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  • 1965

    The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation is established

  • 1966

    Early granting focus

  • 1969

    Support for the AGO

  • 1970

    The next generation

  • 1972

    Supporting an Independent Canada

  • 1973

    Duncan's legacy of service

  • 1980

    Peace and security takes center stage

  • 1981

    Protecting the environment

  • 1987

    A changing of the guard

  • 1988

    An early focus on Arctic security

  • 1989

    Modern leadership and improving public education

  • 1990

    The Walter Gordon Forum on Public Policy

  • 1991

    Protecting the Arctic

  • 1996

    Forming the Arctic Council

  • 1997

    Voices from the Bay

  • 2001

    POWI and the Akitsiraq Law School

  • 2002

    A change in direction

  • 2005

    Buried Treasure

  • 2007

    Changing the Flow and the IBA Toolkit

  • 2008

    Protecting Canadian Freshwater

  • 2009

    Changing with the times

  • 2010

    Supporting the North

  • 2011

    Canada's Great Basin and Canada Water Week

  • 2012

    Protecting the Mackenzie Basin

  • 2014

    Cold Amazon

  • 2015

    Introducing Mackenzie DataStream

  • 2016

    A Fresh Perspective

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

1965

Gordon Foundation History

In 1965 The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation was established by brothers Duncan and Walter Gordon and Walter’s wife Elizabeth Gordon. Foundation objectives were broadly defined as: “to promote, assist and engage in charitable work throughout Canada.”

Founders

Walter Gordon

Born in Toronto on January 27, 1906, Walter Lockhart Gordon was the oldest of the three sons and two daughters of Lt. Colonel Harry Duncan Lockhart Gordon and Kathleen H. Cassels.

Gordon’s father served with distinction in World War I, and his wife and his two oldest children (Walter and Hugh) spent several of these years (1915-1918) in England where they attended the Grange preparatory school. Gordon noted that it was during this period that he experienced a nascent sense of his Canadian identity. While attending school in England, he contracted polio. The disease affected his vision and paralyzed some of his facial muscles.

On their return to Canada, Walter Gordon followed in his father’s footsteps, attending Upper Canada College in Toronto and then the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston.

In 1927 he joined the family accountancy firm Clarkson, Gordon and Company and was made partner in 1935.

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Gordon, known as the ‘figure wizard’ was commandeered to help establish the Foreign Exchange Control Board. During the war years, he was special advisor to the deputy minister of finance. In 1946, he chaired the Royal Commission on Administrative Classification in the Public Service. In the immediate post-war years he also helped reorganize Ontario Hydro, paving the way for its future development.

In 1955, Gordon, a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Toronto and past president of the Toronto Board of Trade, was asked by Prime Minister St. Laurent to chair a royal commission on Canada’s long-term economic prospects.

The Gordon Commission, created in response to the rising tide of foreign ownership in the Canadian economy, addressed concerns that were revisited by Gordon throughout his career and were later reflected in the establishment of the Foundation.

In the 1962 federal election, Gordon was elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal for the riding of Toronto-Davenport in the government of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. He served as Minister of Finance between 1963 and 1965, and President of the Privy Council from 1967-1968. These years were characterized by his ongoing concern over Canada’s control of its economy and his support for new social programs.

In 1968, after declining an invitation to join the government of the newly elected Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, whose leadership he had supported, Gordon returned to his business career. However, he continued to argue for greater Canadian control of the country’s economy and in 1970, was instrumental in helping to establish the Committee for an Independent Canada. The CIC, active until 1981, included members from a broad array of professions and all three major political parties. The Committee published a number of books on economic nationalism and overall, achieved many of its goals.

Gordon also served as Chair of the Canadian Institute for Economic Policy between 1978-1984, as Chancellor of York University from 1973 -1977, and as a Senior Fellow at Massey College from 1973-1978.

Walter Gordon was an inspiration to more than one generation of Canadians and he is still remembered today for his unwavering defense of Canada’s economic independence and sovereignty. His philanthropic legacy continues to serve as a shining example of his and his family’s, commitment to the public good. This commitment is in integral to the ongoing work of the Foundation’s Directors and staff.

Walter Gordon’s passion for public policy drove a large part of the Foundation’s grant making in the early years. For example, support was provided to the Canadian Institute on Public Affairs, Canadian Institute on Economic Policy, the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and Massey College, where Walter Gordon served as a Senior Fellow. Following in this legacy, the Foundation endowed the Walter Gordon Forum on Public Policy in 1990, now a much-anticipated yearly event at Massey College.

Walter Gordon was widely known and respected for his principled commitment to his country and his generous philanthropy. Among other honours, he was made a Commander of the British Empire and a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Duncan Gordon

Born in 1914, Duncan Lockhart Gordon was the third son of Lt. Colonel Harry Duncan Lockhart Gordon and Kathleen H. Cassels’ five children. Like his father and two older brothers, he was educated at Upper Canada College in Toronto and the Royal Military College in Kingston.

He served in uniform from the beginning to the end of the Second World War—more than six years—and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. While fighting with Canadian forces in Italy, Duncan was wounded at the battle of Monte Casino. He was awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal as well as the Italy Star and other military campaign decorations

On his return from Europe after WWII, Duncan Gordon joined Clarkson, Gordon & Company where he became a senior partner and ran the company after his brother entered politics.

Although he had a quieter public profile than Walter, he was passionately involved with the development of the Hospital for Sick Children and served for many years as Chair of its board of directors.

His interest in health issues is reflected in the work of the Foundation between 1965 and 1987. Its beneficiaries included the Canadian Institute for Child Health, St. John Ambulance, Montreal General Hospital, Toronto General Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital Fund, National Mental Health Fund, the Canadian Paraplegic Association, the Lupus Association, Dying with Dignity, Hospice King and the Casey House Hospice.

In 1987 he was awarded the Order of Canada.

Elizabeth Gordon

With her keen intellect, her strong sense of one’s role and responsibilities in the wider society, and her boundless energy, Elizabeth Gordon achieved great influence within her family, in the Toronto of her times, and in the growth of family philanthropy in Canada as a whole.

She was also passionate supporter of her husband’s interests and career, and she played a key role in the evolution of the Foundation.

Elizabeth Gordon was born in Hamilton, Ontario. She attended private schools and then traveled to Europe as part of her ongoing education. It was there that she developed a lifelong interest in art, history, and culture. She returned to Canada to marry Walter Gordon who was just starting in the family firm. They had three children: Kyra, Jane, and John.

For many years, Elizabeth led the Women’s Committee at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario). In her own words she defined their mission as follows: to stimulate interest in the Gallery, and to increase its membership.

To that end and a she inaugurated a number of activities. These included—among many others—Gallery luncheons that were held after every opening. The Committee members were responsible for cooking and serving the lunches, for which they charged a dollar. She also instituted a series of lectures on everything from flower arranging to old china to Picasso, an annual painting and sculpture sale, and tours of artists’ studios.

Many of the paintings and sculptures which are among the most prized in the AGO collection, are testimony to her determined leadership, resolute fundraising ability, and connoisseur’s eye. Elizabeth Gordon reached out beyond the role of arts patron to establish warm and enduring friendships with many leading Canadian artists of her generation.

Until the early 1990s, through the Foundation, Elizabeth Gordon encouraged emerging art galleries and museums across Ontario by providing grants to enable them to purchase original works of art. The first arts grant was made in1969 to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The Foundation also contributed to the Toronto Dance Theatre, the Shaw Festival and the Tarragon Theatre, co-founded by her daughter Jane Glassco. In memory of Mrs. Gordon, the Foundation continues the Elizabeth L. Gordon Art Program, which enables public galleries in Ontario to expand their collections. An evaluation of the Art Program, undertaken in 2000, strongly affirmed the impact of this modest matching grants program.

Elizabeth Gordon also had a decisively beneficial influence on the lives of many individuals through the discretionary fund that she supervised within the Foundation. The fund provided essential financial support to a widening network of family, friends, colleagues, and members of the community who found themselves in difficult circumstances. This support, dispensed generously, was given without any expectation of gratitude or indebtedness; for Elizabeth Gordon the fund simply enabled her fulfill her responsibility to help others less fortunate than herself.

Throughout their marriage, she was Walter Gordon’s helpmate. They shared a passion for discovery, learning how people and systems working, travelling to every part of the world to see for themselves. However, nowhere were they happier than at their country property north of Toronto, which they transformed from bald glacial moraine land into a dense forest with splendid gardens and productive fields, a protected natural environment, a testament to their love of the land and their country.

Kyra L. Montagu

Kyra Montagu is a practicing psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in Cambridge, Massachusetts after a previous career developing many different kinds of programs with both museums and artists in the Boston area. She has become increasingly interested recently in issues affecting refugees and their livelihoods.

Kyra is married to Jean (Coco) Montagu and is the mother of Sasha and Dominic Montagu.

John Gordon

The youngest of the Gordon children, John Gordon was born in 1946 and followed in his father Walter’s footsteps forging a career as a Chartered Accountant and later, as an award winning Land Developer. John’s involvement in The Foundation began as it was reinventing itself in the mid- to late-eighties following the deaths of Walter and Duncan in 1987.

As each of the Gordon children assumed a leadership position and individual focus within The Foundation, John’s a passion for education emerged; with a specific focus on improving Canadian public schools and supporting at risk youth. He led the education program at the Gordon Foundation for eight years, championing many successful initiatives including, “Student Voices,” a study of how to boost student confidence and the conference “Listening to the Voices” that followed.

It was John’s work on the Manitoba School Improvement Program (MSIP) that best reflected his passion, business style, and commitment. Designed to be simple, direct and innovative, the MSIP was launched in 1990 to support all worthwhile programs or initiatives conceived by Winnipeg educators to enhance their students’ learning experience. At the time, Manitoba had yet to standardize public education and John recognized the opportunity for innovation and improved experiences for students and educators.

John Gordon passed away on October 16, 2015. He played an integral role in the modernization of The Gordon Foundation and his passion for education has carried forward to today through the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship program. John’s passion continues to serve as inspiration and the Glassco Fellows embody all that John stood for: dynamic young leaders committed to the prosperity and independence of their communities and ways of life.

Jane Glassco

Through her tireless work with The Gordon Foundation, Jane Lockhart Glassco (nee Gordon) brought awareness of aboriginal communities, ideas and projects from the North to the attention of the philanthropic community. Her keen mind and passionate nature gave her voice on improving education in Canada, as well as strengthening our sovereignty over Canada’s water and northern borders, to better protect both natural resources and aboriginal rights.

“Jane shaped one of the best known and long-lasting philanthropic foundation legacies in this country. She never wavered in her commitment to the north and its people, and showed a keen interest in what people on the ground, in the communities, had to say, not in what the experts and political leaders had to say. Way, way, ahead of the curve in the way she thought about social change” said James Stauch, former vice-president of The Gordon Foundation, who worked alongside Jane for many years.

Along with her dedication to the North through The Gordon Foundation, Jane helped found Tarragon Theatre, contributing her instinct for spotting fine writing by then-unheard of Canadian playwrights, and pioneering Pay What You Can matinees, thereby making quality theatre more accessible to all Canadians.

She then moved into journalism, breaking a front page environmental story about Scarborough housing developments built knowingly over an abandoned nuclear waste dump.

At the CBC, she was a brave and tenacious investigative reporter and producer, first for Marketplace, and then as a producer of award-winning stories for Wonderstruck. Jane showed her passion for Canada and for people in her documentary series ‘Our Stories’, focussing on the positive impacts on Canadian life made by so many individuals from different immigrant and aboriginal groups. Jane was probably most proud of her work as an activist and environmentalist.

Jane passed away peacefully at her home on April 28, 2010, surrounded by her family and friends.

Following her passing, The Gordon Foundation honoured Jane by launching the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowships, whose purpose is to help link young northerners with support to build their own futures and amplify their voice on public policy issues.

She showed true stewardship of the land in transforming her family farm, protecting over 300 acres of what was once eroded and abandoned fields into woodlands, meadows and wetlands which now form the core of the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust. She was given the 2007 Charles Sauriol Environmental Award by Robert Kennedy Jr. in recognition of her conservation gift to the people of Ontario.

Jane lived many roles in life: daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, sheep farmer, wild “flower child” and surrogate family to many, many friends. She embraced the world in many ways, from her early passion to be a doctor, to her astounding efforts in theatre, journalism, filmmaking and community activism. Her evolution into an organic lamb farmer, environmentalist and activist/ philanthropist was a beautiful synergy of her passions. Throughout her life she was a mentor who inspired innovation & compassion, taking risks and showing respect.

Everyone who came to know her was touched by her colourful character, compassion, love, and unabashed honesty, wily mischievousness, unforgivable humour and her reverence for art, life and the natural world and the need to protect it. And trudge around in it a bit.

1966

Gordon Foundation History

In 1966, during the early days of the Foundation, the founders each had a personal focus for their giving related closely to their personal and professional passions: for Walter, that was public policy; for Duncan, healthcare and the north; and for Elizabeth, the arts. Much of the Gordon Foundation’s early activity focused on providing grants and funding related to these distinct fields.

1969

Gordon Foundation History

In 1969 the first Gordon Foundation arts grant was made to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Elizabeth Gordon avidly supported the arts and guided the Foundation’s focus in this field up to the early 1990s.

1970

Gordon Foundation History

In 1970 Walter and Elizabeth Duncan’s adult children – Kyra, Jane, and John – were added as Foundation trustees, taking on active roles in the ongoing management and strategic direction of the Foundation.

1972

Gordon Foundation History

In 1972 The Gordon Foundation supported the Committee for an Independent Canada, reflecting Walter Gordon’s devotion to the ideal of Canada’s economic independence.

1973

Gordon Foundation History

Building on his commitment to improved healthcare, Duncan Gordon served as Board Chairman for the Hospital for Sick Children from 1973 – 1984. Starting as a Trustee in 1955, Duncan served on the board for 28 years.

1980

Gordon Foundation History

After supporting numerous peacekeeping, peacemaking and nuclear disarmament initiatives throughout the 70s, The Gordon Foundation formalized a Peace and Security program in 1980. Between 1980 and 1998, grants were made to 46 organizations addressing peace and security issues.

1981

Gordon Foundation History

In 1981 The Gordon Foundation supported Pollution Probe. This initial grant lead to a multi-year partnership with the Coalition on Acid Rain, reinforcing the Gordon family’s early interest in addressing Canadian environmental issues.

Today Pollution Probe remains a leading organization with a focus on communities, health and the environment.

1987

Gordon Foundation History

In 1987, brothers and founding members of The Gordon Foundation, Walter and Duncan Gordon passed away within 8 months of each other.

Following the passing of Walter and Duncan, Walter and Elizabeth Gordon’s children Kyra Montagu, Jane Glassco, and John Gordon assumed leadership of the Foundation and Board.

1988

Gordon Foundation History

The Foundation organized a multi-year Arctic Security Project to develop a Canadian security and demilitarization policy for the Arctic to compliment and support international circumpolar cooperation in 1988.

The Gordon Foundation’s Arctic Security Project ran from 1988 to the lead up of the creation of the Arctic Council in 1996.

1989

Gordon Foundation History

In 1989 Donald S. Rickerd was named Gordon Foundation Executive Director, serving in that role until 1990. As Executive Director, Donald’s focus was on grants towards Education (Grant to Dalhousie Law School students of Indigenous descent); Peace and Disarmament (Grants to the Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament, the Canadian Institute for International Affairs); Northern Issues (Grant to United Nations Association of Canada for a global seminar on circumpolar security); and the Arts (Grants to Canadian Native Arts Foundation, Art Gallery of Hamilton).

Also in 1989, The Gordon Foundation launched a formal Education program led by John Gordon. Over the next 11 years, the program would strengthen public education at the secondary school level across Canada.

The Manitoba School Improvement Program (MSIB) became the centerpiece of the Foundation’s early education interests, by improving the learning experiences and outcomes of junior and senior high school students in Manitoba – particularly those at risk – by building schools’ capacity to engage students in their own learning.

1990

Gordon Foundation History

In 1990 the Foundation endowed the Walter Gordon Forum on Public Policy at Massey College, building on Walter’s longstanding passion for public policy.

Also in 1990, the Foundation appointed Christine Lee as Executive Director replacing Donald S. Rickerd. Christine served in this capacity until 2002, focusing the Foundation’s granting towards Education; Arctic Security; the Arts; and Environmental Protection.

1991

Gordon Foundation History

The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was born, following meetings between officials of the eight Arctic nations to discuss Arctic environmental protection measures.

The AEPS encourages cooperation on monitoring, assessment, protection, emergency preparedness/response, and conservation in the Arctic. It has been called a major political accomplishment of the post–Cold War era representing a broad, multinational agreement to protect the environment.

1996

Gordon Foundation History

In 1996, the formal creation of the Arctic Council, signed by the eight Arctic nations and Indigenous representatives took place in Ottawa.

At the time, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy thanked “the co-chairs of the Arctic Council panel set up in 1990 with the support of The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, and the members of the panel for their efforts that laid out the ground work for this day.”

1997

Gordon Foundation History

Voices from the Bay is published as a result of a three-year study funded by The Gordon Foundation involving the 28 Inuit and Cree communities surrounding Hudson’s Bay and James Bay.

The groups met and gathered together for the first time in history to respond to the anticipated construction of Hydro Quebec’s project on the Great Whale River. Voices from the Bay has since been recognized nationally and internationally as a landmark in the use and communication of traditional Indigenous environmental knowledge.

2001

Gordon Foundation History

In 2001, The Gordon Foundation helped create the Program on Water Issues (POWI) at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, bringing together scientists, experts and policy makers to both assess the state of Canada’s water resources and to promote public education on water priorities.

As the founding funder of POWI, The Gordon Foundation is proud to have invested in POWI’s mission to create opportunities for members of the private, public, academic, and not-for-profit sectors to join in collaborative research, dialogue, and education. The foundation concluded its funding of the program in 2016.

Also in 2001, the Foundation supported the creation of the Akitsiraq Law School, where a four year program delivered the equivalent of a Canadian law degree for students in the region with a strongly Inuit cultural context.

2002

Gordon Foundation History

In 2002, The Gordon Foundation named Patrick Johnston President and CEO, taking over from former Executive Director, Christine Lee.

As President and CEO, Patrick refined the Foundation’s granting focus towards two key pillars: Education (Global Youth Fellowship program); and Northern Issues. Patrick served as President and CEO from 2002 to 2009.

2005

Gordon Foundation History

The Gordon Foundation released “Buried Treasure: Groundwater Permitting and Pricing in Canada” by Linda Knowlan in 2005.

The publication shed light on the reality that 80% of Canadians rely on groundwater while outlining specific threats to groundwater sustainability and the public policy required to protect it.

2007

Gordon Foundation History

In 2007, the Foundation brought together a variety of experts to contribute to the publication, “Changing the Flow: A Blueprint for Federal Action on Freshwater.” From this collaboration, emerged the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW), a membership of non-partisan water experts that continues to actively research and protect freshwater resources and ecosystems.

Also in 2007, following an exploratory Town Hall meeting with community leaders and global experts in Fort Good Hope, NWT work began on developing the IBA Community Toolkit. The goal of the toolkit – which was updated in 2015 – is to help communities, negotiators, and consultants achieve positive agreements for Indigenous communities.

2008

Gordon Foundation History

POWI, with support from The Gordon Foundation, and the Canadian Water Issues Council develop a model federal statue to preserve Canada’s water from bulk exports in 2008. This work would later contribute to the passage of Bill C-383 in 2013, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act.

Also in 2008, the Foundation received the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP)’s annual award “in recognition of … efforts to support First Nations, Inuit and other Northern Peoples to shape public policy reflective of and reinforcing cultural priorities and traditions.”

2009

Gordon Foundation History

In 2009, long-time Foundation adviser, Tom Axworthy was named The Gordon Foundation’s President and CEO, taking over from Patrick Johnson and serving in this role from 2009 to 2015.

Facing constrained financial resources due to the global economic downturn, Tom moved the Foundation into an operational model characterized by the internal management of Foundation-developed initiatives.

2010

Gordon Foundation History

The Dechinta Bush University was launched and in 2010, with 38 students participating in a six week winter/spring term. The Gordon Foundation supported the creation of the University, funding the development of an economic and academic plan to support the feasibility of Dechinta and holding an initial pre-launch conference on the project.

Later, in partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs, The Gordon Foundation launched the Mink-Gordon Arctic Security Program, incorporating a broad definition of security to include environmental sustainability, emergency preparedness, food and health security, sovereignty and diplomacy. The program was launched with “Rethinking the Top of the World,” a publication summarizing attitudes on northern issues from all eight Arctic Council member states, capturing worldwide media attention.

Finally, in 2010 The Gordon Foundation launched one of the most ambitious programs in its history, the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship, with a goal of improving human capacity through rich educational opportunities in the North. Participants are selected to take part in two year public policy program, taught largely in the North. Ultimately the skills learned are applied to a northern policy agenda. The Fellowship program is one of the largest current investments by The Gordon Foundation and remains a centrepiece of our northern commitment.

2011

Gordon Foundation History

In 2011, The Gordon Foundation released, “Canada’s Great Basin” a report on the Mackenzie River Basin, intended to educate a general audience on the importance of the Mackenzie watershed for the environmental sustainability of the continent.

The Gordon Foundation, WWF Canada, and Living Lakes Network Canada partnered to present the inaugural Canada Water Week with the support of the RBC Blue Water Project. The annual celebration of water is held each year to coincide with World Water Day on March 22. Joined in 2014 by Canadian Freshwater Alliance, the co-presenters encourage water organizations to celebrate their homewaters and to use the occasion to elevate local water issues.

2012

Gordon Foundation History

In 2012, the Foundation sponsored a workshop of the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy to assess the state of the Mackenzie River Basin. The findings were released in a report, “Rosenberg International Forum: The Mackenzie Basin,” which makes several key recommendations for the governance structure for the Basin.

2014

Gordon Foundation History

The Gordon Foundation released “Cold Amazon” in 2014 with screening events in Yellowknife and Toronto.

This educational documentary on the Mackenzie River is described by Water Docs’ Artistic Director as “a beautiful film about the vast Mackenzie River in the Canadian North; a river that too many of us are unfamiliar with. Stunningly shot and filled with information about its importance to the local community, the unique habitat it supports, and its vital link to the Canadian climate, it was the perfect film to open the 2014 Water Docs Film Festival. A must-see documentary!”

2015

Gordon Foundation History

Mackenzie DataStream was launched in 2015, as The Gordon Foundation’s most significant project focused exclusively on protecting one of the world’s last ecologically intact great rivers.

Mackenzie DataStream, is an online platform providing access to information about the quality of freshwater in the Mackenzie River Basin. The system was built to promote knowledge sharing and support collaboration and evidence-based decision-making throughout the Basin. The pilot – made possible through a partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories – allows Mackenzie DataStream users to access, visualize, and download full water quality datasets collected by water monitors in 21 communities at over 40 sites in the NWT.

2016

Gordon Foundation History

In 2016, Sherry Campbell joined the Foundation as President and CEO, replacing Tom Axworthy and bringing a wealth of experience in working with Indigenous communities.

After a successful pilot phase, The Gordon Foundation celebrated the official launch of Mackenzie DataStream with events in Fort Smith, NWT and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. In June 2016 the Foundation marked an important milestone for DataStream as Fort Nelson First Nation joined the project, marking the first community within the Basin and outside of the NWT to bring their data online.