Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Third reading of Bill S-244, An Act respecting Kindness Week

Third reading of Bill S-244, An Act respecting Kindness Week

Third reading of Bill S-244, An Act respecting Kindness Week

Hon. Jim Munson moved third reading of Bill S-244, An Act respecting Kindness Week.

He said: Honourable senators, after hearing Senator Pratte speak on some of the perils of the world, I think what the world needs now is a group hug.

Honourable senators, I rise with gratitude today to speak to the third reading of Bill S-244, An Act respecting Kindness Week. I am grateful to all of the Canadians who have reached out to me in support of the bill. I’m grateful to each senator who has taken time to speak to me about the bill, to ask questions at committee and to speak in this chamber.

I will not echo my second reading speech or committee testimony too much here today, but there are some important points around kindness that I would like to repeat, such as the fact that research on kindness has shown that it can have many physical, mental and social benefits, and that kindness has benefits for everyone being kind or receiving and observing kindness.

There is a Haida Gwaii proverb passed down through the generations that says: “It is impossible to give away kindness because people keep returning it.” Think about that: It is impossible to give away kindness because people keep returning it. Our First Nations.

This is how I envision kindness week playing out. When we focus on giving and being kind, we are encouraging others to do the same. Kindness starts with each one of us; we all have an essential role in creating a kinder Canada.

When I listen to the news, it’s easy to be filled with pessimism and anxiety about the world. In fact, yesterday I was watching an American newscast, 30 minutes on NBC News. Thank goodness there was a story of a little bear trying to climb up a glacier of ice and making it to the top. It relieved me after 25 minutes of watching what I watched on the news last night.

When I read or hear a story about communities coming together, neighbours helping one another or strangers stepping up to help someone they don’t even know, I am inspired. These stories bring a feeling of warmth and comfort. Kindness can change our narrative from fear and hostility to acceptance and appreciation.

Stories like Becca Schofield’s legacy of #BeccaToldMeTo — remember that campaign? — started in Moncton, New Brunswick. Becca passed away, but she had a campaign. When people were being kind to each other they’d ask, “Why are you being kind?” The reply was, “Becca told me to.” It was a simple thing to do. It started a chain reaction of kindness across this country, in my home province of New Brunswick and spreading as far away as Australia.

Chris Koch from Calgary, who was born without arms or legs, is inspiring kindness in Canadians by hitchhiking across this country. Every time he drives along, he talks about kindness and the good things that someone has done to get him along his way.

Honourable senators, there are communities already participating in Kindness Week like Springhill, Newfoundland, which has been doing it for two years; and here, in Ottawa, which has been doing it for a number of years, as well as the province of Ontario. The list of good stories and good deeds goes on and on. The list will grow even longer when the kindness week act is passed.

Honourable senators, I was deeply moved a few weeks ago when listening to Senator Mary Coyle’s speech and personal story. She talked about how kind people were — simple acts of kindness — when she was in recovery. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that speech. That speech really told it all about what it is to be kind.

I have heard kindness is the answer to bullying because kind kids don’t bully. We heard testimony at the Senate Social Affairs Committee last week that when kindness is taught in schools there are fewer incidences of bullying, new friendships are made and there is more inclusion.

In that committee last week, I think you could hear a pin drop for one hour. Talk about a collective creature of kindness that committee was. We were all there, from all groups, and we all had questions. There were great answers to some of the questions from the people who were there giving testimony. I think we walked out of that room feeling pretty good that we were part of something that is new and, hopefully, something that will happen all across this country.

We also heard at committee that bullying is not only in our schools but is also prevalent in about 25 per cent of our workplaces. Kindness week could inspire a shift in culture not only for young people but also for Canadians of all ages and backgrounds.

Kindness week will be a chance for schools, communities, organizations, businesses and workplaces to encourage and promote kindness education, projects and volunteerism. Imagine what the third week of February will look like when Canadians from coast to coast to coast — somebody holding an elevator door open, or letting someone cut in front of you in traffic or someone shovelling a neighbour’s driveway just for the purpose of being kind. There will be more thank you’s and smiles to strangers. I believe there could be a wave of kindness spreading across our country and, who knows, maybe even further.

The person who walked into my office is a very kind man. We normally see him here in Ottawa every Remembrance Day for the last 20 years. He will be doing it this Remembrance Day. What a time to talk about kindness and gratitude when you look at some of the portraits in our Senate and you think of those, as Senator Day mentioned earlier in a statement, who lost their lives and made the greatest sacrifice for our country. One of those who continue to give himself to our country every day with kindness and on November 11 — by giving a brief sermon — is Rabbi Reuven Bulka. The rabbi, as we would say in the Maritimes, is a buddy. He’s a friend, a kind guy. As many of you know, he is responsible for the idea of kindness week. Last week at committee he said:

Finally, in these turbulent times, having Canada become the first country… to institutionalize kindness on a national scale will be an expression of leadership of global proportions of which we will be eternally proud.

I couldn’t agree with him more.

When Bill S-244 receives Royal Assent — I hope that will be soon — Canada will be the first country in the world to have a kindness week in law. Let me tell you, honourable senators, briefly, it does matter; it really does matter. Sometimes people say, “Why these weeks, why these days, why should they matter?” Well, because people matter. We all matter. When I had my own private member’s bill on Autism Day, April 2 and this country legally recognizing it — and it took a few years to get that bill through here, but it did pass. Through that, it motivated governments to have chairs of excellence. The Conservative government of the day put a chair of excellence in on autism. There were funding programs and the Canadian autism partnership happened. Schools across the country raised flags and children were being taught your friend beside you just thinks a little differently. He’s not you, but don’t judge him differently because it’s him or her. It multiplies across the country. I think these acts really do matter.

Mark Twain said: “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Senators, kindness is a universal language. Kindness can do no harm. It costs nothing to be kind. It only takes awareness and a little bit of time to be nice or helpful and to make a difference in someone’s day.

There is a saying that actions speak louder than words. I just saw a note a moment ago that was handed to me. Somebody said somewhere, “Sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right.” We do not need an intelligent mind that speaks but a patient heart that listens.

Honourable senators, let’s pass this legislation so that kindness can shift from the words in this act be put into action from coast to coast to coast, creating a kinder Canada.

In closing, I would like to quote my friend and colleague Senator Manning. Now, two guys on opposite sides of the fence; two gentlemen who speak various forms of the English language; two guys who have each other’s back along the road, whether you’re travelling with the Fisheries Committee to Europe or across this great country, sharing what we’re doing with ourselves at the Fisheries Committee on our new search and rescue study. Senator Gold is the deputy chair; I’m on steering. We’ve been working together in a kind, compassionate, intelligent way, putting forth, hopefully two weeks from now, a new study on what should happen for search and rescue in this country. I think it takes that collaboration and working in a kind way to make things work.

Senator Manning shared a saying at committee last week which I thought sums it all up. I think that we can all relate to it. I’ll close with this. We all love our mothers, and it came from his mother. He has it on his cards. I’m going to embrace that forever. His mother said:

You may forget somebody’s telephone number and address, and you may even forget their name, but you won’t forget their kindness.

Thank you very much, honourable senators.