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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

The Band is Coming Together

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Public Policy
Crowd at concert

A great band is more than just some people working together. It’s like a highly specialized army unit or a winning sports team. A unique combination of elements that becomes stronger together than apart.

- “Little Steven” Van Zandt

Yes, Parliament Hill is a long way from “E Street” (even though Ottawa does boast a “Thunder Road”!), but a great band came together on October 17 for the third annual Charities Day on the Hill.

A full set list 

From humble beginnings in 2015, Day on the Hill continues to grow. More than 40 charity leaders and board members, representing almost the entire breadth and depth of our sector, came together to educate decision-makers and advocate on issues that affect us all, regardless of mission.

Hill Day actually began the evening of the 16th. We partnered with Carleton University’s MPNL program to host a Philanthrothink event. A panel of young leaders brought a fresh perspective and impetus to issues ranging from redefining the notion of charity to embedding reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the work we do.

We kicked off Hill Day with a breakfast where we were joined by two members of the federal cabinet. Patty Hajdu is the Minister of Employment, Labour and Workforce Development. Before her election in 2015, she was ED of a shelter in Thunder Bay. She spoke frankly and answered questions about how her experience in the sector informs her work as a Minister.

We were also fortunate to hear from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ahmed Hussen. As an immigrant himself, Mr. Hussen brought a unique perspective as to the impact that charities and nonprofits have in building communities.

What we discussed

Over the course of the day, ten teams of Hill Day participants fanned out across Parliament Hill and the surrounding buildings. We met with MPs and Senators from all parties, cabinet ministers, and political staffers, carrying common messages on issues that are about the long-term structural needs we have as a sector. These issues include:

Through more than 40 meetings, a few things became apparent:

  • While decision-makers appreciate the work that charities and nonprofits do in their communities, they are still surprised at the enormous economic impact we collectively generate.
  • Many agree that we need to tackle structural issues, but they’re often not sure how best to go about this, or if it’s really that urgent.
  • We need to find more ways to demonstrate the relevance of issues that can be challenging to grasp and, let’s face it, don’t resonate the way mission-related messages do. (“What do we want? Legal and regulatory reform that reflects 21st century challenges!” isn’t exactly a catchy slogan.)

So where do we go from here?

Rather encouragingly, many of the MPs and Senators we met with offered to take concrete action to help us advance our issues. This ranges from writing letters of support, to raising issues in caucus, to potentially seeking debates in the House of Commons. We’ve completed detailed follow-up with these Parliamentarians, as we don’t want to miss out on any opportunities. As things continue to happen, we’ll keep you in the loop.

And we’re going to keep doing Hill Days. It really is important for us to be visible, in numbers, on Parliament Hill. Planning will soon be under way for the 2018 Hill Day – and if you think you might be interested in joining us, drop us a line. It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is, what your mission is, or where you operate. In fact, the more diverse a group we have, the more effective we can be.

But we’re also hoping that more and more of you can help show the link between “big picture” reform and making it easier to deliver on your mission. Check out the background documents below on the five issues we prepared for Hill Day – if anything resonates, call, visit, or write to your MP. The more they hear from their own constituents, the higher a priority they’ll give us all.

There’s no guarantee that we’ll reach “The Promised Land” (sorry, I couldn’t help another gratuitous Springsteen reference), but the band really is coming together and the more voices we have the more we’ll be heard.

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