Third reading of Bill S-223, An Act respecting Kindness Week

By: The Hon. Jim Munson

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Could wearing a Canadian flag, Toronto

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I am here with senators on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg people.

This will be a short and kind speech. Why? Because I’m in a hurry to have this bill become law. The clock is ticking in this Parliament. The clock is also ticking before my best before date, which is July 14 of this year.

After serving more than 17 years as a senator, I know that nothing makes progress in this place without cooperation and collaboration. I know these are the reasons that an act respecting kindness week has made it to third reading in such record time in this session of Parliament, even with the intermittent sitting schedule because of the COVID pandemic.

I’m grateful for the support and enthusiasm for kindness week from young people, the public and here in this chamber. I especially want to thank Senator Mary Coyle and in particular Senator Yonah Martin. Senator Martin has been by my side with this bill the first time around, and certainly the second time around, with gracious speeches about kindness. Today, along with the rest of you, I am thinking softly and with my heart about what Senator Martin is going through with the loss of her mom and her support with her family, and how good and kind she has been with giving her time with her family. To Senator Martin, this is to you with plenty of love actually.

I am proud of the Senate’s work on this bill and so many other private members’ bills during my time, including my World Autism Awareness Day bill that became law some years ago.

The Senate is an important chamber for minorities in this country, from the rights of children, persons living with disabilities, conditions in long-term care homes and mental health issues. The pandemic has highlighted our good work and ability to bring issues facing minorities into the light.

Although the pandemic has separated us physically, by simply discussing this bill we are reminding ourselves that kindness can make a difference. We open the door to connection.

I want to say again that the inspiration and architect of kindness week is Rabbi Reuven Bulka. He started kindness week for the first time right here in Ottawa 17 years ago. I hope we will be able to see his vision of a national kindness week realized in this Parliament before another election. In fact, I hope before the end of June, next month. Imagine being the first country in the world with a kindness week.

The rabbi is a spiritual leader for many of us regardless of religion. Here I am a United Church minister and I have my own rabbi. I had to say that because he is such a wonderful, good man and offers incredible guidance. He is a bridge builder and believes, like I do, in the power of inclusion. I am honoured to be the sponsor of his idea, and I am encouraged that so many senators believe in the message of kindness. Like Senator Bovey, I would also like to thank everyone on the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee with their thoughtful and heartfelt questions. We talked it through recently, and they recommended unanimously that this would go to third reading. I do want to thank all members of the Social Affairs Committee.

Kindness week will cost no money to taxpayers, but it will have a huge impact. We know that kindness can help counter bullying, anxiety and depression. A single act of kindness can increase your serotonin levels. We all need a bit of that. One act of kindness often sparks another. The scientific evidence on the benefits of kindness continues to expand and the payoffs are becoming well known.

Some people ask why do we have all these weeks and these days in this country? What does it really matter? You know what? It really does matter because it connects us to other aspects of society culturally; those who are living in seniors homes and those who are children. No matter who we are, we’re aware of what they’re doing and we can engage in what they’re doing. That’s an important part of it. It also shows government that people must pay attention to everyone in this country.

I see kindness week as an opportunity for Parliament and, in turn, Canadians to come together and create something good during a time when we need it most. I see Canada being the first country with a national kindness week.

I hope that we can get through the third reading this week and send it to the other place — this is the second time around — so this bill can become law as soon as possible.

What a way to start summer, with kindness in our hearts.

Senators, I want to thank you for your support and kindness today and every day. Thank you.

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