In 1939, in consideration of Senator Patrick Burns’ will, a court order was issued setting up trusteeship and administration of The Burns Memorial Bequest Fund for three groups of beneficiaries:
- Widows and orphans of members of the police force of Calgary
- Widows and orphans of members of the fire brigade of Calgary
- Poor, indigent and neglected children of Calgary
Over the years, a number of legislative changes have been made to the mandate of the organization, as the needs of the city evolved. In 1970, an act to clarify and broaden the terms of the children’s fund was given authority. The act established a fund to be administered by the City of Calgary or its nominee to support “poor, indigent, or neglected” children in Calgary under 21 years of age and to provide “preventative welfare schemes” for those children. The act also allowed for assistance to any registered charity that serves such children.
In 1975, an act to amend the police and fire settlements from the will was passed. The act was responding to the improved social and financial conditions of widows and orphans of police officers and firefighters and recognized that the income of the funds exceeded the present and foreseeable needs of widows and orphans. The new act allowed for the payment of tuition, living or other costs of a child of a police officer or firefighter attending an institution of learning. In 1981, the act was further amended to allow the police and fire funds to make payments for the benefit of low-income children in Calgary. The priority of the beneficiaries was indicated to be widows and orphans, then children of police officers or fire fighters attending an institution of learning, and then children in poverty.
Today, Burns Memorial Fund is made up of a private charitable foundation (the Children’s Fund) and two non-profit trusts (the Police Fund and the Fire Fund). These funds operate collectively as Burns Memorial Fund. The organization became an independent entity in 1984. As per Senator Burns’ wishes, an appointed Board of Trustees, made up of senior city officials, governs Burns Memorial Fund.
Senator Pat’s bequest continues to help Calgary’s children. The Police and Fire Funds assist children of police officers and firefighters who are pursuing post-secondary education or who need special assistance in school, as well as children living in poverty in Calgary. The Children’s Fund provides direct support to children and youth in need and assists organizations which work with low-income children. Today our mission is to continue the great work started by Senator Patrick Burns so many years ago. Like him, we believe in Building Our Community, One Child at a Time.
Sources used for this history include Pat Burns: Cattle King by Grant MacEwan and the Archives of the Glenbow Museum.