W. Garfield Weston Foundation gives $7.5M to new canoe museum
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation announced Wednesday it is donating $7.5 million toward the project to build the Canadian Canoe Museum’s new facility at the water’s edge of the Trent Canal below the Peterborough Lift Lock.
It is the largest known private one-time gift to a charitable organization in Peterborough city and county, said museum chairman John Ronson.
The museum, considered the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft, has been housed for the past 20 years in former Outboard Marine buildings on Monaghan Rd.
The collection includes canoes donated by singer Gordon Lightfoot, author Farley Mowat’s “boat that wouldn’t float” from his youth and former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s iconic buckskin jacket.
Now they are planning to build a new, $65-million museum designed by Heneghan Peng Architects from Dublin, Ireland and Kearns Mancini Architects from Toronto.
Construction is slated to begin early next year.
On Wednesday, dignitaries such as Hiawatha First Nation Chief Laurie Carr, Curve Lake First Nation Chief Phyllis Williams and Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef were at the announcement.
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, created in the 1950s, is supported by the extended Weston family (which owns or controls several companies in Canada, including Loblaws and Holt Renfrew.)
The foundation has supported the Canadian Canoe Museum since 1995, states a press release – two years before the museum
Garfield Mitchell, director of the foundation, made the funding announcement Wednesday. He’s a cousin to Galen Weston Jr., the executive CEO, chairman and president of Loblaws.
In an interview, Mitchell said his family always saw the importance of the canoe as a “unifying symbol” throughout Canadian history.
He also said the family had faith, more than 20 years ago, that with the right resources the collection of canoes would grow into “something phenomenal”.
They were right, he said – the museum has flourished.
“And now there’s going to be something even more phenomenal, birthed out of this,” he said.
Ronson said half the $65 million necessary to build the new facility is expected to come from government funds, while the rest will come from private donors.
The federal government gave first: it offered $1.5 million in seed money to help with early expenses, with the potential of up to $15 million more to come.
The Ontario government then promised $9 million, the city $4 million and Peterborough County $500,000.
Mayor Daryl Bennett gave a key to the city to the foundation’s representatives on Wednesday.
The $7.5 million donation will serve as a “beacon” to help inspire others to donate to the project, he said.
That could include the feds: Monsef said in an interview that the federal government is still in discussions with the museum regarding further funding.
Ronson said government support has been “pivotal” in receiving money from the foundation. That’s true, Mitchell said. “But we also love Peterborough,” he added. “And we feel this is a great way to support the people of Peterborough in a project that’s important to them.”
Director Garfield Mitchell announces the W. Garfield Weston Foundation is donating $7.5 million to the new Canadian Canoe Museum.