The History of Amistad Canada
Amistad Canada organizes, implements, and monitors focused projects in cooperation with selected non-profit agencies in Mexico and provides tax-receipts for Canadian donors who support those projects.
The organization has its origins in San Miguel de Allende, a small colonial city in Mexico’s Guanajuato state, where a sizeable group of people who come from cold climates spend their winters and, in some cases, their retirement years. Responding to the vitality and warmth of San Miguel’s community life and the very evident need of the local population for more social support, many people in the expatriate community become active in supporting social agencies that provide services to those in need. Amistad Canada has been formed to help Canadians participate more effectively in such efforts.
It was organized, incorporated, and registered under the Income Tax Act in 2009 — a lengthy process that was led by Mel Kliman, at that time Amistad’s Treasurer and Administrative Director, and later President (2011-13). But the organization was built on the foundation of a fundraising effort by Canadians in San Miguel that goes much further back.
In the 1980s, Aileen Harris of Toronto began doing volunteer work for the Centro de los Adolescentes de San Miguel de Allende (CASA), and in the early 1990s, decided to organize a committee that would draw other Canadians into supporting CASA. In its early years, 'Canadians for CASA' held annual fundraising events in San Miguel. Canada’s Ambassador to Mexico attended some of these and the Embassy matched private donations. In the 2000s, fundraising events were organized in both Toronto and San Miguel by Aileen’s daughter, Elizabeth Harris, who was the first President of Amistad Canada, until her untimely death in March 2011.
CASA operated the first school of professional midwifery in Mexico, and the activities of Canadians for CASA in Toronto attracted the involvement of several Toronto midwives. Links soon developed between the CASA School and Ryerson University’s Midwifery Education Program. This helped to make Canadians for CASA a good fit when volunteers were sought to form a new organization seeking charitable status for work in Mexico. In 2009, Canadians for CASA merged into the new organization that became Amistad Canada. And, not surprisingly, our first partner was CASA and our first project was to fund a Clinical Coordinator who worked in the CASA Midwifery School and its Maternity Hospital.