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Barry and Laurie Green are donating $500,000 to help build a new Anishnawbe Health centre in Toronto.Handout

The organizers: Barry and Laurie Green

The pitch: $530,000

The cause: Anishnawbe Health Foundation

Barry Green and his wife Laurie felt a sense of patriotism when they helped bring a refugee family from Syria to Canada in 2015. But that feeling didn’t last long when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report later that year on the history of residential schools in Canada.

“That TRC report really caused me to reflect and feel anything but proud about Canada and our shared history,” Mr. Green recalled from the family’s home in Toronto. “This triggered for me an emotional cascade from apathy about Indigenous peoples to shame but also to a sense of responsibility to try and somehow help repair the damage of what we as settlers have caused.”

The Greens came in contact with Andre Morriseau, chair of the Anishnawbe Health Foundation, who told them about the charity’s plans to build a new health centre in downtown Toronto. The building will be part of an Indigenous Hub that will offer a range of services related to health care, employment and culture.

The couple were inspired by the project and donated $500,000 toward the capital campaign and an additional $30,000 to the foundation’s operations, which promote traditional Indigenous practices. They plan to focus future philanthropy on childhood education. “We’re convinced that the only long-term way to achieve real reconciliation is through education,” said Mr. Green who is chairman and chief executive of Greenrock Real Estate Advisors, a family-owned company that manages apartment buildings.

The foundation recently held a ground-breaking ceremony for the new centre and Mr. Green noted that the event came shortly after the unmarked graves of 215 children were found at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Since then hundreds more graves have been found at other sites.

“Kamloops only hardens our commitment,” he added. “I’m also hoping that it will help the country reach a tipping point.”

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