A year ago, Century Initiative – whose mission is to enhance Canada’s resilience and influence by responsibly growing the population to 100 million by 2100 – launched a National Scorecard on Canada’s Growth and Prosperity. This year’s scorecard points to three key opportunities where leadership from the charitable sector will be critical.
When Canadians think of charities, they often focus on the short-term. And it’s easy to see why. The charitable and non-profit sector leads in the face of crises at home and abroad. But as essential as this work is, we cannot overlook the role we need the sector to play in building for the long-term. The charitable and non-profit sector is critical to three key areas at the core of Canada’s future growth and prosperity: supporting newcomers to thrive and prosper, building equitable and inclusive systems, and setting up the next generation for success.
This is a call for the sector to do something that it is uniquely suited to do: take the long view. In many Canadian communities, charitable organizations are the oldest and most established institutions, with deep roots and vested interests in the long-term health of the communities that they serve. While the political cycles of government and the market-driven perspectives of business often leave long-term vision in short supply, the charitable and non-profit sector is better suited to thinking about generational impacts. We need a great deal more of that to get our recovery and our long-term prosperity on track.
As we look to the future, our goal cannot be just to grow. Instead, we need to focus on growing well.
With Canada at an important crossroads, the stakes are high. Our population growth has stagnated, and the situation is only projected to get worse, undermining our democratic interests and our social, economic, and environmental goals. A bigger Canada can mean a bigger voice on the world stage; a smaller Canada will inevitably be sidelined. Statistics Canada has estimated that the number of dependents for every 100 working-age Canadians could reach close to 70 people in the next 50 years. And as the working-age population declines, well-being and prosperity in Canada will follow suit.
But as we look to the future, our goal cannot be just to grow. Instead, we need to focus on growing well. We need to ensure that the right conditions are in place for population growth that is sustainable, inclusive, and equitable. We need to look beyond the numbers and take concerted action toward building our future prosperity – a future where the benefits of growth are not captured by a few, but shared by all who do and will call Canada home.
Century Initiative exists to do just this. We are a national, non-partisan charity on a mission to enhance our resilience at home and influence abroad by responsibly growing Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100. To help chart the path there, last year we launched a National Scorecard on Canada’s Growth and Prosperity. The scorecard tracks Canada’s progress on growing well through 38 indicators across six focus areas that are essential to realizing a future of shared prosperity.
The second edition of the National Scorecard points to three key opportunities where further leadership from the charitable sector will be critical.
The charitable sector will be critical to achieving progress across the indicators tracked by the National Scorecard. Non-profits and charities are inherently focused on supporting the future prosperity of Canada, driving action on issue areas with long-lasting implications – from immigration and settlement, to innovation and entrepreneurship, to education and employment.
But to reach the scale we need to achieve for our long-term prosperity, we need to do more. In assessing our progress, this year’s second edition of the National Scorecard points to three key opportunities where further leadership from the charitable sector will be critical:
- Supporting newcomers to thrive and prosper
Newcomers are critical to Canada’s growth. But many are being left behind, confronting a number of challenges to successful integration. For instance, many newcomers face barriers to accessing good jobs – from a lack of foreign credential recognition, to language requirements, to discrimination and racism. These constraints mean that newcomers are more likely to be in jobs they are overqualified for than those born in Canada. It also leaves newcomers with a median income 20% below the Canadian median even after five years in Canada ($29,800 compared to $37,100). This significant gap could represent the difference between surviving and thriving for many families.
As the connective tissue of Canada’s settlement system, non-profits and charities represent a key touchpoint for newcomers and are uniquely positioned to help break down these barriers and enable newcomers to thrive and prosper. This will mean working together to better coordinate services for newcomers that help facilitate successful integration. It also means advocating for broader policy changes that will help make Canada a great place for newcomers to stay and build their lives.
- Building equitable and inclusive systems
Canada’s economic and social systems have not been designed for equity and inclusion. Instead, much of the fabric of our society has been built to exclude, leading to significant outcome gaps for equity-seeking groups. Racialized Canadians earn, on average, 87.4 cents for every dollar earned by their non-racialized peers. Diversity has also been sidelined in leadership across the country. As of 2020, diversity at the board level of organizations was in dire straits: 4% of board seats were held by racialized individuals, 0.3% by persons with disabilities, and 0.3% by Indigenous Peoples.
And while Indigenous populations are, on average, younger and growing faster than others, Canada must do more to foster reconciliation. This means co-developing policy and system changes with Indigenous Peoples that address educational, employment, and infrastructure gaps. It also means pursuing economic reconciliation, going beyond poverty management to wealth creation that recognizes the full potential of the Indigenous economy. To get there, the Indigenomics Institute has developed a strategic list of 12 levers that could help grow the annual Indigenous economy to $100 billion. And philanthropy is one of those critical enablers.
It’s clear that the charitable sector has an important stake in confronting these inequities and building a better Canada. As the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the first refugee to become Governor General and co-founder of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, has said, “We cannot be a prosperous country if we fail to bridge socioeconomic disparities. Philanthropic giving needs to be active and intentional about promoting equity for underrepresented communities in a growing Canada.” This means doing the important work of not only supporting equity-seeking groups but building and rebuilding economic and social systems to design for equity and inclusion. This includes working toward meaningful reconciliation, creating equitable conditions for racialized communities, and ensuring that diversity is reflected in the leadership of all sectors across the country.
- Setting up the next generation for success
Canada’s next generation is not being set up for future prosperity. Families are struggling under growing levels of household debt, which reached 186% of net household disposable income in 2019. Many families also don’t have access to childcare services, with centre-based spaces available for barely one-quarter of children under five. Canada’s young people are being left behind too, experiencing poor outcomes and lacking access to opportunities. Child well-being is on the decline, and we have a growing rate of youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET). What’s more, persistent income inequality, inadequate infrastructure, and the climate crisis are leaving young people with insufficient hope and lowered expectations for Canada’s future.
With long-term missions and goals to improve the health of our communities, non-profits and charities have a vested interest in changing this dynamic and increasing hope for future generations. This means working together to make Canada a great place to raise a family and grow up while ensuring that our society is resilient to looming challenges that the next generations will face. We owe it to the Canadians of tomorrow to take action now.
But in order to act for the long-term and help make progress on these key opportunities, we know that the charitable sector needs to be better supported. We know that non-profits and charities need more resources to undertake these kinds of essential activities. We know that sector organizations need to be freed from administrative burdens and funding limitations that have inhibited capacity-building and long-term planning. Government and other stakeholders will have to play their part to enable the sector’s work. We know from our own experience that there is room for collaboration within and across all sectors to rise to the challenge of long-term prosperity. Century Initiative is building partnerships with exactly this shared commitment. While the task at hand may seem daunting, the pandemic has shown our capacity to realize transformational changes. Now is the moment for the non-profit sector to think long-term and help drive progress on the key areas required for a future of sustainable, inclusive, and equitable growth. Now is the moment to take action and work toward growing well.