Minister Fast Highlights Canada-Japan Friendship and Presents new Scholarship for Japanese Youth

Minister applauds individual relief efforts by Canadians; Says Canada one of the first nations to offer help following natural disaster in March 2011

(No. 279 - September 30, 2011 - 3:15 p.m. ET) The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today visited the east coast of Japan to offer his condolences and message of support on behalf of Canada to victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

While in the coastal city of Shiogama, Minister Fast presented 16-year-old Mako Matsukawa with one of the first Hope for Youth scholarships established by the Embassy of Canada to Japan, which will allow 150 youth whose lives were affected by the disaster to study English or French in Canada. The scholarships are generously supported by Samantha Thavasa Japan Limited, as well as Languages Canada and Air Canada.

“Canada's friendship with Japan is strong and long-standing,” said Minister Fast. “Today I witnessed how the youth of this area are re-energizing a region that was so recently devastated. Thanks to these generous scholarships, we hope that Japanese students such as Mako Matsukawa will enrich Canada through the strength and courage they have displayed here, which will no doubt help them become global leaders.”

Minister Fast also took the opportunity to present books to pupils at the Shiogama Kindergarten Catholic School in memory of their teacher, Father André Lachapelle, the only Canadian to die during the earthquake and tsunami. In addition, the Minister thanked local Canadian-Japanese pop group Monkey Majik for their work as goodwill ambassadors to the region and for their relief efforts, including concerts and songs.

Minister Fast also visited the site where Viceroy Homes of Ontario is helping create jobs, stability and hope in areas affected by the disaster. Viceroy Homes has supplied materials for temporary homes, which have been built by Japan’s Selco Homes. “The efforts by individual Canadians and Canadian businesses to help rebuild this region of Japan should make all Canadians proud. Canada stands alongside the people of Japan as they rebuild their lives and communities in the Sendai region, and we admire the hope and determination they have shown throughout this difficult time.”

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A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Rudy Husny
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
613-992-7332

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-996-2000
Follow us on Twitter: @Canada_Trade

Backgrounder - The Hope for Youth Program

Following Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the Hope for Youth Program was established under the Canada-Japan Leadership Fund to nurture globally minded citizens who will lead in the rebuilding of their earthquake-affected communities. Through the program, 150 young people (ages 15 through 30) affected by the disaster will receive round-trip air transportation to Canada, English or French language classes, accommodation in a home or dormitory, and traveller’s insurance during their stay.

The Hope for Youth program was initiated by the Embassy of Canada to Japan, which has responsibility for the program’s administration. It is supported by a generous financial contribution from Samantha Thavasa Japan Limited, in-kind contributions from Languages Canada (an accredited association of language schools), and the cooperation of Air Canada.

Participants are selected on the basis of how affected they were by the disasters as well as their motivation for studying in Canada. Those who lost family, homes (either due to tsunami damage or the forced evacuation from the area around the Fukushima nuclear facilities) or employment were given top priority. The average duration of language classes for participants is intended to be one month, though some will last as long as one year.

Language courses and accommodation will be provided by more than 20 member schools of Languages Canada located across the country, and traveller’s insurance will be offered by guard.me, an insurance company affiliated with Languages Canada. Special fares offered by Air Canada will be purchased thanks to a contribution of 15 million yen (about $200,000) from Samantha Thavasa Japan Limited, a key sponsor of the project. Kazumasa Terada, President of Samantha Thavasa, is also a founding sponsor of the Canada-Japan Leadership Fund.

Those selected for the first group of 50 include youth from three areas: Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima. They will be participating in language classes in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Saint John, Halifax, Victoria, Montreal, and Courtenay. Roughly one third will begin classes in October and November with the remaining participants starting in 2012.

For more information on the Hope for Youth Program, please see:

News release: Study in Canada project for youth affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Program details: Hope for Youth – Study in Canada Project.

The Canada-Japan Leadership Fund

To celebrate the 80th anniversary, in 2009, of diplomatic relations between Canada and Japan, the Embassy of Canada inaugurated a number of educational programs, one of which awarded scholarships to help 80 Japanese young people to study in Canada. The success of the program led to its extension in 2010 as the “Canada-Japan Leadership Fund,” with the objective of training fund recipients to serve as future bridges between the two countries.

Through this fund, post-secondary education scholarships and language study bursaries are awarded annually to Japanese youth for their study in Canada. Following the tragic events of March 11, 2011, the Embassy of Canada created a special category under the Canada-Japan Leadership Fund, the Hope for Youth Program, to assist youth affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

For more information on the Canada-Japan Leadership Fund, please visit Canada-Japan Leadership Fund.