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100 Years of History

100 years



At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto,
we’ve been impacting the lives of children
for over 100 years.

And we’re just getting started.


For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change Canadian children and youth’s perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. And we have over a century of volunteers, donors, and advocates just like you to thank. 

It all started in 1913, when a woman by the name of Eleanor Adams Hunter, working in the court system in Toronto, noticed quite a number of young boys coming through, as what they called then, juvenile delinquents. She had heard of the Big Brother Program that had started in 1904 in New York City, and felt that these boys, many of whom were from father absent homes, could benefit from having a positive adult role model in life. She founded the first Canadian Big Brother program here in Toronto. 

More than 100 years later, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains true to our founders’ vision of bringing caring role models into the lives of children. And, today, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada currently operates in 10 Provinces, one Territory — and in 12 countries around the world. 


  Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers Movement in New York upon asking a number of his friends to spend some of their time – lending a hand to youngsters, starting with 39 volunteers.
January  1912
  Appointment of the Toronto Juvenile Court’s first Commissioner, Reverend J. L. Starr.  The creation of this court provides the initial framework within which the Big Brothers movement begins its work.
June 1913
  The Big Brothers Movement has its formal beginnings in Toronto with the appointment of Eleanor Hunter as General Secretary, after Clarence Noble arranges for her to attend the Juvenile Court to get the names of youth appearing there. In the first 10 months of her appointment, 250 boys are assigned matches.
September 1913
  A meeting of a council is held on September 18th, made up of representatives from the different religious denominations, to discuss how to carry on the work of the Big Brother and Big Sister Movement. Through the results of Miss Adam’s efforts to date, the program was officially launched. 
December 1914
  The sustaining group is formally organized. This action formally establishes the ‘Big Brother Big Sister movement’ as a privately maintained social agency for delinquent and pre-delinquent children under sixteen. 
February 1916
  The Big Sister Association is established as an independent agency. Big Sister representation continues on the Big Brother Board for a period of time.
April 1920
  The Big Brother movement of Toronto formally incorporates the agency under provincial letters patent. Its primary objective is ‘to promote the welfare of boys’. 
June 1920
  The first Big Brothers and Big Sisters convention is held in Toronto. 
  Big Sister Association is legally incorporated as the Big Sister Association of Toronto and York.
1940s – 1960s
  The Toronto Chapter of Big Brothers is joined by other groups including Hamilton, Halifax, Vancouver, Niagara Falls, St. Catharine’s,  and several other cities in Ontario.
  Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association (USA – but used in Canada too).
July 1963
  Several Big Brothers associations in Ontario meet in Hamilton to plan a national body.
October  1964
  A  meeting is held, during which an agreement is made to apply for a Dominion (national) charter under the name Big Brothers of Canada (BBC)—a non-profit organization.
December 1964
  The Canadian Secretary of State signs the charter on December 15th which outlines the mandate of Big Brothers of Canada Incorporated. The charter members included Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, St. Catharines, Peterborough, Owen Sound, Niagara Falls, Kitchener-Waterloo, Welland, and Oakville. 
  The first annual Big Brothers of Canada convention is held. 
  Office opens in Nova Scotia (St. Stephen’s).
  Offices open in Manitoba (Winnipeg), and New Brunswick (Fredericton). 
  Big Sisters Society of Edmonton is established.
  Bowl for Kids Sake, Big Brothers Big Sisters largest national fundraising campaign is launched.
December 1972
  Big Brothers of Canada separates from the U.S. and becomes a self-governing group.  Within four years, Big Brothers of Canada grows to include 110 agencies across Canada, serving 8,000 boys.
  Offices open in Newfoundland (St. John’s), Northwest Territories (Yellowknife), and P.E.I.
  The first joint Big Brother/Big Sister agency in Canada is formed in Halifax.
  Offices open in Saskatchewan.
  The office in Montreal opens, and by the end of the following year, four agencies are established in the province: Montreal, West Island, Victoriaville, and Quebec City.
  Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
  Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded.
  Big Brothers and Sisters of Canada, Big Sisters of Canada, and Big Sisters Association of Ontario merge to become Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. 
*September 2005 
  Toronto Mayor David Miller proclaims September as Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in Toronto.
December 2010
  As of this date, the number of young people being served exceeds 33,510. The number of children served in Canada since 1913 is over 472,000.
  Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada launches national mentoring and re-branding initiative, Start Something.
*April 2012
  First Youth Summit in Ottawa. Youth aged 16-19 took part in workshops and seminars that helped in developing their leadership skills, as well as the ability to articulate one's own ideas for social change, and to put those ideas/plans into action. 
  100th Anniversary.