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In a recent article (Navdeep Bains’ work on Canada’s economy unfinished, Jan. 20), The Guardian quoted Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators: “Canada has a massive deficit of talent; there’s about 220,000 positions that are not currently filled in tech because we just don’t have the domestic capacity.” So we seek that capacity by recruiting scientists and physicians from other countries. That same article quoted Canada’s former minister of innovation, Navdeep Bains: “You got to focus on Canadians, you got to focus on researchers and scientists and entrepreneurs and innovators and make sure they have the right tools to succeed.” Yes, far better that we provide young Canadians with the means to meet this need. More must be done to make that strategy a reality.
There is no natural resource more valuable than the intellect of our students. Yet a couple of examples indicate how we value our potential scientists compared to our potential athletes. From an early age many young Canadians are encouraged to go into sports like hockey, baseball etc. Their parents and community ensure they are provided with all the necessary equipment, facilities, coaching and travel for frequent games and practice. Once a year we hold a science fair and a select few high school students are offered the opportunity to go to a summer science camp.
For those can afford post-secondary education, the discrepancy continues. For relatively few students on its teams, UPEI’s excellent hockey rinks far outshine any undergraduate science lab.
The athletes get free coaching, free travel, free accommodations to repeatedly participate in intercollegiate sports. By comparison, consider a science student who has completed a project worthy of presentation at a science convention — even once. That student is expected to pay their own way, pay accommodations and pay a substantial registration fee. Small wonder that many science students do not bother. If we really want to meet the challenges of future epidemics, climate change and competition from an increasingly technological world, Canada needs to value its young scientists as much as its young athletes.