Laidlaw Foundation's 70th Anniversary

This virtual timeline is intended to recount the history of the Laidlaw Foundation, celebrate its accomplishments, and mark its 70th anniversary in 2019.

This timeline features 40 milestones, starting with the Laidlaw family's arrival in Canada (formerly Upper Canada at that time) in 1819 and ending in 2019. Each milestone documents a key individual, event, or initiative that shaped the Foundation's history. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Most of the milestones include a brief description of the individual or event. The majority feature complementary and compelling historic visuals – photographs, documents, paintings, videos, a map and other materials -- drawn from a variety of local repositories. ;xNLx;;xNLx;We encourage you to explore the site by clicking on the different milestones, examining the compelling stories and archival treasures, and learning more about the evolution of the Foundation and its significant contribution to Canadian society from its inception to the present.;xNLx;;xNLx;This initiative was overseen by the Laidlaw Foundation’s Anniversary Committee. The content development and design work was undertaken by Heritage Professionals. ;xNLx;

1819-10-01 00:00:00

Arrival of Laidlaw Family to Upper Canada

The Laidlaw family immigrated to Canada in 1819 from Scotland. James Laidlaw and his family settled in Esquesing, Ontario (now Halton Hills), after purchasing 200 acres of land to farm and build their homestead. This devoutly Presbyterian clan constructed Boston Church, named after Reverend Thomas Boston, to serve their religious needs. Many early and prominent family members are interred in the cemetery beside the church. This locale, situated an hour west of York (the early name for Toronto), became known as the “Scotch Block”, due to the number of Laidlaw family members who resided there.

1949-07-01 00:00:00

Establishment of Foundation

Towards the end of the 1940s, R.A. and his brother Walter Laidlaw decided to set up a family foundation. The intent behind this decision was driven by a desire to continue engaging in important philanthropic work and donations without facing the constraints and penalties imposed on individuals in the updated income tax legislation.

1955-09-01 00:00:00

Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico Provincial Park was established in 1909. It is located in north-western Ontario and includes around 1 million acres of land above Superior National Park on the American side of the border. It is home to many flora and fauna and is a popular place to canoe, camp, birdwatch and fish. The Quetico Foundation was formed in 1954 under a provincial charter. Its role has been to assist in the protection of the Park through research, education, promotion and other purposes.

1961-10-01 00:00:00

Hiring of Mary Claire Thomas

In 1961, the Foundation hired their first staff member, Mary Claire Thomas. Mary Claire possessed a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto and work experience with the Children’s Aid Society before accepting a position with the Foundation. Although her official title was that of Secretary, she was responsible for running the organization and devising policies and new programs with the board.

1962-06-17 00:00:00

Passing of Walter Laidlaw

Walter Laidlaw was born on 7 July 1875 in Barrie, Ontario. He attended Upper Canada College and never married. Beyond his work with the Laidlaw Lumber Company, he was on the board of the Canadian Dominion Sugar Company, Confederation Life Association, Consumer’s Gas, and served as a director of the Imperial Bank of Canada.

1963-09-01 00:00:00

Introduction of Foundation Advisory Committee

The Foundation established an advisory committee in 1963. It included seven influential and prominent professionals: William Hawke (psychiatrist-in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children; William Line (Institute for Child Studies at the University of Toronto); Lillian Thomson; Jessie Watters (senior social work consultant to the CAS); Dr. Albert Rose (professor of social work at the University of Toronto and the primary architect of public housing policy in Canada); Bessie Touzel (social worker who helped design Canada’s family allowance system); and John Spencer. The advisory committee provided professional advice on grant applications and helped move the Foundation from funding personal interests to supporting a broader array of initiatives including the establishment of major fellowships, research grants, and awards.

1963-10-01 00:00:00

Exploratory Trip to United States

During the early 1960s, Rod Laidlaw launched an important research study, focused on the review and analysis of other successful family foundations across North America and Europe. Some of the Foundations that Rod and his brother Nick reached out to included the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States and the Cadbury and Guinness Trusts in England. This project also included a fact-finding visit to the United States.

1965-09-01 00:00:00

Study on Poverty in Canada

One of the members of the newly formed advisory committee, the nationally renowned social worker Bessie Touzel, served as the driving force behind the Foundation’s shift in focus to poverty. This was reflected in the 1963 annual report, which reported the Foundation’s plan to direct an annual contribution of $200,000 towards developing social sciences and services, along with studies and activities to better understand dependency, deprivation and poverty.

1965-10-01 00:00:00

Meals on Wheels Pilot Project

The first Meals on Wheels program in Toronto – and the second in Canada -- was funded by the Laidlaw Foundation and developed by St. Christopher House (currently called West Neighbourhood House). This multi-service neighbourhood centre, situated at 67 Wales Avenue in the western part of the city, provided support to immigrants located in the area.

1973-09-01 00:00:00

Harriet Tubman Centre

The Harriet Tubman Centre (HTC) catered to youth from Toronto’s Afro-Caribbean community in the west end of the city. During the early 1970s, the HTC operated out of a YMCA building located at 15 Robina Street around St. Clair West, The Director of the Centre, Ken Jeffers, approached the Laidlaw Foundation to secure funding for a three-year program aimed at recently arrived Caribbean youth, providing educational programs along with Afro-dancing and music. The Laidlaw Foundation contributed $60,000 in funding for the Centre’s three-year pilot project.

Laidlaw Foundation's 70th Anniversary

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