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Blake Goldring: an honorary citizen soldier speaks out.

Chairman and CEO of AGP Management Limited, Blake Goldring comes from a family familiar with the value of giving back to the community. His grandfather helped to found the United Way of Toronto in the 1950s, something that Goldring says drove him to give back to society.

As a result, Goldring has a long list of charities and initiatives lie has lent his considerable skills to, including the World Wildlife Fund, Sunnvbrook Health Sciences Centre, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Toronto Zoo.

Coming from a family of educators, Goldring has also lent considerable time and money to education, including a $15.1 million commitment to the facilities at the University of Toronto.

In May 2006, after a long connection to the military, and seeing a necessity for community lead projects to give back to Canada's men and women in uniform, Goldring founded Canada Company, an organization dedicated to soldiers and their families. Since its founding, Canada Company has grown significantly.

In October 2007, Canada Company launched its scholarship fund to support the children of Canadian Forces members killed while serving on an active mission. The scholarship was originally supported by a Si million contribution from CIBC, and has since grown to over $2 million. Qualified children receive up to $4000 per year for up to tour years of post secondary education.

Canada Company is also taking aim at employment for reservists and veterans. With a partnership already in place with RBC, Goldring is looking to expand in order to reach other corporations looking to benefit from the unique skills and attributes soldiers can provide to the civilian worktbrce.

In recognition of his commitment to the military, Goldring was named Honorary Colonel of The Royal Regiment of Canada in 2006. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor General in 2009, and last year, Goldring was named Honorary Colonel of the Canadian Army.

On April 5, Esprit de Corps got the opportunity to talk with Goldring about his relationship with the military, Canada Company, and supporting the men and women of the Canadian Forces.

ESPRIT DE CORPS: You've shown over the years that you have a very real connection to the military, how did that come about?

GOLDRING: It was really a friend of a friend invited me to an annual mess dinner at the Royal Regiment of Canada and it was just an awful lot of fun. They created a group of insiders to give money to the regiment and over time, after the commanding officer left, this little band of outsiders left until I was the last man standing. It's something I consciously think about since Afghanistan and the early days of the conflict. But it was in 2003 that General Rich Lewis invited me out to lunch and I was sure he was going to ask me for financial support. So I brought my cheque book, but he floored me when he asked, 'Would you like to replace me as the honorary colonel of The Royal Regiment of Canada?'

I told him that I've never fired a gun and I've never marched. He said, 'Well, there's lots of people that can do that, but it's that link to the broader business community and that's really what we're looking for and hoping to achieve.'

After that I spent many Thursday nights over two month really seeing what was going on in the Armory and I was struck by the range of backgrounds of the people that would put the uniform on and rally around the flag and I thought that if these folks are doing this, surely I can do something.

EDEC: Is it that experience that ultimately led to the founding of Canada Company?

GOLDRING: That certainly got me in, that made me decide I wanted to contribute, but it was really just speaking with soldiers and seeing where we could make a difference. Hearing about the children of the fallen and making sure that the families are taken after, but it's often the children that are forgotten, and that's what lead to the scholarship fund.

EDEC: Is there still room for Canada Company to grow into a larger role?

GOLDRING: We will continue grow. We are the bridge between the business community and our military. We have chapters across the country. We're not expanded to where we should be. We have Halifax and some prairie provinces where we would like to establish new branches. We would like to have more members which tend to he business and community leaders. We have programs that have yet to deploy. We have the Canadian Forces job transition initiative. This will be something that we'll be launching in the middle of May and basically it's a job transition initiative on a web portal, where companies seeking to hire CF members will be located and members looking to transition out can find eager employers who would look for their skill sets.

EDEC: Canada Company awarded 10 scholarships to the children of fallen CF members last year, and the fund has grown significantly in the last couple years. Is there a plan. to expand the fund in the future?

GOLDRING: Right now we're looking after the children of our fallen in an active mission, and we've gone as far back as Bosnia and there are tight guidelines as far as how old the children have to be, but basically it's no questions asked as soon as we know they meet the requirements of the program. Another thing we've done is with Project Hero, which was started by Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Reed and General (ret'd) Rick Hillier, where children of fallen soldiers get free tuition to community colleges and universities. The combination of free tuition and $4,000 is a significant help.

EDEC: You had the unique opportunity to go over to Afghanistan and visit with Canadian troops on the ground. What did that experience mean to you?

GOLDRING: As a Canadian I felt incredibly proud by the real sense of mission, professionalism and the focus on accomplishing goals that our soldiers demonstrated. I was incredibly impressed by our air force and army as well as their leadership.

EDEC: Sharing the Sacrifice received a significant push from the government in the 2012 budget. What does that direct support from the government mean to a movement like Sharing the Sacrifice?

GOLDRING: We're very appreciative of the government's support of this initiative. Programs have existed in the UK and Australia for some years, and what this does is provide tangible support to reservists and companies employing reservists. Symbolically, it will send a signal to tax payers and all Canadians that public service as a reservist is a noble thing to do. As important as it is to the companies and individuals impacted, I think it's the symbolic side that's a great message.

EDEC: Are there additional challenges facing reservists and separating active duty personnel as they look to enter the civilian workforce?

GOLDRING: Sometimes they're already in the workforce but retaining their job if they get deployed and keeping the job open. And there's maybe a subtle form of discrimination because reservists may get deployed or go on extended training. No employer is ever going to say they discriminate against the Canadian Forces. But business is business and it's one of those issues that just takes away one of those reasons that an employer may not hire a reservist.

EDEC: In the United States there isftderal legislation which protects the jobs of reservists if they happen to be called onto active duty, whether it is _for training or during wartime. Is it time for Canada to pursue such legislation in. order to provide legal protection for reservists?

GOLDRING: There is job protection that exists today, but it's a hodgepodge because labor is the jurisdiction of the provinces. So there's a hodgepodge of different rules depending on which province you're in. In any event, for business people, rules and regulations are a stick and what you need is a carrot. And the carrot in this case is compensation for backfilling or training another employee to carry the load if somebody happens to deploy.

EDEC There are also initiatives in the US which provide employers with a tax break for hiring veterans, is that a direction Canada should pursue and if so, to what extent?

GOLDRING: This particular initiative that the government has supported in the budget is a good solid start in the right direction. The simple recognition that public service as a reservist is unique. It's different than volunteering for many other very important and good causes. But the government could consider different measures like you have in the United States but it's tough to speculate given our deficit situation right now. And in a tough environment to get something like. this, it was a very welcome move by the government.

EDEC: Is there a stigma or misunderstanding of skills that's attached to hiring reservists and military mernbers?

GOLDRING: I think there isn't a misunderstanding. I think when people who have no exposure to our military do get a chance to meet individuals they can't help but be impressed by their discipline, their sense of commitment, their sense of focus, their spirit to get a job done and their leadership, which is something that our military really excels at teaching. That, 1 think, is One of the great secrets of our military and it's important that we get that message out and Canada Company has been an effective vehicle for that.

EDEC With the end tithe mission in Afghanistan approach*, what role will Canada Company be playing five years from now?

GOLDRING: I see us with major branches across Canada, supporting a number of various programs that are meaningful to our military. We'll have a robust job exchange program and hopefully we will have moved the bar a bit in enhancing the understanding and tightening those tics between the military and the business community.

Answers to the trivia questions on page 57: 1) Mickey Mouse! 2) Web equipment cleaner (it supplanted the Blanco compound cakes, which had to be mixed into a paste. 3) The Mormons. Their pay went directly to their church! 4) Three. Besides 2PPCLI and the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment, the Middlesex Regiment also received the battle honour but no U.S. citation. 5) Of the total 516 Korean War casualties, 319 were due to enemy action. 6) Cpl Harrison holds the new record for a long-distance sniper kill, killing two Taliban at a range of 8,120 feet 7) Adolf Hitler supposedly had a fling with a French farm girl in 1918, resulting in M. Jean-Marie Loret. 8) The 1941 film "49th Parallel" (also known as "The Invaders") was a great story of a sunken U-boat's crew crossing Canada in an effort to escape to the US. 9) The Royal Newfoundland Regiment memorial at Beaumont-Hamel. 10) "Jive the Cavalry!" was the theme song of "The Horse Soldiers" of the Confederate Army, but it was popular on both sides.
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Title Annotation:INTERVIEW
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2012
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