MAINTAINING A GREAT LEGACY FOR CANADA
The number 13 has traditionally been considered an unlucky number. It was on March 13, 2006 that we learned that the Federal Government would cease to fund the terrific work that the Canadian Unity Council had been doing. It was Friday the 13th of March, 2009 that the Governors of the Canadian Unity Council met at the St James Club in Montreal held their final general meeting to officially shut down the Council.
The Canadian Unity Council began as the Canada Committee, became the Council For Canadian Unity and finally the Canadian Unity Council. It was formed in the mid-1960’s by five or six Montreal businessmen with the mission of countering the growing separatist movement in Quebec at that time. It was started by T.R. Anthony Malcolm, Bruce Kippen and a few others who put up their own money for the start-up. They hired a young man named Jocelyn Beaudoin, as their President. Jocelyn spent most of his adult life developing and running the organization and its programs while recruiting and working with the committed volunteers across the country whose mission was to strengthen Canada.
The Council organized hundreds of symposia and discussions in every part of Canada. There was not a province or territory where the CUC was not active from the very beginning. Over its forty year history, the Council played a key role in promoting Canadian Unity through a variety of programs and activities including:
- The Centre for Research and Information on Canada (CRIC) – CRIC managed the Canadian Unity Council’s research and communications activities by interviewing and polling Canadians nationally, regionally and culturally on a variety of topics. CRIC held a variety of public forums to discuss a range of relevant issues. Its quantitative and qualitative research and the activities that it organized were tied directly to Council goals. The research results were published in ‘Portraits of Canada’ and ‘Opinions Canada. These CUC publications were invaluable for business associations, trade unions, various levels of government, academics, the media, and the public as they provided them with solid information about what Canadians were thinking on a range of important issues.
- Canadians in Europe – this program reached out to Canadians living and working in Europe as well as European decision makers as it kept them informed about Canadian issues.
- Young Leaders – This initiative targeted young adults aged 18 – 39 who were the young leaders of our country. The CUC brought them together to discuss national and regional issues and to get their feedback.
- Canada Week and Canada Day – The Council initiated and organized Canada Week and Canada Day on July 1st. Its organization of Canada Day celebrations from 1969 to 1980 in 1,000 communities across Canada involved over 25,000 volunteers. That event organization was eventually taken over by the government. These times of national celebration provided some balance to St. Jean Baptiste day celebrations in Quebec.
- Referendum Support – When constitutional issues loomed – such as the Quebec sovereignty referendums of 1980 and 1995 – the Council was ready and able to rally federalist forces, regardless of the political affiliation of individuals. Thousands of willing CUC volunteers traveled to Quebec in 1995 to tell Quebecers that the rest of Canada wanted them to remain in Confederation. The CUC is widely recognized for being instrumental in turning the tide of the vote toward Canada.
- Youth Programs – The Council operated a number of youth programs including:
- The Summer Work / Student Exchange program – this program ran from early July to mid-August and was aimed at students who were 16 and 17 years of age. The program staff in conjunction with their M.P.’s found jobs for participants in a federal riding in another province. Ridings were paired so that students would work in their second official language. During their stay in the host riding, each student lived with the family of the student with whom they have been paired. Cross Canadian understanding was the result.
- Experience Canada – this was a program that built bridges between the young people of Canada and young people from 15 other nations. It helped them develop leadership qualities, and it increased their understanding of the challenges of globalization. It provided them all with an opportunity to know Canadian institutions and values.
- Encounters with Canada – This program commenced in 1982 and is Canada’s largest and most successful youth program. Each week from the middle of September to the first week in May, 125 – 130 teenagers aged 14 – 17 travel to Ottawa from the ten provinces and three territories. They stay at the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre and the program involves a mixture of studying our Canadian institutions such as the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, along with studying their choice of one of the eleven themes being offered that week such as law, business and entrepreneurship, medicine etc. To learn more about the program go to www.encounters-rencontres.ca. Although these young Canadians come from different economic, ethnic, racial and geographic regions, they soon discover that their common values far out-weigh their differences. They share a common love and respect for this country. By September of 2012, its thirtieth anniversary, the program had over 90,000 student alumni.
In March of 2006, the Federal Government decided to end the funding for the Canadian Unity Council. After forty years, the programs initiated by the CUC that played such an instrumental part in promoting Canadian Unity collapsed. When the funding cancellation was announced, a massive, national letter campaign to save the Encounters With Canada program commenced. Letters went to every M.P., Senator, the Prime Minister, the Heritage Minister, the other Cabinet Ministers, the Provincial Ministries of Education, the Dominion and Provincial Commands and of the Royal Canadian Legion, past EWC participants and their parents, schools, school districts and teacher associations across the country. The result was instant and huge. This campaign resulted in many of these people and organizations writing to the Prime Minister, the Heritage Minister and their own M.P. objecting to the cancellation.
In May 2006, Heritage Minister Oda publicly announced that the Encounters With Canada program would be saved. This meant that the program would have to be sold by the Canadian Unity Council. Duane Daly, the Dominon Secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion made an offer on behalf of the Legion as did CUC Governors Gary Bennett and Bruce Kippen on behalf of the newly formed Encounters With Canada Foundation. The program was eventually purchased by the Historica Foundation. It was suggested by the Heritage Ministry to the Historica Foundation that Duane Daly, Bruce Kippen, and Gary Bennett be given an invitation to sit on the Historica Foundation Advisory Council. That invitation was accepted and these three set about setting up a new independent foundation called The Encounters With Canada Support Foundation / Fondation de soutien à Rencontres du Canada. They put together a proposal for the Canadian Unity Council to return funds left over from the sale of the Encounters program to the Historica Foundation, to this new foundation to subsidize students from low income families who want to participate in the program. This proposal was widely supported by CUC Governors across the country including such great Canadians as Patrick Reid in Vancouver to Yves Fortier in Montreal. It was supported by former CUC Board Chairs, by former CUC President Jocelyn Beaudoin, by the Board of the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Historica Foundation. The proposal was put before the CUC board at the final Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Unity Council on March 13, 2009 in Montreal. The CUC Board voted unanimously to transfer to The Encounters With Canada Support Foundation / Fondation de soutien à Rencontres du Canada, 75% of the remaining funds; after all the bills were paid this amounted to $214,000. These transferred funds were placed in a permanent endowment fund named “The Canadian Unity Council Permanent Endowment Fund ‘, and as mentioned above, the revenue from this fund has been used to subsidize students who want to go to the program.
Without exception, the CUC Governors across the country are proud of the tremendous work that the organization did for Canada over its forty years. They are, of course, sad about the CUC’s demise; however, they recognize that the legacy of the Canadian Unity Council will live on through The Young Citizens Foundation.Gary Bennett, President of The Young Citizens Foundation – La fondation des jeunes citoyens Past President of The Encounters With Canada Support Foundation / Fondation de soutien à Rencontres du Canada, Past Governor and Board Member of the Canadian Unity Council.