The history of the Foundation started well before its incorporation and the launching of its activities in October 2000.
As early as the 1960s, André Chagnon was an active member of the Kiwanis Club and involved in efforts to help the most destitute members of society. His interest and concern led him to participate in setting up various organizations, including Terre-des-Jeunes, a centre providing stimulation and support for children with mental disabilities, and Portage, a substance abuse rehabilitation centre.
While he was president of the Groupe Vidéotron (cable, television and telecommunications), the company called on the services of Groupe AFFI* for office maintenance and equipment repair. André Chagnon also provided funding for various initiatives, primarily in the areas of education, health, the arts and sports.
Concerned by poverty and social inequality, all of the members of the Chagnon family have been devoting themselves to several charitable causes for many years. Their many commitments are a concrete expression of the deeply-held convictions that led them to create and become involved in the Foundation. By 1988, they had already decided to invest a portion of their assets in the philanthropy sector by creating the trust that would eventually become the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation.
* Since 1971, Groupe AFFI has provided employment for people living with functional limitations. It currently has close to 500 employees.
2000-2006 - Getting started
In October 2000, following the transfer of Groupe Vidéotron ltée, André Chagnon retired from his activities after 37 years at the head of the company he had created.
Along with his wife Lucie and their five children (Johanne, Claude, Christian, Élaine and Isabelle), he decided, at the age of 71, to devote his time and energy to the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation, which is still the largest family foundation in Canada. The family injected $1.4 billion into the project.
Preventing poverty and disease
The Foundation obtained official status as a charitable organization and became fully incorporated. It launched its activities and established the blueprint of its mission: acting to prevent the causes of poverty and disease—rather than their consequences—and supporting communities in their efforts to mobilize and look for innovative, comprehensive and sustainable solutions.
In 2001, the Foundation launched its first pilot projects in areas as varied as school-to-work transition, the promotion of alternative medicine, and social pediatrics. It also created several partnerships, in particular, an agreement with the government of Québec to set up a physical activity program that would lead to the creation of Québec en Forme the following year.
This period, which resembled a research and development stage in the history of the Foundation, was marked by participation in numerous projects and the acquisition of knowledge. It was during these years that the Foundation clarified its orientation and objectives by deciding to concentrate on preventive intervention in very early childhood and children’s overall development.
In 2002, representatives of the Foundation went on a consultative tour across Québec, Canada and abroad to identify the most promising approaches to poverty and disease prevention. They learned that, in general, social change is the result of local initiatives, which are the most effective way to tackle extremely complex situations.
Support for a growing number of organizations
Although the objective of the majority of the projects was to promote early childhood development (through Québec Enfants, for example) or improve parenting skills, others served to set up university chairs—integrating preventive approaches into medical faculties, for example—and contribute to the implementation of the Health Promoting Hospital model. It was during this period that the Foundation also acquired the Proteus website (the predecessor of PasseportSanté.net), thus obtaining the means to provide the general public with easy-to-understand medical and health-related information.
2007-2014 - Major partnerships
The Foundation pinpoints its target: educational success
In the pursuit of its mission to prevent poverty, the Foundation decided to narrow the focus of its activities to concentrate on a major determinant of poverty: educational success. Both poverty and educational success are priorities with strong social consensus throughout Québec.
The Foundation’s mission was consequently updated to read:
Our mission is to prevent poverty. To achieve that aim, we have chosen to focus on the educational success of young Quebecers by helping them to develop their full potential from conception to age 17.
Through the acquisition of knowledge, key competencies and personal, social and democratic values, educational success helps to ensure personal development, intellectual autonomy, a smooth transition into the labour force and active participation in society.
To reach its goal, the Foundation chose to focus on three determining factors of educational success:
- School readiness
- Healthy lifestyle habits – particularly physical activity and good nutrition
- Student retention – keeping young people in school
In spite of the success of its projects in the health sector, the Foundation decided to no longer provide direct support in that area, based on the principle that a person who has had the opportunity to achieve their full potential has the capacity and the tools they need to look after their own health. The Foundation therefore initiated a gradual withdrawal from the projects it had been directly supporting.
Adopting two strategies
Core strategy: community mobilization
In recognition of the key role played by the State in the areas of poverty and education, the Foundation, in partnership with the Québec government, set up three independent not-for-profit organizations to help local and regional communities reach their goals to advance the development of their children’s full potential:
- Avenir d’enfants for early childhood development
- Québec en Forme for healthy lifestyle habits
- Réunir Réussir for student retention
The activities of these partnerships gradually intensified and expanded throughout Quebec.
Complementary strategy: raising social awareness
In addition to its support for community mobilization, the Foundation also developed tools and activities to raise awareness of the importance of early intervention to promote optimal development in very young children.
During this period, 75% of the Foundation’s investments were devoted to partnerships and 25%, to other projects aimed at awareness, experimentation and innovation.
2015 - The beginning of a period of transition
A decision not to renew expiring partnership agreements
In 2015, at the culmination of an 18-month process, the Chagnon Foundation and the government decided not to renew these partnerships, specifically to allow the Foundation to recover its distinctive, legitimate philanthropic role.
That decision provided the opportunity to reflect and take stock of the Foundation’s major achievements as well as critical views of its legitimacy: “Don’t tell us, support us,” “Don’t negotiate, collaborate,” “Don’t replace government, complement it,” and “Don’t monitor, learn.”.
During that same year, while continuing to respect its commitments and provide support for communities (mainly through Avenir d'enfants until 2020 and Québec en Forme until 2019), the Chagnon Foundation began work on updating the forms of its philanthropic support based on experiences and lessons learned over the past years.
Throughout all these processes and periods of reflection, the Foundation’s mission has remained unchanged: to prevent poverty by fostering educational success. The Foundation is committed to providing support for individuals and groups who are helping the children of Quebec get a good start in life and supporting them throughout childhood and adolescence, helping them to realize their full potential and play an active role in a society that is supportive, fair and inclusive.
2017-2020 - New orientations and a progressive rollout
Meetings with stakeholders
In 2017-2018, the Foundation embarked on a series of meetings to discuss its role, its past and its future with more than 760 representatives of organizations from a wide range of sectors: community, philanthropic, social, early childhood, education, public health, government, municipal, university, union, and economic. This proved to be a significant step towards regaining a certain degree of legitimacy.
Support that provides leverage
The Foundation now intends to play a role that is clearly distinct from that of the government. Focusing on cooperation, mutual respect and trust, it is looking to provide long-term support for organizations and associations that are working to help develop the full potential of young people in Québec, particularly in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and contribute to reinforcing their capacity for action.
A vision focused on social justice
The Foundation’s vision is to help make Québec a supportive, equitable and inclusive society in which every child and every family can realize their potential and play an active role.
Three drivers that serve the Foundation’s mission
- Its capital: portfolio management moving toward responsible investment practices, with 10% of assets reserved for investments that further its mission between now and 2028.
- Philanthropic support: The Foundation offers funding for initiatives proposed by:
- associations that work in disadvantaged communities
- community, association and professional networks
- organizations that offer resources (data, tools, etc.)
- Participation in dialogue on public policy
Aware of the importance of open and transparent communications, the Foundation published its first activity report (in French only) in 2020.
- Trajectoire de la Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon – Conversations between Jean-Marc Fontan, Co-Director of the Canadian Philanthropy Partnership Research Network (PhiLab), and Jean-Marc Chouinard, President of the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation.
- Becoming a Part of Quebec’s Social Fabric: Lessons from the Chagnon Foundation’s Growth Trajectory from 2000-2018, The Philanthropist, February 2019.
- Historic Trajectory of the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation - 2000-2018, PhiLab, October 2018 (in French).