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National News: Governor General takes message to inner city youth Black Habits Articles Students at Children of the Earth high school in Winnipeg's North End say they won't soon forget the visitor they welcomed on Thursday: Governor General Michaƫlle Jean.

The Queen's representative had an important message for the students in one of the country's poorest neighbourhoods. "Life is worth living. Your contribution is an important one," she told them.

The visit began with dancers, drummers and an honour song. But after being welcomed, Jean moved quickly from ceremony to serious business. She's been paying attention to the news, she told the teens.

"I was very shocked to hear that a week ago, I think, a young girl, 11 years old, committed suicide. Kathleen, is that her name? This shouldn't happen. This should not happen. I think life is worth living. Your contribution is an important one."

It was not a boring visit from a boring dignitary.

"There are things that a black woman understands profoundly when we talk about prejudices, when we talk about feeling left out, feeling abandoned. There are things in my experience that are probably very similar to yours," she told the students.

It was a speech Jean felt her audience needed to hear from her.

Winnipeg's North End is a troubled neighbourhood. In February, just two blocks away from where the Governor General was speaking, police gunned down a teenager wielding a weapon. The shots were clearly heard at the school and triggered a lockdown to keep the students safe.

Robert Brass Belanger, a Grade 12 student at Children of the Earth, says the area is filled with crack houses. One night there was a murder next door to his family's apartment.

"Any given week you can see ... someone coming around the corner all bloody," he said.

The students at Children of the Earth couldn't believe the Queen's representative chose them as her first school visit. But the students know Jean was a refugee from Haiti and grew up poor, just like them.

"It's a real honour to meet her," said Belanger, "she's had a similar life like us."

But Jean chose her school for a reason. She wanted to show she understood and cared. "I think the best that I can do is maybe acknowledge their efforts."

Jean says she will speak to Prime Minister Paul Martin about Canada's inner city troubles and may even suggest solutions. "This position is great for that. Some people say that it is useless, but it's not. It's not. You have your say."

The students say they won't forget the visit.

"You don't have to have a lot of money. You don't have to come from a rich family or you don't have to come from anything and you can become something big. She made us aware of that, too," said Grade 12 student Chassidy Stevenson.

It was the kind of visit that Jean says Canadians should expect more of as she travels across the country.

Note: Last Updated Thu, 20 Oct 2005 21:59:51 EDT CBC News
Posted on Friday, October 21 @ 12:32:31 MST by jcohen



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