By TOM GODFREY
Young Blacks are at risk to gangs and require guidance and help from members of the community to stay on track and get ahead, says a Toronto-area pastor who is now serving as a Canadian Senator.
”Our young people are our hope for the future,” Don Meredith said of the U.N.-designated Universal Children’s Day and African Industrialization Day, which are both marked annually on Nov. 20. ”Our youth are not only a percentage of our population, but 100 per cent of our future.”
The long-time community activist said the U.N.-sanctioned days signify the plight of youth and focuses on making a positive difference and improving their opportunities and lives.
He said the events allow stakeholders an opportunity to take stock of progress made and to redouble efforts going forward.in helping youth.
”This year’s theme focuses on the crucial role of job creation and entrepreneurship in eradicating poverty,” said Meredith, who was appointed to the Senate in 2010. ”Too many young people are still being left behind.”
He said widespread unemployment affect many youth, especially women, engaged in vulnerable forms of work with low and unstable pay.
”This is a global crisis and it urges that we strengthen our efforts to address the challenges of youth unemployment and create opportunities for their success,” Meredith said.
He cited a report that stated young people in Toronto are among the least employed. This year, the unemployment rate for Ontario youth between the ages of 15 and 24 was between 16 and 17.1 per cent, while the Canadian average was between 13.5 and 14.5%.
“By focusing on skills training, job creation and entrepreneurship, we can boost sustainable development of both the individual and the economy,” Meredith said on his Website. ” All government levels and individual citizens have a role to play. ”
Meredith is a volunteer executive director for the Greater Toronto Area Faith Alliance Centre, an organization he co-founded in 2002 to help improve the lives of young people. The Centre helps to equip youth for success through training, mentorship, job sourcing and developmental programs.
In Ottawa, Meredith leads a working group developing a National Youth Strategy geared to streamline the delivery of federal programs directed at youth.
National Child Day has been commemorated since Parliament enacted the Child Day Act in1989 to promote awareness of the 1959 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Africa Industrialization Day was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1980, to mobilize the commitment of the international community to the industrialization of Africa.