History

“The Vanier Institute of the Family can be compared to a Royal Commission established to investigate and learn all there is to know about the families of Canada in a world of change. But since the need for knowledge and study will continue as long as we inhabit the globe, this Royal Commission will never be discharged.”

– The Right Honourable General Georges P. Vanier, 1966*

The Vanier Institute of the Family began its work in 1965 immediately following the Canadian Conference on the Family held at Government House by Their Excellencies General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier and the Honourable Pauline Vanier. This founding conference brought together distinguished Canadians from all walks of life, each of whom knew that the contribution of families is vitally important and ultimately shapes the world in which we live.

General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier’s vision to create an enduring organization dedicated to the cause of our society through the family was supported by the leadership of Canada’s renowned neuroscientist Dr. Wilder Penfield. His commitment to the role of the Vanier Institute of the Family was rooted in his belief that families shape us as individuals and ultimately serve as the essential cornerstone of society.

With a combination of Vanier’s vision, Penfield’s determination and the support of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, a legacy was created for families across Canada. The tangible expression of that legacy took the form of an Endowment Fund representing the generosity of governments, foundations, businesses, faith groups and individuals. Well-invested, these funds have grown over the years and continue to support the core program of the Vanier Institute.

This vision and determination were complemented by the scholarship of one of the Vanier Institute’s principal founders, Dr. Frederick Elkin. In 1964, Elkin surveyed the state of knowledge about Canada’s families to create the now-classic text titled The Family in Canada, an account of present knowledge and gaps in knowledge about families in Canada and a key resource at the Canadian Conference on the Family.

Since that time, the Vanier Institute has, on this foundation, established itself as an independent voice for families in Canada. Governed by its Board of Directors, which draws upon the commitments and talents of Canadians from all walks of life and from all parts of the nation, the Vanier Institute has worked bilingually with, and on behalf of, those who study, serve and support families (including researchers, elected officials, policy-makers and analysts, teachers, students, family service agencies, businesses and non-governmental organizations).

Financial foundation

In carrying out its program activities, the Vanier Institute has benefited from the support and partnership of many individuals, community groups, corporate sponsors, foundations and government departments, both federal and provincial (e.g. financial resources, human resources, technical resources, physical resources and other direct and in-kind support).

The main source of the Vanier Institute’s funding is derived from revenue earned from its Endowment Fund. The Endowment Fund is managed by a portfolio manager, currently Beutel Goodman, and the custodian of the fund is RBC Investor Services.

On an annual basis, the Board reviews the budget requirements for the coming year. Based on a five-year floating average of the market value of the portfolio, a percentage is applied to the average and that amount becomes the draw from the Endowment Fund for the coming year.

The Vanier Institute also has a variety of restricted and unrestricted funds that support the program, program innovation and strategy implementation.

Special funds

The Vanier Institute has financed research with funding from diverse external sources (e.g. sponsorships, grants, contributions, philanthropic donations).

Over the years, a number of research publications have been financed through the Glossop (Lawson) Fund, named after Dr. Robert G. Glossop, retired Executive Director of Programs and Research at the Vanier Institute. This fund was the result of a $100,000 grant directed to the Vanier Institute by Dr. Glossop after he received the Lawson Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 for his extraordinary contribution to the understanding of families and family life in Canada. Award recipients received a $100,000 grant to direct to the Canadian charity of their choice to help strengthen the body of knowledge in their field, and Dr. Glossop dedicated the funds to the Vanier Institute.

Family funds and corporate funds restricted and unrestricted

These are established through donations, minimum $5,000, contributed over five years or less, non-endowed.

  • Jean and May Fournier Family Legacy Fund, established in 2011 for a purpose to be determined at the discretion of the CEO
  • Bryan H. Spinks Legacy Fund, established in 2012 for a purpose to be determined at the discretion of the CEO
  • Gannon Family Fund, established in 2013 for a purpose to be determined at the discretion of the CEO
  • Beutel Goodman Fund, established in 2015 for a purpose to be determined at the discretion of the CEO
  • Alan Mirabelli Fund for Creativity and Innovation, established in 2017 for program innovation as determined by the CEO

Over 50 years ago, the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier and the Honourable Pauline Vanier envisioned an organization dedicated to understanding and sharing the understanding of families in Canada. This vision, along with the commitment of the founding thinkers, staff team and volunteers from across the country provided a solid foundation from which the Vanier Institute has since grown. In the half-century that followed, Canada’s “family landscape” has changed significantly, but the importance of families has not; the Vanier Institute remains as committed as ever to carry on this legacy as it continues to enhance the national understanding of families in Canada.


*Speech at Sydney, N.S., May 25, 1966 (excerpt from Soldier, Diplomat and Governor General by Robert Speaight)