Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill S-203, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.
It was very encouraging to hear speeches from my hon. colleagues from across the way. It appears that everyone in the House supports the spirit in which this bill was introduced and supports the bill.
In today's society, we need the efforts of all Canadians, businesses, governments and individuals, in order to build a Canada that we want and to foster the values that Canadians hold dear. Canada would not be the country it is today without the efforts of millions of Canadians who, by their generosity and selflessness, have helped to build our country's reputation as a caring, giving nation on the world stage. For those reasons, I support Bill S-203.
As some members of Parliament know, the idea of a national philanthropy day is one that has been circulating for quite some time. It first appeared in 1986. The U.S. president at the time, Ronald Reagan, actually issued a proclamation to recognize the day. However, it should be noted that the day has never been formally recognized by the U.S. Congress. In fact, no other government has permanently recognized this day.
This is the time for our government to officially recognize the merits of such a day for the very people who work so tirelessly and selflessly to reach out to help those in need day after day.
According to the 2007 Canada survey of giving, volunteering and participating, Canadians are very generous. Over 23 million Canadians made a monetary donation to charitable and non-profit organizations in the preceding year. Just as an example, 84% of Canadians aged 15 and over made combined donations of $10 billion. This represents an average gift of $437 per person, an increase of 12% over the 2004 survey.
The generosity of Canadians is found across the age ranges. In 2007, those aged 15 to 24 donated an average of $142 per person. It is so heartening to think that despite the fact that some of these young people are just starting out in life, they still find the means to give to their fellow citizens.
The average amount donated does increase with age until it reaches a high of $611 per person for those aged 65 and over. That is heartening as well to see seniors, who sometimes are also in difficult situations, donating and giving so generously.
Generosity is evident across all income groups. Although in 2007 Canadians with a higher household income had the highest average donation of $686 per person, it is interesting to note that those Canadians with annual household incomes of less than $20,000 gave the highest percentage of their household income.
I am very proud to say that in December it was reported by the Fraser Institute that for the 12th year in a row Manitoba was once again ranked as Canada's most generous province. Manitoba led all provinces with the highest percentage of total income donated to registered charities.
Manitoba leads the country in part to people like businessman John Buhler, an extremely generous individual who lived down the street from me in Morden, Manitoba where I grew up. John and his wife, Bonnie, regularly donate large amounts of money to a wide variety of community organizations, including health care projects, educational institutions and museums and centres associated with human rights. John Buhler and the donations that he has made have been instrumental in contributing to the growth and prosperity of Manitoba.
I am also very proud to say that Winkler, which is the city in which I now live and which I am very proud to represent, is home to the second largest group of charitable donors in the entire country. That is a great honour for a group of people who are extremely generous and continually give of their time and finances.
The generosity of Canadians is also expressed in time, with billions of hours donated to causes in which Canadians believe. By contributing their skills and experience, these generous Canadians are also learning new skills and increasing their knowledge.
In 2007, 46% of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteered to an organization and 84% provided direct help to others outside of their home, sometimes just by helping their friend or neighbour or someone in need.
Canadians are extremely generous people. Our citizens have shown their generosity time and again in many ways. In every community, Canadians help those in need. They help their neighbours by setting up a trust fund for families who have lost their house in a fire. They help Canadians in other provinces when floods have taken away their homes or livelihood. They help people across the world in times of disaster or famine, as reflected in the outpouring of support following the recent earthquake in Haiti, as well as Chile.
A legislated national philanthropy day will officially recognize the efforts and selflessness of these Canadians. It will magnify the importance of special events already organized by entities and non-government organizations.
The calendar is already punctuated with special days, weeks and months aimed at increasing awareness among Canadian people to causes that deserve support and special recognition. An example celebrated recently is the International Day of Peace on September 21, which was first celebrated in 1982 and officially declared permanent by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002. This day gives an opportunity to individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace.
Other examples include Child Abuse Awareness Month, National Family Week and the YWCA Week Without Violence, all in October. Then there is Canadian Hockey Week in November. All of those special days, weeks and months represent occasions to reflect on important issues. They have been and will continue to be observed.
An act respecting a national philanthropy day would recognize the efforts of thousands of volunteers and the value of in-kind and financial donations that have supported a myriad of causes. In fact, the Association of Fundraising Professionals created the first national philanthropy day on November 15, 1986, to recognize the contribution that philanthropy makes to our communities.
So far in my remarks I have focused on why designating November 15 each year as national philanthropy day by means of legislation is necessary. I would like to finish by mentioning that legislating a national philanthropy day would contribute to the recognition of the huge contribution of the philanthropy sector to Canadian communities and to many worthy causes around the world. It also would recognize the tremendous positive difference that Canadians, along with non-profit organizations, companies and governments make. I think it is safe to say that legislating a national philanthropy day could help promote and enhance the activities surrounding philanthropy in Canada.
As we can see, there are numerous advantages associated with this bill. The government certainly sees merit in the idea of celebrating philanthropy. Indeed, it encourages Canadians to make charitable donations using income tax incentives. Legislating a national philanthropy day is an appropriate mechanism for advancing this government's agenda.
For all of those reasons, I encourage and urge all of my fellow colleagues and hon. members of this House to support this important bill.