Promoting National Citizenship & Leadership Development Programs for Canadas Youth

The First Version – The Encounters With Canada Foundation

The concept of establishing the independent foundation, now named The Young Citizens Foundation was born out of necessity.  It really is an outgrowth of the Canadian Unity Council that was established in 1964 to promote a stronger and more unified federation both in Quebec and the rest of the country.  The CUC operated many citizenship programs, including several youth programs, to promote that unifying goal.  On March 13, 2006, the Federal Government announced that it was ending funding for the Canadian Unity Council.  That meant the end of the CUC and in particular one of the most successful of its youth programs, Encounters With Canada.  Gary Bennett, then the British Columbia President of The Encounters With Canada Program, and the National Chair of the CUC Youth programs, aided by EWC staff and national volunteers, initiated a national letter campaign to convince the Ministry of Heritage to save the EWC program.  As a result of that campaign, the federal government decided that while The Canadian Unity Council itself would no longer receive funding, the Ministry would continue to sponsor EWC.   The Encounters With Canada Program had been saved.

As a result of that campaign, each year approximately 3,200 students are able to attend the program.  In addition, approximately 50 adults have very good employment.  Moreover, as a result of the letter campaign, the Canadian Unity Council, still the owner of the program, realized an immediate windfall as it now had a commitment from the Ministry of Heritage that the program would be saved and funded by the federal government.  Rather than the program ceasing to exist and thus having no value, the EWC program was now a very valuable asset to the CUC.  However, the program had to be sold because the CUC would cease to exist.

In case there were no acceptable purchasers, Michel Desjardins, the President of the CUC and Gary Bennett, the B. C. President of EWC, established the Encounters With Canada Foundation.  The Letters Patent and By-Laws were drawn up with the help of the Montreal law firm of CAIN LAMARRE CASGRAIN WELLS.  Because of Michel Desjardins’s upcoming role of determining who the eventual buyer may be, he withdrew as a director of the foundation to avoid any conflict of interest.

At a meeting in Ottawa in May of 2006, chaired by Gary Bennett and attended by Duane Daly, the Dominion Secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion, Michel Desjardins on behalf of the CUC, The Ministry of Heritage Assistant Deputy Minister, Diane Fulford and her principal advisor Brian Gilhuly, Exchanges Canada representative Marie Bedard, and Linda Brunet, the Director General of the program, the various options were discussed.  Mr. Bennett outlined a rationale for the Encounters With Canada Foundation becoming the new owner.  Duane Daly outlined an offer to the CUC for The Royal Canadian Legion to become the new owner.  In essence, both of these offers entailed the CUC transferring ownership of the program rights and the titles of the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Center and the Director General’s house to the new entity.  While the new owner would assume the obligations of the mortgages on the properties, neither offer provided any additional cash to the CUC.  However, from the Canadian Unity Council’s perspective, both of these offers were unacceptable as they did not provide any additional cash for the CUC.  The meeting was a success because it finally brought all the parties to the table to discuss the issues and to set a course of action moving forward.  The Ministry determined that it must go and find a credible buyer that would be acceptable to the Canadian Unity Council.

During that time, Gary Bennett and Bruce Kippen an honorary CUC Governor and one of the original governors who set up the council, began to discuss putting together an offer that the CUC could find acceptable.  The offer included purchasing the intellectual rights to the EWC program, the title to the properties, and a significant and competitive amount of cash but was contingent upon the EWC Foundation signing an acceptable operating agreement with the Ministry.  Once formulated, this offered was communicated both to the board of the CUC and to the Ministry.  Parallel to these discussions, the Ministry had approached the Historica Foundation to see if it was interested in buying the program. The Ministry was already financing other Historica programs.  Historica put forth an offer with similar conditions.  The CUC and the Ministry decided to go with the Historica offer. Once the agreement with Historica had been reached, the Ministry requested that Historica invite Duane Daly, Bruce Kippen and Gary Bennett to sit on Historica’s Advisory Council.  All three accepted.

These three subsequently came to the conclusion an independent foundation could help the program in its recruiting as well as acting as an independent advocate.  In addition to this situation, it was realized that in a short period of time, the CUC would be winding up its operations and would have to disburse its remaining funds.  Duane, Bruce and Gary decided to re-examine the concept of an independent foundation. In the fall of 2007, Mr. Bennett approached Katia Sebastiani of CAIN LAMARRE CASGRAIN WELLS in Montreal to see if she would be interested in working with Bruce and Duane on the Encounters With Canada Foundation project on a pro-bono basis.  Katia had done much of the work in establishing the original foundation.  She replied that she would and a collaborative effort was begun in re-examining the work that had already been completed.  The foundation had to be independent in order to:

  1. receive the full support of The Royal Canadian Legion;
  2. receive any of the final disbursement monies from the Canadian Unity Council;
  3. honour any commitments made to its future donors without being in a conflict of interest situation;
  4. freely lobby on behalf of the Encounters With Canada Program and its participants.

To follow up on our history, read ‘The Second Version’.