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Vital signs 2017 report- Speech by M Yvan Gauthier, president and CEO of the FGM

Mr. President of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, dear Michel, distinguished guests of the head table, dear colleagues and partners of the Foundation of Greater Montreal,
ladies and gentlemen of our city’s business community,thank you for your presence and for your warm welcome.

A special thanks to you, Michel, for once again giving me access to this prestigious forum. When the business community focuses its attention on social issues, all of Greater Montreal moves forward and gains.
Prosperous organizations grow in healthy communities, and it is such communities that provide organizations with the talent and clients they need to succeed. This continuum between the economic and the social is becoming increasingly clear. Your presence today testifies to that, and I thank you once again for being here.
Today, we will be addressing the children of Greater Montreal. In that regard, here is a short video clip to give you an idea of where we are headed.
(The video is started.)
Our children are our future. This is an unquestionable and biological reality. If our children are doing well today, there is every reason to believe that our society will be doing well tomorrow.
Before getting into the heart of the sublect, allow me to quickly put things into context.
The Foundation of Greater Montreal is part of a network that includes close to 200 community foundations across Canada and of an international movement present in more than 60 countries. We operate — if I may say — like a small Caisse de dépôt — or deposit fund — for philanthropic investment.
Without concern for the value of the portfolio, we make this philanthropic tool accessible to help enterprises, non-profit organizations, individuals and different institutions establish foundations aimed at the well-being of the community.
We advise individuals or groups on how they can make a difference in investing in causes dear to their heart.
We take care of everything related to the creation and administration of each foundation.
We manage philanthropic capital in a professional manner, and we distribute the revenues generated to charitable organizations in accordance with donor expectations.
Today, we have more than $250 million in assets under management; we administer over 500 foundations; and since 1999, we have distributed grants to more than 1,000 organizations within all sectors, primarily in Greater Montreal.
To understand the needs in the community and to better advise philanthropists and donors, every two years, we publish a report entitled, Vital Signs of Greater Montreal.
This publication is a juxtaposition of data originating from different sources that offers a multi-faceted view of our social reality. The document is intended to stimulate discussion and to contribute to the reflection of public decision makers and social groups.
Today, we are launching Vital Signs of Greater Montreal’s Children 2017.
Why the focus on the situation of children? The year 2017 is an anniversary year… a historic and perhaps pivotal year marking both the 375th anniversary of Montreal and the 150th anniversary of the Canadian confederation.
What we refer to as history today, was once referred as the future.
Our being here today is, to some degree, the result of the way we took care of our children in the past. And observing how our children are doing today will give us an idea of what we could have to celebrate when Montreal turns 400.
This is, in essence, what is behind our initiative.
To accomplish our effort, we collaborated with some 30 groups and organizations in Greater Montreal — Crown Ministries and agencies in the health sector, school commissions, associations, child support groups, police forces and other different institutions. These groups helped us to collect data, but they also shared a profound experience with us that we are currently applying to the development of our programs.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Strategy Committee and its 29 organizations that contributed to our efforts.
We were also committed to giving young people an opportunity to have their say. Children do not have enough of a voice in our society, other than that of their parents. We wanted to listen to them directly, and to help us effectively do so, we partnered with Université de Montréal and Concordia University. We met with six groups of children from different districts, as well as with handicapped youngsters and young Syrian refugees, all living different realities.
We gathered these children, academics and collaborators from all sectors during a series of special days this past summer devoted to exchange. You have just seen an example of these.
I think it’s fair to say that we were quite surprised and amazed — both in terms of the content and the depth of the children’s reflections. In fact, we alternated between cheers and tears. We came out of the experience moved and truly impressed by their strength and resilience, while, at the same time, feeling deep concern.
We were also dedicated to working together to ensure that the global intervention would be able to respond to the needs of young people in a better way.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the groups and individuals who took part in this effort that, more than being merely a data collection exercise, was a rich human experience.
I would also like to thank UNICEF. The publication of its latest Report Card while we were in the process of conducting our own efforts provided us with a Canadian and global perspective, and even a structure for the regional data that we were gathering.
The report is designed to be in alignment with the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 member countries of the UN in 2015. As such, our statistics were prepared to foster the achievement of these objectives.
We will begin with a bird’s-eye view, followed by a closer look on the ground.
Canada is a rich nation with a dynamic economy, thanks to you. We have a standard of living that is among the best in the world. We also enjoy access to an extensive range of public services and social measures that assure the effective distribution of wealth within our society.
So how can we explain the fact that Canada ranks 25th among 41 developed nations with respect to the well-being of children? This ranking represents a 13-rung decline as compared to 2007.
·         No poverty: 32nd out of 41
·         Peaceful and inclusive society: 37th out of 41
·         Zero hunger: 37th out of 41
These are the essential elements of Canada’s report card.
Now let’s take a look at the situation in Greater Montreal.
There were 820,000 children under the age of 18 in Greater Montreal in 2016. Their number is increasing, but their proportion of the metropolitan population is slightly on the decline, representing only 20% of the total today because adults account for a greater percentage of population growth.
Regarding family
In 2016 in the region:
·         there were 484,000 couples with children;
·         there were more than 200,000 single-parent families, with woman-headed households three times out of four;
·         single-parent families represented 29% of all families in Greater Montreal.
We can find quite astonishing variations in Greater Montreal.
·         Some 36% of children in Montreal and Laval have parents who are not married.
·         The rate climbs to 68% in the Montérégie region.
Our region is cosmopolitan.
·         Along with Vancouver and Toronto, Montreal is among the regions with the largest concentrations of immigrants in Canada.
·         The Montreal region stands apart from the rest of Quebec in this regard, and particularly with respect to the large proportion of newborns — two-thirds, with at least one parent born abroad.
Regarding language
·         In the metropolitan Montreal region, 65% of children under the age of 15 have French as their mother tongue.
·         English is the mother tongue of 15.5% of these children.
·         Some 20.4% of this group have another language as their mother tongue.
All of this serves to give us a better understanding of whom we are talking about. Now let us examine how these young people are living.
Poverty is all too present. According to Statistics Canada data, 16.4% of Montreal’s children under the age of 18 lived in low-income households in 2015. This rate is higher than in Vancouver, Toronto and throughout Canada as a whole.
But this economic vulnerability is more than doubled among single-parent families, 37.3% of which are in a low-income situation.
However, the taxation and social transfer system makes a big difference.
In Montreal, taxation and transfers to individuals have served to decrease the number of children living in situations of poverty. Before taxes and transfers, 22% of Montreal children under the age of 18 live in families under the low-income ceiling. After taxation and transfers, this percentage drops to 14%.
In 2016, no fewer than 35,000 children relied on food banks in Greater Montreal. In fact, 43% of food banks clientele consists of families with children. Single-parent and two-parent families are represented in more or less equal numbers within this group.
Also in 2016, Laval was home to the greatest number of families to use a food bank for the first time.
In the Montérégie region and Laval, 40.8% of food banks beneficiaries are children. On the Island of Montreal and throughout Quebec, the percentage of children relying on food banks is 35%, while the proportion across Canada is 36%.
At the same time, 11% of Montreal households suffer from moderate or serious food insecurity — meaning that they have too little food to eat and are consuming food of poor quality.
Not only can the quantity and quality of food be an issue, so can eating habits pose a problem too.
In 2011:
·         one in two high school students did not eat breakfast prior to going to class;
·         one in five high school students was overweight;
·         7% of students were obese.
Boys were more prone to be overweight than girls.
Between 2009 and 2013, the rate of infant mortality was 4.8 per 1,000 in Quebec. By infant mortality, we refer to cases of death occurring prior to the age of one.
At a rate of 5.1 per 1,000 births, Montreal and Laval had the highest toll of infant mortality.
Canada as a whole posted exactly the same result, ranking it in 22nd place among 30 countries.
For its part, suicide among youth is perhaps the supreme tragedy and the greatest failing for a society. Sadly, Quebec had long led the way in this domain.
Fortunately, that is no longer the case.
Between 2010 and 2012, the mortality-by-suicide rate among the 12-17 age bracket was four per 100,000 in Quebec.
In Greater Montreal, there were 3.5 suicides per 100,000 young people.
Psychological distress and the prevalence of mental problems are on the rise. Between 2001-2002 and 2014-2015, the rate of mental problems prevalent among children in Montreal rose from 5% to 7%. However, the rate rises to 9% when we look exclusively at the 15-19 age bracket.
In Greater Montreal, there were 3.5 deaths by suicide per 100,000 young people.
In 2013-14, 19% of young people between the ages of 15 and 19 reported experiencing a high level of stress. For their part, 25% of girls reported feeling an intense degree of stress in their lives.
Young people are indeed under pressure — pressure to succeed in school, pressure to look good in accordance with physical stereotypes etc. In that regard, far too many girls feel ill at ease, despite efforts to promote diversity of appearance. For their part, boys are increasingly aspiring to meet so-called standards. In particular, they want muscles.
These various different pressures are hard to bear.
Now let’s take a look at some clips addressing some of the specific stresses plaguing our young people. Please excuse the poor image quality.
Psychological distress can also sometimes be the result of violence.
Among all the data we have gathered, the statistics related to domestic violence are the most disconcerting.
In 2015, 1,852 cases of domestic violence in Greater Montreal involving young people under the age of 18 were reported to the police. This breaks down to a rate of 282 per 100,000 girls and 199 per 100,000 boys.
These rates place Greater Montreal among the major Canadian cities with the greatest incidence of domestic violence directed at children. Furthermore, the rate of such domestic violence is even higher in other metropolitan areas of Quebec.
We are going to need to look seriously into this question across Québec.
There are, nevertheless, certain reassuring aspects in this portrait.
Among those, the high school graduation rate is on the rise — 61% after five years, but 80% after seven. This means that a good number of dropouts are dropping back in.
Girls show a higher rate of academic success and retention. Throughout Quebec, for example, 62% of new undergraduates in 2015 were young women.
From a healthy living standpoint, 90% of students in Montreal and Laval live less than one kilometre from a park or green space, while Montreal schools stood out for their proximity to bicycle paths.
This is clearly a lot of data and figures to digest in a short amount of time. However, I think that the exercise will allow you to gain an understanding.
Moreover, if you have gotten the impression that there is little to celebrate about the way we nurture our children as a community, then, we are on the same page.
As you can see, we are presenting this wealth of data without analysis. Our report is intended to be a rendering of the facts. We are not here to offer lessons to be learned. That has never been our vocation.
Our role is to shine a spotlight to help those who wish to assist others decide which needs to address.
It has often been said that it takes an entire village to raise a child. When we look at this portrait, we can see that, despite our GDP and our standard of living, despite our social measures, our transfers to the disadvantaged, and our public services, this village remains to be built.
We can also say that all our social measures, our subsidized daycares, our virtually free schools are extremely precious, but they are not enough to build said village. the State involvement must not lead to a disengagement of citizens. We all have a role to play in ensuring the greater well-being of our children.
After all, if our children are doing better, so will us all.
Thank you for your attention.