In the mid 1950’s, The Actors Fund of America, which had been in existence since 1882, asked members of Canadian Equity, then a subsidiary of its American counterpart, to help them raise funds for their cause. It was, however, decided – in the words of Jane Mallett – “that we could better look after those in need in the theatrical profession, either visitors or residents in Canada, if we raised such a Fund and administered it ourselves.” Five actors, Ms. Mallett, Barbara Hamilton, Donald Davis, Barry Morse and William Needles, put a symbolic $1 into a pot, and the Actors’ Fund of Canada was launched.
After a series of benefit performances at the Crest Theatre, the Actors’ Fund of Canada was incorporated on May 27th, 1958. Its stated purpose “to care for the aged, sick and destitute”, was not confined to any one branch of the entertainment business, but was “designed to help anyone, anywhere, who has ever been engaged in any branch of the entertainment industry,” a commitment which has been held dear ever since. Jane Mallett, to whom the organization and its beneficiaries owe an enormous debt of gratitude, remained its President until her death in 1984.
In 2016, the organization previously known as the Actors’ Fund of Canada became The AFC. The new brand opens the door to helping even more Canadian entertainment professionals in more ways that will help them maintain their health, dignity and ability to work.
Now, almost 60 years after those visionary actors put $5 into a pot, The AFC, the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry, disburses over $500,000 annually to all professional members of the entertainment industry. In turn, it is generously supported not only by individuals and long-standing contributors such as theatres, festivals and enterprising producers, but also by the majority of the performing and technical unions and associations whose members it exists to serve.
Over the years, many distinguished members of the profession have voluntarily given a great deal of time and care to ensure that the lifeline will always be ready to help those in need. Robert Christie, Grant Cowan, Penelope Doob, Gino Empry, Marion Gilsenan, Gary Goddard, Celia Hamilton, Vanessa Harwood, Araby Lockhart, Judy Richardson, Sandy Webster, William Webster and Kenneth Wickes are just some of those who over five decades have served on the Board of The AFC with distinction, a tradition the current members strive to continue. Like their predecessors, they are dedicated to preserving and strengthening the health of the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry so that it can provide compassionate and confidential support for entertainment professionals in need.