Proceedings of the Special Senate Committee on the
Issue No. 8 - Evidence - October 15, 2018
OTTAWA, Monday,October 15, 2018
The Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector met this day at 6:30 p.m. to examine the impact of federal and provincial laws and policies governing charities, non-profit organizations, foundations, and other similar groups; and to examine the impact of the voluntary sector in Canada.
Senator Terry M. Mercer (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I welcome you to this meeting of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector. I am Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia, chair of the committee. I would like to start by asking the senators to introduce themselves. I will begin with our deputy chair, on my left.
Senator Omidvar: My name is Ratna Omidvar. I’m an independent senator from Ontario.
Senator Duffy: Mike Duffy, independent senator from Prince Edward Island.
Senator R. Black: Rob Black, senator from Ontario.
Senator Maltais: Ghislain Maltais from Quebec.
Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman from Montreal, Quebec.
The Chair: Thank you, colleagues. Today, the committee will continue its study to examine the impact of federal and provincial laws and policies governing charities, non-profit organizations, foundations and other similar groups, and to examine the impact of the voluntary sector in Canada. For this meeting, we will focus on clients and diversity in charities and non-profit organizations.
For our witnesses, we welcome Dr. Christopher Fredette, Associate Professor, Odette School of Business, University of Windsor; and from the organization S.U.C.C.E.S.S., via video conference from Halifax — it’s always good to talk to people from Halifax —Dr. Queenie Choo, Chief Executive Officer.
Thank you for accepting our invitation to appear. I would like to invite the witnesses to make their presentations, but I also remind them that as per our instructions, they should try to limit their presentations to five to seven minutes in length. Following the presentations, we will go to questions from my colleagues, and we will ask that the questions be succinct and the answers be likewise.
Ms. Choo, the floor is yours.
Queenie Choo, Chief Executive Officer, S.U.C.C.E.S.S.: Thank you very much. Honourable senators, my name is Queenie Choo. I am the CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. I would like to start by thanking you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is one of Canada’s largest non-profit charitable social service agencies. We were established in 1973. S.U.C.C.E.S.S. has grown into an organization with 30 service locations to support newcomers from around the world today. S.U.C.C.E.S.S. provides comprehensive newcomer services, seniors care, and affordable housing to Canadians and newcomers in all stages of their Canadian journey.
Today I would like to focus on charitable organizations embracing the values of diversity and inclusion, and how government policy can support charitable organizations like us.
First of all, I would like to share with you our story of success. Over the past 45 years, we have grown from primarily serving Chinese-speaking immigrants to an organization that serves over 61,000 unique clients a year who come from 150 countries. They speak a multitude of languages and are of all age groups, and they include first, second and third or more generations of Canadians. They are all from across immigrant categories, from business immigrants to skilled workers, family support sponsored immigrants to refugees, and each has their own unique settlement journey and story.
We have about 500 staff. More than 80 per cent are themselves immigrants and refugees to Canada and understand the complex settlement and integration journey. Again, they speak a multitude of languages and range from young professionals under the age of 30 to experienced workers aged 55 and over.
From the board perspective of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., we demonstrate diversity at the governance level. Half of our board members are women. More than 85 per cent of our board members are visible minorities. Board members have also had diverse immigration and settlement experiences, as well as experiences working with diverse communities.
So it’s not just the number we are talking about. To be truly responsive to the diversity of our community, it is not enough to just acknowledge diversity through words. There are opportunities to go forward with government policies and the support to ensure that we truly embrace diversity and inclusion in our communities.
First recommendation: We believe that government funders should be asking organizations to demonstrate their diversity commitments, strategies and plans to ensure their organization and services are accessible, inclusive and responsive. In fact, this shouldn’t apply just to non-profit community organizations that receive funding from government; it should apply to all government agencies and organizations that do business with the government.
Moreover, more support should be provided to help non-profit organizations develop and adopt diversity commitments and strategies. Quite frankly, not many non-profits have capacity in this area, and more support and funding are needed from government in this regard.
Second, we need more research and data from government on diversity among service clients. For example, the IRCC iCARE system collects a tremendous amount of data on settlement service trends and client demographic profiles. While a lot of data is already posted on open data portals, we believe that there are even more opportunities to share the trends based on client data collected by the government. This data will support non-profit organizations — who often don’t have powerful data management systems like the government’s — to develop more responsive service approaches and programming.
Third, at the most basic and practical level, there needs to be continuous training for front-line community workers to deliver inclusive services to diverse communities. Unfortunately, little or no funding is available for non-profit organizations to do this.
While community groups try to work together to leverage cross-sector expertise and maximize their funds available, the reality is that it is often insufficient to achieve some of the current impacts. Diversity and inclusion training is not a one-day workshop. It requires serious continuous investment over the long term to truly advance competency in this area in order to deliver inclusive service.
Beyond service delivery, organizations should also be consciously and purposely working towards inclusive leadership at the governance and staff levels. I recall that back in 2016, DiverseCity onBoard looked at visible minorities on governance boards in Metro Vancouver. The study found that visible minorities make up only 11.2 per cent of the boards of charities and foundations.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize that diversity and inclusion are not separate, stand-alone concepts or a box to be checked off on a list; rather, diversity and inclusion need to permeate through everything we do and our way of thinking, from staff employment training to researching community needs to design programming to conducting community engagement to evaluating program outcomes and impacts. We need to ensure that a diversity and inclusion lens is adopted.
Government funders must also be trained and prepared to evaluate funding requests and programs using this lens as well. Good work is already being done in this area and can be built on. For example,Status of Women Canada’s gender-based analysis plus tool and training is an excellent starting point to help us all adopt inclusive ways of thinking.
I am encouraged by this inclusive focus on the topic of diversity and inclusion, and I’m honoured to have been able to bring a community-based perspective. Thank you very much for allowing me to share S.U.C.C.E.S.S.’s perspective with you today.
The Chair: Ms. Choo, thank you very much. We will get to questions after we hear from Mr. Fredette.
Christopher Fredette, Associate Professor, Odette School of Business, University of Windsor, as an individual: Good evening. I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for your commitment to serving our country and for the time and effort you’ve invested in the work of this special committee.
As others have explained in their testimony, the charitable, non-profit and voluntary sectors in Canada are socially and economically important aspects of our national health, and your attention to them is very much appreciated.
I’d also like to thank you for providing me with the opportunity to speak with you today. I’m tremendously humbled that this committee has sought to include my voice among your witnesses.
In preparing for my testimony today, I sought input from a number of the leading community organizers and advocates from the Windsor-Essex region of Ontario, some of which I hope to share with you tonight.
My research centres on the ideas of diversity, inclusion and equity in the leadership and governance of non-profit and charitable sector organizations. In particular, I work to understand how organizations can better serve the needs, values and interests of their communities by being responsive to stakeholders and constituents in order to make a meaningful difference in the challenges facing not only the most vulnerable in our society, but each of us in our most vulnerable moments.
Again, I want to emphasize that this sector touches each of us in our most vulnerable moments, whether that be in response to a forest fire or tornado, a crisis of water scarcity or the traumatic death of a family member, or in providing meals and compassion to the immobile or in demonstrating the power and potential of a strong female presence to the daughter of a single father or teaching the value of art and humanity to the son of a single mother.
Each of us turns to these organizations to aid us in raising our children, preserving our environment, enriching our spirits and absorbing the shocks of economic, political and social change. In many ways, these organizations are the conscience of our society. They help us to address the myriad of issues that lie in the gap between what industry and government are capable of, and none of these domains is that of exclusivity.
It’s in this context that understanding how to create more diverse leadership groups — those composed of members who reflect the underlying demography of their community — is needed, first, to ensure that these activities of leading and governing, that is, the identification of needs, the setting of priorities, the making of decisions and the deploying of resources is undertaken by those who are legitimately reflective of their organization’s constituents and their communities; and, second, to ensure that the interests of communities and constituents are understood intimately. This means engaging people who have walked in these shoes, who have struggled with these needs and who understand the nuanced and often misunderstood barriers to fixing root causes.
Simply getting to diversity is often functionally and culturally difficult for organizations. It requires measuring population characteristics and building a demographic profile in an organization’s service region in order to determine an aspirational mix or a compositional goal. Boards and organizations then need to commit to meeting this goal in the face of other measured priorities, such as financial reporting and auditing, executive oversight and evaluation, fundraising and policy review and development, to name but a few.
Organizations that do begin this diversity journey often do so for the first time with little understanding of how to proceed. Reflecting the diversity of a neighbourhood, a township or a region can be difficult, if for no other reason than some facets of diversity may be concealed, assumed or even taboo, particularly during the identification and recruitment process.
Organizations that do achieve representational diversity, a term often associated with simply having a seat at the table, mark an important step forward, but achieving diversity is simply not to exclude. It’s not necessarily inclusion, nor does it speak to reaching equitable outcomes.
If the shift to diversity is about measurement and goal setting, becoming inclusive is about the process, and it centres on how boards and organizations facilitate meaningful participation in the processes of governance to ensure that the distribution of decision-making power is shared and effectively managed.
In many ways, building inclusivity is a question of why we want diversity in the first place. Do we want governance by the golden rule — those with the gold make the rules? That links to an earlier question posed in this committee: Who is the customer, really?
It also asks the question about control. Who controls, and how is that control exerted? This path tends to relegate the value of diversity to optics and box-checking, which other witnesses in past testimony have labelled in terms of tokenism and alienation.
Alternatively, do we want just or fair process in the governance of this sector? Some evidence suggests that diversity-inclusive leadership and governance lead to better outcomes. They improve approaches to risk management, lead to broader discussions about problems and solutions and better-quality decisions, particularly when facing irregular, infrequent, complex and uncertain decisions. However, it is also likely that diversity leads to slower decision-making and more contested decisions, particularly when we are talking about routine or habitual choices.
Organizations that commit to inclusivity tend to exhibit a multi-pronged approach to change that involves dealing with culture, practice and habit, as well as structures, rules and regulations. This often involves significant change in the mindset that takes time to be absorbed. It is frequently difficult to manage for those involved, as it may feel like living in a state of persistent transitional arrangements.
If we can get diversity and inclusion right in this sector, there is an opportunity to improve equity, but managers, leaders and directors need to understand what they are aiming for. That is, an evidence-based approach needs to inform which outcome should be focused on, which should be measured and how their achievement should be incentivized. I won’t be your first witness to suggest that, in a sector comprising approximately 8 per cent of our economic activity, the data is too sparse. Too little of it is collected with consistent measurement, and inconsistency in reporting over time and among organizations makes interpretation very difficult.
I’d like to close by acknowledging that I have been moved and inspired by prior testimony to this committee. Others have described the sector as an important but invisible one. I’d add that it’s a business imperative that we make this sector visible. I also think it’s an ethical imperative to make visible the most vulnerable groups in the sector and in our society.
The Chair: Thank you. Now for questions from my colleagues. I would remind people to be short, if you can, and for the responses from both witnesses to be the same.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you, Ms. Choo and Professor Fredette, for your concise and fulsome testimony.
I want to ask a two-part question of both of you. I think we all understand here that what gets measured gets done, and what we don’t have is evidence that we can rely on. There is no baseline data we can refer to, so we’re sort of grasping in the air.
At the same time, we have also heard from not-for-profits and charities that they are already drowning in paperwork and regulations. So I want to ask you whether the sector would be ready, willing and able to provide us with more information about their labour force, their governance and diversity. And if so, what is the best way of getting this information? Is it through asking them additional questions on their T3010 or T1044, or is there an alternative way you’d like to suggest to us?
Ms. Choo: Senator, that’s a very good question. I think that if we don’t shift it to become a priority, it’s never done. I think that it is important to look at what is the best way to get it done. It’s not how we are going to shift our priority, because inclusion and diversity, whether we like it or not, is the new norm. And with the global migration, every country is made up of people from different cultures, different ethnic groups, different education levels and ages and sexual orientation.
I think, as the previous speaker already talked about, the organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion will have better outcomes. We have to make sure we are shifting our focus and really make a concerted effort to look at these as our top priorities. And I think it is not a matter of doing it by the side of the desk. I think it is a priority and that we will make time to do it.
Mr. Fredette: This is a great question, and there are two parts to it. One is the theory of what you’d like to collect, and the other is the implementation of how these rolls out.
In the conversations I have had with our local partners, what stood out to me is the notion that the sector operates very much like a patchwork. Data is collected in a patchwork fashion: I do a little; someone else does a little. The sector runs in a patchwork fashion often when it comes to funding priorities and making choices. That collaboration and territoriality seem to tug in opposite directions in the sector.
When we talk about collecting data, particularly around diversity and inclusion, and the diversity and inclusion in governance structures — boards, leaders, executives and so on — some sort of measured and phased approach might be best. The reason I say this is that there will certainly be organizations, as given in the example in the other witness’s testimony, where only 11 per cent of members may report as a visible minority or diverse, racialized community members. There will certainly be situations where no organization would want to report to the government zero diversity on our board and zero in our organization. It will scare them.
This is not an excuse, but at the same time there are organizations that are prepared to do that and need the nudge forward, in my opinion. There are organizations that are financially prepared to manage the burden of more reporting.
I reviewed some of the forms in preparation for testimony, and there is a form called 4006 that asks organizations to complete each board member’s term, tenure and who they are. It asks nothing about diversity or about any personal demographic characteristics, from what I could see on the form. This might be an easy entryway into using the census categories as a check box for each member.
Ideally, we don’t have others reporting diversity for us. We self-identify, and we get the richest data. However, at the board level, where the members are, or at least should be, knowable to each other, this is something that a board chair or executive director might reasonably undertake as a starting point.
Senator Omidvar: Is this form part of the not-for-profit or charities return, or is it part of the Canada Corporations Act?
Mr. Fredette: I believe it may be part of the not-for-profit act.
Senator Omidvar: So it only applies to federally registered not-for-profits, and so it leaves a whole bunch out —
Mr. Fredette: For the province.
Senator Omidvar: — but perfection is not in our reach. Thank you.
Senator R. Black: Thank you, presenters. I come from a rural background, so I want to better understand what you are seeing from a rural perspective. Diversity and inclusion in rural areas are tougher, in my mind. I’d like to hear what your thoughts are. What are you seeing in the way of best practices with respect to involving what you do at the rural community organization, charity, not-for-profit level?
Ms. Choo: Senator, that’s a very good question. We also serve rural areas like Fort St. John, in the northern part of B.C. Certainly I think that while non-profit organizations like us really embrace the value of diversity and inclusion, we also put in programs to ensure that the community learns about our values. I think it’s important to ensure that the people living in the community are being provided the opportunity to understand beyond the community, to understand who the people beyond the community are, to understand the different cultures, diversity and religious practices.
I think it’s a good way to reflect the diversity of our country. Certainly, in some rural areas — you are absolutely correct, senator — people might not be aware of what’s going on in comparison to other parts of the country like Metro Vancouver or Metro Toronto.
Mr. Fredette: There is no question that diversity is localized, and we should think about it that way. I too grew up in a somewhat rural area of Ontario. One of the things I would worry about today is the flees to the city that’s happening. Most of the people I grew up with no longer live in that community. Even their parents have moved toward urban environments. Part of that flee is a failure to fit in, whether that be amongst the LGBT community, who simply find no home for themselves and leave to find more urban environments, or whether that be in reconciling some of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
I will admit that I went to a fairly large high school in central Ontario and saw very few people of colour other than my Indigenous friends. It wasn’t until much later, in my adolescence, that I started to see people of colour beyond the White-Indigenous divide. But even in the White community — I was briefly sharing the experience that I’m half English and half French — the French part of that never fit in.
There is reconciliation to be done there, and recognition that culture cuts there as well. We ought to look at what the local context of diversity is rather trying to think of an approach that may work in downtown Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver as being easily imposable in Midland or Belleville, Ontario, or Magog, Quebec. We need to start looking at this as localized pockets of diversity and understand what the local context is to build inclusivity there. Some of the mechanisms by which we can do that are translatable, but we start with understanding what the local mix is.
The Chair: Would that not also point to a definition of diversity that has to vary from community to community, from group to group?
Mr. Fredette: Of course.
The Chair: In certain communities I may be a minority. I know that when I lived in Toronto and went to work in the morning on the subway, I was a minority in that community. It was pretty evident to me.
Mr. Fredette: My sense is that diversity and inclusion — and, in fact, the equity of outcomes — are best measured locally, in whatever the local proximal group is.
Senator R. Black: My follow-up question is this: Are you seeing any best practices that are working in rural areas or that have maybe been changed somewhat from practices that are happening in larger communities, larger cities?
Mr. Fredette: Best practices that work rurally tend to focus less on ethno-racial background and more on cognitive and physical ability and trying to find pathways for your neighbour’s children, our neighbour’s children, to integrate into school settings and into shared play and activities.
The concern is that until recently, particularly around mental health, we have stigmatized and shied away from trying to surface what the diversity is. So unless it was something we could observe, we have tended to pull back.
Where the practice has worked is in building groups where we allow people to be viewed as normal and same. In one of my consultations with an organization called WETRA, the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association — and this is an organization that particularly serves children with equine therapy — they have tried to bring together families that are normal, in the sense of ability and cognitive development, with families who have children with developmental or physical delay, and they look for commonalities in where they fit together — which activities, purposes and interests they share, and how they can relate to each other. This isn’t very different than what we see in multicultural groups, trying to pull groups together to find areas of common interest, whether that be in community gardens or in sports and recreational activities, but trying to get people to see the commonality amongst each other rather than viewing each other as different and therefore standing off.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much for your presentations. Senator Omidvar already very elegantly asked the question that I was proposing to ask about data and the lack of data.
The thing that strikes me in the notes we received in preparation for this meeting is that there were earlier surveys, going back as far as 2006 and 2009, that looked at diversity and the voluntary and non-profit sectors. They came up with similar numbers as you did, Ms. Choo, in your presentation: that is, around 10 per cent among employers and employees representing visible minority communities and very few from outside Canada.
First, Ms. Choo, I think it’s very demonstrative that the name of the organization is S.U.C.C.E.S.S. because in your presentation you demonstrated quite a significant degree of success in the diversity area; you said more than 80 per cent of your staff, 500 of them, are themselves immigrants and refugees to Canada. They speak 55-plus languages and include young professionals.
You’re talking about a huge issue that has extended over a long period of time, and your organization seems to have had some degree of success with this. Could you tell us whether you have best practices there that you could share with us?
Ms. Choo: Senator, that’s a very good question. Certainly diversity and inclusion, as I mentioned, is not a check list where you put a check mark against it as being done. It’s a journey.
We began our journey some years back, and we’re still moving on it. You’re raising awareness about it and the government looking at this area is very much appreciated. The nature of our business is immigrant-serving organizations, so we are social services. We feel that this way of looking at diversity and inclusion needs to be expanded.
We are definitely not there yet, but we are moving along because of the nature of business. Also, the governance structure gives us support at the leadership level. That speaks to the fact that this is valued. I think that is important as part of best practice, namely, that the leaders set the tone of this value system that is being embraced by the organization and by our country. I think that needs to be supported by the government as a way to move a further step towards a more inclusive leadership and best practice regarding diversity, whether it is recruitment, talking about training, staff training, or the ongoing understanding of people’s culture and religious practices.
I sent out an email to highlight what Ramadan is all about. When we are serving our clients, we need to understand it and be aware of it in terms of our work flow and how we can better serve our clients from both a staff perspective and an organizational practice perspective. These are some of the things that we do.
Is that all we have done? No. I think it’s important to move further as an organization, as a non-profit, while being supported by the government in all those important things that we feel are moving us closer to diversity and inclusion.
Senator Seidman: We have heard as a consistent refrain among charitable organizations that they are really stretched. They don’t have the staff or the resources to do what they need to do. When we talk about the need for data and for demonstrating diversity commitments, strategies and plans, how do you see that happening for a lot of these non-profits who can barely provide the services they need to provide and stay above water?
I might give Mr. Fredette an opportunity and then come back to you, Ms. Choo. Thank you.
Mr. Fredette: I think that is an honest point, namely, that some won’t be able to do it and won’t be able to do it quickly or easily. But some will. Let’s start with the ones that can. Let’s target the central hubs in the ecosystem, the funding organizations, the United Ways that do dole out money to others and do support other programming. Let’s start with the ones that can. Let’s get it on their agenda. Let’s have their boards set imperatives around how diversity will be done. Let’s make the responsibility theirs at least to manage their own first, and then to use the pathways that funding does flow on to then make a condition of funding some of that input and a gradual introduction for those that are at the grassroots — that is, those that are less capable of taking on the additional burden and those that are, frankly, stretched, or threadbare, if you prefer.
Senator Seidman: These organizations should have strategies and plans on paper that should be required in order to get their funding?
Mr. Fredette: I would suggest that we simply start with measurement. From my interest, start with leadership and board structures. Regardless of what the composition of your board currently is, simply report it. In our organization, the larger the hub organization is in the ecosystem, we will work towards greater diversity of our own that is reflective of our community. We will start to measure yours and help you measure yours. Once we can assess what an aspirational mix or a compositional goal should be, we will help you with that.
Part of the work is really not very difficult. It’s a little time consuming, but it’s not very difficult. The greatest risk is that tying funding to diversity scares people, and it drives territoriality. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit and get the larger, more institutionalized organizations to report theirs; simply report — not judge or assess, just report. Let’s collect that. We can then move towards broader goals and implementation, that is, staggered systems.
One of the corollaries might be the 30 per cent club, which I’m sure many of you have heard of in the corporate world, which is moving towards 30 per cent of boards of directors being women. This club didn’t simply say, “Okay, if you have 30 per cent, you are in. If you do not have 30 per cent, you’re out.” They said, “Here is the aspirational goal. It’s 30 per cent. Let’s work towards that.” Several years ago, Canada reported 16 per cent and then 17 per cent, and then other nations followed. It became something valuable to hit that 30 per cent and to retain it in the corporate sector.
The first step is measurement. What are we working with now? How does your organization, which purports to serve the community, reflect the community? Maybe it does perfectly. Maybe you live in a completely homogenous community. That’s possible. About 84 per cent of Canadians self identify as White. Yet, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver approach the 50 per cent area for visible minority representation. Maybe you live in a homogenous community. Great. Report that.
The Chair: May we have a short answer from Ms. Choo, please?
Ms. Choo: Thank you, senator. That’s a great question. I only want to add to what the earlier speaker said regarding how if we are starting from the top and looking at the leadership and the people in the leadership role, it won’t cost a lot of money to roll out. However, the showcase is how an organization or a non-profit organization embraces values starting from the top.
The second point I would like to raise is that the gradual stage and approach is one that will help people to understand, to be educated and to be able to execute that gradually.
I would also like to add one element that I think is something to consider, namely, the procurement process,whether it’s by government or for funding. One of the things to look at regarding procurement is what are the merit points around being a diverse and inclusive organization? That is, will a non-profit and charitable organization that moves in this direction and embraces it be recognized more in a procurement process as part of the criteria? Rather than being punitive — being watched and monitored — that will be a more positive way to incentivize those organizations that are moving in that direction.
Senator Maltais: Thank you very much, Ms. Choo and Mr. Fredette.
I have a few questions for you, including this one: Where is the line between volunteering and the services offered by the various governments, such as the federal government, the provincial governments, the municipal governments and the Aboriginal band councils?
In my mind, volunteering is an unpaid activity. A few weeks ago, the volunteer representative of the City of Montreal appeared before our committee, and she wasn’t paid. True volunteers aren’t paid. I understand the context these days, that it is very difficult to find volunteers, but it’s important to maintain the true meaning of volunteering and not seek efficiency through remuneration. This line must be clearly established before adding parameters or even changing legislation. That was my first question.
We know that Canadians are generous by nature. We’ve seen this in the context of the fires in British Columbia, in Western Canada and the recent storms in Quebec. We have seen how generous Canadians are. They have big hearts, it’s true, but they aren’t fooled either, far from it. When they give money, they want 100 per cent of their contributions to go to the right place.
However, there is currently a problem with volunteering. When people give $100, how can they be sure that the full amount will be used for someone’s well-being, and not just $43 of that $100? That’s another concern Canadians have.
I also have a question for Mr. Fredette regarding parity on boards of directors. Where do you get that from? We are looking for the best people; we don’t stop at the person’s gender. When I hear the words “gender parity” and so on, that’s the first I’ve heard of it. We are looking for the best people to serve the population.
I’ll let you answer.
Ms. Choo: First, thank you, senator. Those are good questions regarding how to draw the line between volunteers and government-funded programming.
Volunteerism is driven by aspiration and passion. I volunteer. I don’t expect to get paid. Firefighters want to contribute their time, efforts and livelihoods to fight the wildfires in B.C. and Alberta. They do not want to get paid. Yet, they are driven by humanity, aspiration and passion.
We have over 2,000 volunteers. They do not want to get paid. The fact that they continue to volunteer speaks to the volume of volunteerism in our country. As you mentioned, Canadians are very generous. They want to contribute their time, their effort and their resources.
How are we going to ensure that the contribution of resources or the donation is going to the right cause? It’s important to maintain that transparency. I think studies have been done to look at the overhead costs of each non-profit charitable organization that raises money, and what percentage actually goes to the real cost of the programming versus going to the administration. There are certain percentages we can look at for comparison. It’s important to make sure the transparency is there.
As somebody who donates money, time and resources, it’s important to me that they are directed to the right cause they are raising money for.
As far as the equality in terms of gender goes, I totally believe in merits, the capability. It’s not because I’m a visual minority and female that I am on this CEO seat. That’s not what I wanted. I really wanted to prove myself as a visual minority and a female to be able to show my capability. I certainly agree with you 100 per cent on that.
However, it is also important to look beyond that to look at how we can embrace the diverse population and continue to look at their capabilities and the talent they bring into our country. That’s also an important point to consider.
Mr. Fredette: You pose three interesting questions. Frankly, I think they are also three controversial questions. I’ll do my best to stay away from the fray while also engaging you with your questions.
Where is the line between government and the not-for-profit sector? Is there a thin bright line? The not-for-profit sector, in my estimation, in many cases acts as an outsourcing arm of government. As government has retreated in some ways, the sector has stepped in in some ways. That line is not necessarily a bright red line or a bright yellow line; in fact, it’s quite a blurry, hazy line. I’m not surprised by that.
I would go back to say that this sector exists in all of its variations as a shock absorber to economic, social and political change. It absorbs the crises that governments are ill-equipped to deal with that often stem from economic choices. It does so to the best of its ability on meagre resources.
This, in part, relates to your question of overhead. The not-for-profit sector suffers from a particular stress in terms of its ability to finance the future. Unlike business or government, it has no ability to raise debt, or it has only a minimal ability to raise debt, and it has very little ability to seek equity investments, to finance capitalization wells as it grows, expands or attempts to scale itself. So this idea of administrative overhead and what the right number is — should every dollar given to a charity be spent on activity, or should some of that be retained in order to allow the organization to scale itself for future activity?
As a reasonably famous American philanthropist put it, “If I take 100 per cent of the dollars donated to me and I can get $50,000 in donations, I can make a $50,000 impact, given zero overhead. However, if I can take $20,000 of that and scale my donations to $300,000, I can make a $280,000 impact. Which would you rather have?”
This is a thorny question to be dealt with in the sector. Some governmental guidance or some societal guidance in terms of how we want to address this and what the right magic number is may actually help the sector grow and prosper. Again, they have no capacity other than retained earnings, in a sense, to finance the future. So they live threadbare, cycle to cycle, asking for grant money and seeking donations because they can’t capitalize.
Your final question is around merit. What makes a good board member? How do we know when someone is best? This is a wholly subjective sense beyond some threshold. If we need a treasurer in our organization, we may seek an accountant. If we need legal guidance on our board, we may seek a lawyer. But does that lawyer necessarily need to be of one persuasion or another, one ethnic or racial composition or another, male or female? No, we look for a basic threshold of experience and competence. Beyond that, we move into the subjective.
It’s in the subjective that we run into problems with governance because too often we turn to who you know that is a lawyer, rather than actually going through a search process that may be agnostic to friendship networks and cliques. This in itself is an area where diversity and inclusion can be engaged in succession and search processes on very neutral footing — simply stepping away from personal networks of contacts towards something removed from that, something more succinct with what you would expect if you were hiring employees. It’s a basic standard of competence and qualification, beyond which the evaluation is subjective.
Senator Duffy: Thank you to both of our witnesses for very interesting and informative presentations.
In many of our smaller rural communities, there is not much diversity of race; however, there is some diversity of religion. In many of our communities, both large and small, churches provide a kind of meeting places and many of the services that newcomers to Canada need. In fact, some of the churches designed to reach out to newcomers are more vibrant and active than some of the so-called old line churches.
When you look at diversity in terms of charitable and not-for-profit organizations, would you be looking for religious diversity as well? How does one deal with that?
Ms. Choo: Thank you. That’s a very good question, Senator Duffy, in regards to diversity in religion and how we address that.
Certainly, from a diverse community, a non-profit organization like S.U.C.C.E.S.S., for the first time in our 45-year history, we talked about different religions within our staffing. Many people do not know what Ramadan is all about. So we want to do that because we want to make sure people understand, not only because of the colour or racial differences, but beyond that, what the spiritual needs are behind it.
I think it is important to look at that. Many people, when looking at religious practices, if you are not in the mainstream, you are an outcast. That is not something that we believe in, in terms of diversity and inclusion. I think that this is one of the ways to support people in the way they actually identify and believe. I think that religious belief or spiritual support is something where we are truly looking at a person holistically, rather than because they look different because of skin colour, or because of the way they speak or the language they speak. If you are looking at a person holistically, the religious and spiritual needs are equally important, and we need to understand to be able to embrace diversity and inclusion in our conversation today.
Mr. Fredette: All of the touchy subjects come forward.
Senator Duffy: How would you track this in the data that you would seek? Would you make that one of the questions?
Mr. Fredette: This is not typically something that you would ever see on a Census of Canada document. It is not a subdivision that I would ever have thought to consider in terms of anything other than categorizing an organization by purpose. A social community that develops within the bounds of a church, a synagogue, a temple or a mosque is a social community. If they develop a social purpose, with an emphasis that coincides with religious beliefs but that has a social benefit, that’s fantastic. I’m not sure that anyone should be concerned with that.
I think we could look to our neighbours to the south to suggest that, at times, religious institutions are used to divide us more than to unite us. To the degree that we see faith-based institutions that are working for inclusive purposes, elder care in particular, particularly in remote and rural areas where children have gone, families have split, left the area or are fragmented, religious institutions provide not only spiritual care but often food, meals, comfort, compassion, and these are all values we should embrace. I do not see any concern with that.
There is, however, a tipping point where we start to see religious institutions become proxies for divisions that are not terribly observable.
Senator Duffy: I understand that. What I’m getting at is, if we’re going to seek diversity beyond the church community, if we’re going to seek it in the community, there are vast stretches of rural Canada where there are very few if any visible minorities, but there are people of different religions who tend, even to this day, to hang separately rather than hang together. So how do we build those bridges? How do we make the society, our communities, more cohesive if we have religious divisions going back hundreds of years? Can we somehow work that into our non-profit scheme going forward, Ms. Choo?
Ms. Choo: Senator Duffy, you ask a very good question. Thank you for a further explanation of it.
When you look at some situations, for example when we have a natural disaster, whether it is a tornado, a tsunami, a wildfire, I see many religious groups. They are different religions, but they all join forces to assist the victims of those natural disasters. That is an example of how we can join forces.
I’m not saying we should wait until a natural disaster to create a natural opportunity to join forces and embrace that integration. What I’m saying is, even though people have different religious belief systems, I think they are all human beings. I think the common thing is to look at how we can serve the common good of people from the humanities perspective. The commonality is to do good, to serve people who are vulnerable. I don’t think any religion will dispute the fact that this is what they really, truly strive for. I think with those commonalities, we might be able to help bring people together and embrace the fact that their religions might be different, but the belief in humanity and doing good will be their commonality in going forward and as a community.
Senator Omidvar: I would like to stick with governance competencies. I think we have heard from both of you that lived experience is a competency, but so are other issues. Governors need to understand risk, need to understand reputation, need to be able to exercise their fiduciary responsibilities, et cetera. Where, in your knowledge, do the not-for-profit and charitable sector get the training to develop the next generation of governance leaders, regardless of whether they are minorities or not? I want to go broad. I want to ask both of you that question.
Mr. Fredette: I would be happy to report — although it’s not my exact discipline — that there are a variety of public policy and non-profit institutes growing and thriving in Canada at the university level. The American system has an incredible number of very prestigious non-profit and public policy institutes as well, and they keep a growing list of the ones that work.
Some of this is done in the community as well. United Way does a number of training endeavours in this area.
The universities, on the business school side, teach an awful lot of risk management and preparation, not only for general management degrees but also for accounting and finance degrees. That’s quite helpful.
I believe it was Ms. Winter in a previous session who talked about some of the online resources through programs that were formerly through the Maytree Foundation and now DiverseCity onBoard and so on that champion growth in that way. There are avenues and pathways.
From my point of view, I’m seeing on the ground a healthy turn toward the sector, but less of it is actually turning toward the not-for-profit sector and more is turning toward interest and social enterprise. So there is room to start thinking about how we reconcile where the boundaries are.
One of the calls I received from the Executive Director of United Way in the Windsor-Essex region was really around the need to get a consistent, standardized set of guidance on what exactly would result in the loss of charitable status as they involve themselves in social enterprise. Where is that thin yellow line, per se? Their board of directors has noted a number of opportunities where they could bridge programming and improve the effectiveness on the ground, but they are not willing to take the risk in this sphere. My own students at the undergraduate and graduate level feel the same way. They’re highly passionate about social enterprise, impact and making a difference, and scalable solutions. They tend to roll their eyes when we talk about the not-for-profit sector.
Ms. Choo: Work needs to be done, and training and learning are a lifetime learning process on governance. Also, in addition to classroom learning, the practical mentorship is equally important. Some excellent work is being done such as by the DiverseCity onBoard as well as the Vantage Point in B.C., which offers a range of services to support non-profit leadership and governance.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, I’d like to thank both of you for appearing this evening. You have stimulated a lot of questions and thought. We appreciate both of you being here.
We now welcome as our next witnesses Ms. Laura Ryser, Research Manager, Rural and Small Town Studies Program at University of Northern British Columbia, which is a beautiful place, by the way. I’ve been to the university there. We also have Mr. Bruce Miller, Senior Philanthropic, Social Inclusion and Reconciliation Strategist at the Creaddo Group; and Dr. Wendy Cukier, Founder and Director of the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University. Thank you for accepting our invitation to appear.
I invite you to make your presentations. I will remind you that we’d like a presentation of five to seven minutes each, and then we’ll get to questions. I’ll ask our questioners and respondents both to be succinct so that we can get in as many questions and answers as possible. Our last panel generated a lot of thought and good questions.
We’ll start with Ms. Ryser.
Laura Ryser, Research Manager, Rural and Small Town Studies Program, University of Northern British Columbia, as an individual: Thank you very much, Senator Mercer, and to the entire committee. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you today about the impact of provincial and federal government policies on non-profits, particularly with my own interest in rural non-profits.
I want to start by talking about the rural context that non-profits operate in, because it’s very different today than it has ever been in the past. Of course, after attracting young workers and their families after the WWII era, a lot of these workforces and communities are, of course, aging in place. A lot of these small communities also consist of aging infrastructure developed during the pre- or immediate post-World War II era, and the limitation is that these infrastructure assets are not only aging but were never designed for the needs or uses that we envision today.
We are also seeing more environmental stresses. In B.C., the last two forest fire seasons have been particularly devastating and have required an increase in volunteer and non-profit support. Rural regions are experiencing decades of industrial restructuring and consolidation that have led to a loss of volunteers, board members and funding for non-profits, even as these non-profits expand and are serving larger geographic areas.
I want to emphasize that there is great diversity in rural Canada. Of course, with new significant industry investments, such as Rio Tinto’s $4.8 billion Kitimat modernization project that has been completed and, of course, now the $40 billion LNG Canada project that has been announced, the workforce that is engaged in construction, oil and gas, mining, trucking and other sectors is more mobile than ever before. That is having a tremendous impact and producing pressures on non-profits that are now responding to the needs of mobile workers, their spouses, children, grandparents and other vulnerable residents in both source and host communities. Labour mobility and extended shift rotations are also deteriorating the volunteer pool of the rural non-profit organizations.
In this context, strategic planning and reporting have also been difficult as non-profits respond to changes in government policy directions, service reviews, funding cuts, short-term funding programs, program changes and other forms of service restructuring.
As we move forward, we really do want to search for ways to make non-profits more viable, sustainable and resilient to support small communities. I want to focus a few comments on some of the things that could warrant attention to strengthen their viability and resilience.
The first concern is top-down supports. Policymakers don’t always understand the distances that clients and non-profits must travel across rural regions and the impact these distances have on budgets, recruitment and retention processes, outreach supports, collaboration and, of course, safety during winter travel, especially in some of our mountainous passes. Appropriate resources need to be approved in contracts.
Unlike single-industry communities, towns that have multiple resource sectors may not experience boom and bust cycles, per se, but rather have regional waves as different sectors boom and bust at different times. What we’re seeing is that non-profits are simultaneously responding to the impacts of both a boom and a bust across different resource sectors, so policies and contracts need to provide more flexibility to enable non-profits to respond to rapid social and economic change.
Provincial and federal government policies are also increasingly expecting non-profits to adopt more integrated or shared service arrangements, all of which are challenging the capacity of our rural non-profits. We need to pursue a better orientation of shared service and infrastructure models in order to strengthen the capacity of senior government staff to develop appropriate advice, funding programs and reporting processes for these initiatives.
Provincial and federal government reporting processes need to be standardized and streamlined as different reporting procedures, criteria, timelines and databases are used. To address infrastructure issues, we need programs that support investments in shared social infrastructure initiatives. These programs would need appropriate time for non-profits to build those relationships and invest in appropriate planning for these more complex endeavours.
We have also seen provincially owned buildings such as schools that are not eligible for federal grants to improve accessibility, and thus are not able to address the needs of potentially co-located non-profits. What we require is a bit of a shift in strategic policy in order to make the most of these building assets in our small communities.
There is no central hub for rural non-profits to learn about these different models and processes that have been used to develop shared service and infrastructure initiatives, whether through co-location, service co-ops, one-stop shops or other things that are out there. As such, there really is a limited understanding of ownership and user agreements, design features, risks and liabilities, and the whole suite of protocols that are needed to guide the development, operations and maintenance of these initiatives.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We’ll get back to you with questions, as I know you have generated some already.
Bruce Miller, Senior Philanthropic, Social Inclusion and Reconciliation Strategist, Creaddo Group, as an individual: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The research project that I was invited here to talk about, called Aboriginal Philanthropy in Canada: A Foundation for Understanding, started as a concept that emerged from discussions in June of 2008. What was poignant at the time was that our conference was held during the apology by Stephen Harper for Indian residential schools. So, recognizing that there is still a lack of knowledge about new opportunities and ways of thinking related to Aboriginal-focused philanthropy, we felt that the time was right to look more closely at some of these issues. So the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada partnered with the United Way of Winnipeg and some groups to produce a research paper on Aboriginal philanthropy in Canada.
Our goal at the time was to produce a research-based discussion paper that would provide an overview of data, stories, perceptions, grant-making models and new opportunities and ways of thinking related to Aboriginal-focused philanthropy. Some of the objectives of the project were to produce this paper, highlight and map a spectrum of appropriate grant-making models and processes — in particular, those which have demonstrated success — highlight potential areas of intervention where philanthropy could most likely usefully help advance Indigenous development and well-being, and explore opportunities for developing philanthropic capacity in Aboriginal communities. There were components of the research on research design, common literature review, review of existing documents, key informant interviews, a survey of some of the philanthropic organizations around the country, a comprehensive case study and an integrated analysis and reporting.
One highlight I’ll mention is that the Aboriginal population is younger than the non-Aboriginal population, and this demographic illustrates a key issue facing Indigenous people. The population is young, growing and disproportionately growing up in poor homes. In addition, we feel that, in the data, a considerable gap in educational achievement and inputs exists with respect to First Nations education, and funding for First Nations education has been capped at 2 per cent since 1996, whereas transfer payments to provinces have been increasing by 6 per cent annually.
What we said here is that there seems to be a discriminatory double standard in the provision of comparable inputs that has been allowed to exist despite, one, numerous pledges by the federal government to address the educational attainment gap; two, the fact that the First Nations population is growing at twice the rate of the mainstream Canadian population; and three, the fact that by 2020, more than 50 per cent of the First Nations population will be under the age of 25.
One of the things we mentioned in this research is that we had these common, shared values. I heard someone talking about values earlier, like sharing, caring, giving and making a creative difference, yet there was a disconnect between Indigenous people and mainstream philanthropy.
At the time of the research, I was calling it a disconnect, but now we know more about our shared history and where reconciliation is going. At the time, what we were suggesting was a benefit of improved relationships that involved, one, the philanthropic sector learning about the foundational issues confronting communities and Indigenous organizations and increased understanding of what will make fundamental and lasting change; two, Indigenous leaders learning to better express themselves and challenge models of philanthropy that have not served them well up to now; and three, the leadership on both sides developing, growing and evolving through relationship building.
We felt there was sort of an element of historical mistrust and that this relationship needed to be built on trust and understanding, and in order to build that understanding there needed to be a requirement of knowledge. It’s a matter of two-way learning about each other.
In my concluding remarks, I’ll mention what I coined “the exquisite irony” in the general topic of this paper, which is that philanthropy has to do with these values of sharing, caring and giving and making a creative difference. As the original philanthropists of this land, every Indigenous culture has embedded in it a rich history of the values of sharing, caring and giving and making a creative difference, yet there is a wide disconnect between modern philanthropy and Indigenous peoples.
Some foundations are beginning to take those steps to forge stronger relationships with First Peoples, either through commitment to a long-term relationship in a specific community or through investments such as the Coast Opportunity Funds that we mentioned in this research. Increasingly, though, Indigenous people are beginning the process of establishing their own foundations, and there is a burgeoning middle class of Indigenous people, so we like to give.
There are also many lessons to be learned from the report. One is that we need to look at the success of what’s going on out there and to build on it. We need successful relationships, which must be developed in person. We also need to build the element of trust that is essential to both parties. For First Nations communities, it’s important that the foundation has a consistent message and a commitment to community-driven projects and investment in those areas. For foundations, it’s important to trust the community leaders, as foundations often fund people just as much as projects. So we need to look at that as well.
The other thing I want to mention is that when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report came out, there was a response from the philanthropic communities in Canada, and that was the philanthropic Declaration of Action. In a nutshell, we need to learn, listen, understand and acknowledge this shared colonial past. We need to honour those who went to residential school and somehow find that path forward that the TRC in its calls to action has recommended.
More importantly, we also need to look at the path forward and find new ways of thinking. We need to bring our resources to leverage those relationships for a better Canada. We know that when foundations look in the mirror, they have played a role in that history. We need to overcome that shared history and work together for a better Canada. I believe philanthropy could have a role in reconciliation. Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Miller, thank you very much. That’s very thoughtful. You too have generated a number of questions.
Wendy Cukier, Founder and Director, Diversity Institute, Ryerson University, as an individual: Thank you very much for this opportunity to join you. My interest in the work of this committee stems from two different areas. One is work that I’m currently doing on social innovation and new models to advance social goals; the other is, of course, diversity and how these two things are related.
There is a lot of research that talks about how diversity can drive innovation, but we also need to look at how we can harness what we know about innovation processes to drive diversity and inclusion in the ecosystem, because that’s the only way we will actually achieve our social goals, whether we are talking about poverty alleviation, health, peace, human rights and so on. I see those things as very linked.
Listening to the last panel, I don’t want to repeat much of what was said. I work in a business school, so full disclosure: I don’t have a romantic attachment to the non-profit sector. I do think that while the sector faces challenges, there are also ways in which it can improve its operations, reduce fragmentation, improve governance and accountability, and use evidence more effectively. One of the challenges we have, whether we look at the integration of immigrants or at how we deal with people with disabilities or certainly Indigenous peoples, is that the whole is not more than the sum of the parts.
One of the big problems I see in this sector is incredible fragmentation and, frankly, competition that does not lead us to achieve as much as we could. I think that’s a whole separate discussion, but there is a lot that could be explored in that regard.
One of the things pointed to by the last group is that not only are the demands increasing, but the resources are decreasing, partly because at the core of most voluntary sector organizations are people of my demographic or older. You can see it when you get the donations with the little scratchy cheques.
One of the big challenges we face is thinking of new ways to build capacity in the sector to attract and engage younger people. As the last panel mentioned, many of them are very invested in advancing social goals — and in fact they will choose their employers based on corporate social responsibility and so on — and yet they are not as actively engaged with traditional voluntary sector organizations as we would like to see them be.
I think there are some real contradictions within the sector in terms of ways it could be strengthened. I will focus my remaining time, though, specifically on the issues around diversity and inclusion.
You have already heard some of the numbers. There are questions around how you define diversity and inclusion. I was recently very active on Bill C-25. My starting point is always the employment equity categories. As flawed as those may be, I do think that we start with looking at groups that have historically been disadvantaged or excluded — women, racialized minorities, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities. Including those, you can, of course, intersect things like rural communities; you can intersect socio-economic status, because clearly that is a factor. But I think that, at a minimum, we have to look at the employment equity categories when we are talking about diversity.
The research we have done has suggested patterns that are troubling. We have seen tremendous progress in terms of women obtaining leadership roles in the sector, whether we are talking about large charitable organizations, hospitals, post-secondary, or agencies, boards and commissions and so on. That’s great, but we are not seeing the same kind of progress for other groups.
In fact, one of the studies we did looked at the city of Toronto, and we did a deep dive into the largest organizations. In the city of Toronto, for every White woman there is a racialized woman. It’s 50-50 now. But if you look at leadership in the voluntary sector, White women outnumber racialized women 10 to 1. That tells you there is something awry, and if you look at Indigenous women or women with disabilities, it gets worse and worse.
The other critically important thing is that often you will hear people say they were looking for a racialized minority, a woman, or an Indigenous person, and they couldn’t find any. One of the things that belies that is that if you look at the numbers in the voluntary sector, the largest foundations, 38 per cent of boards had at least 20 per cent racialized minorities in Toronto — that is not great, but it is something — whereas 20 per cent had none. If you see that some organizations can hit 20 per cent and others have none, it tells you it’s not the pool. We see the same thing in the corporate sector. Some private sector corporate boards have hit 30 or 40 per cent, and others are at zero. So there are issues there.
I think that especially with the passage of Bill C-25, which is going to raise the comply-or-explain standards to a much broader base of private sector corporations, it’s ironic that the non-profit sector is not subject to at least those standards. I work at a university. The small- or medium-sized enterprise down the street with 20 employees is subject to more reporting under Bill C-25 than my university is. I’m chair of the board at Women’s College Hospital. The mid-sized manufacturing company in Leamington, which makes ketchup, is going to be subject to more reporting requirements and strategizing around diversity than the hospital that I chair.
I recognize that this sector is very diverse. There are large organizations and small organizations. I think one of the previous panellists suggested you could start with the low-hanging fruit. You could establish some kind of threshold, but I do think there is a real disconnect when organizations, which often embrace social goals, are not reflecting it in their human resources practices.
If we talk about solutions, I do think strategic orientation is absolutely critical. You can look at the business case. It’s not just that many non-profits are chasing money; diverse people have money. That includes young as well as older. Talent is a critical issue in this sector. If you’re excluding half the population, clearly you don’t have access to the talent. Many of these organizations are serving increasingly diverse communities. If your employees and your leadership don’t mirror the people you’re serving, there is a huge disconnect. I would argue that’s one of the historic problems we have in this sector, namely, that there are certain people we associate with the donees or the do-gooders and certain people we associate with the clients or the recipients of the philanthropy. I think that’s embedded certain stereotypes that we have to overcome in order to advance diversity and inclusion.
I’ll stop there. I’m happy to answer questions or discuss the issues further.
The Chair: Dr. Cukier, thank you very much for your presentation.
Senator Omidvar: I have three separate questions. I’ll try to keep them short. I’ll start with Dr. Cukier because she went last and it still resonates. She is known in these halls as the gun control lady, but we’re really happy to see you here on this.
Did I hear you imply that the not-for-profit and charitable sector should at least set voluntary targets and report out to them? Just for our audience, which is on television, clarify that targets are not quotas, but they are a baseline to start from. Should this be in legislation?
Ms. Cukier: Yes. To put it on the record, that’s essentially what I am arguing. I did not support the notion of expanding the scope of Bill C-25 to non-profits, but I do believe that as you’re looking at modernizing legislation in this sector, there are a lot of things that you could do, and “comply or explain models” would be a very good place to go.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you.
Mr. Miller, thank you for your presentation. The charitable and not-for-profit sector is huge, roughly 160,000 organizations. I think they are uniquely positioned to become reconciling organizations to embrace reconciliation in its fullness in the sector.
Do you think they are on the path, or is it just a few organizations and just a few philanthropists? Is it spreading?
Mr. Miller: Thank you. I’m hopeful, so I’ll go that route with my answer.
With the response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Philanthropic Foundations Canada, the Community Foundations of Canada, and many other signatories — I think it’s 90 signatories — have signed on to the philanthropic Declaration of Action which was a response to the TRC.
Again, I think they are leading that process, and they are all looking at it from their various forms. But, as I mentioned earlier, we need to learn to listen, understand, acknowledge and honour those who went to Indian residential schools, bear witness to those who went. Eventually, hopefully, we’ll get to a place where we share our resources,our networks and new ways of thinking. I don’t think we’re at that place where we’re thinking yet. In my mind, there isn’t a shift in thinking or a paradigm shift. But I do believe that there are some organizations with the philanthropic courage, I call it, to at least look in the mirror and start to look at their history. I personally have met with some foundations that played a role in funding residential school through their donors and with good intent, again. However, we now recognize that they were part of a process. In that case, they have determined their own ways that they need to play a role in reconciliation because now they know part of that shared history. The process that they and others now go through is how do we overcome that history and somehow, through the TRC and its calls to action, which laid out a path forward for us, start that process? For me, it’s really about building a renewed relationship based on mutual recognition and respect.
I was just at a sporting event looking at a value proposition for a better sports system in Canada. One of the first things they did is they recognized the territory. So there was this recognition, but they are not at a place where they are looking at our values, because we have the same common, shared values. We were the original sports people on this land — we have lacrosse and other traditional games — but that wasn’t part of the value proposition. I think they have the idea of mutual recognition, but they haven’t got to the respect part yet because there was no conversation around a value framework that included Indigenous values. They are looking at values from a Canadian context, not prior to it. Yet, we have had influence on Canadians in general as far as values. If you look at John Ralston Saul’s book A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada, we definitely had a value influence in Canada. That’s probably my short answer.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you. That was most illustrative and helpful.
Ms. Ryser, you mentioned forest fires in B.C. I’m remembering a previous panel that we had. We talked about natural disasters or manmade disasters — for instance, Lac-Mégantic, Fort McMurray, Humboldt — and somehow or other they all seem to have taken place in rural communities. We incent Canadians to donate to disaster relief overseas by matching their donations 1 to 1. Do you think we should extend that incentive so that Canadians can donate to disaster relief in Canada and outside Canada? Would that help?
Ms. Ryser: Yes, I believe so. Absolutely, because some of these small communities don’t necessarily have the industrial tax base that they used to have, or that industrial tax base is outside municipal boundaries as well, which just makes it that much more taxing on some of the resources that communities are trying to pull together. I think that would be a fantastic initiative to pursue. Yes.
Senator R. Black: Speaking of rural communities, I have three questions, one for each. Ms. Cukier, you spoke about the diversity of boards, and your words were “it’s not the pool.” What is it, then? Is it geography or something else? I go back to my rural thinking.
Ms. Cukier: Sure, just to Senator Omidvar’s point, I think it’s important to understand that comply-or-explain legislation doesn’t set quotas. If you’re looking at gender, women are 50 per cent of the population. They are 50 per cent of the population in Toronto, 50 per cent of the population in Winnipeg, 50 per cent of the population in Fort McMurray. However, if you’re looking at Indigenous people, racialized people — even people with disabilities because often that’s tied to the age of the population— you don’t see the same kind of patterns. Echoing what was said with the earlier groups, you do have to think about targets in the context of the local pools.
Setting targets is not the same as quotas.
I think it was Senator Duffy who was talking about religious organizations. There are a lot of religious and ethnic non-profits and charities. It’s not reasonable to take a Muslim or a Jewish organization and say, “You have to be as representative of the population as, for example, the United Way.” So I think we have to be reasonable.
But the example I was citing was large charitable organizations in Toronto and just the differences. Having served on and chaired the boards of many organizations, I know the level of intentionality has a huge impact. What gets measured gets done. If you start to think about these things in a more intentional way — again, the last panel talked about the fact that, very often, philanthropic anon-profit organizations are built through informal networks. If you start to think more about skills matrices, and if you start to think about what you need in order to do a good job, that could lead you in a very different direction than if you say, “Oh, I play golf with Fred. Fred is retiring, but Fred has a cousin who’s a bit younger who I’m going to bring on the board.” If you think about our own social networks, we all have a tendency to hang out with people who look like us, have the same education, socio-economic background and so on. There is nothing wrong with that. But when you’re trying to build strong and resilient organizations, there is so much evidence that thinking about diversity and inclusion will make them better and will tap into new resources and approaches, as well as serve diverse populations. We have to leverage that.
Senator R. Black: Thank you.
Mr. Miller, we will be doing a report at the end of this. Give us one or two things you would love to see us have as recommendations in that report.
Mr. Miller: The one thing I have heard when I have engaged in the Indigenous community in various roles around the country is that you often hear that Canada was built on the backs of Indigenous people. I’m being polite when I say that, I hope. In that regard, we need to think of notions of social justice principles. So we know that inequality exists. If it exists, it only exists so that we could benefit those who need it the most. That’s it’s not necessarily the case.
We also know that there is very little investment from the philanthropic sector into Indigenous communities. When we look at our history and hopefully overcome it, there will be better investments so that we could build capacity either individually or organizationally. There is something that will really be special about that, because when we look at the notion of these shared values of sharing, caring, giving and creating a difference, philanthropy can play a huge, impactful role in correcting a historical wrong with a right.
We need to seriously consider looking at notional ideas or recommendations around better investments and new ways of thinking, as well as models around that. It’s also understanding the rationality behind it. It needs to involve social justice principles.
When people really understand our shared history, then they will realize that it’s the right thing to do.
Senator R. Black: Thank you.
Ms. Ryser, my rural background is coming out. We have heard a lot of things through your presentation and others about what needs to be done in the sector. What are some good things that are already happening in the sector rurally?
Ms. Ryser: Yes. How am I going to pare that down? Incredible innovation is taking place. People are recognizing their limitations and finding ways to do more with the resources they have.
At the same time, they are still struggling with mandate creep. As they try to expand a lot of the services they are providing that otherwise wouldn’t exist, they are certainly concerned about the capacity to do so. What I’m getting to is that we have some organizations that are increasingly taking on the management and development of housing assets, but we have also got a few non-profits in Smithers, Clearwater and Penticton that are now operating transit instead of local government. These are new areas, outside of the typical purview of non-profits.
They are getting good workshop support from BC Transit. It’s the same thing with BC Housing; they’re providing workshops and those kinds of things to help build that capacity within the non-profit sector. We are also starting to see some more conversations about how we can get a better environment together to support non-profits that want to pursue some of those shared service initiatives.
For example, B.C. had the Community Social Services Sector Innovation & Sustainability Roundtable that was starting to look at how we can start to streamline processes, try to have more consistent reporting protocols and those kinds of things. At the same time, we still have organizations that might have 30 contracts with 10 different agencies. Some are monthly, quarterly — all kinds of things. So it’s still something that has to be worked on down the road.
Senator Duffy: Thank you to the witnesses.
Dr. Cukier, you have a lot to teach us. I would like to give you the opportunity to help us understand or elaborate upon some of the points you’ve already made. First of all, the problem of the shrinking donor base and aging donors. You have probably been the most successful person in Canada in motivating people toward a positive social outcome years ago related to guns. I applaud you for that. You know how to get people to care about things that actually make the country better.
How do we as a committee take this problem of a lack of interest by our kids, primarily — because the old folks are still giving, even though we are getting closer to passing on — how do we get that younger generation motivated to see this as something they should get involved in? The demographics are very clear that we’re going to need not-for-profits and charities more than ever as we get ready to be rolled off to the old folks home.
Ms. Cukier: I’m with you there.
Senator Duffy: From your vast experience — and I’m serious — how do we get this group motivated?
Ms. Cukier: Thank you so much for the question. Younger people are incredibly motivated. They are passionate about the environment and are committed to diversity, et cetera. They don’t see the link between their passions and what a lot of the traditional organizations are doing. That’s something we have to grapple with.
I want to give you a quick example and then one very — I don’t know if it’s an out-of-the-box solution, but I think it would be transformative.
Senator Omidvar and I were very active on the Syrian refugee issue. She is the founder of Lifeline Syria, which was committed to expanding private sponsorship of Syrian refugees. At Ryerson, we decided we would support her initiative by creating the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge. We set a target of sponsoring 10 families and raising $250,000, engaging students. Because I had sponsored a Vietnamese family, I knew how much work there was. I thought that if I have a bunch of students to take them to find apartments, set up their bank accounts and all that stuff, it would make it so much easier. We engaged all the student clubs. We ended up raising $5 million, engaging 1,000 volunteers and sponsoring more than 400 Syrian refugees by tapping into young people at the universities in Toronto. It could have gone forever.
My point is this: Why were those kids engaged? We didn’t say, “Come join this non-profit and volunteer 10 hours a day.” We said, “Here is something you can do that will build your skills. You’re a nurse. We need help with health care. You’re a business student. They need help with financial services.”
We didn’t frame it using the old do-gooder kind of language that you often see. We used technology. We used social media. We let them co-create solutions.
I had a student who was responsible for mobilizing the students. How she mobilized the students wasn’t by saying, “Join us; give us $10.” It was pulling them together and saying, “What should we do? How should we do it?” Giving them an opportunity to be social entrepreneurs. That’s why I think the innovation space — and I don’t want to goon about it — but I think there is an enormous opportunity to leverage the brilliance and creativity of young people targeted towards social goals, not just creating the next app. The appetite is there, but we don’t have the same infrastructure to support social innovation that we do technology innovation.
We are putting a lot of resources into super clusters, into the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, into Sidewalk Labs, into all this tech innovation stuff. Hugely important — I’m an IT professor originally — but we are not putting the same energy into social innovation and solving those grand challenges. The one thing you could do that would be transformative is that the federal government has already made a huge commitment to work-integrated learning for young people. They are providing subsidized internships and co-op positions, but they are targeting science, technology, engineering and math. Those kids will get jobs anyway. If they are in a computer engineering co-op program at the University of Waterloo, they will get a job. Where the enormous opportunity is, in my view, is creating work-integrated learning opportunities that address social goals in collaboration with the non-profit sector, building partnerships with the for-profit, corporate social responsibility stuff. It would be transformative for the sector. You would build the next generation of do-gooders, and you would give kids incredibly valuable work experience that would help them be more successful.
Senator Duffy: Should there be a minister in the cabinet whose responsibility is championing not-for-profits and charities?
Ms. Cukier: I am not convinced that will get you as much. I think you should have someone who is championing it. My view is, if you make thinking about social goods mainstream through all of the programs we currently have — for research, for economic development, for innovation — you’ll actually get a lot more than if you create a separate silo. The real opportunities for transformation come from that kind of integration. The jury is out for me on that specific point.
Senator Duffy: What about the CRA? It is now the home for most of the regulations. Is it the wrong place?
Ms. Cukier: I think the regulatory framework is one thing. CRA has its job to do, but CRA is not focused on growing, expanding and mobilizing. You have ISED, which is the growth side; you have ESDC, which is the talent side; and you have CRA, which is the tax side, and the corporations, divisions and so on. You need the same kind of balance. Right now there is a perception that the federal government has focused more on the control of the sector and insufficiently on its growth and capacity building.
The Chair: You raised an issue earlier that I didn’t want to let go. Canadians, generally, continue to sell young people short. If you engage young people, they will come up with solutions to problems in ways that never crossed the minds of old guys like me. It is amazing to watch what happens when you engage young people in solving very complex problems. Not only can they fix my computer when it goes on the fritz, but they can fix a lot of the world’s problems. One of the things I think we need to continue to do is to engage young people. Empower them. Give them the opportunity to change the world, and they will.
Ms. Cukier: I agree.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Omidvar: I’m actually bowled over by all the wonderful testimony. I wonder, Dr. Cukier, whether in fact the CRA should continue — I mean its mandate is to control and inform charitable dollars and donation receipts, et cetera. But there is another function, where you used the term capacity building. Is that a cross-cutting function, across many ministries as opposed to a silo ministry? What is the machinery of government that responds to cross-cutting issues in other ways that we can borrow from?
Ms. Cukier: It’s interesting. Should it live in Finance or the Privy Council or something like that? Think about the objects in this sector: health, poverty alleviation, crime prevention, human rights. How do you put that in a silo?
If you could figure out how to drive that across government — I’m not sufficiently strong on the different mechanisms. It just seems to me, in the same way that this government has, for example, argued that it’s going to apply a gender-based lens across programs, think about how to drive a social innovation lens across programs. I think you will unlock a lot more resources if you go to each of the different ministries and say, “What are you doing to build capacity and partnerships with the non-profit sector?” If you did that across government, and had some central coordinating function with a strong innovation mandate, I think that would be key. I think if you create another ministry or another silo, you will create a ghetto. Yes, there may be some money that is put into it, but it will not have the capacity to transform the system in the way we need in order to drive this forward.
The Chair: Thank you, colleagues and witnesses. This has been a fabulous evening. We would like to thank the three of you for your presentations and your time. You have given us a lot to think about.
Colleagues, we will go in camera for a few minutes.