Mark Hoult
Community Press

Campbellford — The “huge challenges” facing Canada will be met with the help of engaged citizens of all ages working at the neighbourhood and community level, says Papineau MP Justin Trudeau.

“For me the solutions will not come simply from the top down,” Trudeau told local community volunteers gathered in the Acorn Room of Community Living Campbellford-Brighton Wednesday.

Politicians, “no matter how smart,” will be unable to make significant changes in the world “unless they have the full engagement and participation of citizens,” said Trudeau, who toured the Bridge Street East facility before helping the organization mark its 50th anniversary by talking about volunteerism and the essential role volunteers play in their communities and beyond.

Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, drew a connection between the values and commitment of volunteers and the new approach he believes is needed to tackle the challenges of environmental change, poverty, unemployment, health care and globalization. Volunteers such as those in Campbellford and Brighton are at the heart of the community model of engagement, Trudeau said.

“It’s a pleasure to see just how many people are involved and just how much is accomplished here,” he said, recognizing “how engaged this community is and how engaged all of you are.”

Over time, money and prestige have come to define success, Trudeau observed. But in a world filled with both rich and poor people who are discontented, there is another way of finding meaning, and that is “through service, through connecting, through building and through understanding that the great secret of volunteerism is that the more you give of yourself, the happier, more fulfilled and more successful you are.”

People can serve in many ways, Trudeau said. They can be teachers, nurses, social workers or community activists — members of professions normally associated with service. But they can also be lawyers and CEOs.

“In any job you can find ways to connect with the world around you and make a difference,” he said.

Many young people, he added, do not realize what they have to offer their communities.

“A young person who is active and involved in their school and in their neighbourhood is making a difference,” said Trudeau, a former teacher who is the federal Liberal party’s official critic for youth and multiculturalism

To create a world in which prosperity is shared, “people must roll up their sleeves and get involved.”

Trudeau stressed Canadians are more fortunate than 95.5 per cent of the people on the planet.

“But right now I look at Canada and I worry about the fact that we’re coasting a little bit,” he said. “That’s why Canadians need to understand that their country is positioned to “be at the heart of developing the kinds of solutions that the world so desperately needs.”

Those solutions involve creating an active, engaged, empowered citizenship that builds on the strength of its diversity and includes everyone in its embrace, Trudeau said.

“Imagine a country where our young people, our elders, our people with disabilities, are valued and brought into the life we’re all sharing, not just as receivers, but as contributors. That’s the kind of Canada that we need to start building, that’s the kind of Canada you are already building. That’s the kind of Canada we need to leave to our children, and to our children’s children.”