TORONTO, Jan. 2 /CNW/ - The Hon. David C. Onley held a news conference
this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. in the Queen's Park media studio to outline
details of his book drive to collect new books for aboriginal youth in
Ontario's far north.
Following are his remarks in their entirety.
Press Conference for Lieutenant Governor's
2008 Book Appeal
Wed 02 January 2008
I am here today to update you on an important initiative I have launched
to collect brand new books for aboriginal children in the fly-in First Nation
communities in the far north of our province.
The region where these reserves are located is so remote that there are
no roads -- they can only be accessed by plane. Some 40,000 people live in
49 First Nation communities in this region known as the NISHNAWBE ASKI NATION.
28 of these reserves are isolated, fly-in First Nation communities.
Unlike Aboriginal people who live on or near urban reserves in other
parts of Ontario, the distance between the fly-in communities and the closest
cities or towns is significant. Residents of fly-in communities do not,
therefore, have access to the educational, economic, social, health, goods,
services or other amenities of nearby communities.
They live in abject poverty and an unchecked wave of youth suicides is
paralyzing life in their communities. They live in a harsh climate where the
socio-economic conditions are dire. The cost of living is very high and the
income level is low.
Given these conditions, it is not surprising that young people in these
remote communities lack self-esteem, in large part because they do not know
how to read or write. Those that do are, on average, four to five years behind
in reading skills and the large majority simply give up or drop out.
These are the conditions my predecessor, the Honourable James Bartleman
was shocked to find, when he began visiting First Nations reserves in Northern
Ontario, in 2002.
Like the Honourable James Bartleman, I believe giving a child the
opportunity to read at a very early age is one of the most precious gifts a
child can be given.
I was installed as Ontario's 28th Lieutenant Governor on September 5th
and I am here today to reiterate the commitment I made that day when I stated
that I was breaking with tradition and with the full support of the Honourable
James Bartleman, we would work to continue and expand his important aboriginal
A month and half ago on November 15, Mr. Bartleman and I travelled to
Timmins to speak at the meeting of the Chiefs of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation,
where we received their full support for this new book drive.
I am committed to the Aboriginal Youth Literacy Program because at its
heart it is, in fact, a program of ACCESSIBILITY, where accessibility is
defined as nothing more but nothing less than that which enables children to
fulfill their potential.
As a former education reporter and writer, I fundamentally understand the
importance of instilling in children a love of reading. Having faced several
surgeries and recuperations in my early years, reading sparked my interest in
aviation and outer space during the beginning days of the space program.
I cannot over-stress how important it is for children to have access to
books, other than school text books, if they are to thrive. Without books,
children cannot truly become literate. Without books, they cannot dream great
dreams, learn about the world outside their own small community, or imagine
their place in that world.
Those of us who live in southern Ontario take the availability of public
libraries and book stores in every town and city for granted. For First
Nations communities, living in isolated stretches of Northern Ontario there
are no book stores or public libraries and books are a luxury that is not
That is why on New Year's Day 2004, Lieutenant Governor Bartleman
launched a province-wide appeal for donations of gently-used books to send to
those isolated northern communities. It was hoped that as many as 60,000 books
might be raised. More than 1.2 million books were collected - enough to
establish libraries in every First Nations school in Northern Ontario and to
share books with all of the 134 First Nations in this province.
On New Year's Day 2007, a second book appeal was launched by Mr.
Bartleman, and about 950,000 gently used children's books were received. They
replenished the libraries that had already been established in the far north,
and also created libraries in aboriginal communities in Nunavut and Northern
As you can see Ontarians have wholeheartedly embraced the book drives and
responded generously in the past. The book drives have become synonymous with
the Lieutenant Governor's Office in Ontario.
Today, I am here to tell you about the 2008 book drive that I launched
yesterday on New Year's Day. In fact, some of the books donated by guests at
the first New Year's levee I hosted are beside me here on the table.
The drive will continue through to January 18th. This time, I am asking
Ontarians to donate brand new children's books. Although I know this will mean
a reduction in the quantity of books, it is time to refresh the libraries with
a smaller quantity of high quality, current books that young people in other
parts of Ontario can relish on a daily basis.
As in the past, books can be dropped off at any OPP detachment in Ontario
and at Toronto Police Stations in the GTA until Friday, January 18th.
The compassionate response by Ontarians to previous book appeals has had
wonderful results. Bridges have been built between aboriginal and
non-aboriginal communities. The hopes and dreams of countless aboriginal
children have been nurtured, not just by the books themselves, but also by the
knowledge that they have not been forgotten, that people in southern parts of
the province care about them.
I, therefore, appeal to Ontarians of all ages that while they are out
shopping during this post Christmas season that they consider buying a
children's book or two and donate it to an initiative that will make a
difference to children in their home province. I am confident that, once
again, Ontarians will open their hearts and contribute to this great cause.
For further information:
For further information: Nanda Casucci-Byrne, Office of the Lieutenant
Governor, Tel. (416) 325-7780, www.Lt.gov.on.ca