“No matter what happens to CanWest in the future, the communities which depend on our support will have continued financial support. That is the legacy I want my successors, in management and in ownership, to inherit and nurture.”
“We believe in helping to build the communities we serve. We are committed to playing a supporting role in developing the future of the performing arts and nurturing the artistic excellence of today’s youth, the brightest stars of tomorrow.”
CanWest’s Commitment to the Community
In addition to creating The Asper Foundation with the wealth created by Canwest Global Communications Corp. (“Canwest”), CanWest, when controlled by the Asper family, supported significant initiatives in communities across Canada. CanWest believed in supporting projects that improve community life, particularly in the city it called home. In Winnipeg, where the corporate head office was based, CanWest helped fund the celebrated former CanWest Global Park, home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes Baseball Club, as well as the CanWest Global Performing Arts Centre, where the Manitoba Theatre for Young People resides. In recent years, CanWest also supported the University of Winnipeg’s establishment of a new performing arts space, now known as the CanWest Centre for Theatre and Film.
CanWest also contributed $2 million to the capital campaign of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, thus helping to ensure that the dream of a new national museum dedicated to teaching and celebrating human rights would become a reality.
CanWest Global Performing Arts Centre
The CanWest Global Performing Arts Centre is a state of the art facility that houses the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP), Manitoba’s only professional theatre devoted solely to young audiences. CanWest pledged $700,000 for the construction of this arts centre.
The 28,000 square foot venue opened in October 1999 and is located at The Forks, the most vibrant meeting place in Winnipeg. The facility is designed to accommodate staging of children’s theatre and offers rehearsal halls for the development of new performances and a theatre school. Not only did CanWest pledge its support, but Ruth Asper, daughter-in-law of Israel Asper, also led the multi-million-dollar campaign to complete the state-of-the-art facility. The building promises to offer thousands of theatre-goers years of entertainment, providing talented young actors with a place to cultivate their art. MTYP’s theatre school has an enrolment of over 1,400 students.
The CanWest Global Foundation provided ongoing support of the performance series of the Manitoba Theatre for Young People. Each season MTYP offers five mainstage plays for children and three plays for teens, reaching an audience of over 50,000 annually.
Gift from CanWest to the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre Department
Canwest Global Communications Corp. made a corporate gift of $3 million to The University of Winnipeg to establish the Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film on December 12, 2006. It was renamed the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film on September 12, 2011 in recognition of the Asper family’s instrumental role in completing the commitment originally made by Canwest. The $5.5 million project features state-of-the-art performance, production and teaching facilities for theatre and film students. It holds a 150-seat theatre, and labs and studios dedicated to performance, theatrical production and design and film and media production. As well, the Centre houses specially designed teaching spaces for costuming, make-up, lighting, stagecraft and prop development. This gift further enhances the national prominence of The University of Winnipeg’s highly-regarded Department of Theatre & Film and affirms its reputation as a centre of excellence in theatre and film studies in Canada.
CanWest television stations and newspapers supported local community initiatives, charitable events and non-profit organizations through donations of airtime and advertising space, as well as monetary contributions.
- Saskatchewan’s Teddy Bear’s Bash, raised money for the Children’s Health Foundation of Saskatchewan (donated broadcast of a three hour television special)
- Global Winnipeg’s Variety Show of Hearts broadcast raised over $550,000 for disabled and disadvantaged children in Manitoba.
- Global Ontario’s commitment supported KidsAction, a charity committed to making a difference in the lives of children with disabilities.
- Global Maritimes’ worked with Junior Achievement and Sport Nova Scotia.
- Global Quebec contributed $10,000 for the Missing Children’s Network.
- The Vancouver Sun sponsored Sun Run, the third largest 10K run in the world, raised money for Vancouver charities and the United Way.
- The Victoria Times Colonist 10K Run, an annual event for the past 13 years, raised funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
- The Saskatoon Star Phoenix sponsored the Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation, Junior Achievement and the Children’s Wish Foundation.
- The Montreal Gazette Christmas Fund which has been in existence for three decades, raised funds for the city’s less fortunate.
Raise-a-Reader, the CanWest Global Foundation’s initiative to increase awareness and raise money for children’s literacy programs, was launched nationally in the fall of 2002. Based on a successful program designed by the Vancouver Sun, Raise-a-Reader campaigns were led by the CanWest daily newspaper in each major market, with support from its sister Global television station, the city portal of canada.com as well as generous community and national sponsors. Raise-a-Reader included events that raised awareness of literacy issues, all leading up to national Raise-a-Reader day.
On that morning, newspaper columnists, Global TV personalities, city officials and other local volunteers stood on downtown street corners selling special editions of the National Post, the local market CanWest paper and other newspaper partners, such as the Winnipeg Free Press, in exchange for donations to the Raise-a-Reader program. One hundred per cent of the donated funds were distributed to local literacy organizations in the city where the money was raised.
In its first year, the national Raise-a-Reader campaign raised over $439,000 for literacy programs across Canada and was honoured by the Centre for Philanthropy and Government of Saskatchewan. Over 1,300 celebrities and volunteers in nine cities gave their time to help make this annual campaign a big success. Today, Raise-a-Reader is being carried on by Post Media which acquired the CanWest Global Communications Corp. newspaper assets in 2010. Millions of dollars continue to be raised annually in support of literacy.
Canspell is a national spelling bee and literacy initiative that CanWest Global Communications Corp. launched in 2005. It is designed to engage middle school students (Grades 4-8) by celebrating excellence in academic achievement and encouraging positive study habits. By encouraging spelling and language development through healthy competition, students learn study skills and in addition celebrate academics alongside athletics in the school setting.
In 2010, Canpsell engaged more 1,700 schools from St. John’s to Victoria and included over 250,000 students in the competitions in school, regional and national levels. Twenty-one newspapers hosted regional spelling bee events under the Canspell brand. Traditionally, the top three spellers have competed internationally at the famous Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. In its inaugural year, the Canadian winner came in second overall internationally. Canpsell is Canada’s first national spelling bee and parents, teachers and students greatly support and look forward to this initiative on an annual basis.
Health and Welfare
Many of CanWest’s newspapers had committed financial and in kind resources to support healthcare institutions and programs across the country. Their support has included financial contributions to the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, Ottawa Civic Hospital, and Advanced Coronary Treatment of Canada. Commitments by individual newspapers included:
- The Ottawa Citizen – supported Ottawa area hospitals and the Ottawa Heart Institute
- The Calgary Herald – supported the Canadian Liver Foundation, Kids Cancer Care Foundation, and Calgary Health Trust at Foothills Hospital
- The Saskatoon Star Phoenix – supported Saskatchewan Cerebral Palsy, Saskatoon Crisis Nursery, and St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation
- The Victoria Times Colonist – supported Victoria Search and Rescue, the Vancouver Island Cancer Centre, and Greater Victoria Hospital Foundation
- Pacific Press – supported Vancouver General and Lions Gate Hospitals
The United Way
The CanWest head office and the company’s television stations and newspapers made annual corporate donations to their local United Way/Centraide agency and encourage staff to take part in employee campaigns. Several CanWest executives, including Gail Asper, have chaired their community’s campaigns.
CanWest was also proud to be included among the handful of Canadian companies that raised $1 million or more for the United Way employee and corporate campaign.
CanWest Global Community Spirit Awards
Established in 1996, the CanWest Global Community Spirit Awards celebrated the extraordinary volunteer contributions of its staff. CanWest employees were selected each year based on significant volunteer contributions to charitable organizations and community related activities. These employees then selecedt a charity of their choice and CanWest donates $1,000 in each employee’s name.
Corporate Matching Gift Program
CanWest encouraged its employees to contribute to the community through the Matching Gift Fund, where CanWest matches employee cash donations dollar-for dollar– up to $200 annually – to registered charities.
Each year CanWest recognized employees who demonstrated the attributes of entrepreneurship and community spirit. Izzy Awards were given to the employees who best combine these qualities that are characteristic of CanWest’s founder. Since the program’s inception in 2001, Izzy Awards had been awarded to employees in all parts of CanWest’s operations, including a recipient in New Zealand’s television operations. All the recipients had shown a desire to go the extra mile, both in their business dealings and in their communities.
CanWest’s commitment to communities extended beyond Canada into all the countries where it operated, building a stronger world community. Its international operations – TV3 and TV4 New Zealand, TV3 Ireland and Network TEN Australia – were actively involved in supporting local charities and organizations.