Civic Engagement for Social Change, Environment, Housing, News

January 11, 2024

Catherine Donnelly Foundation Fall 2023 grants support 37 organizations with more than $1,250,000 in funding

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                                                                                                                                               January 2024

Fall 2023 grants from the Catherine Donnelly Foundation support transformative solutions that promote civic engagement for BIPOC youth, migrant workers and Indigenous women, local collective action in climate justice and low-carbon food as well as encouragement for new models to preserve and create more affordable housing.

In 2023, charitable giving in Canada fell to an historical low and as many of our partners and allies in housing, the environment and civic engagement for social change struggled financially, demand for their services was at an all-time high. The climate emergency, the housing crisis and a loss of faith in democracy that caused deepened economic hardship and greater social injustice, however, makes their work more crucial than ever.

In September, we launched a new five-year strategic blueprint intended to further support those organizations. Designed to advance justice, equity and inclusion through deeper collaboration this plan offers expanded aid for grantees, including increased multi-year funding opportunities and low-barrier application and reporting. Those priorities and operational adjustments are reflected in these grants.

Civic Engagement for Social Change granted $393,854 to 12 organizations dedicated to fostering active citizenship, democracy and social transformation. In Fredericton, NB, the Filipino-Canadian CommUNITY of New Brunswick received funding to ensure migrant workers understand their rights and have increased capacity to defend those rights, while the Oldtown Storytellers’ Society in Hazelton, BC, is building active citizenship skills in youth with the aim of strengthening relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

In Housing, 12 new grants totalling $411,299 supported approaches to preserve and build new affordable housing, including the promotion of cooperative housing and community land trusts. The Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts received a grant to review and share existing policies and best practices to assist in affordable housing acquisitions. Pathways to Housing Justice, a project of Calgary’s National Right to Housing Network, meanwhile, will work with Indigenous-led organizations, persons with disabilities, and advocates from racialized, newcomer, and other underserved communities to ensure those groups are represented in decision-making processes.

In Environment, 13 grants offered $449,000 in funding. Vancouver’s FarmFolk/CityFolk Society will work to empower Black, Indigenous and People of Colour-led action and Indigenous food sovereignty as part of a shift toward a low-carbon food systems, while Halifax’s Hope Blooms Youth Social Entrepreneurial Ventures Inc. will prepare newcomer youth leaders for careers in renewable and clean energy.

Grant committees are also being intentional about favouring organizations and projects that straddle two or more of our funding areas or are connected to partner projects such as Healing Through the Land or Righting Relations. Wapna’kikewi’skwaq Women of First Light, a Nova Scotia organization that is the East Hub partner organization for Righting Relations, received funding to work alongside the Tatamagouche Centre to create a rematriation and land-back process.

“The conditions in which we grant have changed and demand new shared approaches that prioritize flexibility, trust-based principles and the willingness to make bold choices,” says Claire Barcik, Executive Director of the Catherine Donnelly. “We aim to be a funder that listens, reflects and responds to individual, organizational and broader societal challenges to strengthen capacity and build solutions, especially with those organizations and communities traditionally excluded by philanthropy.”

Find a complete list of Spring 2023 grants below.                            

The Catherine Donnelly Foundation is now accepting letters of interest for our 2024 Spring grants. Organizations are invited to apply for the civic engagement and housing streams by February 1, 2024. Civic Engagement for Social Change and Housing streams. For granting guidelines, visit

We are committed to reducing barriers to grant applications and willingly work with organizations to accept proposals if issues arise.

Civic Engagement for Social Change 12 grants for $393,854

Bayanihan Centre: Windsor Essex Centre for Migrant Worker Support and Empowerment • Equal in Dignity, Equal in Rights: Empowering Migrant Workers and Fostering Relationships with Host Communities through Civic Engagement • Leamington, ON • $40,000 Equal in Dignity, Equal in Rights is designed to assist migrant workers with learning opportunities, collective action and help them access basic services such as health care and protection against workplace harassment and labour exploitation. CDF funding will support information sessions, workshops and discussion circles with migrant workers, service delivery agencies, support groups, and government agencies on topics including labour rights, workplace safety and pathways for permanent residency.

Bedford House (Bridges Peterborough) • Getting Out Bridging Team • Peterborough, ON • $31,000 Individuals leaving jail face innumerable barriers to successful integration back into society. This pilot program combines the existing Bridging Teams, a mentoring initiative using adult education to explore class differences, with Getting Ahead While Getting Out, a proven re-entry curriculum that features a a community team using a participatory civic engagement model to support successful re-entry.

CityHive • Youth Civics & Climate Leadership Workshops • Vancouver, BC • $30,000 CityHive will deliver place-based civics and climate workshops for youth in partnership with community organizations that aren’t typically engaged in the climate action or civic engagement space, such as employment programs and newcomer and settlement agencies. Programming will have a strong focus on building climate and civic literacy as well as taking local collective action. This program was piloted in 2022-2023 and CityHive is looking to scale it with in-need communities across Metro Vancouver, including racialized youth, newcomers, 2SLGBTQ+ youth, youth with disabilities, under and unemployed youth.

Filipino-Canadian CommUNITY of New Brunswick (FCNB) Inc. • Fredericton, NBEmpowering Migrant Workers in New Brunswick • $30,000 Empowering Migrant Workers in New Brunswick is hoping to support as many as 450 migrant workers in the province through educational activities, access to services and by building organizing capacity. The program aims to address migrant workers’ awareness of their rights and responsibilities, and their ability to access those rights and develop and implement coordinated approaches among community.

Life.School.House • Living Traditions: Folkschools for Social Cohesion • Halifax, NS • $34,350 Life.School.House is a non-profit co-operative that started in Nova Scotia in 2018, that hosts barter-based skill-sharing workshops between neighbours to increase trust and reduce social isolation and loneliness. Funds will support scaling their unique approach to community development across Canada, with the creation of training modules, expansion and translation of their existing toolkit and exploring participatory action with communities to create a national peer network.

New Dawn Community Development Educational Foundation • Creating the Future We Want • Sydney, NS • $20,000 Cape Breton lacks accessible local-level data for social agencies to best support individuals and communities in the region related to a range of essential issues. New Dawn has spent more than a year consulting with experts and gathering and sorting information to create an online platform to provide data and analysis on community poverty, housing, climate change impacts, public transportation and food security. Funding will go toward implementing the database, hosting a series of conversations to engage individuals and organizations to advance coordinated local action and to create a social development council.

Oldtown Storytellers’ Society • Dim Dax’gyet’dinhl K’ba T’kithlxw: Strengthening our Youth Leaders • Hazelton, BC • $40,000 This program seeks to engage local youth to build personal leadership and active citizenship skills by immersing them in areas of local interest and having them share their learnings with peers, community members and elected officials. To build relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, Strengthening our Youth Leaders will draw participants from different communities, villages and bands in the Upper Skeena. The program will support youth who are about to graduate or have recently graduated.

Pacific Immigrant Resources Society • Immigrant Women’s Advisory Committee (IWAC) • Vancouver, BC • $39,912 The Immigrant Women’s Advisory Committee (IWAC) is an annual initiative designed to empower and nurture the leadership of migrant women in Vancouver. Twenty immigrant women, each with diverse lived experiences, social roles, knowledge, and perspectives, are recruited and dedicate a year to identify pressing social issues and then using a systems lens to generate innovative ideas to build social equality for women. By encouraging small but meaningful actions, IWAC works to close service gaps and break down barriers for immigrant and refugee women to thrive in Canada.

STIR Retreats (Spiritual Transformation in Recovery) • Journeying Together for Recovery – Montreal Phase II • Montreal, QC • $18,600 In 2022, the Foundation first supported this project to strengthen the capacities and skills of volunteer leaders with experience of homelessness and addiction in offering life-changing spiritual support to people who are in recovery. This second grant will support three peer-led workshops to empower volunteers to lead their own retreats. This volunteer training – which is participatory, peer-led, and consists of two overnight weekend workshops and a daylong formation workshop – is an essential component of STIR Retreats’ vision to offer retreats and spiritual companionship in Montréal in French and English.

Support Network for Indigenous Women & Women of Colour • Creating Safety in Our Communities Through Matriarchal Leadership • Victoria, BC • $35,000 Indigenous and racialized women will be trained during two-dozen workshops that address systems of violence and provide culturally appropriate safety training and crisis response plans. Support Network for Indigenous Women & Women of Colour addresses gender-based violence in racialized communities using a train-the- trainer model. Material will include matriarchal teachings on how to recognize and name violence and oppression and how to recognize strengths and advocate for oneself, one’s families and collective wellbeing. They will also discuss ways that changes can be made away from colonial harm and toward creating spaces that are holistically safe for other women. They hope to train 200 women.

Toronto Association of Neighbourhood Services • Anti-racist & Anti-Oppressive Listening Circles for Relationship Building, Conflict Literacy and Civic Engagement • Toronto, ON • $40,000 Over the last few years many non-profit community organizations have re-doubled their commitment to advancing anti-oppression and anti-racist goals as a central element of addressing inequities in our society. The Anti-racist & Anti-Oppressive Listening Circles project will enable up to 25 community agency staff and 10 community leaders to experience the power of listening circles as a practice for deepening relationships and conflict mediation capacities for immigrants, refugees and people living with low incomes. The project will develop tools and adult education materials, provide resources, and support practices that advance individual staff and agency capacity for collective learning and increased self-awareness for existing systems and mechanisms of oppression and racism as well as general conflict transformation skills and communication that allows for relationship and trust building.

Women of the First Light • Rising up • Wabanaki territory$34,992 Rising Up will support efforts related to the rematriation of land at Tatamagouche Centre in Nova Scotia. Rematriation refers to Indigenous women-led work to restore sacred relationships between Indigenous people and their ancestral land. Working with the Tatamagouche Centre, Women of the First Light aims to use the land to support Clan Mother systems in Indigenous communities and build a permanent longhouse to create a community space for individuals to connect to Wabanaki culture and spirituality through traditional practices and ceremonies.

HOUSING 12 grants for $411,299

Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts • Supporting Affordable Housing Acquisition by Community Land Trusts • Toronto, ON • $49,050 This project aims to bolster the acquisition potential of Canadian Community Land Trusts (CLTs). Funding supports reviewing existing policies, sharing success stories and best practices, developing educational resources to assist CLTs in affordable housing acquisitions and educating the public sector on the need for policies and funding that support affordable housing acquisitions. Supported by the Neighbourhood Land Trust (NLT), CNCLT and NLT will work closely with the Toronto Indigenous Land Trust, to understand and respond to the unique acquisition needs of Indigenous-led CLTs.

Co-operative Housing Federation Toronto (CHFT Charitable Fund) • Capacity building for co-op housing development • Toronto, ON • $50,000 In 2023, the City of Toronto accepted a proposal from Co-operative Housing Federation Toronto (CHFT) to develop lands adjacent to a Scarborough transit hub. The 600 unit two-tower co-op, the biggest co-op development project in the GTA since 1995, will provide affordable, safe, and inclusive homes for more than a thousand moderate to low-income individuals. Funding from the Foundation will allow CHFT to continue to work with the City and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to advance the project and build the necessary internal development capacity to support moving the project forward.

First United Church Community Ministry Society • Law Reform and BC Eviction Mapping • Vancouver, BC • $40,000 The BC Eviction Map project aims to increase protections for renters in BC. The Map informs where evictions and forced moves are happening in BC communities, who is affected by them, and the impacts of the activity. The information is to be used for advocacy, public education, and law reform to protect tenants and ultimately, prevent homelessness through policy change. Foundation funding will support a second phase of the project which will continue data collection, develop a comprehensive law reform and policy platform to strengthen tenant protections and undertake government relations and stakeholder collaboration. This phase will also prioritize the use of Indigenous housing justice talking circles.

King Square Affordable Housing Corp. • Community led Approaches to Co-op Housing in Rural PEI • Charlottetown, PEI • $24,000 Kings Square Affordable Housing Corporation, in collaboration with the village of Breadalbane, Prince Edward Island, is studying models of cooperative housing, sustainability and collaborative engagement for a housing development in this small community. A comprehensive scan of alternative housing models – and housing financing – in other jurisdictions will be completed and consultations with design consultants and contractors initiated to lay the groundwork for the project’s next phases. A project steering committee of community members will be established with multiple community engagements throughout. A ‘how-to’ guide will be produced and made available to other rural municipalities.

National Right to Housing Network • Pathways to Housing Justice: Advancing Human Rights Through Capacity-Building and Collaboration • Calgary, AB • $39,929 Upcoming review panels for the federal National Housing Strategy Act (NHSA) will provide a forum for addressing systemic housing issues, identifying solutions and encouraging political action and practical policy and legislative change. This enormous potential, however, may be diminished by the inability of underserved communities to participate. Pathways to Housing Justice will ensure the voices and perspectives of those who are directly affected by housing issues are not only heard, but meaningfully engaged in the decision-making process. National Right to Housing Network will work closely with Indigenous-led organizations, persons with disabilities, and advocates from racialized, newcomer, and other underserved communities to ensure these critical voices and intersections are amplified throughout the review panel process.

One City Peterborough • Unlocking Access to Housing: A Framework for Canadian Municipalities and Nonprofits to address Homelessness through Housing AcquisitionPeterborough, ON • $34,320 This project aims to accelerate the provision of affordable housing by developing a comprehensive framework that enables Canadian municipalities to collaborate with nonprofits in purchasing houses for individuals experiencing homelessness. The framework will guide municipalities on leveraging their access to city, provincial, and federal funds and to acquire homes in partnership with local charitable organizations with expertise in supporting homeless individuals. One City’s experience purchasing housing stock to provide supportive housing offers timely and permanent housing options that can be replicated.

Ottawa Community Land Trust • Mobilizing Communities as partners in the work of Affordable Housing Preservation • Ottawa, ON • $39,000 In September 2023, Ottawa Community Land Trust finalized the purchase of its first affordable rental property. In early 2024, engagement with neighbourhood-based organizations begins to seek capital to buy more affordable rentals. Funding from the Foundation will support the development of a community bond campaign with the support of Tapestry Community Capital. To promote the capital campaign and encourage dialogue, Mobilizing Communities will also engage Carleton University graduate students to offer presentations and enhance understanding of how neighbourhoods can together work towards affordable housing preservation using community finance tools.

Partners for Youth Inc. • Equitable Transitions for Youth Leaving Care Fredericton, NB• $10,000 Research indicates that a high percentage of youth experiencing homelessness have had involvement with the child welfare system. Equitable Transitions will assemble a youth leadership team comprised of current and former youth in care to study the key outcomes and indicators of success required for youth transitioning from foster care, group home placements or other care arrangements to achieve success and wellness. The team will identify best practices and gaps in service in areas related to finance, education, housing, relationships, health and wellbeing, as well as advocacy and rights. An action plan on how to address these issues will be created.

Quint Development Corporation • Evaluation of Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) Program Saskatoon, SK • $25,000 The Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program is a provincial income assistance program providing resources for the most vulnerable of those experiencing poverty. A 2023 report by the Provincial Auditor of Saskatchewan found SIS lacked accessibility for participants as well as clear guidelines for those applying. This project will identify the strengths and weaknesses of the SIS program and offer recommendations for improving its design and delivery. The initiative will increase available research and policy discourse on income support programs and their impact on poverty reduction, social justice, and human dignity.

Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) • Investors for Affordable Cities: Investing in the Human Right to HousingVancouver, BC • $30,000 This initiative expands on previous work on institutional investment in the Canadian housing market. In 2020, the Foundation funded the preceding report that called investors to action on the financialization of housing in Canada. That work with tenants’ organizations, investors and real estate companies identified specific areas for further engagement for this second phase of the project: educating investors in responsible investment in housing, engaging investors to hold them accountable to human rights and building a network of well-equipped investors that are committed to upholding the right to adequate housing and advocating for housing affordability.

Solutions Immobilier Solidaire • Brome-Missisquoi Community Land Trust Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, QC • $40,000 Solutions Immobilier Solidaire (SIS) is working to adapt existing community land trust (CLT) models to better fit governance and legal systems in Quebec and Canada. Funding from the Foundation will support the development of appropriate models and tools for CLTs and the creation of a regional land trust in Brome-Missisquoi. SIS will also create partnerships with banks and credit unions to develop financial products for CLTs as well as a communication plan to share information and learnings.

The Refugee Centre • The Housing Security FundMontreal, PQ• $30,000 Asylum seekers, refugee claimants and immigrants face significant barriers when attempting to access rental housing. The Housing and Security Fund aims to provide not-for-profit organizations access to affordable and stable housing solutions for their clients. Utilizing units acquired from the Concordia Student Union and Acceuil Bonneau, this initiative will seek to raise funds to manage transitional housing for newcomers in need. The project will also alleviate the burden on crisis centres and emergency shelters and provide newcomers a stable environment to gain status and a work permit.

ENVIRONMENT  13 grants for $449,000

Change Course (DI Foundation) • Banking on a Better Future: On-Campus Engagement & Mobilization • Victoria, BC • $30,000 Banking on a Better Future is focused on increasing the capacity of university student organizers for mobilization and engagement work. Participants will build on the legacy and tactics of the fossil fuel divestment movement to train youth to campaign against big banks funding fossil fuel expansion. The initiative will also provide mentorship to build “on-site” leadership capacity and support local campus groups with recruitment and relationship building.

Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada • A New Energy Rising • London, ON • $35,000 The Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada are beginning to explore how their lands may be best preserved for future generations. To achieve that goal, this project will explore models for land use, such as land trusts, conservation easements, the creation of Faith Lands within agrarian trust, among others. A final report – available to be shared with other interested faith-based organizations – will summarize the models together with advantages, disadvantages, and legal ramifications.

FarmFolk/CityFolk Society • BC BIPOC Farmer Network: Supporting Diverse Farmers and Ranchers • Vancouver, BC • $45,000 The primary objective of this project is to empower Black, Indigenous and People of Colour-led action and Indigenous food sovereignty as part of a shift toward a low-carbon food system in British Columbia. BC BIPOC Farmer Network will engage a BIPOC project lead to connect with, identify and support the needs of BIPOC farmers and producers. This first-of-its-kind initiative will offer wrap-around supports include peer-to-peer training and mentorship. Through this project, BIPOC farmers and producers are supported as valued leaders and active participants in BC’s low-carbon food system and their work is widely amplified and elevated. Part of this work is guided by FarmFolk/CityFolk Society’s Indigenous Advisor.

Food Matters Manitoba (Manitoba Food Charter Inc.) • Harvester Program • Winnipeg, MB • $50,000 With this program, Food Matters Manitoba seeks to harness community capacity by financially supporting individuals through honoraria, vehicle rental, and fuel to harvest and process traditional food for community benefit, all while engaging youth. The Harvester Program prioritizes elders, struggling households, and participating youth as recipients of the food. This program provides healthy and affordable food in remote locations while promoting economic opportunity. It also serves as a steppingstone for communities to spread knowledge of sustainable agricultural techniques.

Green Budget Coalition (Nature Canada) • Green Budget Coalition’s 2023-24 federal budget campaign • Ottawa, ON • $15,000 The Green Budget Coalition (GBC) is utilizing a proven approach to build support for the adoption of strategic federal budget recommendations in the 2024 federal budget related to environmental priorities. Funding will support the circulation of preliminary recommendations to national Indigenous organizations, federal departments, and party platform leads, to seek improvements and understand how GBC can support Indigenous priorities. Following that feedback, GBC will meet with federal ministers, political staff and deputy ministers to encourage them to include GBC’s final recommendations in budget request letters to the finance minister.

Hope Blooms Youth Social Entrepreneurial Ventures Inc. • Clean Energy Training for BIPOC Youth • Halifax, NS • $30,000 Hope Blooms is focused on bringing underserved voices to climate action conversations to remedy a lack of voice in an area they are disproportionately impacted. Clean Energy Training for BIPOC Youth participants are African Nova Scotian, Black, Indigenous and newcomer youth leaders (aged 15 to 18) and will receive training in renewable and clean energies through partnerships with the Dalhousie University Sustainability Research Group and the Nova Scotia Community College Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology. The program is designed to provide participants the necessary information and experience to decide if they would like to pursue green careers after high school.

Iron & Earth (Institute for New Economics Public Interest Research Association) • Algonquin Nation’s Socioeconomic Self-determination – A Case Study • Victoria, BC • $39,000 Iron & Earth’s Prosperous Transition Campaign (PTC) is a critical, qualitative research project with the goal of contributing towards the establishment of sustainable economies allowing for generational prosperity for all people living in so-called Canada. This research project will gather and analyze the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples from Algonquin Anishinaabe communities between Ontario and Quebec to better understand the unique challenges, aspirations, and perspectives of underserved communities related to a just transition to a sustainable energy future. The insights gained will shape policies and programs that are inclusive, respectful, and aligned with the needs of Indigenous communities.

Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives • Building Intergenerational Support and Action for Just, Equitable and Livable Future • Toronto, ON • $30,000 This project aims to nurture a cohort of changemakers to strengthen and amplify just transition policies and programs with principles from Indigenous peoples, young people, and others most affected by climate change. Project elements include intergenerational dialogues and visioning, as well as participants communicating their vision and principles for a just transition with political representatives and the public. Building Intergenerational Support will take place in Cape Breton, Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta with local groups and Indigenous communities. Cross-country Participants will gather at the end of the project.

My Climate Plan (Small Change Fund) • Resilient Together • $30,000 The objective of Resilient Together is to discover how best to engage people not acting on climate change and move them toward sustained participation aligned with Indigenous communities’ priorities. Through forums with Indigenous leaders to identify a set of shared priorities and plans for climate solutions, personalized climate impact storytelling, planning tools and community engagement, the initiative will support climate action in communities the movement struggles to connect with. These learnings will then be shared for broader reach and impact. Indigenous communities and leaders will be actively engaged at every stage of the forum process.

 Pembina Institute • Climate Action and Sustainable Development Goals in the Canadian Context • Calgary, AB • $35,000 Pembina works primarily by “changing the changemakers”— recommending policy actions to government and community leaders. This initiative will review climate action policy options, including those that offer improved health outcomes, benefits for equity-deserving groups and new pathways to prosperity, and integrate those best practices into new policy recommendations that prioritize equity and affordability. Pembina will then communicate the benefits of climate action to a broader community and Increase awareness of the benefits of a well-designed climate action.

Public Policy Forum • Moving Goods and People Sustainably for Indigenous Peoples • Ottawa, ON • $25,000 Five emerging Indigenous leaders will conduct research in their communities and across the country to develop policy solutions to address sustainable transportation issues that particularly impact Indigenous Peoples in remote communities. Participants will bring Indigenous research methodologies and produce a report based on their findings, with policy recommendations directed to the appropriate level(s) of government. At the end of this project, these young Indigenous leaders will emerge equipped with public policymaking tools, a network of connections across the country, and strengthened leadership skills.

Re_Generation • Accelerating Canada’s Clean Economy through Youth • Toronto, ON • $45,000 Re_Generation aims to provide youth leaders with a platform to meet like-minded individuals, develop skills, share knowledge, and take action to direct the next generation of leaders towards building a cleaner and more just Canadian economy. An awareness campaign will generate resources about careers in the clean economy as well as opportunities for youth to connect, including through a national virtual career fair. A parallel program will train young Re_Generation employees to identify and combat greenwashing in the energy, finance, and professional services sectors. Reports will be produced for each of the sectors.

Swiilawiid Sustainability Society (Haida Gwaii Museum Society) • Project 0 • Skidegate, BC •$40,000 Project 0 will educate and engage Haida Gwaii residents about renewable energy through a series of events and education campaigns. A two-day Renewable Energy Symposium will create space to share ideas about clean electricity and explore future training, knowledge, skills, and the networks necessary to grow the green resource. A youth Symposium will provide an open environment to connect, share and learn from youth on how to take care of Haida Gwaii and a Summer Engagement will mobilize public opinion to build up ‘just’ industries and economies.