by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services
NNSL (Feb 17/97) - Five young Northerners joined 12 federal ministers in Ottawa last Wednesday for the unveiling of the federal government's long-awaited youth employment strategy.
Fort Simpson's Guy MacKenzie, Fort Resolution's Steven Norn, Yellowknife's Kim Parker, Tuktoyaktuk's Dianna McPherson and Fort Good Hope's Rhea Chinna hobnobbed with Ottawa's movers and shakers at the invitation of Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew.
"Because the North is so remote ... I wanted to ensure our young people were represented for such an incredible day and important announcement," said Blondin-Andrew (left), secretary of state for training and youth.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, she said the strategy, announced by Human Resources Minister Pierre Pettigrew, is the second major project she has been involved with from beginning to end.
The first one was the signing of 11 Northern bi-lateral training funding agreements between Ottawa and regional aboriginal political organizations worth $36 million over three years.
This latest strategy includes an Internet site with information and more money for summer jobs and specific initiatives aimed at aboriginal youth.
Drawn from $315 million set aside in last year's federal budget, the three-year strategy encourages businesses to participate in job funding and reap the rewards of work placement and summer job programs.
Pettigrew, Blondin-Andrew and 11 other cabinet ministers took part in announcing the plan, which is expected to make inroads on a youth unemployment rate of 17 per cent.
The national unemployment rate average is 9.7 per cent.
The summer job and internship programs are designed to give Canada's estimated 600,000 unemployed students and disadvantaged youth work experience that may lead to full-time employment.
"Investing in young people is an investment in Canada's future," said Pettigrew. "The Youth Employment Strategy provides us with tools we need to help thousands more young Canadians enter today's complex and demanding labor market."
Blondin-Andrew, excited with the strategy, said it is money well spent -- an investment not only in Canada's youth, but the future of the nation.
"Everything I had hoped for and then some was included in the strategy, so all-in-all it was a great day," said Blondin-Andrew.
She noted that her guests at the announcement enjoyed the company of top banking executives, several cabinet ministers and Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps.