Action Canada meets at Wosk centre

Jun 26, 2003, vol. 27, no. 5
By Susan Jamieson-McLarnon

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Action Canada's first cohort, co-founder Sam Belzberg and executive director Cathy Beehan (left and right, front row centre), were all smiles for SFU photographer Greg Ehlers' (far right) camera at the Wosk centre.

With a round of applause, the first cohort of Action Canada fellows saluted Sam Belzberg, who with SFU president emeritus, Jack Blaney, first proposed the new national organization to build leadership for Canada's future.

The 20 inaugural Action Canada fellows, chosen from among nominations received from across the country, were introduced June 17 at a ceremony at the Morris Wosk centre for dialogue.

“Leadership is the critical element to creating the future that Canadians need and want,” says Belzberg. “Canadians want our country to be the finest in the world. We want to contribute to a world that shares what we ourselves believe in. To achieve and sustain these aspirations, Canada needs outstanding leadership. Action Canada is to build that leadership.”

Belzberg and his wife Frances, have been instrumental in starting several philanthropic institutions and charities, but he says Action Canada is not a charity. “It is an investment in a group of people who we hope will make a difference.”

And Jack Blaney is sure they will. “Each of the inaugural fellows has an exemplary career and track record of leadership and a personal commitment to giving leadership to our country. They share a passion for Canada and the ability and ambition to lead.”

Action Canada began as an idea discussed over dinner. “We kicked around many ideas but this feeling that our country needed a revitalization, some inward analysis of who we are, who we were and who we want to be, was a very important opportunity. So we decided to go ahead, and with a financial commitment from me and the brains of Jack Blaney and the great people he attracted to the project, we are here today.”

Based in British Columbia and affiliated with the Wosk Centre, Action Canada will offer a challenging, year-long exploration of leadership practices and major Canadian public policy issues.

There will be three working conferences (Ottawa, Vancouver and another location), projects they will work on between conferences, ongoing mentoring and interaction. The fellows will report to Canadians what they have learned.

The federal government is contributing $4.6 million to Action Canada, over six years. Private sector funding led by the generosity of the Belzberg family will provide the remaining 50 per cent.

Among the inaugural fellows are British Columbians Denise Taschereau, who earned a master of resource management degree from SFU, and UBC grads David Helliwell, Matthew Sullivan and Janet Vertesi.

The full list, with biographies, can be found at actioncanada.

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