Our Government Is Listening



Established 106 years ago, the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada is to enable life-changing mentoring relationships to ignite the power and potential of young people..

We have delivered on this mission for over a century through wars, recessions, a depression and even previous pandemics.  Now, unfortunately, our period of greatest need coincides with a period of unprecedented demands for our services amongst youth due to the economic, social and mental health impacts of the pandemic, and this increased demand comes when fundraising has been incredibly challenging for over a year – with the rest of 2021 looking bleak as well.  We are doing everything possible to continue supporting the 41,000 youth across Canada that benefit from our intentional mentoring programs, let alone take on new youth, but we have a $25 million funding shortfall and there is presently no government program to help us address that.

Thanks in part to a joint message from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada and several other national youth-serving organizations, The House of Commons seems to be listening and – with the support of all four Opposition Parties – on March 10 passed a motion calling on the federal government to include measures to support the charitable sector in the 2021 budget.

To that end, the proposed Community Services COVID-19 Relief Fund (CSCRF) is a request to the federal government for a temporary, 18-month funding program to support critical human and community service delivery in order to bridge organizations through the pandemic and beyond. It is endorsed by several of Canada’s largest community service federations, including our own.

And the stakes are high in terms of what those organizations and our own provide to communities.  For example, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada’s federated network of 100 agencies provide one-on-one and group mentoring services for more than 40,000 children and youth in 1,100 communities across Canada. Many young people face adversities in their lives, resulting in toxic stress that can negatively impact their development. With the support of a mentor, young people can overcome these adversities and develop the confidence to reach their full potential.

COVID-19 has posed a serious financial threat to human and community service continuity that needs to be addressed in the 2021 federal budget. This an opportunity to support vital community service capacity over the coming months while investing in a strong and vibrant network of community services that will serve Canadians for generations to come (hopefully for at least another 106 years).

W. Matthew Chater is the National President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. You can follow him on LinkedIn.