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.

This story is part of the Future of Good editorial fellowship covering the social impact world’s rapidly changing funding models, supported by Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada. 

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. 

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