WE have a 912 million dollar problem - redeploy funding to where it's needed most.

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Last week, the federal government announced it would flow more than $900 million to a 4-month student volunteer program. This volunteer program launches amid unprecedented stress on the charitable sector, as larger organizations lay off thousands of employees and many smaller organizations struggle to stay afloat - all while delivering much-needed services to vulnerable communities across the country. 

To administer the program, the Federal government has tapped WE Charity. Let’s unpack why this is a poor and highly irregular use of public dollars and requires the immediate attention of the Canadian public, politicians and leaders.

There is a broad lack of transparency around this project

  • We don’t know who the program partners are, how the contract was awarded to WE, nor how the funds will be administered and by whom.

This is a misuse of government funds and a bad investment

  • The timeframe to execute this program is, at best, highly improbable. In 2018, it took 12 months for over 12.7 million Canadians to volunteer an average 125 hours. This program is expected to run for 4 months, and engage 100,000 students who will volunteer for 500 hours.
  • There is no indication that equity will be a priority in the distribution of service grants or in the approval of opportunities on the I Want to Help platform. By contrast, only $25 million dollars has been approved for Black community organizations in response to COVID.

There will be a net negative impact on the social sector. This is a bad impact strategy.

  • Volunteerism isn't supposed to replace paid work.
  • As reported in The Star on April 1st, 2020, the charitable sector expects to lose $9.5 billion and lay off 117,000 staff, most of them women as a result of the pandemic. It is perverse to financially address the student and youth unemployment issue using critical infrastructure that has experienced mass unemployment and not also received adequate funding to continue its fundamental and essential work each day.

We are calling for the government to:

  • Commit to complete public transparency on the use of funds. 
  • Redeploy the total funding amount directed to WE Charity and re-prioritize paid work through mechanisms such as the Canada Summer Jobs Program.
  • Mandate allocation of funds to equity-seeking groups (youth-led, BIPOC-led, etc.).

These measures would begin to establish some meaningful program standards and credibility for the Canada Student Service Grants.  Let’s take this $900 million and make sure it goes to work, and not harms, students across Canada and communities in need.

Read the full context and calls to action here.