News Digest – February 16, 2022

This week: Ontario’s inaugural Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week, Black History Month: February and forever Organizations condemn “freedom convoy”, underfunding LGBTQ2S+ organizations and more.

Ontario’s inaugural Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week

Valentine’s Day coincided with the first day of Ontario’s first ever Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week, an initiative to spread the love to the nearly 850,000 employees and 5.2 million volunteers of the province’s 58,000 non-profits.

Spearheaded by the Bhayana Family Foundation (BFF), United Way Greater Toronto, and the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN), Bill 9: An Act to Proclaim Non-Profit Sector Appreciation Week passed unanimously in the Ontario legislature in December, championed by MPP Daisy Wai.

The sector needs all the love it can get. A letter from ONN to Premier Doug Ford and several cabinet ministers last month warns of the consequences of their “piecemeal approach” to stabilizing the sector. According to Imagine Canada’s latest Sector Monitor report, one in four charity leaders don’t think they’ll make it to the end of 2022, with 82% of arts, culture, and recreation organizations reporting an average decline of 46% in revenues.

“All Ontarians rely on nonprofits, especially those that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized people, youth, seniors, and newcomers to Canada,” ONN notes. “Toronto is uplifted by nonprofits,” writes the Toronto Nonprofit Network, noting that the city’s more than 14,000 non-profits generate nearly 8% of its GDP.

Since 2006, the BFF has been on a mission to “close the recognition gap” for the sector, founding awards such as the Invisible Champions of Canadian Communities. While Ontario is the first province to hold a week-long celebration, Nova Scotia proclaimed a Day of Recognition in 2019. The ultimate goal is a national week of recognition “for a group that not only transforms lives but unites our communities coast to coast,” BFF and its partners write.

Click here for more from the ONN, and join the conversation about #NonprofitAppreciationWeek.

Black History Month: February and forever

“February and Forever,” the 2022 theme of Black History Month (BHM), reminds all Canadians that Black history transcends calendar dates.

In “What We Don’t Know about the History of Slavery in Canada – And Why We Don’t Talk about It,” Charmaine Nelson, founding director of the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery, says, “The legacy of racism as it is played out against Black populations is a direct manifestation of transatlantic slavery. So, you can’t separate the two.” We tend to “pat ourselves on the back” about Canada’s role in helping enslaved African Americans fleeing north on the Underground Railroad, Nelson says in A Hidden History: Slavery in Canada. She notes this role lasted a mere three decades, while our history of slaving lasted 200 years. “We don’t teach the 200 years at any level of our curriculum.”

Natasha Henry, president of the Ontario Black History Society, tells TVO that BHM means understanding the “complexities and the nuances” of Black history in Canada. Her research project, One Too Many: Enslaved Africans in Early Ontario, 1760–1834, aims to “disrupt the idea” that the relatively small number of enslaved Africans doesn’t merit further examination.

In his BHM 2022 address, Michael P. Farkas, president of the Montreal-based Round Table on Black History Month, writes, “Our resilience and determination will prevail over our frustrations and setbacks. We can no longer simply be discontent and must stand up for real change – tokenism and its gradualist rhetoric reminding us of progress is no longer enough.” Programming includes the inauguration of Afromusée, the first Afro-Canadian museum in Montreal, and Black Community: Inspiring Faces in Health.

In Alberta, Woezo Africa Music and Dance Theatre presents its annual UNGANISHA (the Swahili word for “connection”) – a multimedia journey through nine African diasporic dance forms. Year-round, UNGANISHA Diaspora and Community Engagement Project strives to connect Albertans to a growing Black population.

The Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), according to Statistics Canada, are now home to nearly 15% of the country’s Black population, inspiring projects such as CBC’s Black on the Prairies, produced in collaboration with a 10-person community advisory board, and a host of BHM events. Check out SK Arts for Saskatchewan artists who have made an impact on their communities, or Calgary’s Council of Canadians of African and Caribbean History’s AfroQuiz, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with “Black to the Future.”

Organizations condemn “freedom convoy” – and mobilize in response

Amnesty International Canada added its voice to a long list of statements in response to the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa. Secretary general Ketty Nivyabandi writes Amnesty is “deeply troubled by the reports of violence, harassment, intimidation, and hate speech which have surfaced since January 29th. Nazi flags, Confederate flags, and other symbols of racism and hate exhibited have no room in peaceful protests.” Despite more than 400 reports of hate-motivated incidents, Nivyabandi notes that the carnival-like atmosphere created by a “largely white-dominant protest group” has thus far been met with a “permissive response” from law enforcement, a ”sharp contrast” to responses to Indigenous and racialized protesters in the past.

Also speaking out: Nature Canada, the Council of Canadians and the Orange Shirt Society, which responded to protesters’ co-opting of the phrase “Every Child Matters.” 

In Ottawa, Somerset West Community Health Centre, Cornerstone emergency women’s shelter, Tewegan Housing for Aboriginal Y, and the Youth Services Bureau (YSB) all noted the convoy’s negative impacts, with YSB saying that for the first time in 62 years, they closed their drop-in for several days for the safety of clients and staff. Donations to the Shepherds of Good Hope homeless shelter reached $750,000 after protesters harassed staff and demanded food from their soup kitchen.

A number of organizations have mobilized in response. United for All, a coalition of 44 organizations in eastern Ontario, wrote, “We must not let hate and violence bleed through the broader community, but instead we must choose a future of kindness and care for each other.” Horizon Ottawa and Child Care Now joined a coalition of local labour unions and community organizations for a solidarity rally on Saturday, one of several counter-protests across the city.

Underfunding LGBTQ2S+ organizations

Underfunding remains the biggest challenge for more than 50% of Quebec’s LGBTQ2S+ organizations, according to new data released by the Enchanté Network and Le Conseil québécois LGBT. An accompanying brief concludes that legal and social discrimination has left organizations 15 to 25 years behind in terms of capacity – with any funding received earmarked for project funding, limiting their ability to cover core funding costs and forcing them “to constantly reinvent themselves to meet the priorities of donors.”

A 2021 Enchanté report, Driving Transformational Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting 2SLGBTQ+ Organizations, notes that a lack of funding hobbles communities that are “at the vanguard of improving public accountabilities and the inclusion capacities of institutions and governments, from public health and policing, to education and policy analysis.”

A recent announcement offers some good news: the federal LGBTQ2 Community Capacity Fund, launched in 2020 to remedy the historic underfunding of LGBTQ2 organizations, was due to end on March 31, 2022, but has been extended for another year and topped up by an additional $7.5 million.

“While more action is needed to build stable funding infrastructure for 2SLGBTQI+ frontline services, we applaud Women and Gender Equality Canada for this significant step towards a Canada where everyone is able to thrive,” Tyler Boyce, Enchanté’s ED, told Xtra.

Gender equality: hardship and hope

The University of Toronto’s Institute for Gender and the Economy has released its 2021 interactive report, calling it a year of “hardship and hope.” The report highlights initiatives such as the Feminist Economic Recovery Plan, co-authored with YWCA Canada, noting that our “traditional economic playbook” for responding to recessions – focused on GDP, economic growth, and job creation – doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, “we must consider measures such as the reduction of gender-based violence; the access that Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities have to employment and essential health and social services; the number of new affordable housing units created; and the number of decent, sustainable jobs that provide paid sick leave and a decent income.”

The Slaight Foundation has awarded the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) $1.5 million to create the Ending Gender-Based Violence in Critical Communities Grant. Organizations serving marginalized women, girls, and gender-diverse people in urban settings can use these funds for “a holistic range of services” that focus on prevention, emergency support, and recovery. CWF CEO Paulette Senior welcomed the news: “When you think of how many new obstacles the pandemic has created for those living in abusive situations, it’s heartbreaking.” 

An episode of the CWF’s Alright, Now What? podcast, “Femicide Is on the Rise,” reports that a woman is killed by her former or current partner on average every six days. According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory, 20 women and girls were killed in January.

Women of influence

This year’s Top 25 Women of Influence, women who “redefine our perceptions of gender roles and abilities,” includes Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, and Sophie Gagnon, executive director of the non-profit legal clinic Juripop. Inuit advocate Siila Watt-Cloutier, who “has been making climate change a human rights issue,” was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. “The world that is seeking a better and more sustainable way, the Indigenous belief that we are all connected, it’s the medicine the world seeks,” she says.

The bison are back in town

Thanks to partnerships with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and Parks Canada, a First Nation in Saskatchewan welcomed back some old friends last week – a herd of bison.

“We probably haven’t had anything positive on our First Nation in 20–25 years,” Clinton Key, a councillor for the Key First Nation, told SaskToday. “It brings a lot of pride back to the community.”

The “genetically pure plains bison” were relocated from Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area, an NCC flagship project they call “a beacon of hope for protecting our remaining intact native grasslands.”

Jennifer McKillop, regional vice-president for NCC, noted the cultural significance of the herd’s new grazing grounds: “Indigenous peoples of North America lived alongside bison for thousands of years, and in many Indigenous cultures, bison and humans are inextricably linked.”

A berry good idea

As Canadians endure a February deep freeze, the Weston Family Foundation is dreaming of berries. In partnership with UK-based Nesta Challenges, they’ve launched a new funding initiative to help future-proof food production in Canada.

“Canada is not the only country facing climate challenges, but its weather extremes and harsh landscapes combined with a long agricultural history and sound environmental policy make it an ideal testbed for innovation in food production to come to life,” they say, pointing out that up to 80% of fresh produce in Canada is imported. 

The six-year, $33-million initiative is open to organizations with qualified donee status.  

A prescription for nature

Doctors can now prescribe a Parks Canada Discovery Pass for those in need of a nature remedy. On January 31, Parks Canada announced its support for PaRx, Canada’s first nature prescription program. The initiative, started by the BC Parks Foundation in 2020, gives doctors and other licensed healthcare professionals in four provinces the option to prescribe a dose of nature – about two hours per week for at least 20 minutes a pop.

Hundreds of studies show that a little nature goes a long way, from reducing heart disease to improving cognition to easing eco-anxiety. “Science’s newest miracle drug is free,” Outside proclaims in an article about the original PaRx, the grassroots non-profit Park Rx America.

Melissa Lem, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, told CBC News that reconnecting with nature has been a “rare silver lining” during the pandemic. She hopes the fully covered Discovery Pass prescriptions will help reduce barriers to access.

A study from Nature Canada, Race and Nature in the City: Engaging Youth of Colour in Nature-Based Activities, found that barriers aren’t just financial for racialized youth interested in participating in nature-based activities. These youth often perceive the great outdoors as “white spaces” where they fear racist comments or physical violence.

Events and diversions

  • In celebration of Black History Month, Canadian Roots is hosting inspiring Black and Afro-Indigenous speakers for the next two Thursdays. Tune in to IG Lives for Paige Galette on February 17 and Mahlikah Awe:ri on February 24.
  • National funders have until February 21 to submit proposals to the Community Services Recovery Fund – “a one-time, $400 million investment to help charities and non-profits adapt and modernize.” For more information, click here.
  • ICYMI, check out this call for project proposals under the Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund announced in January – $25 million will be available to projects led by non-profit organizations.
  • Sign up for Fierté Canada Pride and the Enchanté Network’s 2022 national conference, from February 24 to February 26. This year’s theme is 2SLGBTQI+ Movement Building: Past Present and Future and will include programming such as anti-oppression practice and capacity-building.
  • Join Women United on March 7 for “Fearless Women” – a virtual discussion about leadership, mentorship, and resiliency – to mark International Women’s Day. The first 100 registrants for this free event will receive a copy of keynote speaker Janice McDonald’s Fearless: Girls with Dreams, Women with Vision.
  • On March 8, join YW Calgary and The Walrus for “Fuelling the She-covery” to hear four speakers, including Margaret Norrie McCain, chair of the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation, discuss all things she-covery.
  • Tune in to the latest episode of the Digging in with ONN podcast  – “Reimagining Governance.” Guest Erin Kang “shares how taking an expansive view of governance can open up space for asking different questions and deeper dialogue around issues of racial justice and equity.”


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