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First Person: Stephen Lewis

On making a world of difference



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Pique: I think as we start to learn more about our role and perhaps our responsibility as global citizens, the question that needs to be answered is “what can we do here in Whistler?” Your website lists how we can help — by volunteering, holding an event, making a donation. Does something as small as a $10 donation, of which you say $9 will go directly to those at the grassroots level in Africa who need it most, does it make a difference?

SL: Oh god yes. I mean, $9 is a cornucopia for a child who doesn’t have food. If an orphaned kid can’t go to school because he or she can’t afford to pay the school fee, then they don’t even get one meal a day at a school feeding program. They certainly don’t get meals over the weekends. The $9 would buy them food for a couple of weeks at least, probably more. It makes a huge difference.

Pique: Some would argue that we have enough problems in our own backyard.

SL: Of course, this is always an argument. The answer to that argument, I think, is always we also have enough in Canada to be able to do both. There’s no reason to neglect the plight of poverty in Canada, and particularly amongst Aboriginal communities, and not play a role in the world. God knows every other country is playing its role in the world. We’re now giving a lesser percentage of our gross national product to foreign aid than most of the major industrial countries. It started to decline in the last two or three years. We are now the only country in the G8, the only country in G8, whose percentage of GNP that goes to foreign aid is in decline. It’s very incremental, to be sure, but they’re all moving up. We’re the only country that’s in decline.