Bill S-223, Senator Jim Munson’s quest to designate the third week of every February as Kindness Week, received Royal Assent on June 3, 2021. Canada is the first country in the world to pass such legislation. In a recent interview with SenCAplus, Senator Munson explained why he introduced the bill and what more acts of kindness could mean for the country.
The impetus for the bill came from Rabbi Reuven Bulka, a well-known spiritual leader in Ottawa and the founder of Kind Canada. He bounced into my office with a smile on his face and said, “I’m here because I know you are a kind senator. I’ve watched your work on children’s rights and the rights of those with disabilities. Kindness Week is my idea to take kindness from Ottawa across the rest of the country.”
Kindness fits like a glove with my philosophy, so I brought the idea forward in the form of a Senate public bill (the Red Chamber’s equivalent of a private members’ bill). In a country like Canada where we always seem to be kind, why not try to get something into law?
We are the first country in the world that has a Kindness Week — maybe it will catch on!
There is more to it than simply awareness. For example, World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 has motivated groups to take action and has helped increase funding. It’s my hope that governments will come up with programs during Kindness Week. I hope teachers will add it to their curricula. I hope this act will spur others to be involved, whether through volunteering or their work, or as someone with the financial wherewithal to contribute.
I truly believe we are a kind country. We have shown it in so many ways, but we must keep walking the walk. Whether it’s opening a door for someone, not being as judgmental, having a conversation or being mindful of each other’s purpose in life, it’s all an act of kindness.
On a personal basis, several studies show being kind gives us energy, happiness and pleasure. It can help us deal with pain, stress, depression and even high blood pressure. When it comes to your own well-being, kindness can be selfish — in a good way.
I learned more about the humanity of others. I first introduced a Kindness Week bill in 2018; it went through all the stages but didn’t pass before the 2019 election. This year we were back at it again, with an added sense of urgency because Rabbi Bulka is fighting for his life against cancer.
We got it through all stages quickly in the Senate. I got in touch with a lot of senators whom I hadn’t been in touch with before and I learned a lot about how kind we are as a people. The comments from everyone at the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and the interventions of Senator Yonah Martin were also very important.
Then it went to the House of Commons. With the pandemic, hybrid sittings and the consideration of the budget, there were so many things in front of people. It really did take acts of kindness on behalf of the House leaders and the others to say, “Let’s do this.”
All it took was acts of kindness by parliamentarians and I thank them for that. It gave them the opportunity to see the value of someone who is sitting across from them, whether in the House or the Senate, to see the value of what the institution is all about and to add a touch of kindness to a week that extends across the country.
Read Senator Munson’s complete remarks on this bill from March 17, 2021.