Sector News Digest – October 19, 2021

Upbeat Q3 data from StatsCan

Organizations are optimistic about the future, according to Statistics Canada’s “Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, Third Quarter 2021.” Nearly 90% of 1,060 non-profits sampled across Canada reported feeling positive about the year ahead. The Alberta Nonprofit Data Strategy, “a sector-wide collaborative initiative to build a knowledge-driven non-profit sector,” has created a handy infographic and analysis about the results. The survey shows government has “responded to our call to expand and more clearly target data collection on non-profits and charities,” writes Imagine Canada.

Paired with the more recent “Non-Profit Institutions and Volunteering: Economic Contribution, Second Quarter 2021, the stream of new data is a “notable victory” after years of advocating, Imagine Canada says. But the group adds that there’s still room for improvement: basic data about the number and locations of non-profits in Canada, for example, would be useful, as would information about the populations they serve. The second-quarter report shows “widespread” increases in employment in the sector, up 1.2%, as social services, healthcare, business and professional associations, and unions expanded their workforce, with the sector contributing 8.3% of Canada’s GDP, down from 8.4% in the first quarter.

No time to waste

As Greenpeace celebrated its 50th earlier this month, Barbara Stowe, daughter of the organization’s co-founders, called the anniversary a “profoundly bittersweet moment” in The Globe and Mail.

The transformation of a “little ragtag group,” whose members set sail in 1971 from Vancouver for Alaska to protest an atomic bomb test, into a global eco-justice organization with more than three million supporters may seem like a success story, Stowe says. But their ultimate goal, that Greenpeace would not need to exist, is far from realized. “As the world floods and burns, there’s no joy in correctly predicting climate crisis – only a desperate desire to stop it,” Stowe writes.

To that end, the philanthropic sector has launched a first-ever all-hands-on-deck climate commitment – The Canadian Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change – a joint initiative of The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (The Circle), Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), Environment Funders Canada (EFC), and Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC).

“The climate crisis is already impacting our work as funders to advance equity, health, poverty eradication, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, human rights and all issues on which we strive to have a positive impact as philanthropic actors – and it will continue to complicate and exacerbate all issues and communities affected by them without action,” said Jean-Marc Mangin, president and CEO of PFC in a press release. “There’s no time to waste.”

Currently, most funding dollars in Canada are not earmarked for climate action. The pledge calls on funders to commit to seven calls to action, from allocating resources to embracing transparency, all grounded in the recognition of the essential role of Indigenous rights, stewardship, and sovereignty.

Love’s role in environmental activism

Some organizations are praising a less-touted weapon in the climate-action arsenal: love.

In the Narwhal’s “When in Drought” series, Kat Kavanagh, executive director of Water Rangers, stresses the importance of love in the conservation equation. “People protect what they love. The more often you go out to the water, the more connected you are to it, the more likely you are to feel like you can do things, you can speak up for it, you can become an advocate.”

The endorsement of Earth’s most famous intergalactic captain, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk (aka William Shatner), is causing some buzz. He joined a campaign initiated by Canopy to pressure BC’s NDP government into protecting the province’s old-growth forests, as reported by the National Observer. “There’s nothing like standing next to a giant ancient cedar to make one recognize how small our place in the universe really is,” said Shatner. “Some wonders are irreplaceable.”

Eco-anxiety on the rise

When the climate crisis wreaks havoc with Mother Nature, it also messes with our minds. Youth have been especially affected, increasingly suffering from “eco-anxiety” – a term coined in 2017 that’s quickly becoming a household word.

Manvi Bhalla, co-founder of Shake Up the Establishment, worries that the rise of eco-anxiety will impede young people’s drive to go green or fight for systemic change. “You’re not really functional. You feel like every effort doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s [the climate crisis] such a big issue,” she told CTV News.

A British Medical Journal opinion piece notes the “profound implications” of the growing eco-anxiety phenomenon. “Psychological responses, such as conflict avoidance, fear, helplessness, and resignation, are serious barriers to collective action to mitigate further global warming and to build resilience and adaptation strategies,” the authors note. The Lancet recently published survey results of 10,000 young people in 10 countries. Almost six in 10 said they were very or extremely worried about climate change. The research team was “moved by the scale of emotional and psychological effects of climate change upon the children of the world,” citing the example of a youth who said, “I don’t want to die. But I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t care about children and animals.”

Climate activists take on fast fashion

While some may seek comfort from all this doom and gloom in a little retail therapy, Ashley Stefureak, a journalism associate with Nature Canada, warns of the environmental impacts of “fast fashion.” Not only does fast fashion (the mass production of cheap, trendy, disposable apparel) create 35% of the most hazardous forms of microfibres and microplastics found in marine environments; it also creates 8% to 10% of global emissions, consuming more energy than the global aviation and shipping industries combined.

100 days of just transition

In a petition for just transition legislation to be introduced and passed in the first 100 days of the new Parliament, the Council of Canadians, as part of the group’s Climate Code Red week of action, is calling on Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to reduce emissions by at least 60% below 2005 levels (Ottawa’s current target is 40% by 2030). “The only antidote to corporate power is people power,” the council wrote on Twitter, in a call to grassroots organizations from coast to coast to mobilize.

The class divides in the green movement

The State of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Sustainability – a survey of 1,500 professionals, both corporate and non-profit, working in the field of sustainability throughout Canada, the US, and the UK – reveals some disturbing results.

Conducted by Diversity in Sustainability, the survey found that three-quarters of respondents had middle-class backgrounds and more than 60% had graduate degrees, highlighting the barriers to enter this field for the people who are typically most affected by climate issues, such as lack of clean water and air pollution.

“This is a very elite and privileged sector,” Heather Mak, one of the co-founders of Diversity in Sustainability, told The Globe and Mail. “It’s not an easy sector to get into if you come from a materially poor or a working-class background.”

“Many join the field of sustainability to create a better world,” she noted in an earlier article in Corporate Knights. “But a better world for whom, and defined by whom?”

A dearth of diverse voices is also being flagged in the realm of climate change research.

Researchers from Carbon Brief found that of the 1,300 authors involved in the 100 most-cited climate change research papers from 2016 to 2020, 90% were affiliated with academic institutions in North America, Europe, or Australia. Researchers from regions, predominantly in the Global South, that happen to be experiencing the most serious effects of climate change, are grossly underrepresented. Authors from Africa, for example, wrote less than 1% of the papers.

An anti-hate action plan

In a First Policy Response article, Seher Shafiq, active citizenship manager at North York Community House, says last month’s federal election provided visual, and often purple-shirted, proof that Canada has a hate problem. “People who express hate in comments sections and on social media decided to show up in real life, armed with nasty signs and throwing rocks at the incumbent prime minister.”

Shafiq says that with hate crimes at the highest level since Statistics Canada started tracking them in 2009, we need to take action against hatred, starting with policy solutions. The National Council of Canadian Muslims has already published a “robust” list of recommendations for all levels of government, she notes, including a call to apply the same level of vigour and funding to rooting out far-right and white supremacist groups as has been applied with other terrorist organizations.

Multiculturalism at 50

Multiculturalism turned 50 against a backdrop of mounting concern about hate activity, challenging the notion of Canada as “a diverse, inclusive and immigrant-friendly nation,” writes Chandrima Chakraborty, the director of the Centre for Peace Studies. Canadians should be aware that “multiculturalism as state policy has also perpetuated the discriminatory immigration and labour policies of white Canada,” she says. This is especially true for Asians.

Anti-Asian racist violence during the pandemic, which increased by such an extent that Vancouver was dubbed the anti-Asian hate crime capital of the world, stems from a “legacy of legalized and everyday racism,” Chakraborty notes. “Labour-market policies have resulted in the over-representation of Asian Canadians in so-called essential jobs which are typically low-paying, low-skilled and precarious, such as warehouse, personal support, and cleaning work.” The pandemic revealed how our job market “simultaneously relies on Asian essential workers and scorns them.”

Minimum wage politics

One million employees who work for minimum wage in Ontario saw their hourly wages increase by one “thin dime” earlier this month, prompting Armine Yalnizyan, Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers, to note how such modest gains are bad for the economy in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it isn’t business that creates jobs. It’s customers. We could boost the economy from the bottom up if we raised the roof about the benefits of raising the wage floor.”

The 2021 Nobel Prize for economics was recently awarded to a scholar with similar views: David Card, who grew up on a dairy farm in Guelph, Ontario. “I’ve probably milked more cows than most economists,” he tells Ian Brown in a Globe and Mail profile piece. Card’s research proves that raising the minimum wage creates jobs, not the opposite, as many small business groups and right-of-centre politicians, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have insisted.

Sector advocates weren’t silent, with Senator Ratna Omidvar tweeting her congratulations and thanks for Card’s “essential” research, and Jim Stanford, economist and director of the Centre for Future Work, tweeting that Card has helped “turn conventional ideas on wage regulation upside down.” According to a 2021 paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Card’s research played a pivotal role in shifting the views of global institutions such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

Tougher standards for the long-term care sector

The number of COVID-related deaths in long-term care (LTC) homes (28,144 at last count) has given rise to a nationwide outcry. “That our vulnerable elderly died this way will remain our lasting shame and disgrace,” writes journalist Ann Silversides, who specializes in health policy, in “How to Repair Long-Term Care in Canada.” Infection concerns are rising again because of outbreaks among vaccinated LTC residents in several provinces.

Hope may be on the horizon, says the Health Standards Organization (HSO), which has just released the results of a nationwide survey of more than 16,000 Canadians on new LTC standards. “We are on the precipice of long-overdue reform, improvement and progress in our systems of long-term care,” HSO notes in a press release. The report will help guide the National Long-Term Care Services Standards Technical Committee – chaired by Dr. Samir Sinha, director of health policy research at Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing.

The message from the public is “loud and clear,” Sinha told the Toronto Star about the survey results. “We need long-term care where residents are living in homes that feel like homes, where staff are valued and supported, and we are thinking of the value of residents’ lives and not just meeting their basic care needs.”

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: Facing the harm

The first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation saw a range of initiatives by non-profits, Indigenous organizations, and individual Canadians.

Some donated their day’s wages to One Day’s Pay, a project supported by The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples. It was started by a government worker in Vancouver who felt conflicted about getting a paid day off, according to Global News. Kris Archie, The Circle’s CEO, spoke in a video about her ideal donor: “Folks who have barbecues on Canada Day, who love their hockey team,” she said. “Folks who take pride in being Canadian, because I want their pride to be more. It is also being willing to face the harm that this country has done, the harm that continues to exist.”

To learn about such harms, organizations offered actions for solidarity and book recommendations. Ta7talíya Michelle Nahanee, founder and CEO of Nahanee Creative, launched six mini-courses on their “on-demand (un) learning platform,” including “Re-Storying Colonialism” and “Etiquette for Allies.” The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) dedicated its entire day of programming to honouring the victims and survivors of residential schools. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation unfurled The Survivors’ Flag. “What is our responsibility to these children now, and how do we prevent the world from falling asleep again?” asks one Survivor who contributed to the design of the flag.

Valérie Courtois, director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, said true reconciliation happens on the land. “One of the worst impacts of colonialism was to remove Indigenous Peoples from our landscapes – the places where we find our strength, our identity, and our place in this world,” she wrote in a blog post. “Taking us away from our lands – through residential school and other forced removals – has been profoundly traumatic. But the reverse is also true: reconnecting with the land heals us.”

Kids win again

On September 29, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada tweeted “Kids win again!” in what APTN called a “trailblazing” Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order that was upheld by the federal court. The 14-year-old battle, started by Cindy Blackstock and the Assembly of First Nations, could result in thousands of First Nations children and families who suffered discrimination at the hands of the state receiving billions of dollars in compensation.

On CBC’s Power and Politics, Blackstock, the executive director of the Caring Society, said, “This was a complete win for kids, and now the question becomes will the federal government finally put down its sword and stop fighting First Nations children and treat them equally.” These are human rights damages, Blackstock stressed, noting that children have died while waiting for service. Fourteen bureaucrats dithered about providing life-saving medical equipment for a four-year-old girl, for example, so she wouldn’t suffocate. Blackstock asks, “How can we possibly have justice in this country if we’re continuing to abuse this generation of First Nations children and then call that reconciliation?”

One way to honour the meaning behind Truth and Reconciliation Day, she added, is to “send a note to your prime minister, saying you heard about this ruling that came down today and you do not want them to appeal it.”

The federal court’s decision is here. A timeline chronicling the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case on inequitable funding for First Nations child welfare, and a pre-tribunal timeline, are here.

Rural resiliency

Against a backdrop of pandemic-driven exodus from urban to rural areas, the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation’s annual report, State of Rural Canada 2021: Opportunities, Recovery, and Resiliency in Changing Times, assesses emerging trends and ongoing issues in such “unprecedented global circumstances.” The report highlights “the resilience of rural people, communities, and organizations as they respond to the pandemic, forest fires, food insecurity, and economic restructuring” and the capacity for rural Canada to collaborate and “actively shape their own stories of success.”

Examples such as the Yukon’s Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation development of a teaching and working farm to address food security on their traditional territory and the Buy Black Birchtown campaign in Nova Scotia to create a retreat for BIPOC individuals show that small is indeed mighty. But the report also outlines a host of ongoing challenges, such as the severe implications of climate change on rural communities, and major infrastructure deficits, especially those related to broadband and digital resources.

A new project launched by the British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, The Black & Rural Project, aims to “honour, amplify, and showcase oral histories/testimonies of Black and rural Canadians, and to give voice to this modern, living heritage.” Inspired by the project lead’s own sense of “lonely blackhood” as a resident of a small and mostly white BC town, fellow Black and rural residents are asked to share photos, poetry, prose, videography, or even sit down for an interview to tell their story.


  • The Nova Scotia–based Black Business Initiative is hosting several sessions on the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative capacity-building grant. Click here for session dates.
  • Sparkrock, a company “providing purpose-built finance, HR, payroll, and scheduling solutions” for non-profits, is hosting an online summit on how to leverage AI, machine learning, and technology on October 27. To learn some valuable tips and tricks, click here.
  • The Ontario Nonprofit Network’s Nonprofit Driven conference is taking place October 27 and 28. Click here to register. The Laidlaw Foundation is supporting ONN in offering free passes for Black- and Indigenous-led organizations. Forms are available here.
  • Join Volunteer BC and the British Columbia Association for Charitable Gaming on October 28 and 29 for their annual conference.
  • The Future of Good’s Dismantling Digital Barriers Summit takes place on November 2 and 3, presented by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. Find out what a “braindate” is and “learn about the digital transitions required to do your work well.”
  • On November 9 and 10, the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations’ Building Prosperity Conference “will build on the pivotal contributions of the sector over the past year, and focus on how non-profits can work toward a more equitable and transformative recovery.” Details here.
  • Imagine Canada has revamped its HR Toolkit – a free site offering “educational and actionable resources designed to help non-profit leaders better understand, address, and guide people management in their organization.” Sign up here for notification of its imminent launch. The group is also looking for input on digital innovation in the sector. Participate in a 15- to 30-minute interview to chat about the challenges and opportunities. Contact


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