Testimony to the Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector

On Friday, February 15, a Senate of Canada Clerk contacted Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia Executive Director Arlene MacDonald to ask if Arlene would provide witness testimony before the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector. As noted on The Senate of Canada website, The Senate has ordered the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector to “[e]xamine the impact of federal and provincial laws and policies governing charities, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other similar groups; and to examine the impact of the voluntary sector in Canada”. Arlene was asked to apply a youth focus.

The request call came as a surprise. Arlene had never testified before a Senate Committee before, however, Arlene did participate in the Charities on the Hill Day in October and was able to speak with several MPs regarding the state of the nonprofit sector. She was pleasantly surprised that the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia received an invitation from the Senate. Recognizing that this would be a valuable opportunity to speak on behalf of the sector, the Community Sector Council prepared a brief [PDF] echoing some of the recommendations that we and others, including Imagine Canada, have been making to the Federal Government, and submitted it on Friday, February 22. A Senate clerk responded immediately, and a French language version of the brief was provided to the Committee prior to Arlene’s Monday, February 25th appearance before the committee. The brief included the following six recommendations:

Recommendation 1: That the Special Committee encourage the Federal Government to continue the development of a Youth Policy for Canada.

Recommendation 2: That the Special Committee encourage the Federal Government to provide sustainable support to new or existing organizations who offer youth service, youth employment and volunteering opportunities.

Recommendation 3: That the Special Committee encourage the Federal Government to collaborate with leaders in the not-for-profit sector to raise awareness and capacity to link volunteering to the Sustainable Development Goals

Recommendation 4: That the Special Committee encourage the Federal Government to work with the (Canadian) Sustainable Development Goals Data Hub to ensure that volunteer contributions are measured and reported;

Recommendation 5: That the Special Committee encourage the federal government to provide Statistics Canada with a clear mandate and the financial resources (estimated at no more than $1 million per year) to collect, analyze, and disseminate data about the social purpose sector.

Recommendation 6: That the Special Committee encourage the federal government to work with the social purpose sector to identify and implement machinery of government changes so that the long-term health and vitality of the sector are an integral part of the federal policy-and decision-making process.

“I’d do it again,” Arlene noted, and commented upon how engaged committee members were. She received a number of thoughtful questions. Arlene is pictured below with the Committee Chair, The Honourable Senator Terry Mercer.

The full video clip from the day’s proceedings can be viewed here.

  • Arlene’s opening statement begins @ 12:15:02 & ends @ 12:22:52
  • Arlene’s responses to questions from Senator Mercer concerning the measurement of the non-profit sector’s collective impact begins @ 12:29:42 & ends @ 12:35:25
  • Arlene’s responses to questions from The Honourable Senator Ratna Omidvar regarding data collection and the federal government’s social innovation strategy begins @ 12:54:45 & ends @ 13:00:44

Evidence from the February 25 Meeting can be read here.