In the mid-1950s, five visionary actors – Jane Mallett, Barbara Hamilton, Donald Davis, Barry Morse, and William Needles – each put a symbolic $1 into a pot and launched the Actors’ Fund of Canada. In the words of Jane Mallett, who became our Founding President, the organization was created so “that we could better look after those in need in the theatrical profession, either visitors or residents in Canada.”
After a series of benefit performances at the Crest Theatre, the Actors’ Fund of Canada was incorporated on May 27th, 1958, to “care for the aged, sick, and destitute.” The scope of the organization was not confined to any one branch of the entertainment business. Rather, it was “designed to help anyone, anywhere, who has ever been engaged in any branch of the entertainment industry,” a commitment held dear ever since. Jane Mallett remained its President until her death in 1984.
Throughout the 1960s, the charity addressed a relatively modest need in the community, disbursing a few thousand dollars in financial aid a year.
A number of theatres sprung up throughout the country in the 1970s, and along with significant growth in the film and television industry, this prompted a spike in applications. Emergency financial aid grew to around $50,000 per annum by the mid-1970s and doubled again by the beginning of the following decade.
The devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic on the community were the watershed period of the organization’s history. Operations advanced considerably by hiring an Executive Director and expanding the Board of Directors. Emergency financial aid disbursements continued to climb steadily, averaging around half a million dollars annually.
In 2016, the Actors’ Fund of Canada became simply The AFC to be more representative of the diverse communities we serve and to open the door to helping even more Canadian entertainment professionals maintain their health, dignity, and ability to work.
Over the next two years, the annual emergency financial aid exceeded $700,000 for the first time, and we expanded our programs into the areas of financial wellness and personal support and advocacy.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of industry members have turned to The AFC for help to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. During this challenging time, we responded to the need in the community with over $2.5 million in emergency financial aid and other programs and services supporting the health and well-being of arts and entertainment professionals working in all aspects of film & TV, music, theatre and dance.
Now, 65 years after those visionary actors put $5 into a pot, The AFC remains the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry. Our work is generously supported not only by individuals and long-standing contributors such as theatres, festivals, and production companies but also by the majority of the performing and technical unions and associations whose members we serve.