2023 CANFAR Patrons’ Circle Awards

CANFAR awarded several of our dedicated community members for their advocacy and advancements in Canada’s HIV epidemic at an intimate ceremony on April 19, 2023. Here, we pay tribute to these amazing community champions.

Molly Johnson

Known as one of Canada’s greatest voices, award-winning jazz vocalist Molly Johnson is a mother, singer-songwriter, artist and philanthropist. Molly has performed throughout Canada, the US, and France and alongside renowned artists including Tom Cochrane, Blue Rodeo, Tom Jones, Anne Murray, and more.

Molly has been awarded the Queen’s Jubilee medal, and in 2008, was honoured with becoming an Officer of The Order Of Canada. Just a few weeks ago, Molly was awarded the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement and also one of France’s highest honours, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. Dedicated to helping communities in need, Molly is a long-time supporter of the HIV/AIDS cause, Molly has dedicated a large part of her career and lent her immense talent to headlining and leading fundraisers dedicated to AIDS research & awareness.

Molly established the Kumbaya Foundation and Festival in 1992, raising awareness and funds for people living with HIV/AIDS; she has also supported local organization The 519 since its inception, as well as Casey House. She continues to work with several other charitable organizations each year.

Mario Manza

A retail industry veteran, Mario Manza has been the Divisonal Vice President of VIP services at Holt Renfrew for over two decades. In this role, Mario has contributed to shaping the culture of dedication to service at a long-standing Canadian institution. With a storied career in retail spanning over 4 decades, Mario has applied his commitment to service to philanthropy.

He has generously supported a number of causes making a difference in the lives of Torontonians, including that of HIV/AIDS, for which he was honoured to receive the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2005, along with the entire Holt Renfrew team. Mario attributes his motivation in championing causes to the legendary philanthropic efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Weston.

Gary Slaight and the Slaight Family Foundation

The Foundation was established in 2008 by John Allan Slaight, known as Canada’s broadcast pioneer, music leader and a prominent Canadian philanthropist. Through his generosity, The Slaight Family Foundation proactively supports charitable initiatives in the areas of healthcare, at-risk youth, international development, social services and culture. The Foundation has been a partner of CANFAR for several years now, contributing to supporting leading HIV research and youth awareness.

The Slaight Family Foundation’s support of CANFAR’s youth resources has made possible the launch of CANFAR’s Sexfluent platform dedicated to youth, which will reach 1.5M this year.

The Jackman Foundation

The Hal Jackman Foundation supports a range of philanthropic activities in line with the family’s long standing commitment to education and the arts. Since 1987, the Foundation has awarded more than $50 million to over 250 charitable organizations in Toronto. The Foundation has been an important partner to CANFAR over two decades.

The Bluma Appel Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Stanley Reid

Dr. Stanley E. Read joined the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto in 1980, having completed a PhD in Montreal and postgraduate training in New York. At that time, unusual infections were being observed among gay men in San Francisco, later to be recognized as HIV/AIDS. Read was also seeing it in Toronto and, with his collaborators, carried out the first study of the natural history of HIV infection.

In 1987, he saw his first HIV-infected child and that became his focus as a pediatric HIV specialist, conducting research into the prevention of transmission of HIV from mother to baby.

In 1988, he established the hospital’s HIV/AIDS family-centred care program. Read was also active in providing compassionate care to the wider AIDS community: he treated adult patients at a Toronto clinic, was a founding board member of Canada’s first AIDS hospice, and for many years chaired the scientific advisory committee for CANFAR.

Read also touched lives in Russia, Ukraine and the Caribbean with his work on AIDS testing and prevention, disease treatment and teaching health-care providers to care with compassion. In the Bahamas, Read’s work helped reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission from a rate of 30 per cent in 1992 to near zero by 2004.

A global health leader, Read is working to create an AIDS-free generation.

A Special Tribute to Christopher Bunting, CANFAR Deputy Chair

Christopher Bunting

Earlier in 2023, we lost one of CANFAR’s most important contributors.

A relentless advocate for AIDS research and LGBTQ2S+ rights in Canada, an esteemed colleague and Board Member for the organization, Chris Buting was involved with CANFAR for over two decades in a wide variety of roles, including as President and CEO from 2008 to 2017 and most recently as Deputy Chair of CANFAR’s Board, a role he occupied since 2017.

An alumnus of both Carleton University and University of Ottawa, Christopher Bunting enjoyed a long and impressive career in consulting and management in Canada and the UK. He joined renowned PR firm Weber Shandwick Canada in 1985 where he became Chairman and CEO, supporting Top 500 companies with business strategy and enterprise communications as well as acting as a leader and mentor to hundreds of employees, clients and friends. Chris left Weber Shandwick in 2002 to join London’s global consulting group Inizio as Senior Managing Director. In 2008, he became Chief Executive Officer for the Awareness Foundation, also based in London, before retiring in 2010.

A few years later he began dedicating his time to supporting a number of causes including CANFAR’s mission of ending HIV in Canada, providing strategic input and expert guidance to the organization, its Board of Directors, executive team as well as employees and volunteers.

Chris was a mentor and coach to many business leaders and an esteemed advisor and colleague to LGBTQ2S+ and HIV organizations and advocates across the country. He was a skilled strategist and communicator, and his contributions to the industry were recognized by his peers, media and academic institutions throughout his lifetime.