Sector News Digest – August 10, 2021

This week: Calls to revoke Catholic charities’ tax exempt status; Indigenous approaches to climate action; doubling down on the carbon benefits of conservation; and the Alberta inquiry on foreign influence stumbles to the finish line.

This week: Calls to revoke Catholic charities’ tax exempt status; Indigenous approaches to climate action; doubling down on the carbon benefits of conservation; and the Alberta inquiry on foreign influence stumbles to the finish line.

Catholic charity finances and residential school reparations

A deep dive investigation by The Globe and Mail, using data supplied by Charity Intelligence, has documented the revenues and assets of the various arms of the Catholic Church in Canada, as well as the thousands of charities it supports. The data gathered by the Globe/CI team indicates that 3,446 Catholic charities brought in donations of almost $900 million in 2019, and the combined assets exceed $4 billion, excluding some church buildings, like monasteries.

The revelations cast new light on the church’s 2006 pledge to raise $25 million for a reparations fund for residential school survivors. Church officials have said they were able to bring in only $4 million. “These are staggering numbers,” Kate Bahen, managing director of Charity Intelligence, which provides ratings on charity finances and transparency, told The Globe. She estimates that one dollar in every 20 donated to Canadian charities goes to a Catholic organization. Data included in the story show that the combined revenues of Catholic charities in Canada far exceed those of any other registered entity.

Catholic crime and punishment

As more remains of children are recovered from the grounds of former residential schools, many run by the Catholic Church, calls for justice grow louder.

Some critics are calling for the revocation of the charitable status of the more than 300 Catholic charities across the country, according to The Charity Report: “If there is any justice in this world, the full weight of the law must be applied to them, and the revocation of their charitable status is only the first step.” The National Observer echoed this sentiment, quoting an Anglican priest: “There is a price to pay for such repugnant behaviour, and for its obfuscation and denial.”

David Thomson, a senior associate at Training Resources for the Environmental Community (TREC), launched a petition on Change.org, with the number of signatures rising from 6,000 when CBC News first reported the story on August 5 to 13,000 in less than 24 hours.

“This is not a criticism of individual Roman Catholic faithful,” Thomson writes, “but a demand for accountability from powerful institutions.” He noted that the suspension could be lifted once the church makes a “sincere and full” apology.

The Indian Residential Schools and TRC section of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website lists apologies beginning in 1991, along with the following statement: “The Catholic Church as a whole in Canada was not associated with the Residential Schools, nor was the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

Fight fire with Indigenous know-how

The forest fire that destroyed Lytton, BC, last month is being called “the canary in the tar sands,” according to a recent CBC News feature. Organizations such as the Land Needs Guardians have been advocating for the increased use of Indigenous firefighting crews and the implementation of millennia-old Indigenous knowledge in fire management.

As fires continue to burn across the country, their role becomes “increasingly critical,” The Guardian reports. As more Indigenous crews find themselves on the front lines, “First Nations leaders want a greater say over how forests are managed – and how they’re burned.”

Climate change counterforces

The Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership shared a link for a new report by the Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Areas and Territories Consortium, highlighting the ecological and social consequences that will result if the knowledge systems of Indigenous people aren’t supported.

The report, Territories of Life, featuring Arctic Canada’s Qikiqtaaluk as one of its case studies, makes numerous recommendations, from developing human rights–based financing to strengthening self-determined governance systems. “Given the existing and projected severity of the climate crisis and the outsized role that Indigenous peoples and local communities and forests play in mitigating it, continuing to fail to recognise their rights and support their contributions to conservation could be globally catastrophic,” the authors warn.

A report by Indigenous Climate Action argues that Canada’s two main climate plans, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, are “tools of colonization.” Compared to “colonial-capitalist systems at the root of the climate crisis,” added an editorial in The Breach, “First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities offer an abundance of teachings, worldviews, alternative livelihoods and economic systems that value interdependence, reciprocity and respect for all life.”

Conserving one hectare at a time

The Nature Conservancy of Canada announced the protection of a forest and wetland in New Brunswick, purchasing 70 hectares to expand its Sunset Valley Nature Reserve to 319 hectares, conserving trees that are more than 100 years old and threatened species such as black ash.

The increasing role of philanthropy in ecological conservation is highlighted in the Park People 2021 report. In a section entitled The Role of Philanthropy in Parks, the Toronto-based advocacy group examines how to “harness the power of park philanthropy” and also address its potential challenges.

Rudayna Bahubeshi, who wrote about systemic anti-Blackness in the sector in The Philanthropist Journal, stressed the importance of evaluating park funding “through a racial-equity lens given the mental and physical health benefits we know come from access to high quality green spaces.”

Another new study from The Lawson Foundation and Outdoor Play Canada, Funding for Outdoor Play in Canada, makes the case for funders that romping through the fields isn’t just child’s play. With the potential to connect health, education, the environment, equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice, “outdoor play provides an opportunity to build linkages across broad funding areas,” the authors conclude.

Beware the carbon cop-out

Nature-powered solutions, such as conservation, restoration, and protection, offer simple ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 78 million tonnes per year, according to Nature Canada. Their new national map showcases 80 such solutions, from rehabilitating degraded eelgrass beds in Newfoundland and Labrador to preserving an interurban forest in British Columbia.

With carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies touted as keys for governments to fulfill net-zero carbon emission pledges, Nature Canada joined hundreds of organizations in signing a letter advising the Trudeau government that technology isn’t the solution. As the letter states, “technological carbon capture is a dangerous distraction. We don’t need to fix fossil fuels, we need to ditch them.”

Investing in net-zero

Canadian investment firm Brookfield Asset Management announced in late July that it has raised $7 billion of a targeted $12.5 billion for the Brookfield Global Transition Fund, which will invest in renewable power companies and businesses whose mission is to achieve carbon neutrality. “Net zero is not only a global imperative – it’s an attractive opportunity,” the global company states on its website.

Investors such as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario, and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) are on board.

The fund, “possibly the largest energy transition asset to date,” signals a commitment to achieve net-zero within the next 30 years, hence “accelerating the global net-zero transition,” said Mark Carney, Brookfield’s vice-chair and head of transition, in the Ontario Teachers’ press release. “Enabling the transition will require global reach, large-scale capital, and deep operating expertise in renewable energy and decarbonization.”

Alberta inquiry sputters to the finish line

The final report of the controversial two-year, $3.5-million public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns, investigating allegations that funding to non-profits from foreign entities sullied the reputation of the province’s oil and gas industry, was submitted to the Alberta government on July 30, CBC News reported. Results will be made public in 90 days.

Columnist Sandy Garossino, a former Crown prosecutor, wrote in the National Observer that the only thing the Alberta government should be doing right now is apologizing “to the innocent Canadian environmentalists that you and your allies have hounded, vilified and intimidated for almost a decade.”

“For their activism, environmentalists were baselessly put on Canada’s terrorist watch list, accused of money-laundering, investigated for widespread tax fraud and accused of a globalist conspiracy against Alberta.”

Pandemic-induced immigration backlog

The pandemic has “wreaked havoc on the entire immigration system,” according to the Toronto Star, causing a backlog of nearly 1.5 million applications, prompting a response from Senator Ratna Omidvar.

“The government has to provide some clear pathways and criteria for prioritization,” she told the Star. “It should do everything it can to process those people who’ve already been processed. They should be a priority. They’ve put their lives on hold because we’ve selected them. They need to come to Canada. They need to put roots down.”

Canada needs immigrants, too. In a recent article published by CERIC, Rupa Banerjee, Canada Research Chair in Economic Inclusion, Employment and Entrepreneurship of Canada’s Immigrants, says the skills and “deep diversity” immigrants offer will be a “vital” part of fuelling the post-pandemic recovery.

However, “Canada still has a long way to go before it is fully maximizing the potential of its immigrant talent,” a Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council study notes, outlining how middle managers can either “make or break an immigrant’s sense of inclusion and therefore their performance – whether they will thrive or flounder.”

Closing the digital divide in rural Canada

Rural Canada will either thrive or flounder, according to an article by the Centre for International Governance Innovation, depending on whether digital accessibility becomes a priority. What was once a gap has widened into a chasm, the authors note. “Considering that policy statements about the urgent need for broadband began appearing in Canada as early as the late 1980s, the lack of universally accessible, affordable, reliable, scalable broadband infrastructure in this country represents generational policy failure.”

In small towns and rural communities, the “digital infrastructure deficit is as deep as the rural/urban digital divide itself.” Rather than “pour more money into the current broken system,” Canada could start by nationalizing broadband infrastructure as a “public good,” the authors suggest, using examples such as the crown-owned SaskTel as a model.

“More-than-money” mindset needed to generate impact

In a new report, Partnering for Impact: From Crisis to Opportunity, Imagine Canada offers a follow-up to the 2020 Wake Up Call and calls for a renewed emphasis on the partnership-based community investment trend that emerged during the pandemic.

The document makes the case for more tri-sector partnerships between government, the private sector, and the non-profit world. It cites examples such as WoodGreen Community Services partnering with corporate and government stakeholders to build more housing units. The report’s nine case studies showcase “creative ways of serving the needs of our communities.”

“It is time to re-evaluate our funding approaches, ideate and co-create across sectors, and embed ‘more-than-money’ mindsets to generate community and societal impact,” writes Valerie Chort, executive director of the RBC Foundation.

Procure local

Social procurement is one way to create “inclusive, vibrant, and healthy communities,” according to Exploring Community Wealth Building through Social Procurement in Ontario, a new report by the Ontario Nonprofit Network and partners Buy Social Canada, the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and AnchorTO.

The report outlines strategies for expanded collaboration across the entire social procurement ecosystem and reminds policy-makers of the transformative power of community purchasing.

Canadians appear to be ready for this kind of shift in thinking. The Broadbent Institute and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada just released the results of an online survey exploring attitudes about tax fairness. A survey of 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over found that 82% “believe now is the time to tackle wealth and income inequality.” There was broad support for imposing tax measures to reduce inequality and raise revenue, and almost nine in 10 said they support an annual wealth tax paid by the wealthiest Canadians.

“Tough sledding” ahead on childcare

While provinces such as British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador celebrate the signing of agreements to usher in a new era of $10-a-day childcare through the “ambitious” Early Learning and Child Care Action Plan, advocates warn there’s still some “tough sledding” ahead.

In a recent Toronto Star column, Jessica Stepic Lue, vice-president of government relations and advocacy at YMCA Canada, and Katie Davey, policy lead at the Public Policy Forum, focused on an important prerequisite for accessible and quality childcare: staff.

To date, they note, early-learning and childcare workers earn an average salary of just $35,000 a year, contend with “acute” staff shortages and difficult working conditions, and receive little recognition for their important work. “The very people to whom we entrust our children at the most delicate stage of their development should be recognized for their critical contribution,” the authors note.

To address such challenges, Canada needs a comprehensive, national workforce approach. In partnership with YMCA Canada, Public Policy Forum recently published From Investment to Action: Building a Canada-Wide Child Care System outlining how this goal can be achieved. But, Stepic Lue and Davey caution, “In absence of a whole-of-workforce approach, we run the risk of quality sliding off its axel and a Canada-wide child-care system being limited by what is already available.”

Black philanthropy: A call for equity

Throughout August, Black Philanthropy Month (BPM) will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. The milestone falls in the midst of a racism-filled pandemic that has “wreaked havoc” on Black communities throughout the world, according to the organizers.

A recent Statistics Canada report notes a 92% increase in hate crimes targeting the Black population this past year. Black Muslim women in Alberta continue to live in fear after attacks, with grassroots groups stepping up to offer victim-centred care.

BPM’s 2021 theme – TENacity: Making Equity Real – reinforces a “call for cross-sector funding equity,” something the Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked by Canadian Philanthropy report shows that Canada is in dire need of realizing.

The August 5 BPM Canada keynote – Reimagining Black Funding Equity in Canada – featured several working group members from the Foundation for Black Communities (FFBC). “Black philanthropy is love anchored in resilience,” said Joseph J. Smith, co-founder of the FFBC.

BPM recommends that organizations interested in showing support begin with a pledge to endorse the 10 “global black funding equity principles” outlined by The Women Invested to Save Earth (WISE) Fund, which include “Trust us for a change” and “Supporting an intersectional human rights agenda.” To learn why BPM chose August for its campaign, read this Twitter thread.

Summer diversions and events

  • Meet the Funders Maritimes – a chance to connect Black-led, Black-serving, and Black-focused (B3) groups with local funders on August 11. Click here for more information.
  • The federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced $10 million in new funding for the Local Food Infrastructure Fund. Click here to apply until August 13.
  • Do you have an idea that could benefit your community? Community Researchers has partnered with three post-secondary institutions to fund community improvement research projects. Apply by August 13.

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