact on your community, on your economy, on your own futures that we possibly can, if we’re going to be successful as a country.

So these are all thing we’re working on amongst a broad range of other things as well.  But I know this isn’t about, you know, me talking about what I think we’re doing right.  It’s very much hearing from all of you on the questions you might have, concerns you might have, issues that you’d like to see addressed and, and with that, I’m happy to turn it over to all of you, with just a final remark, that your engagement here today I know is an illustration of the very real sense of connection and commitment that all young people have towards their future.

I mean, it’s been a long time, people have said that young people don’t care about politics, and what was very clear to me in the run-up to the last election is young people care deeply about their communities, their society, their country, their world, and very much want to have their voices heard and want to be able to shape the way that’s going.  And if they were disconnected from politics in the past, it’s because politics didn’t seem to be an adequate vessel for them to actually make real change.

And one of the things we worked very, very hard to change in the last election, and I certainly can tell you we worked very, very hard to continue with is to demonstrate that getting involved in public policy discussions, getting involved in politics, getting involved in organizations that influence how our country is run and, and how the decisions we made for the bigger picture and for the future are made is an essential way to actually bring about change.  And I’m really glad to see all of you here today to highlight that fact that obviously we agree on.

Merci beaucoup tout le monde.

Happy to turn it over to questions for you now.

(applause)

Yes?

Question: 

First question.  I’m a little nervous here.  Okay, so my name Danika McConnell, and I’m the Students Association President at my university of MacEwan based out of Edmonton.  So this past October, I had the opportunity to present before the federal Standing Committee on the Status of Women, just speaking on the topic of sexual violence on postsecondary campuses.

So the concern that I have, and many of my colleagues share, is that the vast majority of post-secondary institutions either have no policies pertaining to sexual violence, or the policies in place are intended to protect the institution rather than the students involved.  So I was wondering some of your thoughts on the steps that need to be taken to better influence and assist our postsecondary institutions to begin addressing the issue.

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau: 

To begin addressing the issue.  Twenty-five years ago, my first volunteer activity ever was a university, at McGill, when I got involved with the McGill Student Society Sexual Assault Centre.  It was, of course, called the Student Society Sexual Assault Centre because McGill at that point, you know, didn’t want to admit there was a problem with sexual assault on campus, and therefore, didn’t want to have a McGill Sexual Assault Centre.

And it sort of highlights where things were back in the early 90s.  And I have to say over the past decades, things have improved but not nearly enough.  Sexual violence, sexual assault is still far too prevalent, not just in campuses but in workplaces and in communities across the country.  As we’ve seen from the excellent bit of very deep investigative reporting The Globe and Mail just has put out, it is still not taken seriously enough by our society for various reasons, some legitimate, some not, or some at least reasonable excuses that we do need to address.

And it’s something we have to do more of.  I have tasked our Status of Women Minister to engage with this as a broad topic, understanding that there’s no one thing we can do that’s going to flip the switch on this, that there are so many factors that go into violence against women in general, in society, everything from, you know, workplace customs to, you know, cultural approaches to the embedded patriarchy of our systems to, you know, to – I’m not even going to list all the different ways that it happens, but we know that any solution is going to have to be complex, and come at from all side.

So allow me to say that first of all, continuing in what I saw as a young volunteer at SACOMSS 25 years ago, still we see the leadership by students on university campus being a huge part of raising voices to challenge, you know, institutions and a society that doesn’t take this adequately, serious enough.

I personally was at a discussion in a large foreign city a number of years, actually a number of months ago, in which I was talking to someone in charge of a university who displayed a dismaying sense of disconnect in terms of what was really happening, what was not, that hit home to me how much more work we all have to do.  But I can tell you that I congratulate you for bringing up the question.  I commend all of you for the work that so many of us are doing and I commit to you that we will be partners together and we will work forward in meaningful ways to reduce violence against women, not just on university campuses, but throughout our country and eventually, one hopes, our world.

Merci beaucoup.

Question: 

Thank you very much.

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau:

Thank you.  Question from over here.  Sorry.  Did you, are you guys going to pick?  Why don’t you, okay I’m going to have Sheila and Myriam and everyone else pick.  There you go.  Okay.  So go to Myriam’s question next and I’ll work around.

Question:  

My name is Keyaira Gruben, I’m from Kingsclear First Nation, which is just about 20 minutes outside of Fredericton, New Brunswick.

So I’d like to think that we’re all aware of the issues that plague First Nations communities such as poverty, alcoholism, substance abuse issues, the housing crisis, water, no access to clean water.  The list goes on and on, but these issues are systemic and they, people are dying every day and these issues affect everybody.  And by being complacent in the fact we’re ignorant to these issues or we go on in our daily lives and we think that this inequality is okay, we’re also being complacent in colonial values, which are rooted in patriarchy and racism.

So my question to you is what kind of social reform do you plan on implementing in Indigenous communities?  And when you do, and if you do, and how you’re doing it, it needs to be immediate because these issues are, they’re very pressing issues.  Thank you.

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau:

No, thank you.  Thank you for the question.  (applause)

It was in this very room over a year ago that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission put forward its final report, and I was here as in, you know, well it was December 2015, so it was one of my first acts as Prime Minister in my first month as Prime Minister.  And I heard Justice, now Senator Sinclair say very clearly that reconciliation wasn’t just about Indigenous peoples and government.  It was very much around non, about non-Indigenous Canadians as well.

And one of the things that I was comforted by in what was a very difficult day and a difficult report, was the fact that we had made and we had seen very, very clearly through the election campaign that we’d just had that non-Indigenous Canadians right across the country cared deeply about fixing this broken situation, about building a relationship based on respect and trust and rights and real partnership as we move forward as a country hand in hand with Indigenous peoples.

So we have something very precious right now, which is an alignment of Indigenous leaders who’ve long been calling for transformation in how we engage, but also Indigenous citizens and activists who, through vehicles like Idle No More and through just a level of engagement and interest and involvement, including coming out and voting in the last election to historic levels, demonstrating that indigenous communities and individuals wanted to be part of and see fundamental changes happening.

But on top of that, we have a government that has made it one of our very, very top commitments, to start to repair centuries, generations of a broken relationship, of neglected, either benign or active, of a government that did not respect the original intent or principles of the original relationships.

But at the same time, we have Canadians, non-Indigenous Canadians, who also recognize that for us to be the kind of country we like to think of ourselves as being, this needs to be fixed.  We cannot anymore have people in this country living in poverty, with less opportunities, less support, way worse health outcomes, everything from suicide to diabetes to everything else, to addiction problems, just because of their cultural backgrounds.  That’s not the kind of country we are.  We’re a country where everyone’s supposed to have a real and fair chance to succeed.  And the systemic discrimination that has existed for far too long needs to turn around.

Now, your question actually highlights one of the real challenges we’re facing, which is we need deep, real transformation in a relationship that has been established and broken over the past decades, generations and centuries and we need it to happen right now.  Well, in that, there’s a tension that we have to sort of deal with.

There are immediate crises, whether it’s boil water advisories we need to lift, whether it’s the suicide crisis and addiction challenges or investment in First Nations education so that young people can go to good schools and there’s a lot of immediate, you know, mental health workers to go to the communities in crisis that we need to do immediately.

But we also know that what we want to get to is not a place where we need to send in more mental health workers because the needs around mental health and indigenous communities shouldn’t be any greater than anywhere else around the country because all the other opportunities and outcomes and infrastructures and institutions and programs are there to support them like any other community, which they are not right now.

So we have to get from a place of dealing with crisis to going at the underlying root causes that have led to all the challenges that we know Indigenous communities are unfairly facing.  So we are balancing very difficultly and carefully how to respond to the emergencies but also how to build partnerships, not Ottawa saying okay, this is what we need, this is the solution going forward, cause that’s been tried in the past, it doesn’t work.  How are we going to work with Indigenous communities, empower them to they can actually take on control over their own institutions, their own abilities to solve these challenges with the support of, not under the direction of, the government in Ottawa.

And that is going to take time.  And that’s where, I mean, we have some communities that are way far ahead.  They’re already outside of the Indian Act.  They’ve gotten further along in their institutions and their self-government and they can do wonderful things.  Others are further from that point and need to be brought along carefully at their own pace.  So this is an incredibly complex and challenging frame that we’re in, but again, the positive will of the government, the positive will of Canadians and the positive will of Indigenous peoples to get this done right, so we can actually move forward as a country, is historic and is something very precious.

And within that, people are impatient.  I’m impatient.  We’re all impatient to get moving the best possible way forward.  But if we’re going to truly transform for the better what has been decades and centuries of a deeply anchored structural problem, anchored in colonialism and patriarchy and all those things, then it’s going to take more than, you know, just the right cheque written and the right action done in a punctual way.

It’s going to take meaningful sustained engagement, you know, until the time one of you is standing up here as Prime Minister.  It’s going to be a while, which won’t be that long, I hope, but, but we are talking about, you know, a decades long challenge ahead of us that we need to keep momentum for.

Thank you for your question.

Sheila, who’ve you got there?

Question:

Hi there.  So my name is Stephan Guscott and I’m the President at the University of Calgary Students Union, and thank you so much for coming to talk with us today.

So Mr. Trudeau, this morning we had the chance to listen to a presentation by McKinsey’s Dominic Barton.  He mentioned he challenging pace of skill development young people will face over the next 50 years as we become a more globalized society.  What are you doing to ensure that students have degree-relevant skill development opportunities while pursuing their studies and relevant career opportunities upon graduation?

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau: 

Great, great question.  Obviously, we need, as I said, all of you to get the best possible jobs and to be as successful as possible if we’re going to continue to succeed as a country.  There’s no question about it.  And the right education and top quality education is going to be essential in getting there.

So I already mentioned a little bit in my opener about some, how we’re doing a better job of reducing some of the barriers, whether it’s from upfront grants that we’ve increased by up to $1,000 for low and middle income students, whether it’s not having to repay your Canada student loans until you’re making at least $25,000 a year.  There’s a lot of things we’re doing along that.

We’ve convened an expert panel in youth employment to look at this new job market.  But we also know that we need to be investing in our postsecondary education, our research institutions.  We need to be making sure that we’re able to have world class institutions that are aware of where the challenges and opportunities of the future are going to come, whether it’s in things like quantum computing or AI, or blockchain technology or just general coding.

I mean, we know that becoming powerful users of technology is going to be essential in whatever career path you’re going to take.  And that’s going to be part and parcel of it.  We also know that looking at more co-op programs and work integrated learning programs that will get out of the catch 22 of well, you can’t get a job until you have experience and you can’t get experience until you have a job.  We need to break that cycle, and I’m, you know, tremendously pleased with the amount of leadership that Universities Canada has shown in actually tackling that specific problem.

But there’s so much more we have to recognize in the way the world that you are encountering and will be defining through the course of your lives is changing.  I mean, it’s the idea that you could do one job for the course of your life, or one career for the course of your life is now completely unrealistic.  Not only will you have three or four different jobs through the course of your life, you’re likely to have three or four different careers through the course of your lives.

And that’s a good thing.  It’ll, I mean, it’ll give you an opportunity to expand, to grow, to learn in all sorts of different ways, to keep yourself challenged, to keep questioning are you doing the best things the best ways?  But it’s going to require a level of lifelong learning, of flexibility, of job security that doesn’t come from the company you work for, but from the set of skills that you bring to any workplace you have.  And in order to give you that job security, we need to make sure that we’re giving you the tools to retrain, to do professional development, to go back to school, to acquire new skills in, in a way that reflects the pace of change that the workplace is going through right now.

And at the end of it, the idea that, you know, having gone through multiple different careers, there might be a workplace pension for you when you retire is completely unrealistic for a lot of young people, which is quite frankly, and you may be surprised to hear me talk about the Canada Pension Plan to a group of young people, but the changes we made in strengthening the Canada Pension Plan was very much designed at your generation.

The fact that we need to make sure that there is retirement security for you when you retire 30, 40 years from now, and the changes we historically agreed to across, across the country last year is actually going to have its fullest impact on all of you because we recognize that workplace pensions are going to be harder to have when you’re going to be changing workplaces as much as you will through the course of your successful lives.

So thinking about the changing nature of work and the changing nature of the workplace has to be what the government shows leadership on.  And that’s where our Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour is very much engaged in what are the tools we’re, not just you’re going to need, we’re going to need as a society to be able to help you be as successful as we all know we need you to be.

Thank you.  Question from the back here.

Question:

Bonjour monsieur le premier ministre.  Alors, ma question porte sur les communautés francophones en situation minoritaire.  Comme vous savez, nous avons de, (inaudible) vibrantes communautés francophones d’un océan à l’autre à l’autre au Canada.  Cependant, Statistiques Canada prévoit en faite l’érosion de notre poids démographique.  Et comme fière franco-albertaine, j’aimerais savoir ce que vous comptez faire, comment comptez-vous exercer votre leadership pour changer le cours de ce que prévoit Statistiques Canada au sujet de notre avenir?  Merci.

Le très honorable Justin Trudeau :

Merci beaucoup.  D’abord, laisse-moi te dire que je connais, je connais très bien cette belle communauté francophone à, en Alberta, que ce soit Bonnyville ou à Bonnie Doon, ou le collège, l’Université St-Jean, on a, on a une belle vitalité et une fierté qui se voit dans presque toutes, dans toutes les communautés minoritaires linguistiques à travers le pays.

Vous avez peut-être remarqué j’ai fait une erreur il y a une semaine ou deux qui a soulevé cette question de droits de minorités linguistiques.  Et si, si on cherche toujours le bien dans des erreurs qu’on a faites, et si ça a servi de souligner les enjeux de survie et d’épanouissement des communautés minoritaires linguistiques, bien j’en suis très, très content.  Il faut chercher le positif dans tout.

Et pour moi, ayant été prof de français à Vancouver entre autre, en étant quelqu’un qui a toujours souligné l’importance du bilinguisme à travers le pays, je, je regarde et, avec notre ministre des Langues officielles, Mélanie Joly, des façons d’augmenter la fierté, la capacité et la réussite de nos communautés linguistiques minoritaires.

On voit à quel point c’est par les files d’attente pour les écoles d’immersion en Colombie-Britannique et ailleurs à quel point c’est vu comme étant désirable de pouvoir parler nos deux langues officielles, que c’est quelque chose dans un, sur un planète de plus en plus mondialisée, d’avoir plusieurs langues est un grand atout pour nous en tant que pays, mais pour les individus en tant que, en tant que citoyen du monde.

Et aussi on a pu indiquer très clairement en trouvant un juge de la cour suprême de Terre-Neuve qui vient pas d’une communauté où il y avait beaucoup de, d’expression linguistique minoritaire, il y avait pas beaucoup de français autour de ce nouveau juge, mais il a fait les efforts, il a démontré qu’on peut trouver des juges extrêmement qualifiés tout à travers le pays qui parlent nos deux langues officielles.

Et c’est à la fois des mesures symboliques comme ça qui sont aussi concrètes, mais des mesures concrètes pour protéger, pour défendre, pour donner des outils à nos communautés minoritaires de pouvoir se, pas juste se défendre mais s’épanouir et s’élargir, ça fait partie du pays que nous sommes et du pays que nous devons toujours se battre pour demeurer.

Merci.

Question: 

Hi there.  Thank you for taking the time to listen to us.  I would like to ask a question.  I’m a philosophy student, so it’s more theoretical.  I have a Latin American background as well, so it’s great to hear French and the diversity we have.

A lot of our speakers spoke about the changing demographic of Canada.  We have different nations coming in, different types of immigration happening and I was just wondering about the values of our society.  It seems like modern liberal democracy, small l liberalism, is also about championing choice, but if choice is the ultimate value, you can choose anything.  So I’m kind of wondering with what ethic do we approach how to define freedom?  As a leader, you don’t represent what everyone wants, you have to, like, to what extent do you guide what they want?

And also, there are competing interests and views.  With what structure do you kind of not limit freedom, but work to define the values that you want to preserve in our Canadian culture, even though we’re welcoming so many new voices?

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau:

Boy, that’s an easy question.  (laughter)  But no, it’s actually a question that goes to the heart of, you know, a big discussion that goes beyond the borders of Canada, that the world seems to be having right now around globalization.  But to take it from a philosophical and rights-based attempt, lens, as the great American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes once pointed out in what I think is perhaps the best illustration of this, my freedom to swing my arms about stops where your nose begins.

So any time we talk about freedoms, we have to also talk about the limits of those freedoms, and in Canada, we’re actually fortunate that we have anchored as a fundamental document that informs all of our laws and therefore, all the different ways we could choose to limit freedoms or allow expressions of freedom, the Charter, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which gives us that frame that answers a lot of those questions that you’re asking.

It’s something that we have as an advantage because it prevents, or it has prevented us from straying too far into the tyranny of the majority, into saying well, you know, 60% or 80% of Canadians think we should take away rights from this subgroup, so we can take away rights from that subgroup.  Well, that doesn’t work.  That doesn’t work because we recognize that people have fundamental inalienable rights that do have their, do have limits, but the primary limits are in how those rights interfere with other people’s rights.

And that approach to an inclusive society has served us very, very well.  We are a society that has understood that defining ourselves through ethnicity or nationality or religion or language doesn’t work in Canada.  We are a country that was founded on, you know, fundamentally opposing identities, English and French, deeply informed even though it wasn’t adequately acknowledged by the people who’d been living on this land for millennia, but from the very beginning, you had to accept that a Canadian was no more Canadian than someone else who was completely different to them.

I mean, someone who is English and protestant and God Save the Queen was just as Canadian as someone from Montreal who was French and catholic and continental in their outlook, and you know, civil law versus common law, all those different fundamental differences pointed out that there was no typical Canadian.

And over the course of, you know, the past 150 years, we have through terrible learning experiences like the internment of, you know, various nationalities during our world wars, through things like the St. Louis and the Komagata Maru, discovered through very difficult periods, that we could not, that we had to improve.  And we’ve gotten to this place right now where Canadian diversity is actually something that we largely recognize as our greatest strength.

We’ve figured out how to make fault lines and differences within our communities a source of strength, not a source of weakness or division or, you know, political advantage.  It doesn’t mean we haven’t had divisive and won’t continue to have divisive discourses from politicians trying to exploit that, but what we’ve seen and what we have to care for very carefully is that we do get that the different perspectives respectfully articulated, which means, you know, I can choose to wear the kind of headgear I want, I can choose to, you know, to pray to the God that I want, and not have society legislate against me.

I mean, it seems like a very simple thing, but there’s places around the world where it’s not at all that simple and obvious.  And it comes down to having a Charter that says yes, a Sikh RCMP officer can wear a turban.  It comes down to saying no, you cannot force someone to unveil themselves to deliver an oath of citizenship.  And these kinds of principles of saying we are open and respectful to each other is really important.

Now, within that, the values of equality, of opportunity, of non-discrimination, of respect for each other within a community is also an obligation, as have been pointed out by a number of people, the Charter’s not a buffet.  You can’t pick and choose the pieces of it that you want to defend your own identity or your own group with and then, not, you know, not accept the fact that, okay, yes you get to, you know, practice your own faith, but you also have to accept same sex marriage and the equality of men and women, and you know, all these principles that, that are challenging for some religions and some cultures.

Does it work perfectly?  No.  I mean, Canada didn’t happen by accident and it won’t continue without effort.  We have to constantly challenge ourselves and ask ourselves about it.  But, you know, a great example was the Quebec Charter of Values that when it was articulated, it was about freeing women from the yoke of religion, which quite frankly, was something particularly tangible in Quebec that suffered through a quiet revolution to get rid of what was a very, very dominant catholic religion back in the 50s and 60s.  Or leading up to the 50s and 60s.

So when you frame it as well, this charter of values was all about protecting and freeing women from oppression by religion and promoting equality, everyone said oh yeah, no, that sounds like a great idea.  It was only when you scratched the surface of the Charter of Values proposal, which took a little discourse and little time for people to understand, that you were actually going to force a, in many cases, a newly arrived vulnerable woman to choose between her job and her religion, where people said oh yeah, no, no, that’s not Canada.  That’s not what we want for our society.

So it does take attention and respectful responsible conversations to talk about the kind of society we want and the kind of limits we put.  And where the limits were 10 years ago, and where the limits will be 10 years from now will evolve around this principle of respect for fundamental rights and hopefully and, no I know, smart engaged conversations amongst Canadians where always there will be people challenging from either side, from the political side to sow fear and division or from the community side to see well how far can we push this?  And how we engage as a thoughtful society in creating the limits and the path forward is really, I think, at the centre of what it is that we need to do and celebrate every day as a country.

Thank you for your question.

Myriam, choisit la prochaine personne.

Myriam Fehmiu, coanimatrice de Carrefour 2017 :  Monsieur?

Question:

Hello Prime Minister.  My name is Jordan Andrews, and I’m the President of the student union at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.

Just last week actually, we were honoured with an opportunity to speak to our Premier Kathleen Wynne, about student issues facing us as a Northern Ontario institution.  We spoke about the wonderful steps the provincial government is taking towards reducing financial barriers to those seeking postsecondary education.  Something we spoke to Premier Wynne about was reducing the barrier of mental health struggles for those seeking a postsecondary education.

So our question to you today here is what collaborative efforts can we as students, and those who are seeking education, what collaborative efforts can we see between the federal governments and our provincial governments to reduce those barriers and to increase the supports for those who are struggling with mental health issues?

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau:

You know, I, thank you very much for your question.  I just came off a town hall tour across the country, and I was inspired by how many people got up to share their concerns and their support for moving forward significantly on mental health.  And what was more inspiring to me and reassuring to me as well, is that just about every person who got up to challenge this society on mental health and say we need to do more was a young person.

And when we talk about mental health, we have to talk first about the stigma that is associated with it.  I mean, if you have, you know, if you have to take insulin or if you have a bad kidney or you need a brace for your knee, there’s no stigma associated with that.  Or minimal stigma is associated with having a medical condition, except when it comes to mental health, where still, people are ashamed, people aren’t talking about it enough, people aren’t getting help the way they need to.  And this generation is inspiring an awful lot of people with your stepping forward on the need to show leadership around mental health.

My youth council here can attest to the fact that when they came for their first meeting last September, we had a whole bunch of briefings set up for them on issues that we, we knew would be important to young people.  We had a big briefing on the environment, we had a big briefing on education, we had big briefings on Canada and the world, and you know, the frame we were going with something on technology and copyright and issues like that.  They were all very appreciated, but you know, we sat them down, what do you guys want to hear about?  You know, what do you want briefings on was the first thing we said and the number one thing they brought up was  we need to talk about mental health.

And the fact that it’s so strongly being called for by young people is really, really important.  So one of the things that we did cause we’ve been hearing this across, across country is for the first time, we have put forward as a federal government, specific dedicated funds going to mental health only.  We’re talking about $5 billion over the next 10 years, which is significant amounts of money right across, right across the country.  And that money is there for the provinces and that’s sort of alongside, you may have heard, the, we’re still working with the provinces to get our, our health, you know, moving forward in a partnership on health.

But each of the provinces has said yes, mental health is a priority for us and specifically within that, we know from a broad number of studies and our Health Minister Jane Philpott always talks about this, the fact that most people struggling with mental health had their first symptoms or episodes appear when they were young people.

So if as a society, we can make it possible for any young person dealing with mental health challenges, whether it just be, whether it be depression or bipolarity, or whatever it is that they’re going through in terms of challenges, if they can then turn around and access support and treatment within days instead of within weeks or months or never, we not only help young people significantly, but we help the society that they will fill as adults.

We will create capacity as a society to respond to mental health challenges as they arise.  And we know that it’s necessary from a community standpoint, from a family standpoint, but also from an economic standpoint.  The, the days of lost work, the economic cost of mental health on our society is massive and our economy is massive.  And as the studies go, I mean, one in five Canadians will struggle with mental health throughout the course of their life, which means that five in five Canadians know and work with and are friends with and love someone who is struggling with mental health.

We need to address it.  I’m working very hard with the provinces on this because it is a priority that all Canadians, particularly young Canadians, are pushing hard on and I thank you for it.

Merci beaucoup tout le monde.  Quel plaisir de vous voir aujourd’hui.

This is all the time we have unfortunately.  I know you have some amazing presentations coming up, including your next speaker, who I’m a big fan of, who’s going to be talking about the opportunities around indigenous education.  Looking forward to that Roberta.  But for now, I wish you all a very, very, very good conference.  I want to thank Universities Canada for putting this on.

I want to thank  everyone involved in empowering you and I’m tasking each and every one of you to know that yes, you are lucky to be one of the 100 here in this room right now, but each of you represent hundreds of thousands of young people who would love to be here, and how you turn around and empower them and connect with them and share the kinds of thinking solutions and challenges that we’re working on right here is going to be essential for us being the kind of country that we all truly want to celebrate in this, our 150th birthday year.

Merci beaucoup tout le monde.

Thank you very, very much.

(applause)

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“Job security comes not from your company but from the set of skills that you bring.”

Highlight of Q&A

“We need deep and real transformation in this relationship…and we need it to happen right now.” The Prime Minister spoke about the need to address current crises in Indigenous communities while at the same time building and supporting long-term autonomy and success.

“The Canadian Charter prevents us from straying too far into the tyranny of the majority.” A philosophy student asked the Prime Minister about the ethics behind the government’s approach to freedoms. He spoke of the role of the Charter in providing balance in the protection of freedoms.

“Over the past decades, things have improved. But not nearly enough.” Responding to a question about sexual violence, Prime Minister Trudeau recalled his first volunteer position, at a sexual assault centre during his student days at McGill.

Key points

  • Canada has turned our differences along racial, religious and linguistic lines into a source of strength, rather than division and weakness.
  • Canadian postsecondary students need more work-integrated learning and co-ops to give young people the experience they need to get good jobs.
  • One out of five Canadians will experience mental health issues in their lives. Which means five out of five Canadians will be affected. Canada must we must create capacity to respond to mental health challenges as they arise, to provide supports early on, reduce stigma, and provide appropriate treatment.
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