Wanted: A Youth Plan

F. W. RAYFIELD April 1 1934

Wanted: A Youth Plan

F. W. RAYFIELD April 1 1934

Wanted: A Youth Plan


THIS IS AN age of national planning.

We see striking evidence of it in Russia, Italy, Germany, Turkey and the United States. But, so far, Canada has done little to modify her economic or political policies. Nor has there been a new awakening of the Canadian people with the definite purpose of creating a better national spirit, a finer culture, a purer moral atmosphere.

The absence of a definite challenge makes the present a trying time for the youth of Canada, thousands of whom each year graduate from our secondary' schools, colleges, and universities with few prospects for employment in the service for which they have prepared themselves by careful discipline and training.

Every year in Canada nearly 190,000 young men and women reach the age of twenty-one years. With certain reservations, they become new voters, eligible to take an active part in our municipal provincial and Dominion affairs. They become qualified to hold elective oflices on boards of education, in municipal councils, to sit in provincial legislatures and the Dominion Parliament. The power of each on election day becomes as great as that of the most scholarly economist, the most powerful statesman, the wealthiest captain of industry. All the rights of Canadian citizenship, all the privileges of free democracy, won after centuries of struggle, become theirs as a result of no effort on their part. Yet this important event in their lives is allowed to pass unrecognized by themunicipal, provincial or Dominion authorities who depend upon good citizenship for support.

Canadians of today come into a rich political and economic inheritance, giving little thought to the heroic w'ork of pioneers and reformers of this and other lands who have given us our country, freedom and democratic institutions. T hat w'hich is easily gained is lightly esteemed. What can w’e do to rouse ourselves from this apathy, inspire in the Canadian people a new spirit, and then create a new and better Canada such as few' of us have even dared to envision? ^ My suggestion is that wre hold in all convenient centres in Canada, on every Dominion Day, simple, dignified ceremonies to receive and welcome into Canadian citizenship the young men and women who reach their majority and the aliens who become eligible for citizenship by naturalization, also the new arrivals from other parts of the commonwealth of nations. At these ceremonies we would impress on them their new' privileges, rights, duties and responsibilities, obligate them to endeavor to respect the laws, take an active part in public welfare, see that justice prevails everywhere for all, and try to make their community, province, Dominion, better, happier, more beautiful and cultured than at present.

These ceremonies would be non-political, non-sectarian, and not opposed to any race or creed, but organized and supported in each community by service clubs, women’s organizations, Canadian Clubs, chambers of commerce, churches, war veterans, and representative citizens of even' party, race, class and creed, working with the boards of education and municipal councils.

This year would be most auspicious for the inauguration of such a plan in a colorful and spectacular way on a nationwide basis. It marks the 400th anniversary of the exploration

of the St. Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier, the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of Three Rivers, the 150th anniversary of the settlement of Ontario by the U. E. Loyalists, and the Centenary of the establishment of municipal government in Toronto. Already plans are being made to commemorate all these events in a befitting manner.

Toronto, in particular, has already under way elaborate preparations for her Centennial celebration. No time, place or occasion could be more fitting for the inauguration of a day of national dedication and consecration of all Canadians. It could also be a reception day for the 10,(XX) young men and women now living in Toronto who were bom in 1913 and who thus become voters and citizens one hundred years after the incorporation of their city.

Would it not make a most impressive spectacle if these young people could be brought together, and in the presence of the mayors of Ontario, representatives of the provincial and Dominion governments, pledge themselves to endeavor to respect the laws of the land and make their city better and more beautiful in future?

Celebrations by Provinces

TT MIGHT be too much to hope that we could include

every city, tow-n remote village and rural district in our first celebration, but we might plan for at least one impressive ceremony in each province. Charlottetown, Halifax. Fredericton, Three Rivers, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Victoria might be included in the initial attempt. A nation-w’ide radio hook-up from Toronto w'ould unite all Canada for the unique occasion. In succeeding years the

main ceremony might be conducted alternately in the Maritime Provinces, Quebec, Ontario and the West, with the GovernorGeneral, Prime Minister, leaders of the opposition, Lieutenant-Governor and Premier of the province, mayor of the city and representatives of nations whose citizens are transferring their allegiance, taking part.

After the ceremony the afternoon and evening could be given over to gymnastics, athletics, sports such as the Czech Sokol festivals, games and entertainment which would appeal to young people, making the day interesting and memorable for all. In the smaller communities, the groups of twenty to one hundred young people might mark the occasion by undertaking some project of civic beautification planting shrubs and flowers, beautifying the approach to the town, or planting hundreds of trees.

On first thought, this seems to be a very difficult task to accomplish. There are in Canada fourteen cities each with a population of more than 50,(XX). In these there are from I,(XX) to 10,000 who come of age each year. These would form an impressive but unwieldy crowd. 'There are fifty more centres each with 10.000 to 50,000. These would be ideal places for meeting. There are 300 smaller towns and hundreds of rural municipalities. In many cases the county could be a unit. For example, Halton County, Ontario, has four towns and four townships. 'The celebration could be held in any one of the towns and all citizens could assemble there for the occasion, with the county judge presenting naturalization papers to aliens.

The observance of Remembrance Day in Canada has grown to be most impressive and universal. No great expense or difficulty is encountered in arranging a nation-wide observance of the occasion in a fitting manner and with appropriate services in churches on Sunday. A few days after the death of Sir Arthur Currie, grateful tribute was paid to his memory by citizens in all parts of Canada. No greater difficulty would lx; encountered in arranging a suitable ceremony for Dominion Day. There are, in our country. more than 300 service clubs, more than 100Canadian Clubs, 650 chapters of the I. O. D. FT, scores of other well-organized bodies, besides the churches, to co-operate with the boards of education and municipal councils.

The details could easily be worked out for each community by committees representing all these clubs, organizations and government officials. A short, dignified, uniform order of service could be arranged by our musicians, literary men and those versed in pageantry. local conditions would determine certain features, and with the passing years a colorful ceremony would be evolved. Peace and goodwill to all mankind would be the keynote of the celebration. Military display would be absent. I believe returned men would endorse this feature.

But, first of all, we must awaken from our lethargy and create a new national spirit. This work, I feel sure, could be undertaken through the united action of the newspapers, service clubs, colleges, schools, young people’s societies, churches and brotherhoods during the few months before Dominion Day, 1934, and continued throughout the years.

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challenged in the world today. Parliamentary government has largely disappeared in Italy, Germany, Poland and Newfoundland. In Canada, scores of municipalities are on the verge of bankruptcy. Government expenditures and debts have increased tenfold in the past thirty years. Our total government liabilities, municipal, provincial and Dominion, are now more than $7,000,000,000, most of which was incurred in the past thirty years.

Moral conditions, particularly since the war, are even more alarming. Total convictions in Canada in 1923 were 159,000; in 1929 they totalled 321,000—more than double after six prosperous years. Commitments to Canadian jails in 1927-30 were 53,800 ; 58,(XX); 66,000; 75,591. Commitments to jails in Ontario rose from 14,0(X) in 1923 to 29,126 in 1930. If the same tendency continues we shall have, in Ontario, well over 800,000 commitments to jails in a generation of thirty years time, and in Canada well over 2,000,000.

Serious Moral Conditions

CYTHER STATISTICS of moral condiY-' tions are quite as alarming. The care of criminals and ex-convicts will impose upon the law-abiding citizens of the coming generation an intolerable burden. This must cause concern for every Canadian. Morally we were not, and are not, worthy of great prosperity. Before we can have economic recovery we must have moral recovery, .a new vision and a new spirit.

What would be the reaction of those concerned if the proposals were put into effect as outlined? During the decade 1920-29, a total of 530,000 immigrants arrived on our shores from the British Isles. From the days of Sir John A. Macdonald, George Brown and D’Arcy McGee to the days of Charles Dunning, Peter Heenan and H. H. Stevens, our public life has been enriched by British immigrants. To an even greater degree, our religious, literary, industrial and cultural life has been enriched by our own kith and kin from overseas. Would it not be fitting to have on one day each year, in every community, a welcome for these Britishers?

In the same decade, 282,000 settlers came to Canada from the United States, and another 438,000 from all other countries. To many of these people Canada wras to be a “Promised Land.” Many of these immi-

grants were educated, refined, cultured people capable of making a distinct contribution to Canadian life. The Czechs, Danes, Germans, Italians, Scandinavians, Slavs, Swiss and other races can each contribute much that is useful, artistic and colorful to Canadian culture and life.

Many of these immigrants come to Canada expecting to make a permanent home for themselves and children. During the past four years 56,537 certificates have been issued, granting naturalization to 98.743 aliens from fifty different countries. In many cases much dignity and decorum now mark the granting of naturalization certificates. In other cases the procedure is carried out in a most perfunctory manner and we read next day that “twenty-three Canadians were manufactured in town yesterday.” Mr. Justice Dysart, of Winnipeg, is making a most commendable move to give this ceremony proper dignity.

But it is the young people born in Canada, who are most directly concerned. They have taken advantage of the training given in our schools and colleges to prepare themselves for their life work and now find few jxjsitions for service. They will have to bear the heavy burdens of the future. They have more to gain by improved moral, social and economic conditions in Canada than any others. Judging by the attitude of the youth of other lands, by the Canadian youth of twenty years ago, and from discussion of this plan with young men and women of | today, I feel confident that if they are i properly approached and the challenge placed before them, they will show an ¡ idealism and readiness to serve such as have never before been known.

We have governed ourselves for a century. We have had the richest land in the world to exploit, and, due to our carelessness and greed, behold the condition we find ourselves today!

Nearly one million Canadian young people will become new' voters and citizens in the next five years. In their hands is the future of Canada. By their united action they can make Canada a land of happy homes, of security, peace and prosperity; a land free from injustice, crime and oppression ; a land with a more desirable moral and spiritual atmosphere than any other in the world. Was there ever a finer challenge presented to the young people of any country?