Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to talk about Bill S-201, which calls on the government to designate the 15th day of November of every year as National Philanthropy Day.
In October 2009, November 15 was declared National Philanthropy Day throughout Canada. In January 2011, the Prime Minister announced the creation of the Prime Minister's volunteer awards to honour the enormous contribution volunteers make across Canada.
The bill seeks to take this recognition one step further. It seeks the designation of Philanthropy Day by means of legislation.
Philanthropy certainly has many faces. Early usage of the word “philanthropy” related to the concept of concern for human welfare. Over time, we came to think of how philanthropy is shown in society, usually related to donations of money, of property, of volunteer labour to good causes or of individuals providing direct help to others. It shows itself in grand gestures and in small ways. It is both personal and collective and can be public or private.
Whichever way it is shown, philanthropy plays an important role in our country. It is at the heart of who we are as a nation. It is part of our identity and the core of our values. The spirit of giving of every type, from donating to volunteering, is central to the values of Canadians and is worthy of recognition. It defines our people and our country.
There is barely a part of our society that has not been touched by philanthropy at some point and in some way. Philanthropy has helped Canadians enjoy an enviable quality of life at home and it has helped construct our country's reputation as a caring, giving nation on the world stage.
One may wonder: Why volunteer? With so much going on in our everyday lives, at work, in our homes and in our country, why give so much to others? What makes us give of our time and of our hard-earned dollars?
The reasons are particular to each individual, but there is always a purpose. From it being a way to give back to the community, to sympathy for those in need or for those who are less fortunate, to simply wishing to make a difference in the world, reasons for volunteering are numerous and personal to each person.
Canadians have admirable values, which contribute greatly to our giving. Even in the most difficult economic times, Canadians are still ready to give their time, to give their money and to give of themselves.
In my own riding of Leeds—Grenville, I know people are involved in their communities, donating their time, donating their money and, most important, assisting in projects that are good for the community. They do it to improve the lives of everyone.
I would just like to mention a few of our more prominent donors. People like Don and Shirley Green, David and Anne Beatty, George Tackaberry, Gerry Tallmon and Dave Jones are just a few of those who give their money. However, there are thousands of others in my riding who give their time and their money to help make our community so much better.
Often, people believe that government can solve all the problems. However, communities are so much better when people step up and volunteer on their own. I have been a strong advocate of that in my riding, urging people, young people especially, to get involved in giving and volunteering. I am really happy to see that this bill is coming here to actually legislate National Philanthropy Day.
Taking a closer look at Canadians' philanthropic nature, it is interesting to note that this generosity comes across in all income groups. In 2007, Canadians with a higher household income made the highest average donation of $686. However, what is astounding is that those Canadians with annual household incomes of less than $20,000 also contributed at very high levels.
The generosity of Canadians is not only found across annual household incomes; it also crosses all age groups. In 2007, those aged 15 to 24 donated an average of $142 per person.
It is heartening to think that despite the fact that these young people are just starting out in life, they still find the means to give to their fellow citizens. The giving nature and dedication of our youth is an inspiration to us all.
Young people in our country have grown up with a strong awareness of world issues. Many have experienced tragedies such as September 11, the earthquake in Haiti and numerous other tragedies. These devastating events have instilled in youth a strong sense of empathy, understanding and also concern.
Now more than ever, children of all ages are involved in some sort of philanthropic activity. Take for instance the work of Darren Cole, 16. He was chosen as the top teen philanthropist of 2011 by Mackenzie Investments. He helped fill 10,000 backpacks with school supplies and sorted food at the local food bank. This inspiring young man has been helping those in need since he was just six years old.
In grade 9, Darren created TOPS for Teens to raise money for his school, and he created the group Kids Against Canadian Hunger to encourage schools to raise money for food banks. Darren took his efforts one step further by organizing a conference on the hunger problem in Canada to help raise awareness and funds for food banks.
He is a great example of the ability and determination the youth have to make a difference in the world, and it is up to us to foster and promote this great Canadian value.
It is clear that Canadians care and will continue to do so. As the Prime Minister said in his speech, volunteers need to be acknowledged and honoured for their work. This day will do just that.
Furthermore, a National Philanthropy Day will inspire Canadians to come together and, as His Excellency the Governor General said, make extraordinary things happen.
I admire the aims of this proposed legislation and ask members to join me in supporting that November 15 become known as National Philanthropy Day by means of legislation and to call attention to the actions of so many Canadians who have given of themselves.
For all of these reasons, I encourage and urge all my fellow hon. members of this House to support this important legislation that reflects Canadians values in such a positive way.
I appreciate the opportunity to rise on the bill and I look forward to its passing.