moved that Bill S-217, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to once again bring this bill forward to the House, a bill first introduced, debated and adopted by our colleagues in the other place.
Bill S-217 would officially recognize November 15 of each year as national philanthropy day. I want to thank the hon. senators who did the legwork on this piece of legislation, in particular Senators Grafstein and Mercer and others who have dedicated large parts of their lives to the betterment of others through philanthropic endeavours. Their work continues with this bill. I congratulate them on their life's work, for bringing this bill forward once again and particularly for the diligence they have shown over the last couple of Parliaments to get this through.
National philanthropy day in fact occurs already on November 15. Events are held across this country to recognize the critical importance of philanthropy, of giving in Canada. The bill before us today seeks to officially recognize these efforts by the Parliament of Canada.
I want to thank my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville for seconding it. I know she has a long history of philanthropy and helping others.
Giving is a critical component to so many sectors, organizations, communities and Canadians. Today, giving is probably more important than ever. It builds upon the shared responsibility we have to help each other. It brings people together around a common cause. At a time when governments are reducing funding and support for the voluntary sector, privately donated money becomes critical to replace that shortfall.
In critical areas like health care, human rights, health promotion, the arts, literacy, recreation for our children, services for our seniors, churches, and so many others, the act of giving time and money is a central element of an organization's ability to serve its community.
Like most colleagues in the House, I have worked as a volunteer in the charitable sector and I have seen and felt the impact of those who give. In my own experience, I have been privileged to be associated with organizations like the CNIB, the Canadian Cancer Society, literacy groups, food banks, the Arthritis Society and many others.
My longest and strongest affiliation is with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, where I served as president in Nova Scotia, as well as serving on the national board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. I learned that people give in many ways, large and small.
I was always amazed and humbled when every February thousands of Nova Scotians would hit the streets during Heart Month. They would go door to door collecting money in small amounts and some larger ones for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Many of those same people hit the pavement a few months later in support of the Cancer Society or the Multiple Sclerosis Society or any number of other charities.
Philanthropy takes a number of forms. Every member of the House can think of those who give in their own communities, but in my own community of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour there are many examples of work that is being done. Some of it may seem small.
I think about those who work in food banks. I think about the volunteers who, every Wednesday, provide food for those in need in the north end of Dartmouth. I think about Feeding Others of Dartmouth, an organization with which my family has a long association, that provides support for those in Dartmouth who need food on a daily basis.
I think about literacy and people who give of their time so that others can learn to read and write. I can recall when the cuts to literacy were made in 2006, the number of people who called me and talked about how important this work was to them, people who gave of their time and helped them learn to read and write.
A man came into my office in tears to tell me about his circumstance. He had a job and he struggled. He had two or three children and struggled every day, but he did his job. He finally had an opportunity for promotion and had to turn it down because he knew he could not pass the literacy test. He did not want his employers to find out that he was in fact illiterate as it might affect his existing job. People help folks like that. People help learners.
There are breakfast for children programs and recreation programs. Like many people in the House, I have a son who is involved in minor hockey and soccer. I have a daughter who plays soccer and is involved in the Girl Guides. These things could not happen without people who give in the community. That does not even mention service clubs, the Kinsmen, the Kiwanis, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club and everybody else who gives so much.
On a small level people give, but on a large level people give as well. In my own community, there are people who support causes: the Risleys, the Rowes, the O'Regans, the Fountains, the Goldblooms, the Sobeys, the Joudreys, the Keatings, the McPhees, the Smithers, the Conrads, the MacDonalds, the Spatzs, the Flemings, the Edwards, and the Dennis family.
I want to mention one significant act of philanthropy in our community. Graham Dennis is the long-time publisher of the Halifax Chronicle Herald, one of Canada's few independently owned newspapers. He is the head of a very charitable family as well. A few years ago, I think it was in 2002, his son Will passed away at the age of 30 from an epileptic seizure. To honour his memory, the Will Dennis Fund was created.
The primary initiative of this is the establishment of the Will Dennis Chair in Pediatric Epilepsy at the IWK Children's Hospital. The fund reached a milestone in 2007, with the appointment of Dr. Michael Esser to the chair. Now it is a fully endowed chair. A lot of that money came from the Dennis family, not in a splashy way, not in any way to elevate themselves, but to bring to the community the resources they had in memory of somebody they loved so that others would not suffer in the same way.
That is the kind of philanthropy that exists in our communities. That is the kind of giving that makes Canada a better place. That is the kind of giving that we want to recognize with a national philanthropy day on November 15 from the Government of Canada.
Governments have come to rely on generous people. Governments need to do all they can to encourage this type of giving. There are many ways to support philanthropy. We can do so through the tax system, by leveraging money, and through recognition, like here today, by passing legislation to formally make November 15 of each year national philanthropy day. That would be a welcome acknowledgement for the many people in the philanthropic community who support this legislation, the organizations that support philanthropy and the hard-working people who go out and raise money these days, which is not easy. I mention organizations like AFP, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Philanthropic Foundations Canada, the Voluntary Sector Forum, Imagine Canada, and the Canadian Association of Gift Planners.
Charities are respected by Canadians. Polls have consistently shown that Canadians trust charities. In many ways, they trust charities more than they trust governments. A recent opinion poll of nearly 4,000 people found that charities are highly trusted. Charity leaders rank only behind nurses and doctors in terms of trust from the population. A majority of Canadians say they have a lot of trust in charities. These are organizations that are made up of people to support other people. They do it at great personal expense, but they do it because it is important, whether it is giving of time or whether it is giving of money.
Each of us has unsung heroes in our communities and ridings, people who give of their time and money in the hope that their efforts will make a difference. They do make a difference; they make a very significant difference.
Bill S-217 requires no money from the government. It is entirely non-partisan. It does not require even any investment of government time. All it requires is the recognition of giving, of philanthropy, of the hard work that is done by fundraising professionals and volunteers. Ultimately, it recognizes the great efforts of those who give to improve the lives of others. It is a small ask of this place with a huge reward for our country: a better, more generous Canada.