‘You know your communities best:’ How the COVID-19 pandemic forced Canadian grantmakers to loosen up

As the pandemic gripped the country, some Canadian philanthropists relaxed reporting restrictions and prioritized racialized communities.

Why It Matters

Paternalism, white saviorism, and colonialism are the very bones of the British philanthropic model used in Canada. These values have historically made it incredibly difficult for Black and Indigenous-led non-profits to secure funding for their needs, and many of these organizations serve the communities that are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

When Kevin McCort joined Vancouver Foundation as its president and CEO in 2013, the grantmaker never expected it would jump-start an eight-figure emergency granting process for local charities in a matter of days. “It just wasn’t part of the foundation’s vision of itself,” says president and CEO Kevin McCort. 

McCort is a 25-year veteran of the international humanitarian sector, including a six-year stint as the president and CEO of CARE Canada. The concept of disaster philanthropy was very familiar to him. Vancouver Foundation began responding to local emergencies such as the B.C. forest fires and the opioid crisis during his tenure, yet running an emergency aid program for local charities during a global pandemic was a completely new challenge. Within 10 days of the first public health restrictions, Vancouver Foundation had launched a $2.5 million fund. After four m

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