A short history of philanthropic perpetuity: tax havens, Catholic corruption and corporate control

How the hell did we get here — to this place where Canadian institutional philanthropy largely assumes perpetuity?

Why It Matters

The Canadian philanthropic sector is embroiled in a debate about the disbursement quota — the rate at which foundations have to give to charity. Some argue it’s fine where it is — at 3.5 percent. Others argue that this rate is “starving” non-profits across the country. To understand the context for this debate, you need to understand the history.

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Canada’s philanthropic sector is normally pretty calm. Charities apply for support. Foundations give out grants. Both groups attend conferences together and a few feathers are ruffled, but no big flaps. 

This last year however, things have been different. Call it the pandemic effect. Call it a tipping point around racial justice. Call it a long overdue reckoning over the genocide of Indigenous peoples. But whatever it is, it’s obvious — the roots of the philanthropic sector are under attack — and the pitchforks (albeit some, quite gentle) are coming out from all sides. 

During the last fourteen months, many of those pitchforks have been trained on the disbursement quota (

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