Slaight Family Foundation Gifts $15M to 12 Organizations Supporting Women and Girls

By Karen Bliss 2/8/22 |

Gary Slaight — photo credit: The Slaight Family Foundation.
The Slaight Family Foundation, one of Toronto’s most wide-reaching family foundations, has announced its latest charitable give of $15 million to 12 organizations across Canada, focused on improving the lives of women and girls, with a focus on Indigenous, Black, racialized, refugee and immigrant communities.

A little under a year ago, they divvied up $30 million to 19 Canadian organizations offering mental health services. This latest gift brings the foundation’s total, to date, to $170 million, all programs and initiatives thoroughly considered, expanded or created.

The new recipients of the family’s generosity and focus are: Canadian Women’s Foundation, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, Covenant House, Girls E-Mentorship (GEM), New Circles, Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), Ontario Native Women’s Association, University Health Network (UHN), Women’s College Hospital Foundation, Women’s Shelters Canada, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands CHC (WHIWH), and YWCA.

“The pandemic has added to the many challenges faced by women and girls across Canada, and particularly in Indigenous, racialized and refugee communities,” said the Slaight Family Foundation’s president and CEO Gary Slaight in a statement. “This initiative is about helping people escape difficult circumstances, providing support for mental and physical health, and overcoming barriers so that women and girls across Canada can live their lives unburdened by unfair, unhealthy or unsafe circumstances.”

Details of each programs are below, but they range from the expansion of the HIV program at WHIWH  to Canada’s first national survivor emergency support fund, via the YWCA, to the expansion of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre at UHN, and The Slaight Family Scholars Program to support 40 BIPOC women medical students at NOSM.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, a long-time friend of the Slaight family, said, "These latest Slaight Family Foundation grants will go a long way to help us with the ongoing recovery from the pandemic and the achievement of our broader objective of ensuring equity and advancement for women,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement.  “This funding will ensure better health, safety and more opportunity for women in Toronto and across Canada and that is good for women and good for all of us."

The Slaight Family Foundation was established in 2008 by the late John Allan Slaight, a broadcast pioneer and prominent philanthropist. Through his generosity, the Foundation supports charitable initiatives in the areas of healthcare, at-risk youth international development, social services and culture. His son Gary manages the foundation.

Since 2013, the Foundation's thorough vetting to identify needs has led to impactful and life-changing initiatives, starting with a gift of $50 million split between five Toronto hospitals to support priority healthcare issues, followed by millions more in donations to address global humanitarianism, healthy development of children and youth across Canada, support for Indigenous issues, a seniors’ initiative to help keep seniors in their homes and communities; 2020’s  initiative to support more than one million women and girls globally; and 2021’s priority to mental health, given the challenges exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic.

“On behalf of the recipient organizations, I want to express my deepest gratitude to The Slaight Family Foundation for their leadership and this generous support of women’s and girls’ well-being across several critical areas,” said Valerie McMurtry, president & CEO, Children's Aid Foundation of Canada. “In Canada, we have many outdated systems that continue to impede the advancement of women’s and girls’ success. As a collective, we are working to break down these barriers and achieve equality.”

Mark Aston, executive director, Covenant House Toronto, also offered his own press statement: “Thank you to The Slaight Family Foundation for your remarkable investment in innovative programs supporting women and girls facing significant barriers in our community. “Young women whose journeys have included homelessness are more likely to have already experienced trauma, abuse, exploitative relationships, discrimination, poverty and barriers to housing, education and employment. We know that a holistic solution is needed as we work together to help support brighter and more equitable futures for women and girls.”

Below are more details of The Slaight Family Foundation Women and Girls Initiative Program:

Canadian Women’s Foundation —  $1.5M: Slaight Family Foundation Ending Gender Based Violence in Critical Communities Grant

This program will provide support to community organizations serving marginalized women, girls and gender-diverse people in urban centres to help abuse survivors leave dangerous situations and rebuild their lives. A variety of grants will be issued that address: domestic violence, emergency assistance, skill development and help to women in dangerous situations.

Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada — $1M: Mothers In Mind Program

Mothers in Mind (MIM), an evidence-informed program of Child Development Institute (CDI), is a trauma-informed mother-child group intervention for mothers who have experienced trauma, including domestic violence, and are parenting children under the age of four. MIM helps mothers connect with their young children in a playful, supportive environment, where parenting strengths are highlighted and built upon. MIM enhances parent-child relationships, strengthens parenting confidence and creates opportunities for connection between families with shared experiences. 

Covenant House — $1M: New supports for youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness

Covenant House is launching a new pilot program to test a model of care for female identifying youth between 16-24 years old who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness and ready to make a commitment to moving forward. This program provides a holistic solution that includes support with housing, education, employment, mental health, skills development, mentorship for up to three years.

Girls E-Mentorship (GEM) —$500K: Expansion of mentorship program

She Soars project will provide an additional 400 BIPOC high school girls in the GTA facing social and economic barriers with mentorship, leadership, and professional development support to achieve their academic and career goals. Support includes: one to one mentoring, skills development, networking, internships and scholarships that will reduce systemic barriers and improve academic opportunities leading to better lives.

New Circles — $1M: Women’s Rise Program

Women RISE will help racialized newcomer women, and other women living on low incomes, break through barriers and rise to meet their potential by increasing their skills through employment training, volunteer programming and support to launch their own small businesses – with all the apparel they’ll need along the way. This will support over 14,000 women with relief from financial pressure, and a flexible path to economic resilience and independence during the four years of the program.

Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) — $1M: The Slaight Family Scholars Program

The Slaight Family Scholars Program will support 40 BIPOC women medical students living in Northern Ontario with a first of its kind entrance scholarship. This will lead to an increase in both the number of female (including trans and non-binary) doctors in Northern Ontario but will also increase the overall number of doctors in Northern Ontario paving the way for more BIPOC female medicine students across the country.

Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) — $1M: HERS (Healing, Empowerment, Reclamation, Safety) Program

HERS (Healing, Empowerment, Reclamation, Safety) Program is to support, educate, and empower Indigenous women at an individual and collective level. Healing from collective trauma is the foundation of reclaiming Indigenous women’s leadership and voice.

Through the creation of a national campaign focused on Indigenous women coming together to stand up against violence, the Red Jingle Campaign; symbolized by the Grandmother Earth Red Dress, represents the violence that Indigenous women experience 365 days a year. The campaign’s main purpose is for Indigenous women to reclaim their inherent leadership and empowerment by coming together to support each other through their healing journey. The campaign will focus on solutions designed and developed by Indigenous women for Indigenous women.

University Health Network (UHN) — $2M: National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC)

Through a variety of initiatives, NEDIC will expand its eating disorder support to reach more Canadians, with a focus on women and marginalized communities. Resources will be translated into more languages to make the information more accessible to Canada’s diverse populations, with additional resources being created to address the specific needs and challenges of BIPOC communities. In addition, NEDIC will expand its instant chat service, the only service of its kind in Canada, with more hours including weekend service to better support those with eating disorders across Canada.

Women's College Hospital Foundation  — $1M: From Surviving to Thriving: Championing Health, Well-Being and Opportunity for Refugee Women and Girls community initiative

This new initiative at Women’s College Hospital’s Crossroads Clinic for Refugees, Toronto’s first and only hospital-based refugee clinic, will ignite Women’s three-pronged strategy (A.I.D.) for refugee women and girls in Canada. Refugee women will have the opportunity to connect, inform, collaborate, and help develop health-related skillsets and health system solutions. This will be done through advocacy work by the Clinic and community partners to address the enormous gaps in current understanding and evidence about the healthcare and related needs of refugee women and girls in Canada; the support of existing and new interventions and educational resources to enhance quality care and equity for improved long-term health outcomes; and providing tools, equipment and other resources for women and their families to better respond to current healthcare needs.

Women's Shelters Canada (WSC) —  $2M: Expansion of second stage shelters

This will increase the number of Second Stage Shelters for women and their children who are at risk of danger post-separation from intimate partner violence. Second Stage Shelters are transitional housing that support women and their children who need additional time to heal from their trauma and rebuild their lives. This funding will enable the development of formalized plans to access federal funding for 16 new Second Stage Shelters across Canada.

Women's Health in Women's Hands CHC (WHIWH) —  $1M: Expansion of HIV program

This initiative will expand HIV testing and strengthen links with local HIV testing sites for African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) newcomer, immigrant and refugee women living in the GTA. In addition, the initiative will enable expansion of support and care services provided at WHIWH for ACB women who have been diagnosed with HIV. Navigational support will be provided to women to help with internal and external appointments, monitoring and follow up of their needs with case managers, physicians and nurse practitioners. Medical and treatment support by family physicians at WHIWH will also be expanded.

YWCA — $2M: Canada’s first national survivor emergency support fund

This national survivor emergency support fund will support women, gender diverse people and their families leaving abusive situations by helping cover living costs such as housing, utilities, storage fees, furniture, and moving expenses. Survivors will also receive counselling, employment assistance, legal help, and childcare. The program will be delivered across the country by 12 YWCAs in both urban and rural areas, supporting 1500 survivors and their children.

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