Toronto businessman and philanthropist Martin Connell is the recipient of the 1994 Pearson Peace Medal. The award was presented by Governor General Ramon John Hnatyshyn during a ceremony at Rideau Hall on December 5.
Over the past decade, Martin Connell has brought hard-headed business sense to the challenges if development and poverty alleviation, both in Canada and in developing countries. The successful chairman of Conwest Exploration, an oil and mining company started by his grandfather, Connell used his own money to establish the Calmeadow Foundation in 1983.
Recognizing that without access to capital of credit, the working poor have little chance for economic advancement, Calmeadow makes small-scale loans – averaging under $200- available to micro-enterprises. From providing working capital for a sidewalk vendor in La Paz, Bolivia, to financing the purchase of a deep-fryer for a native-owned restaurant on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, Calmeadow-backed loans have generated employment and income in poor areas.
In addition to his work with Calmeadow, Connell is also the chairman of the Canadian Center for Philanthropy, and has been a key figure in the Centre’s Imagine Campaign, which seeks to increase the level of charitable giving. Imagine has set a target of one per cent of after-tax profits for corporate giving, a target which most Canadian corporations are now attempting to achieve.
The Pearson Peace Medal is awarded each year by UNA-Canada to honour a Canadian for outstanding achievements in the field of international service and understanding. Connell is the 16th recipient of the Medal, first awarded in 1979 to Paul-Émile Cardinal Léger.
In nominating Connell for the 1994 medal, Tim Brodhead of the J.M. McConnell Family Foundation said that Connell’s work shows that issues like “development” and “peace” are the responsibility of every citizen. “By choosing to become involved, Brodhead wrote in his nomination letter, and by dedicating all his energy and vision and commitment to making a difference once that choice was made, Martin Connell is a source of inspiration for Canadians and a fine example of what the Pearson Peace Medal seeks to honour.”