History of Civitan in Canada

Civitan was introduced to Canada in Hamilton, Ontario in 1925 thus making Civitan an international organization within eight years of chartering the first Civitan Club in Birmingham, Alabama. The Hamilton Civitan Club was chartered under Charter Number 153 on May 16, 1925.

The Hamilton Civitan Club membership was drawn from the medical profession, clergy and other professionals. The majority were returned veterans of the First World War. The Hamilton members represented a sophisticated cross section of the community life and were inclined to stress the companionship of the armed forces without the discipline.

The objectives of the Hamilton Civitan Club were to provide companionship, fun, recreation, charitable and community welfare efforts. Unfortunately, the Civitan International affiliation was shed to meet a general desire of the members for an organization free from strict rules, regulations and disciplinary action.

Civitan International was re-established in Canada with the chartering of the Downtown Toronto Civitan Club, charter number 264 on January 29th, 1932.

The Downtown Toronto Civitan Club's membership was drawn from a group of dedicated professionals who had their meetings at lunch time. It was this club which was responsible for introducing the March of Dimes fund raising and were the founders of Variety Village. The club became the Mother Club of Canadian Civitan by sponsoring the West Toronto Club, charter number 564, on November 16, 1948. The West Toronto Civitan Club produced two Governors for Canadian Civitan, sponsored the first bus for challenged people and provided and maintained wheelchairs for MS patients.

The Canadian Civitan Clubs divided into two districts forming Zone 5 of which Gord Bate was elected as the first International Vice-President. Ernie Moore was elected the first Canadian President of Civitan International. Canadian District East consisted of 10 clubs and Canadian District West of 20 Clubs. Prior to establishing Zone 5, Civitan in Canada was known as the Ontario District, and subsequently the Ontario-Quebec District.

Civitan International Foundation of Canada was established in 1971. The Canadian Foundation provides the same advantages to Canadians as the International Foundation provides to the U.S.A. Registered with the Federal Government, we have a charitable tax number and are authorized to issue Income Tax Receipts for donations received.

Over the years grants have been given to the Canadian Association for Community Living; a feasibility study on integration of mentally challenged children with normal summer camp programs; the Canadian Hearing Society; Gretzky posters; and a TV series to produce a series of instruction films to be used in training professionals working with mentally challenged children.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Civitan Club introduced Civitan to Sno-Do in 1976, a 100-mile marathon structured on the basis of a run-a-thon; however, in the case of Sno-Do 100, the course is run on snowmobiles. The drivers are responsible for raising pledges and collecting money for each mile completed. A small percentage of the funds raised were originally used to support Canadian District West and the remainder of the funds deposited with the Canadian Civitan Foundation. The funds were then redirected to the charities of the individual participating clubs choice. Now all monies are forwarded from the Canadian Foundation to the Civitan International Research Centre. Sno-Do 100 has subsequently become a major Junior Civitan project of International scale with Junior Governors from all over North America taking part in this event each winter, which is hosted by the Canadian Junior Civitan.

Junior Civitan was established in Canada under Charter number 153, on March 26, 1957 as the East Toronto Junior Civitan Club. The East Toronto Civitan Club was the sponsor. A second junior club was not chartered until March 13, 1970. This club was sponsored by Midland. A Canadian Junior Civitan District was formed on May 14, 1974 at Midland, Ontario. Al Hunkler from the Brampton Junior Civitan Club was elected the first Governor of Canadian Junior Civitan

Selling Christmas Cakes as a fund raising project has been a long standing program of Civitan Clubs. Started in the 50s with the Civitan Club of Tampa/St. Petersburg. This program expanded until it became the most important fund raising project for Civitan Clubs in North America.

The program was introduced into Canada in the late 1950s. Initially, the Canadian Clubs resisted selling the Claxton Cake and sold cakes made in Canada. As a result, until the late 1960s, Hunts Bakeries was the principal supplier of cake to Canadian Civitan Clubs. However, poor product quality and the trend to higher prices gradually eroded the acceptance of the Canadian product. At the same time, consistency in the Claxton quality and a better level of prices influenced our clubs to turn more and more to the American product. By the middle 70s, Claxton Cakes represented 90% of our sales.

From 1976 - 1980, Canadian District West Clubs were selling well over 200,000 pounds per year. The biggest year was 1976 when 225,000 pounds were sold.

In the past, Canadian District West has been a leader in cake sales with average sales per member above those of any other District in Civitan. Since the introduction of cakes as a fund raising vehicle in the late 1950s, it is estimated that our Clubs have sold well over 3,000,000 pounds of cake. This has resulted in raising over $1.75 million dollars for the Clubs and the District.

The Candy Box project was introduced to Civitan International at the Toronto International Convention in 1976. The Candy Box project is a fund raiser for the mentally handicapped with the slogan "Your Change Changes Things". It was then adopted by the Canadian Civitan Clubs and today is responsible for raising thousands of dollars toward mentally challenged projects.

Since 1968, Special Olympics has grown from a handful of events to becoming a truly Olympian movement, involving more than one million special athletes in more than 50 countries around the world. Special Olympians now compete in over 16 events - most of which the experts said the mentally challenged could never learn to perform. Civitan was designated as the Official Service Club sponsor of the Ontario Special Olympics held at York University in Toronto August 10, 11 and 12, 1989.

Canadian Civitans first became involved with Special Olympics in 1979 at Brockport, New York, and at the ISSO Games at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and were responsible for sending 67 Canadian athletes to the International Summer Olympic Games at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 1987. A large delegation of dedicated volunteer Canadian Civitans accompanied the athletes to the games and helped in the running of games and presentations.

The London Civitan Club introduced Civitan Help Identify Lost Dependant (C.H.I.L.D.) programmes to the Canadian District West Clubs in 1980. This programme has been a tremendous success with thousands of children being photographed and fingerprinted, thereby providing a permanent record should they go missing.

In November of 1999 a new club was formed. The Toronto Lung Transplant Civitan Club. This club's membership is comprised of lung or lung/heart transplant patients. While adhering to the Mission of Civitan, the club's mission is to build a home for transplant patients to prepare for and recover from their surgeries.

In July of 2003 another new club was formed. The Southern Ontario Civitan Club of ACTION. This club has an age restriction of 18 to 30 years. This club, while an adult club, is a transition club for Junior Civitans and young adults who will later in their Civitan careers move on to other senior clubs whose membership age is rather higher than theirs.

In October of 2003 the Don Mills Civitan Club celebrated 50 continuous years of service to the community. This was the first club in Canada to achieve this milestone.

At the Civitan International Convention held in Ottawa in July of 2003, William "Bill" Hiscott of the Mississauga Civitan Club was elected as International President-elect. This is only the second time in the history of the organization that a Canadian has been elected to this position.

At the International Convention in Tallinn Estonia, July 2012, Bob Robinson became the third Canadian to be elected International President-Elect.

The future of Civitan in Canada is only limited by the limits of our imagination.

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