B.C. men-only charity group draws criticism

A charity group is stirring controversy by barring women from its gatherings.

The Kelowna, B.C.-based organization, 100 Men Who Give a Damn, bills itself as "a group of men who want to give back to their community but have limited time.

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Since the first '100 Men' chapter launched in Halifax in 2014, local groups have sprung up in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.

In Kelowna, the organization's 349 members meet once every quarter, when they are expected to show up with a $100 donation.

The meetings officially run from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., during which time the men listen to presentations from three charities, and then vote on which one they think most deserves the donations raised that night.

Before the formal part of the meeting begins, there's an hour set aside for registration, networking and buying drinks at the cash bar. And afterwards, there's a "post-event reception" at the bar.

The men involved, who include the city's mayor and a local MP, say it's an opportunity to give back and meet like-minded people.

"When you're surrounded by people who have the same views as you, it's a great way to network," one man says in a promotional video for the organization.

But the group's men-only functions are making some critics uneasy.

"This is worrying," Ilya Park, a women's studies professor at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan Campus told CTV Vancouver. "It sends an important message about the vision they have of the future of this community."

It's not the first time a local group has been criticized for excluding women.

Until early January, the local Junior Chamber of Commerce, or Kelowna Jaycees, did not allow women either.

"Women are being excluded in an ongoing kind of systemic fashion," Park said.

While 100 Men Who Give a Damn declined an interview, a statement from the group's co-founder says the group's purpose is to give back, not to create a men's-only social club.

"The focus of the 100 Men Who Give a Damn group is not meant to be a business or networking one but instead, about doing something good for our community," Brett Millard said.

And the Kelowna chapter's website recommends women who want to get involved check out a similar organization geared towards them.

"Ladies, feeling left out?" the website reads. "Please check out 100WomenWhoCare.ca"

According to their website, the Kelowna women's group also holds regular meetings where members are expected to bring a $50 donation and have the option of socializing at a cash bar.

Speaking with CTV Vancouver, the head of the women's group said she supports the men's cause, but added that socializing shouldn't be the main purpose of the events.

"If it's going to be a networking group then absolutely, they need to rethink it," Rose Sexsmith said.

The 100 Men Who Give a Damn Kelowna chapter's next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2, at the Kelowna Yacht Club.

There are no plans to include women at that event.

With files from CTV Vancouver


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