On January 16, 1895, 18 immigrants from Norway met to formally establish Sons of Norway. The purpose of this group was to set up financial protection for themselves and their families in situations of sickness or death. One could say this would be a very early version of a life insurance group. Now, 125 years have gone by, this 18 member group has now grown to more than 50,000 in 350 lodges in the United States, Canada and Norway. It is now a Fraternal Benefit Society offering a full menu of life insurance and financial benefit products. Sons of Norway’s role in the community is also fully involved in the preservation of Norwegian Heritage and Culture and in 1966 the Sons of Norway Foundation was established to enable ‘giving to the community’ by way of charity. This new organization worked well and many Sons of Norway members became active participants. But the tax advantage system would only work for US residents. Therefore, the idea of a similar group in Canada soon became an active topic for discussion.
At the 1968 District 7 Convention, a resolution was considered and approved authorizing the District Board of Directors to begin the process of establishing a charitable foundation that would serve Canadian Sons of Norway lodges and its members. This organization would be based on the same principles as the (US) Sons of Norway Foundation.
The Canadian Foundation proposal report was considered at the 1970 District 7 Convention and approval was given to proceed to formation of Sons of Norway Foundation in Canada. With all the paperwork being completed, Sons of Norway Foundation in Canada was established as a Charitable Corporation under Part II of the Canada Corporations Act with Letters Patent issued August 6, 1971.
The signatories of the application were the District 7 Officers and Directors of the 1968-1970 term: Tormod Rekdal, Ralph Hagen, Anfinn Haaheim, Len Johnson, Harald Revaa and Ruby Jorde, all of whom were thereby declared the first directors of the Corporation.
At this stage, this Foundation was an extension of the District 7 Lodge and until 1980 the Annual General Meetings of the Corporation in even years were held in conjunction with the District 7 Conventions. During this time, all District Lodge delegates were thereby declared as being voting members of Sons of Norway Foundation in Canada
The objectives of the Canadian Foundation were the collection of funds by donations and bequests used for educational, cultural and charitable endeavors in the form of scholarships/bursaries and grants.
The first meeting of the Foundation was held on June 10, 1972. At this meeting the following officers were elected: Chairman Tormod Rekdal, Vice-Chairman Haakon Soros and Secretary-Treasurer Arne Sorbo.
A startup capital of $40,000 for the Sons of Norway Foundation in Canada came from the District 7 Charter Flight program (Canada to/from Norway) of the 1960’s. This was followed by appeal to lodges in District 7 to obtain Voting Memberships with a donation or cumulative donations totaling $1000. Eidsvold Lodge in Victoria started off with a $100 donation followed by Rondane Lodge of Prince George with a $200 donation. The first lodge to obtain a Voting Membership was Viking Lodge of Surrey in 1978, followed by Varden Lodge of New Westminster in 1979 and Sleipner Lodge of Vancouver and Saga Lodge of Langley in 1980.
In 1978, it was decided that invitations be sent out to Alberta and Saskatchewan lodges to become full participants in the Foundation. This conformed with the original intent of the Foundation as being relevant and service to Sons of Norway members and lodges in all of Canada. This also meant that Voting Memberships could be obtained by lodges and affiliate groups in those provinces and becoming full participants in the Foundation.
In 1980 the structure of the Foundation would change. This would mean that District 7 Convention delegates would no longer function as voting members of the Foundation. Under a reorganized format, Voting Memberships were awarded to the International Director positions of District 4 and District 7, and three each to District Lodge 4 and District Lodge 7. (It should be noted that a person representing a voting membership must be a Canadian resident.) The Board of Directors would consist of six National Directors elected from representatives of lodges and groups holding voting memberships. Once elected, the Board members would elect its Officers: President, Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer.
In 1990, at the Annual General Meeting, a decision was made to reduce the number of representatives of District Lodge 4 and District Lodge 7 to one each. The reason for this was that there were now 25 voting memberships held by lodge and affiliate groups in addition to the four held by International and District Lodge positions.
In 2008, the Board of Directors was increased by one member. This followed splitting the Secretary/Treasurer into separate functions as Secretary and Treasurer. This also eased the workload of those two very different functions of our leadership team.
There are three main thrusts of our Canadian Foundation. They are: to support Preservation of our Norwegian Heritage and Culture; Support for Post-Secondary studies by way of Bursaries; and, Financial Support by way of a Humanitarian Fund where individuals, groups and corporations can channel funds to help others.