Swarovski Humanitarian Award 2012: Gary Slaight

It would be achievement enough had Gary Slaight simply followed in his father’s footsteps to build Standard Broadcasting into the largest privately-owned broadcast company in Canada.

But after selling the company’s 52 radio stations to Astral Media in 2007 for a cool $1.08 billion, Slaight has taken the lead in paving a new future for Canada through broad and diverse philanthropic efforts that reach communities across the country and around the world.

In June, Slaight, who in addition to being the president and CEO of an investment holding company and the founder of Slaight Music, and overseeing the family’s charitable foundation, was on hand to open the Canadian Film Centre’s Slaight Family Music Lab. The initiative that is focused on better integrating music creators into the screen-production process was an idea Slaight says was conceived over lunch with CFC founder Norman Jewison.

“There’s a need and there’s so much great Canadian talent, and it would be great to see more Canadian artists involved in both film and television, not just composing, but also writing lyrics and the whole kit and caboodle,” says Slaight.

Slaight also joined the board of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television last November, at a time when the organization is undertaking a series of changes to reform and revitalize its mandate and activities. “We want to see the industry grow, and we want to see more Canadians do well in their chosen craft,” he says.

Besides championing homegrown creative talent both in the media industry and via countless youth and arts initiatives – also including the Shaw Festival, the Canadian Opera Company and the National Arts Centre Foundation – Slaight and the foundation are behind numerous charitable causes and community service and development projects across the broader humanitarian landscape.

Just to name a handful requires a big breath: The Hospital for Sick Children, War Child Canada, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, World Vision, Free the children and the United Way of Toronto, the Bloorview Kids Foundation and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto.

“That’s just something our family’s always done,” Slaight says of the giving. He adds, “We’re very lucky and happy that we can do what we’re doing.”