Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to contribute to the debate on Bill S-203, the National Philanthropy Day bill. I supported my hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour in the previous incarnation of this bill as Bill S-217, introduced by retired Senator Grafstein, but sadly it died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued.
Bill S-203 is not a new bill. It has been on the order paper in the Senate since 2005 and I have followed its fate with great interest. I am pleased to see it finally make its way through the parliamentary process once again.
Under the bill, November 15 would be established as a special day for philanthropic associations across Canada. National philanthropy days are already held in every region of Canada, involving thousands of citizens every year. This day was initiated at the grassroots level, and continues to grow, led by individual charities and organizations such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Canada will lead the world if Parliament adopts the bill and recognizes National Philanthropy Day on November 15.
Barely a facet of Canadian society has not been touched by philanthropy in some way, from children's causes, health care, the arts, et cetera.
According to Imagine Canada, Canadians collectively donated $10 billion to charitable causes in 2007, and that number has grown today. In the spirit of philanthropy, over two billion volunteer hours were donated. Sixty-five per cent of teenagers volunteer as a result of the requirement of high school service hours, representing the highest level of involvement of any age group, and immigrant groups also give larger annual donations on average. Twenty-five per cent of Canadians provide 80% of the value of all donations.
Philanthropy, however, is more than donating money. It is also about the gift of time through volunteerism, passion, selflessness and spirit. It is about what is in our hearts, not necessarily what is in our bank accounts. Many philanthropists are not donors in the tradition sense, but are champions, advocates and volunteers. Philanthropy, as a whole, helps build strong communities and active civic participation by bringing people together to serve a common goal.
Imagine Canada's research, in its “Philanthropic Success Stories in Canada”, describes philanthropy as that which: one, is risky and does not back a sure winner; two, tackles an unpopular issue, such as HIV-AIDS, homelessness, or mental illness; three, is not done for personal glory or for recognition; four, does not have any strings attached; five, is pioneering, innovative and often ahead of the curve; six, addresses the root cause or causes of a problem; seven, draws on the expertise of those who are working in the field; eight, engages and inspires the wider community; nine, demonstrates a long-term commitment; and ten, acts as a spark or a catalyst for lasting social change.
In my career, prior to being elected as the member Mississauga—Streetsville, I was a passionate community activist and fundraiser. I believed in the merits of philanthropy and its ability to make a change and an impact in our society. I have raised money for many worthy charities, organizations and causes, all of which were unable to meet the growing demands of their budgets through government grants or subsidies and had to turn to individuals and corporate donors for support. These included my children's schools when school boards and provincial governments could not adequately meet the need for sports equipment, new technology, or textbooks and also Arts Umbrella, a visual and performing arts institute on Granville Island in Vancouver. I also worked for the Ontario Brain Injury Association, the Brain Injury Association of Canada and Mississauga's Credit Valley Hospital, where we helped build a regional cancer centre, an ambulatory care centre and a new maternal care centre.
I continue to assist causes I believe in, because it is the right thing to do, and I derive a great personal satisfaction from contributing to causes which help friends and help build a stronger and healthier community at large.
Nationally, the achievements of philanthropy are diverse, spanning all aspects of society such as health, housing, education, social services, the environment, and international issues, including aid and development, which demonstrates the widespread impact that philanthropy has both in Canada and abroad.
Let me illustrate some of the examples of how philanthropy has helped our community in some very profound ways.
Both individual philanthropists and foundations are active in fostering innovation. For example, philanthropist and businessman, Alan Broadbent, has been recognized for many of the organizations that he has helped found, including the Maytree Foundation and the Caledon Institute of Social Policy. Both of these organizations were mentioned for their influential work in finding innovative and efficient means of addressing emerging social problems.
One of the victories that Caledon had achieved in the implementation was the national child benefit, a significant step toward addressing child poverty in Canada. Some consider this initiative to be the most promising reform since medicare.
Through the work of community foundations, philanthropy has had a significant role in building strong and vibrant communities. Established in 2001, the Community Foundation of Mississauga is one of more than 155 community foundations in Canada. It serves Mississauga and offers people a variety of ways to make a difference in their community. A record year, 2010 had grants totalling over $700,000. A few areas that were supported include children and youth at risk, the environment, heritage preservation and community building. Because community foundations are attuned to the needs of the community, they are capable of addressing local issues in creative ways.
Further, philanthropy has had an important influence in the development of Canada's health care system, including its hospitals, community-based health services and even in medical breakthroughs. Philanthropy often creates organizations for populations that are not adequately serviced by traditional programs and services of the health care system, such as Mississauga's Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, founded by Dr. Joseph Wong. The Yee Hong Centre provides care that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for Chinese seniors.
In addition to creating and sustaining hospitals and various specialized health care services, philanthropy raises awareness of a number of health care issues and generates funds for research. Perhaps the most recognizable achievement of this kind is Terry Fox's unforgettable Marathon of Hope, which taught Canadians about cancer and continues to raise significant funds for cancer research, some $23 million plus to date.
Many medical advances depended on philanthropic funding, such as the discovery of the gene that caused cystic fibrosis, found thanks to financial support of donors to help charities like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Canada. One of the most famous Canadian contributions to medicine, Banting's discovery of insulin, had philanthropic roots.
In education and in the arts, philanthropy has aided public education, literacy efforts, funded university programs, supported university work in research and development, financed buildings, research chairs and scholarships, built unique cultural institutions and supported artists. We have philanthropy to thank for Canada's wealth of first-class universities and a vibrant arts community.
Before the depression, social assistance was provided predominantly by the church. One of the earliest social services umbrella organizations in Canada was the Community Chest. It was a product of various religious charities banding together. This organization later became known as the United Way of Canada. Today, and for many years, philanthropy is heavily involved in providing social assistance.
A shiny example of social assistance only a philanthropic organization can provide is Habitat for Humanity, which prides itself on not receiving any government funding. In fact, I had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon on the first Habitat for Humanity home built in Mississauga by the community for a worthy family that otherwise would never have had a home.
The most highly regarded philanthropists are not those who donate vast sums of money. Rather, it is those who take on risk and tackle unpopular issues, give selflessly of themselves, their time, money and spirit, make a long-term commitment to the cause and have no expectation of recognition or return on their investment. Sometimes philanthropists are wealthy benefactors, but there are also volunteers and advocates who champion it. It is difficult to imagine a part of society that has not been touched in some way by philanthropy.
The reason people volunteer is obvious: they want to help others by giving back to their community while making connections and gaining experience. I speak personally when I say that they gain a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfillment when they learn new skills, meet new people and feel appreciated or recognized in doing so. For others it is about leaving a lasting legacy. Active citizenship is the bedrock of our healthy democracy and creates resilient communities. Charitable giving and volunteering are crucial to our society and all aspects of Canadian living.
National Philanthropy Day has the support of many volunteer organizations, including Imagine Canada, the Philanthropic Foundations Canada, Community Foundations of Canada, the Voluntary Sector Forum, the Canadian Association of Gift Planners and the Canadian Bar Association. That is why I support this private member's bill and call on all parliamentarians to support it as well.