Philanthropy in Action

Rotman School of Business, University of Toronto


The University of Toronto has been a big part of our lives.  Irene and Donald met there and graduated from there, Donald served on the Governing Council of the University, the Executive Committee of the Governing Council, the Business Affairs Committee, and the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Budget. All in all, truly wonderful  experiences.

We donated a classroom to the Rotman School of Business…. perhaps feeling guilty that we spent too little time in the classroom as students!

We have also funded a scholarship in Innovation.

Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada


The Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada raises funds for the most needy members of our society:  children who are alone, neglected and/or abused.  We have supported the CAF for most of our adult lives, and Donald served on the Board for many years.

In 2013, Irene and Donald co-chaired the Teddy Bear Gala and raised $2 million dollars net for the CAF, the all-time record for the event.  But quite frankly, we keep hoping for that record to be surpassed, because it’s all for the kids! 

In 2017, Donald was asked to chair the very first Stand Up For Kids National Awards Committee, designed to identify and recognize extraordinary leadership in the field of child welfare. Lynn Belzberg, Dylan Cohen, Philip Crawley C.B.E., Dr Barbara Fallon, Margot Franssen O.C., Brian Gluckstein, Anna Amy Ho, The Right Honourable David Johnston, The Honourable Peter MacKay, Susan McIsaac, and David Rivard are members of that committee.

Crow’s Theatre, Toronto


Crow’s Theatre is one of the most innovative and creative theatre companies in the world.  Its artistic director, Chris Abraham, not only does amazing work at Crow’s, Stratford and elsewhere, for which he was awarded the prestigious Siminovitch Prize, but he also mentors and inspires other young directors, actors and theatre companies.

We helped provide a new permanent home for Crow’s in Toronto.  This complex also has space for smaller theatre companies to practice and perform.

United Way of Toronto & York Region, Kitchener-Waterloo and Centraide Montréal

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The United Way is a critical part of our community, and we have been supporters for most of our lives.

In 2015, the Toronto & York Region United Way increased the minimum level for leadership donations from $1000 to $1200, after many years of holding it flat. In order to help with the transition, Irene and Donald agreed to match new donations at the leadership level, doubling the impact of individual donations and stimulating further giving.  

Our community extends beyond Toronto, so we also funded similar programs with Centraide in Montréal and the United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Canada is a wonderful place to live; however, there are still many Canadians who, for a variety of reasons, aren’t able to take advantage of the opportunities available to others, and who need a helping hand.

We felt that giving to Centraide and the United Way was the best way to reach the broadest number of those in need and make a real difference. We directed our donations towards helping young people with challenges, who need as many opportunities as possible to reach their full potential.

Branksome Hall, Upper Canada College and Public Schools


We believe strongly in education, and in particular, the International Baccalaureate, which gives not only a great academic and experiential grounding, but a truly world view. Branksome Hall, for young women, and Upper Canada College, for young men, are two fine examples.

We funded a study and relaxation space at Branksome’s new Athletics and Wellness Centre, and  provide financial aid at UCC. We also made the cornerstone donation to create the Innovation Centre and Studio Theatre facility at Branksome.

We have also supported public schools in a variety of ways, including providing a reading program and books for young children at Rose Avenue Public School, and through the Children’s Book Bank. A key condition to our ICAST gift to Branksome is that a portion of the facilities and programming be made available to students from lower-income areas of the city as well.

Steve Sigurdson Queen’s Law Memorial Fund


When Steve Sigurdson, a wonderful husband and father, and Manulife’s Executive Vice-President and General Counsel, tragically passed away in November 2016, we were devastated – having lost a friend, confidante, advisor, executive and all-around terrific human being.

Steve’s colleagues in the legal profession posthumously awarded him their highest honour, The Lifetime Achievement Achievement Award, at the Canadian General Counsel Awards, and Queen’s University established the Steve Sigurdson Queen’s Law Memorial Fund.

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Sick Kids Hospital


Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto is one of the three best children’s hospitals in North America, and arguably one of the best in the world. It serves not only children of Toronto, but all over the province, and for really challenging cases, from elsewhere in Canada and, indeed, the world.

In 2017, Sick Kids kicks off a campaign to raise $1.3 billion to rebuild the clinical facilities, fund research, and improve systems.  We have made a leadership donation to the campaign.

Donald serves on the Board, and is the Chair of the Governance and Nominating Committee.

Banting Research Foundation

Continuing the legacy of Dr, Frederick Banting, the Banting Research Foundation funds the most promising health and biomedical scientists early in their careers. Awards are given the highest-ranked applicants after a rigorous peer-reviewed competition.

We are regular donors to the BRF, and Donald serves on the Board, Audit and Finance and Governance Committees.

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