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The Slaight Family Foundation is donating $15-million to support initiatives focused on addressing challenges faced by women and girls across the country, especially those from Indigenous, racialized and refugee communities.

The donations to 12 organizations in Canada are intended for programs that support women and girls in emergency situations, increase opportunities for education and employment, and reduce gender-based violence and abuse.

“We’re trying to help people cope with life and deal with society in a way that they may not be able to do without our financial help,” said Gary Slaight, president and chief executive officer of the foundation.

“And right now, given the pandemic and all the things that we are facing, especially young women ... we narrowed it down to the groups that we felt would have the biggest impact on this particular segment of society.”

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Terry Smith, the foundation’s program director, said the initiatives supported by the funding should go a long way to improve difficult circumstances for women or help create new methods of support for women and girls.

The recipients include the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, Covenant House, the Ontario Native Women’s Association and YWCA Canada.

Valerie McMurtry, president and CEO of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, said her organization is to receive $1-million over four years. The funds will be used to support Mothers in Mind, a mother-child group program designed to meet the parenting needs of women who have experienced interpersonal trauma and have children under the age of four.

“This funding is transformative in our foundation,” Ms. McMurtry said. “We’ve been wanting to address an important issue that is escalating during COVID, which is domestic violence.”

She said women who experience domestic violence and trauma are often forced to address their own issues of safety. Not enough support or energy is focused on enabling them to continue to mother their children, she added.

“This initiative is meant to help mothers to connect with their children in a playful and supportive environment that will allow parenting strengths to be highlighted and built upon,” she noted.

Cora McGuire-Cyrette, executive director of the Ontario Native Women’s Association, said the donation is laying the framework for real reconciliation. She said it will enable her organization to address priorities for Indigenous women: healing and telling the stories of colonization in Canada and Indigenous women’s resiliency and leadership throughout the years.

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“Being able to build tools on supporting Indigenous women on their healing journey over the next four years is really going to have an impact in our communities,” Ms. McGuire-Cyrette said.

She added that the level of violence that Indigenous women face every day in Canada really is astounding, and that situation became worse during the pandemic. She said the $1-million, which will be invested in a healing, empowerment, reclamation and safety (HERS) program, will support, educate, and empower Indigenous women at an individual and collective level.

She said that through the creation of the Red Jingle Campaign, the program will focus on Indigenous women coming together to stand up against violence.

The Slaight Family Foundation was started in 2008 by Allan Slaight, a Canadian broadcast mogul and philanthropist.

The 10 other recipients and their grants were:

  • University Health Network: $2-million to expand services for patients with eating disorders;
  • YWCA: $2-million to support women and gender diverse people and their families who are leaving abusive situations;
  • Women’s Shelters Canada: $2-million to increase the number of shelters for women and their children who are at risk from intimate partner violence;
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation: $1.5-million for a program to support community organizations serving marginalized women, girls and gender-diverse people in urban centres and to help abuse survivors leave dangerous situations and rebuild their lives;
  • Women’s Health in Women’s Hands: $1-million to expand an HIV program for African, Caribbean and Black women living in Toronto;
  • Covenant House: $1-million for a new program aimed at female-identifying youth experiencing homelessness;
  • New Circles: $1-million to help racialized newcomer women and women on low incomes to increase their skills through employment training, volunteer programs and support to launch small businesses;
  • Northern Ontario School of Medicine: $1-million to support 40 medical students who are women of colour living in Northern Ontario;
  • Women’s College Hospital Foundation: $1-million for a new program for the hospital’s refugee clinic;
  • Girls E-Mentorship: $500,000 to support 400 high-school students who are women of colour in the Toronto area.

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