Bill S-203 (Historical)
National Philanthropy Day Act
An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
October 21st, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill S-203. By the way, I rose in this House in support of this bill exactly one year ago today.
My party supports this bill. We are in favour of this initiative and we hope that it will provide a way not only of recognizing the contributions of numerous Quebeckers and Canadians who live by the values of generosity, altruism and compassion, but also of encouraging more people to give generously.
As many colleagues who have risen before me have said, these values are learned when people are very young. Often, it is our parents who teach us to be generous. The hon. member who introduced this bill in the House said that he had been taught generosity at a young age. I think that this was also true in my father’s case. He was a policeman and he taught us that some families did not have food. And so when he had enough money, he was able to help little children by giving them a small reward, as no one in their homes was in a position to give them any cash.
Many Quebeckers live by the principle of generosity. It goes without saying that it would be hard to stand up in this House and argue against the creation of such a day, not only because these groups promote values, such as generosity, altruism and compassion, but also because November 15 is already a familiar date in North America. The Association of Fundraising Professionals, an organization that originated in the United States and now comprises over 200 chapters worldwide, including one in Quebec, has been celebrating this day since 1990 as a way of highlighting the contribution of philanthropists, who make the planet a richer place. Philanthropy is also about enriching the heart.
This bill, if passed, will make official the event that occurs every year on November 15, an event that Quebec, Canadian and international organizations already celebrate. The recognition of this House will only serve to give the day even more weight. It will give it even more credibility and, I hope, will make more people aware of the benefits of philanthropy.
Now, what in this bill exactly might help to increase awareness among people, and encourage them to engage in philanthropic endeavours? Allow me to talk a little about the situation in Quebec in this regard, so that people can get a better sense of why it is appropriate to increase public awareness of philanthropy.
Traditionally, Quebeckers gave less because they felt it was up to the state or the church to provide funding for health and social problems. For example, in the 1980s in Quebec, philanthropy was associated more with the church, which helped meet people's needs at a time when the state could not, or with volunteer activities. It was harder to identify individuals or private companies that worked full-time in philanthropic endeavours. That is no longer true today, because we are seeing a shift from traditional philanthropy to much more strategic philanthropy where upper-class individuals try to apply business models to charitable organizations to achieve concrete results.
With the waning of the church and the rise of the welfare state, Quebeckers felt it was the state's responsibility to look after the poor. Little by little, though, philanthropic organizations developed, were recognized by the public and raised awareness of their causes.
For a long time, Quebeckers were considered to be less generous, but nowadays, Quebeckers are giving more and more to charitable organizations. Huge donations of over $500,000 are on the rise. But Quebeckers are known for making small donations. Fifty-one per cent of them give between $1 and $2,000. This was reflected in the donations made following the earthquake in Haiti. More people in Quebec than in the rest of Canada made donations, but Quebeckers' donations were smaller. So I do have to qualify what I said.
According to a generosity index measured by Épisode, a fundraising consulting firm and Léger Marketing, Quebeckers are still half as generous as other Canadians. On average, they give $220, compared to $437 for other Canadians. While 76% of Canadians gave to charity in 2009, only 69% of Quebeckers did.
This statement may not be entirely correct. It is misleading to say that Quebeckers are less generous than other Canadians. They might make a number of donations that they never claim on their taxes.
We see here that Quebeckers donate, but might not claim as much on their taxes. Whether this statement is true or false, this debate about whether Quebeckers are generous or not from a philanthropic point of view, illustrates the need to raise more public awareness about the benefits of philanthropy.
It is impossible to ignore the significant support from philanthropists in society, both regionally and globally in areas where government does not meet public needs. Today, needs are great and measures from the Canadian government and other governments are not successfully reducing poverty, either domestically or internationally. Instead of addressing the problem, governments prefer to rely on altruistic or strategic humanitarian agencies to make up for the shortfall.
This means that we cannot only count on philanthropy to help everyone. The government still has a very important role to play, but it comes up short and ends up relying more and more on philanthropists to provide aid and services. Let us use this day as an opportunity to remind the Canadian government of the aid and services it has to provide the public.
For example, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the gap between the rich and the middle and poorer classes has grown steadily in the past 10 years. This is a concern, and the public should not have to carry the burden.
I believe that the general public steps up to the plate when a charity asks for help or when an agency asks for support for its cause to help research in areas such as health, for instance.
We know that people give generously. Just think of the Multiple Sclerosis Society or Alzheimer's Society. I often participate in the events that they organize in my riding. It is evident that people are interested in this issue. We also see that the government has failed to provide adequate resources, whether for research or to help organizations that establish activities requiring the support of many volunteers.
It would also be a day to think about all the volunteers who work for these organizations, who give generously of their time, and who believe in these activities and in improving living conditions.
In my riding, the Fondation Gilles Kègle comes to mind. Gilles Kègle is a street nurse who provides a great deal of help to the most disadvantaged. Without the support of the general public who donate to this foundation, he would never be able to help as many people as he does. Furthermore, without the help of the hundreds of volunteers, this generosity would not be as effective. We know that this organization meets a very great need. In this context, philanthropy is a new social actor. I am also thinking about the new shift from traditional philanthropy to strategic philanthropy.
Earlier on, a colleague spoke—I no longer remember the name of his riding—and he said that he did not know any rich people in Canada who could give very generously. I would like to point out that the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon innovated by creating a social PPP, a philanthropic public partnership, with the Government of Quebec. This led to the creation of the Québec en forme program, which establishes various networks of schools, child care facilities, CLSCs and community organizations in order to encourage healthy lifestyles for children from the most disadvantaged areas. We have witnessed the development of new ways to better help society and we have the utmost respect for what the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon has undertaken.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
October 21st, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-203. The history of this bill goes back a ways.
For a number of years, Senator Jerry Grafstein and Senator Mercer have been working on producing this bill so that we can officially make November 15 philanthropy day in Canada. Both senators have a long history of philanthropic involvement, community involvement, and giving back to the community. They worked very hard at this.
In the last House it was S-217. It passed the Senate. It came to this place, and we moved it through the House. Then, and after prorogation it died and came back as S-203. It went to the Senate again, and I intended to bring it forward. As the member from Peace River said, he scrambled a bit and brought it forward.
The bottom line is that we now have an opportunity to come together as a Parliament and get this bill through.
It is important. It matters to many people. Like everyone in the House, I guess, I have been involved in a lot of not-for-profit organizations. I have been the President of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, and I have served on the national board. I have worked with literacy, food banks, junior achievement, CNIB, and a number of organizations. We come to meet some fabulous people who give an awful lot to their communities.
When I travel in my own community, I am constantly amazed at the dedicated work that people do every day, like the people who gather in a church in the north end of Dartmouth every Wednesday to provide food to the poor. There are people like Doris McArcher, who has a clothing depot in a church in Dartmouth, where she collects clothes for people who need them. She does not ask them if they need help. In the winter, she provides the coats, pants, scarves, and hats because she knows that if people come to get her help it is because they need it.
A lot of faith-based people are doing this kind of work. They do this in the belief that God would want them to. There are people who do not believe in God who also do this kind of work. Whatever the motivation, these good people should be recognized.
In my own life, I have two active children who play hockey and soccer. They paddle on the great lakes in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. My daughter is in Brownies, tennis, and golf. Even at the school, it is important to have volunteers because of the crisis in funding these days. None of these things would be possible without people who would coach, manage, and do the kinds of things that make it possible for kids to enjoy the activities that we want them to be part of.
In the church I go to, there are people like my wife who teach Sunday school, there are people in the choir, and there are people who fill other roles. These are all philanthropic acts and they are important.
We should never diminish the importance of people who give money. It is so important to give to those who do not have. My sister is involved in the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She is a fundraiser with the Canadian Cancer Society and is involved in AFP organizations like Imagine Canada, which is helping to build the philanthropic sector.
We know that recent times have been challenging. An Imagine Canada report from last August quotes a few statistics on the difficulties that charities are facing. For example, more than half of charities are experiencing increased demand for their products and services. Compared with 2009, more charities are reporting that they are at risk, experiencing increased demand, or both. The percentage of charities under high stress has increased to 17%. The financial situation of many charities has stagnated or deteriorated slightly. On average, charities report that revenues have dropped by 1.1%, while expenditures have risen by almost 4%.
It is always a challenge to get people to work in the not-for-profit sector, but now it is particularly difficult. Operating charities report that the average number of paid staff has decreased by 4.4%. In spite of the challenges, however, the level of confidence is high.
As a group, charity leaders are remarkably confident in the future, because the people who work in charities, in the not-for-profit sector, are optimistic people. They see the challenges but they do not shy away from them. They see the obstacles, but they decide that they are going to overcome them.
I think that this is an important thing. My colleague from Peace River spoke about growing up in his family. In my own family, which was a large, kind of boisterous family, we belonged to the Foster Parents Plan. We would make our donations, and we would write letters back and forth to understand what was happening with children in other parts of the world who were not quite so fortunate.
It is interesting to look at who gives money in Canada. It is not always people in big cities. It is not always people with deep pockets. Quite often it is people in places like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Pictou County. Some of the people one would think are not doing well economically are the ones who pitch in and help. It is part of the ethic of growing up in a small community. It is the old ethic of pitching in and helping out. If somebody's house is on fire, the place is rebuilt. If somebody needs help, a bake sale is held. The spirit of giving that seems to exist in many parts of small-town Canada carries on today.
There is no question that there are challenges in the fundraising sector for the not-for-profit organizations. People who raise money, like Peter Bessey from Scotiabank, who is heading up a campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society in Nova Scotia, face certain challenges. We have the power in this place to recognize these people. We can use the power that comes with being a member of Parliament. We know that what these people do matters. We know that what they do builds a better country. It is important that we take the opportunity, like the one that presents itself in Bill S-203, to recognize the people who build a better world.
Earlier this year, I had the chance to speak here about a woman named Ruth Goldbloom, who was the driving force behind Pier 21. My leader, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, had a chance to go to Pier 21. He had a chance to connect with relatives in his past. Pier 21 would not have happened if Ruth Goldbloom had not been the driving force. Ruth recognizes that all the people who have worked at Pier 21 are important, whether they have given $1 million, as seven people have, or whether they work in the gift shop to help people when they visit Pier 21. She believes that all these people deserve to be recognized.
The voluntary sector in Canada is huge and it cannot be replaced by paid work. It cannot be replaced by people who do things professionally. It cannot be replaced because there is not the commitment, the optimism, and the sheer dedication that happens in the voluntary sector in Canada. It is incumbent upon this House to recognize the people who do that work and in some way tell them that we appreciate them.
I am looking at an article in the Toronto Star entitled “Women are Changing the Face of Philanthropy”. The article refers to the hon. Margaret Norrie McCain, who is a great philanthropist in Nova Scotia. I will quote from this article:
Many women today use their influence to give more strategically, and in different ways, than men or women did in the past....They have adopted new models, such as giving circles, to bring like-minded donors together to pool their resources in support of a common cause. “Women give to organizations that they have some connection with,” says Maria Antonakos of Opus Philanthropic Strategies Inc.
Philanthropy has been around a long time in many different ways at many different levels. But it does change. It does reflect the marketplace. When we have a recession, as we have had over the last couple of years and continue to have, it hurts, and it disproportionately hurts organizations that deal with those people who need the most help.
We should recognize the work that people do. We should recognize those who give in small ways, but also the people who give big money, like those in my own community: the Risleys, the Rowes, the O'Regans, the Fountains, the Goldblooms, the Sobeys, the Jodeys, the Keatings, the McFees and Smithers, the Conrad family, the Spatsis, the Flemings, the Edwards, and the Dennis family, who own the Chronicle Herald.
These are the people who build Canada. Their work cannot be replaced. It is not about financially rewarding the people who are raising money. It is incumbent upon us and the Parliament of Canada to tell them that we understand what they do, we know it is important, we know it builds a better country. It builds a better community for all of us. We want to say thanks by making November 15 philanthropy day in Canada. I urge all members to support this bill.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
October 21st, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB
moved that Bill S-203, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House this evening and bring forward a private member's bill that stands in my name. The bill comes from the other place and is called an act respecting a national philanthropy day.
This will come as interesting news to most Canadians, insomuch as many Canadians believe there already is a National Philanthropy Day, and in fact there is. Last year, November 15 was declared as the first National Philanthropy Day. Our Minister of Heritage at that point made that declaration. Today we are now talking about putting legislation through to backstop that commitment by our Minister of Heritage, declaring November 15 henceforth as National Philanthropy Day.
There are a number of people in our country who know what philanthropy is and who philanthropists are. However, it is important for us to go through this. I will give my perspective of who I believe are the philanthropists, what makes them unique and why it is important that we have a day that recognizes the contributions of those individuals.
As I was thinking about what makes a philanthropist or what is philanthropy, I started to think about my upbringing and what my thoughts were when I heard of philanthropy, or when I started to understand what that word meant. To a great degree, I heard the word used in newscasts. I would hear about a philanthropist who had done this or a philanthropist who had done that. Usually these were people who had great wealth and were making contributions or large gifts in kind to institutions. These were worthwhile and they were important declarations and contributions to important institutions. When I started to think about this, I wondered if that was the only type of philanthropist.
Canadians need to have an inclusive view of who philanthropists are and what philanthropy is. I would use the definition that a philanthropist is somebody who will give of themselves to another person to benefit another person's life.
It is important for us to consider all of those people who continue, on a daily, monthly and weekly basis, to give time, energy and dollars to causes in which they believe. It is important we become very inclusive as to who we are declaring philanthropists as part of this legislation and what in fact philanthropy is.
When I was in Sunday school, I heard the story of a widow who came to give an offering. She had a couple of copper coins and she gave them. There were other people who were giving great gifts. They were giving large amounts of money. I remember the story ended with the declaration that the person who had given the most was the person who had given what most of us would have thought was the least. The lady who had given her last couple of coins she needed to survive on had given freely. The other people, while their gifts were much larger, had given out of their wealth. They had only given a part of what they owned. We have to recognize that there are those people who every day give of themselves, give more than they probably can afford to give to make somebody else's life better.
When I think of my own upbringing, my family was a family that gave. When I was younger, my parents did not have a lot. My brothers and I have this ongoing joke that if there was a pie, or muffins, or cinnamon buns sitting on the counter, we would always have to ask if they were for us or for the neighbours. The joke is that we were a bunch of hungry boys and we basically starved because more often than not, it was for the neighbours. To this day, we go over to my mom's house and we often pester my her by asking if the food on the table is for us or if it is for the neighbours.
This has become a joke in our family because, in truth, my mom is one of those philanthropists, those people who stand up and say, “It does not matter what is going on in my own life. I am going to encourage somebody else by giving my time and energy to support someone who could really use it”.
Interestingly, two weeks ago I arrived home and my wife was making cinnamon buns with my daughters. I walked in and grabbed at one of the pans of cinnamon buns, and my wife said, “No, don't take those”. I asked why not and she said they were for the neighbours. I guess history repeats itself, and I am proud that virtue is being taught and passed on to my kids. It is something that I think most members in the House can relate to at one level or another.
Our government believes very strongly in the opportunities that should be available, and we should make it easier for people to give to the causes they strongly believe in. Over the last number of budgets, our government has brought in different initiatives that have made it easier for Canadians to give donations of different types to charities of their choice. There is now an opportunity for people to pass on investments with tax provisions for those donations.
We also have an opportunity in this country now to make contributions of gifts in kind of lands that are to be protected for ecological reasons. Our government believes that while it can do important things about the gaps in our social safety net and a number of other things, it is not the only partner in this effort. There need to be opportunities and encouragement for people to stand and support their neighbours and important causes as well.
Our Prime Minister and finance minister have led by example through bringing forward legislation, but one of the more poignant moments in the last couple of years that gripped all Canadians was the earthquake in Haiti. There was an outpouring by Canadians for the people who were suffering in Haiti, having experienced one of the most devastating natural disasters I can recall. This, of course, was on top of the fact that they had so little to begin with.
I recall very clearly that people lined up to make donations. It was not just people who were wealthy. It was people from all walks of life. It was such an encouragement to see our Prime Minister standing in line with his wife making a personal donation to this cause. This is a demonstration of what it is to be a philanthropist.
In my own community I saw countless people lined up to volunteer for different charity events and provide their support. There were kids clubs in my constituency that believed they might be able to contribute to help in the devastation in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
More recently, Canadians had the opportunity to donate to causes in Newfoundland. There was a group of students in my constituency that gave to Haiti, which was important because it saw the devastation there, but another group said it saw a lady on the news who had lost her house and it wanted to find out who she was because it wanted to help her. These young people are also philanthropists; they are demonstrating philanthropy.
We know the devastation that many people in Africa have experienced as a result of natural disasters and a number of other things, including the AIDS epidemic and the mismanagement of many of the nations in terms of governance. Many people in our country have stood alongside these folks in different ways.
This past Christmas, I had an opportunity to hold a fundraiser in my constituency for an orphanage in Africa. It is an orphanage that predominantly brings in kids who are orphaned as a result of AIDS.
We as a community raised in excess of $20,000 at a breakfast. We then did a number of other things. In the end we raised more than $250,000 to help support this orphanage that now cares for more than 2,200 kids on a daily basis.
Philanthropy comes in many ways, shapes and forms, and of course there is the legacy that has been established in Canada. Most predominantly, when we look back on the history of this great nation, we can look at the legacy of church groups and church organizations in our country. We look at the Catholic Church, which established missions early on in the exploration and development of this country, and many of those groups continue today to do good work. We look to a number of other churches that may have less of a history in this nation, but are doing important work, when we look at inner city ministries, when we look at the Salvation Army that continues to reach out to those most in need.
When we look at these different organizations and these groups that do amazing work, we can see that they are philanthropists all the way through their process. If it be the people who are standing to collect the money, if be it the Salvation Army bell ringer in the local supermarket, if it be the person who is out there collecting donations of clothes, furniture or different things to be sold at the thrift stores, if it be the people who bring food from their homes so that they can be served at soup kitchens or the people who write the cheque to help support these things, there are so many different philanthropists along the way.
I believe that if we are to have a bill that recognizes philanthropy and philanthropists in this country, we have to make it absolutely clear that we will recognize all of these people. It is not to be the recognition of those people who would otherwise have statues of bronze located at the entrances of hospitals, or those people who will be on the front pages of the newspaper as they hand over their $4 million cheques for a good cause. These people are absolutely important and we want to recognize them in this legislation, but we also want to recognize those people who give out of their poverty, in time, in money or in some other manifestation. I think it is important that we as Canadians make that declaration clear as we proceed with the recognition of philanthropists and philanthropy in this country on November 15.
This summer I had the unfortunate opportunity to spend a fair bit of time at the University of Alberta Hospital. My brother, who is just younger than I, was diagnosed with leukemia. I would spend a fair bit of time there on the weekends. As I was walking through the hospital in between treatments, I noticed that there were several opportunities at every corridor to recognize people who had made contributions.
At that point I knew I would be bringing forward this bill in the House, and I thought it was interesting, so I spent a fair bit of time to try to understand a little bit about the people who were recognized on these walls. Very, very quickly I recognized that there were people of all walks of life, both rich and poor, who had given. That is one of the great things about philanthropy. It is the one place we can all contribute. It is the most democratic exercise of supporting fellow Canadians and fellow citizens in this world.
It is my privilege to support and to bring forward this bill in the House of Commons, and I hope members from all parties will help recognize the men and women who have and who will continue to build this country into the great country that it is.
National Philanthropy Day Act
June 14th, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.
Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB
moved, seconded by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, that Bill S-203, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, be read the first time.
(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)