Ritz-Carlton’s viral holiday social media post was not what they said it was

The luxury hotel chain backtracked on it’s promise that every share would equal one gift for a sick child



Ritz-Carlton Montreal spokesperson Katia Piccolino said that the intention behind the campaign was never to deceive the public. Rather, the purpose was to raise awareness and get people to donate to the Tree of Lights campaign for Sainte-Justine, which many people did, she said.

It all came down to the wording of the post itself, she said. “If we would have put a cap on the number of toys we were going to donate, then this problem wouldn’t have occurred.” Piccolino apologizes for and admits to this error.

Finally, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal decided to extend their donation to the Montreal Children’s Hospital as well as Sainte-Justine. Children from both Hospitals are expected to receive toys in time for the holidays.


Ritz-Carlton Montréal’s viral Instagram post was suddenly taken down on Monday morning, Dec. 7, after having been up for less than a day.

The video post featured essential workers in a hospital during the late hours of night, as well as sick children who were unable to be in proximity of their families due to the global pandemic. An inspirational piano tune played the background of the video as the closing caption read “far from our eyes, close to our hearts.”

The heart-warming video was paired with a caption that stated the Ritz-Carlton would be collaborating with Decarie Motors et Vo-Dignard Provost Groupe to deliver toys to the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.

The post stated that every Instagram story share would result in one toy donated to a sick child in need.

Due to a high number of shares, the post blew up overnight. Within nine hours, it reached 150,000 views, according to MTL Blog. Representative for the Ritz-Carlton Montréal, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Concordian, “it created a buzz that was so unexpected we had to take it down.”

The representative further explained that the post had reached its goal of 500 shares, a number that would guarantee a toy for every child at Sainte-Justine. The original post made no mention of this 500 share limit.

People who shared the video were not happy about the secrecy that went in taking the post down. The video was put back up after the backlash. Angry social-media users took to the Ritz-Carlton’s latest Instagram post to express their disdain for the alleged questionable campaign.

Accusations that the luxury hotel used sick children as a publicity stunt to better their image were many people’s concerns. One Instagram user said, “got more shares than y’all thought and didn’t want to start having this be a non-profitable venture.” Some threatened to boycott the hotel all together if they didn’t release a statement saying that they would donate all the toys.

A statement was released to the hotel’s Instagram, claiming that the objective was to raise awareness for the children of Sainte Justine hospital. The statement issued an amended goal of donating toys according to the hospital’s needs rather than for every share to Instagram as originally promised.

The controversial video still received  2.1 million views. Over the time of this two-day campaign, the Ritz-Carlton’s Instagram account saw an increase of nearly two-thousand followers, yet the hospital’s Instagram account following remained constant.

The Ritz-Carlton Montréal representative is disappointed that people would assume that the hotel company would not honor their word. But when asked why there wasn’t more transparency behind the campaign and the deleting of their post, he refused to comment.

The representative says the Ritz-Carlton is an annual supporter of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation. The luxury hotel chain has previously thrown Breakfast with Santa Claus events and have done similar campaigns in the past. They promise to deliver 500 toys on December 20th.

The CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation did not reply to multiple requests for comment.


Screenshot of Instagram post.

Put your money where your heart is

The case against The Salvation Army — and who should replace it

I think I speak for everyone when I say this year has been rough. On top of the COVID-19 crisis, the political vicissitudes we’ve witnessed have raised awareness about supporting nonprofits and charities who share our principles.

Notwithstanding the many holidays in the upcoming weeks, the end of the year as a whole has been associated with giving back. So if you are able to contribute to a charity, I have one request to make: don’t donate to The Salvation Army, and don’t shop at their stores.

Over the years, The Salvation Army has been at the centre of every possible kind of accusation. Their conservative mission has caused many to call them out on their abusive and discriminatory practices.

Most notoriously, they have vocally been against gay and trans issues. They have refused or forfeited housing to homeless LGBTQ people and maintained their religious stance against same-sex relationships and have a history of refusing to comply with anti-discrimination policies. They even held campaigns encouraging gay people to seek out conversion therapy.

The list of this organization’s wrongdoings goes on and on. Their workfare programs in the United Kingdom, a form of welfare in which people have to work in order to continue receiving benefits, have been heavily criticized for forcing people with disabilities — or anyone, really — to work in order not to lose their means of survival.

A homeless woman who stayed at a Salvation Army shelter has described the insalubrious conditions she lived in and the horrific behaviour of employees, calling out an environment that fosters abuse of power from the part of the organization’s workers.

All this under the pretext of the benevolence of Christianity.

This being said, if you would like to contribute to important causes, here are some other charities, both local and international, that you should consider helping out:

Resilience Montreal and Native Women’s Shelter

This charity is a good alternative to The Salvation Army if you want to fund a homeless shelter. They provide mental support, food, and medical resources to the community, and if you’re unable to give money, they sometimes collect donations of clothing and food. Native Women’s shelter is a branch of Resilience that specifically gives support to vulnerable Indigenous women.

Chez Doris

This is another women’s shelter with a similar mission to Resilience. They also offer legal services and advice to those who may not have access to a lawyer.

Afrique au féminin

This centre provides support and encourages the emancipation of immigrant and racialized women in Montreal. They hold classes, workshops, communal activities, and even daycare services to help women integrate into their community and regain their independence.

Mona Relief Yemen

The Yemeni crisis has left millions in urgent need of shelter, food, and even clean water. Mona Relief works directly with communities to respond to their needs, and ensures the least amount of resources are wasted on administration and intermediaries. They’ll also periodically send email updates and pictures from their projects, so you can really follow who your money helps.

3 Angels Nepal 

Through preventive measures, 3 Angels works to fight human trafficking in Nepal, where mostly women and children are smuggled across the border to India. Their projects ensure the safety of victims, and provide resources like microcredit and education to help victims reintegrate into society independently.

These are my personal picks, but I hope they help you look for organizations that speak more to your personal values, and encourage you to support important causes.


 Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Fundraisers are moving online as the pandemic causes safety concerns

Charities are moving their events online, but some experts wonder if this will be enough to keep donations up

Every October the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada hosts a walk in Montreal to raise money and awareness for blood cancer. It usually takes place in Parc Jean-Drapeau.

But this year, the park will be quiet.

On Oct. 24, like many other fundraisers during the pandemic, the event will be hosted online because of COVID-19.

Aptly called Light the Night, the walk is usually recognizable by the lanterns carried by its participants. Christina Cinquanta, the fund development manager for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, Quebec region, said 7,000 walkers attended the event last year.

“Light the Night is one of the biggest fundraisers and celebrations that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society hosts,” said Cinquanta. “But this year we determined that a virtual Light the Night is the most appropriate and responsible thing to do.”

The organizers of Light the Night are now making the event available online in the form of a nation-wide broadcast on Oct. 24. Organizers are also adapting formerly in-person activities to things that can be done remotely.

For example, they will be mailing treat boxes and lanterns directly to the teams of volunteers who helped fundraise for the event.

Cinquanta said that Light the Night Montreal alone raised $1.4 million for the organization in 2019. This year the Society lowered their goal to one million dollars.  She is optimistic that they will meet their goal.

“We have teams fundraising every day,” she said. “They’re doing bingo nights, poker tournaments, raffles — all virtually. They’re doing everything they can.”

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s move to online raises questions about how the charitable sector is adapting to the pandemic more generally.

Many Montreal and Quebec charities have either postponed their events, converted them to online, or cancelled altogether. This scenario has some experts questioning the sector’s dependence on events as fundraising tools.

It is difficult to say how donors have responded to organizations’ efforts so far.

A recent survey by the Institut Mallet suggests that Quebec residents have made more monetary donations during the pandemic than previously. However, 69 per cent of charities reported declines in revenues nation-wide, according to a recent report by Imagine Canada.

Daniel Lanteigne, a philanthropy consultant at BNP Performance, has been advocating for charities to start moving away from events and building alternate relationships with donors.

“We have been saying for many years: less events, more discussion with donors,” he said. “So you can get them to a point where they might give a major gift or a planned gift.”

Greg Thomson is the Research Director at Charity Intelligence.

“Some of these events are very expensive,” he said.

“When donors give $100 to someone who is walking or running, they are really only giving $50 or $40 dollars. The rest is going to covering the costs.”

Thomson hopes that charities’ online experiments will lead to long-term innovation in the sector, particularly in the form of reducing event costs.

In the future he hopes that charities will use lessons learned from the pandemic to bolster their other fundraising methods or re-configure their events to maximize the benefit-to-cost ratio.

“From the difficulties we have, innovation sparks improvement for a lot of these big events,” Thomson said.


Photo courtesy of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Student Life

Illuminating the Night

Thousands of Montrealers bring light to the darkness of cancer

The Light the Night Walk is organized every year in numerous cities across North America to honour those who have been affected by cancer. Families and friends from all regions of Quebec gathered Saturday, Oct. 13 in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Notre-Dame, to walk in remembrance of those who have been lost to cancer.

Many musicians were present, such as the People’s Gospel Choir of Montreal, Vikki Gilmore, a Montreal-based singer who performed during the walk, and many more. “It’s such an important cause,” said Gilmore. She felt the best way to get involved was through music, which can sometimes be more soothing than words. Gilmore volunteered at a psychosocial oncology lab for a year and said it was an incredible experience. “I started performing at the march four years ago,” she said. “My aunt passed away from metastatic lung cancer in 2013, and after that, I wanted to get involved in cancer research awareness.”

Light the Night is hosted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLS), a charitable foundation whose main mission is to cure blood cancer. The march helps fundraise for the foundation, as well as other research and support programs for patients.

“What’s great about this event is that it allows people to connect with others,” said Gilmore. “Often, when we deal with loss, grief or the stress and the heartache that comes with the disease, we feel isolated and forget that other individuals are potentially experiencing a similar situation,” she explained.

“What’s great about this event is that it allows people to connect with others,” said Montreal-based singer Vikki Gilmore. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

A crowd of more than 5,000 people gathered in the park before the march, which took place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. There was almost no industrial light throughout the event. The only light cutting through the darkness came from the colourful lanterns waving in the air. From beginning to end, the march was full of cheerful volunteers, and smooth music set the ambiance for the walk.

Volunteers gently shushed the crowd to have a moment of silence for family members and friends who lost someone to cancer. On each side of the trail, there were small transparent bags with artificial candles in each one. Written on the bags were the names of those who have fought against blood cancer.

“It’s hard when you lose a loved one,” said a mother, who wished to remain anonymous, whose daughter passed away from leukemia at the age of four. “To have the family and friends here supporting you and your loss is such a beautiful gesture,” she added.

At the end of the march, volunteers congratulated the participants. “There is so much that can be done,” said Gilmore. “With foundations like the LLS Canada and fundraising events like Light the Night, so much more can be done.” The annual event creates a community of supporters, survivors, researches, and patients who, for one night, bring light to something typically so dark.

Feature image by Mackenzie Lad.


Facilitating a better future through film

Montreal screening of renowned Lebanese filmmaker’s flick to benefit children’s charities

All profits from the Montreal premiere of Franco-Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi’s Listen will go towards four Lebanese non-governmental organizations. The screening, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 at Guzzo’s Sphèrteque in St-Laurent, is part of the series Rendez-vous du Cinéma Libanais à Montréal put on by Liban-Canada Fonds (LCF).

Founded in 2000, LCF is a Montreal-based, volunteer-run organization that raises funds for Lebanese charities. Its proceeds go to NGOs such as Sesobel, which provides social services for children with disability; the Institut de Reeducation Audio-Phonetique (IRAP) which helps deaf children; and the Lebanese Child Home Association (AFEL) which advocates for abused children. In 2004, the Société St-Vincent de Paul, which helps underprivileged families, became the fourth NGO in the LCF family.

The Rendez-vous du Cinéma Libanais à Montréal series is a continuation of the LCF’s five-day Lebanese film festival organized last May. Listen (Esmaii in Arabic) tells the story of Joud, a sound engineer who enjoys recording wild, natural sounds. He falls in love with Rana, a beautiful, free-spirited woman from a different social class, but her parents forbid Joud from seeing her. This is when he begins sending Rana sound bites of his voice, and tells her to listen to them.

“It is a movie that must be heard, not just watched. It is a film about noise as much as it is about silence,” Aractingi said. A self-made filmmaker from a country where cinematic studies isn’t a career option, Aractingi is mostly known for a trilogy about Lebanon’s civil war.

Ideally, all of the profits from the LCF’s events are split equally between the organizations they work with to directly help children in need. The more money they raise, the more children they can sponsor, Abdul-Massih said. The treatment and care for a child provided by Sesobel, for example, costs about $1,200 USD a year, including doctor and therapist consultations.

Abdul-Massih said LCF’s events are a great way for Montreal’s Lebanese community to gather and unite in support of a great cause. Whether it’s through a cultural event, such as a movie screening, or a simple gathering, like the LCF’s annual brunch fundraiser, showing up to these events is a community effort, Abdul-Massih said.

According to Aractingi, Listen is set “in the war-ridden country of Lebanon in the midst of a socio-political turmoil, where the only form of resistance, the only form of survival is love.”

On a recent trip to Lebanon, Abdul-Massih said she experienced that same intense love—the volunteers and employees of the four organizations there seemed to emit love in every way possible. The love was so intense that she said she felt she was leaving a sort of paradise when she returned to Montreal.

According to Abdul-Massih, the work of these organizations has helped reduce the stigma faced by children in Lebanon born with disabilities. These organizations’ accommodations have helped change the Lebanese mentality regarding disabled people, she said. So what better way to continue making a change for the better than by enjoying a movie with a down-to-earth story produced by one of the most famous Lebanese filmmakers of our time?

Tickets to the screening are $25. All the proceeds from the event—except for the renting cost—will be donated to the four LCF-funded organizations. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 514-241-9858 or visit the foundation’s Facebook page.

Student Life

How charity work and business come together

Concordia hosts a panel where social entrepreneurs discuss their experiences in business

Six panelists spoke about their experiences as social entrepreneurs- people who start up businesses with the aim to solve or improve certain social problems- at a talk at Concordia on Nov. 16.

The six speakers included Kim Fuller, the founder and creative director of Phil Communications; Sydney Swaine-Simon, the co-founder and international director of NeuroTechX; Thérèse Regenstreif, the program manager of Mining Shared Value; André Boisvert, the general manager of ZAP; Jessica Newfield, the chief communications officer of Grey-Box; and Jason Dominique, the executive director of Testicular Cancer Canada.

Photo by Ana Hernandez

The panelists offered in-depth insight and information regarding their views on the business model of self-sustainability through donations, and working for a cause rather than primarily for profit.

The social entrepreneurship model practiced by these six individuals is a sort of middle ground between charity work and for-profit business. On the one hand, these entrepreneurs want their businesses to prosper and make a profit. On the other hand, they want to achieve that profit in a moral way, as they contribute to causes and issues they care about.

“I quickly realized after volunteering for [nonprofit] organizations… that there were cycles of dependency [on money] and I realized that the nonprofit sector, even though it is well intentioned… [isn’t] the most effective in actually bringing about community change,” said Newfield. Newfield is currently working on Grey-Box, a small, portable computer that can be solar-powered and connected to Wi-Fi networks.

The social entrepreneurs spoke about how they see their profession as a more pragmatic version of charity. They explained the challenges social entrepreneurs face are similar to those for-profit businesses and charities face.

“We’re still not perceived really as a legitimate business… It really ticks me off that, when I talk to people about the kind of work I do, they’re like ‘aw, it’s so sweet. Look at you, you’re such a do-gooder.’ No, it’s a business—I’m in the business of helping people who help people. That’s a lot of responsibility. There’s nothing ‘cute’ about finding out that your client, who runs a women’s shelter, has to close on Saturdays and Sundays because of budgeting cuts,” said Fuller.

While all of these entrepreneurs acknowledged that the path they’ve chosen is difficult, Regenstreif summed up why they all continue with their work.

“If you guys choose a certain path because you think it’s a safe path or it’s a guaranteed path that’s going to bring you ‘x’ amount of money, there are no guarantees,” she said.

“So just do what you want to do, because you’re likely going to fail a few times, and I’d much prefer myself to fall down when I’m doing something that I enjoy versus something that I’ve been told to do by someone else.”


Montreal food banks in need of support

This holiday season, Montreal food banks and shelters including Moisson Montréal, Salvation Army and Share the Warmth have noticed a considerable decrease in the amount of donations they’ve received and fear they will not be reaching their objectives in time for Christmas.

This time of the year is particularly difficult for the less fortunate. As the weather gets colder, the amount of help needed rises. Many of Montreal’s nonprofit organizations are noticing their partnerships have lessened since last year.

“We’re a little late this year compared to last year,” said Sandra O’Connor, who works as the director of marketing and communications at Moisson Montréal. “Last year at comparable dates, we had about 140-150 businesses participating, and right now only about 90 businesses have confirmed that they will be holding food drives.”

However, this is not the first time Moisson Montréal has experienced such problems. “Every year, we face the same difficulty of reaching our objectives before Christmas. We get answers very late in the season. It creates a stress for us,” said O’Connor.

Nevertheless, Montreal food banks need canned goods and donations now. Most of the time however, donations and food rush in during the days leading up to Christmas day.

“We need to make the baskets before we give to the people in need. We need all the stuff three or four weeks before,” said Dany Michaud of Moisson Montréal. “We need time to prepare the baskets of food to then hand out, they need to be ready for Christmas.”

Organizers at Moisson Montreal are speculating that the weather and the fact that people have not gotten into the Christmas spirit might be to blame for the decrease in participation of food drives within businesses.

Debra Gunn, program co-ordinator at Share the Warmth for over 15 years, works with businesses that help raise money and organize food drives. Gunn has also noticed the decrease in donations they’ve received this year.

“A lot of companies have downsized [the] number of employees and other companies have closed,” said Gunn. “I’ve lost eight companies, four of which have closed down.”

The Salvation Army is facing a different kind of situation. Brian Venables, ordained minister and officer at the Salvation Army in Montreal, claims that although they have been receiving fewer donations, the amounts of each donation have been larger than in previous years.

The organization which also relies on help coming from various businesses, plans on handing out 1,200 hampers in Montreal alone. Each hamper contains enough food to last a week.

“It is important that we keep building better partnerships and working with the corporate sector, because the economy is what it is, people have lost their jobs, or theres the threat of losing their jobs,” said Venables.

The Sun Youth organization intends on helping 18,000 people this year. They believe they will attain their objectives in terms of number of baskets they will be handing out, but they will not be as full as they normally are.

Sid Stevens, the executive vice-president of Sun Youth, believes the NHL Lockout was in part the cause of the decrease in donations collected this year. In previous years, Sun Youth received a major part of their charitable donations from sports bars and nightclubs during NHL games.

All these nonprofit organizations urge Montrealers to reach out and help. After all, no one should go hungry on Christmas.

Student Life

Bikers bare buns to benefit bicycle co-op

Walking down the concrete steps into the Right to Move bike co-op, a man brushes past me and steps through the door, holding it open for me a second before he skirts off into the underground store. I step in to see him holding up a series of photos featuring the co-op’s volunteer staff in the nude, much to the approval of his fellow bike shop volunteers.

RTM is located in the alley between Bishop St. and Mackay St., below Sherbrooke West St. Photo by Jay Ploss

Having explicit photos of the staff waved in front of them is not the typical greeting most visitors to the bike co-op receive, though it is something the Right to Move are hoping their patrons will be interested in paying for; as of this week, they’ll be selling a nude calendar featuring the shop’s mechanics, with all proceeds going towards helping Montreal’s community bike shops.

The Right to Move’s mission, for those of you not in the know, is to promote cycling as an accessible and environmentally friendly form of transport. The shop, located in the alley between Bishop and Mackay behind the Hall building, gets roughly 3500 drop-in visits a year for things like general maintenance, repairs, and bike building. Even in winter, they help between 10 to 15 people a night. The co-op also seeks to provide an alternative to regular bike shops and is geared towards bikers who might not be able to afford expensive parts or are too intimidated by the formality of big cycling stores to ask for help.

“We provide the tools and the expertise for them to learn how to repair their bikes, we also have used parts which are really cheap and new parts when you can’t find a part to suit your bike,” said volunteer Shanty Richer. “It’s basically just about people coming in and wanting to learn about bike repairs, and we’re here to help them with that.”

Richer has been working with Right to Move since it first debuted its naked calendar three years ago. She says that their non-profit organization is in a unique position to be able to help their fellow community bike shops thanks to their arrangement with the university.

“We’re very fortunate in that we don’t have to pay rent or electricity since Concordia’s providing that for us, but it’s not all bike shops that are that lucky,” she said. “Most of them have to pay rent and utilities, so it can be hard for people who want to get together to form a community bike shop to actually start one without having expertise or money; we want to provide some backing for them.”

Photo by Jay Ploss

Richer says that since the inception of the calendar fundraisers, four new shops have appeared in Montreal.

“The calendar is a way to help them get a bit of funding to start as well as raising awareness about Montreal bike co-ops.”

One startup that will be receiving funds is a new shop near the theatre production studio at Loyola campus, tentatively set to open next spring.

What of the product itself? Far from being a raunchy sexposé à la Hustler, the calendar photos are tasteful yet cheeky (in every sense of the word), reproducing classic paintings like Raphael’s The Three Graces, and staging mock ‘bike fights’, among other tableaus. Each photo features a volunteer from one of Montreal’s community bike shops as well as clever repurposing of bike parts as props, clothing or something in between, lending the photos a peculiar junkyard chic.

The calendar is also a chance to give the Montreal bike shop volunteers a bit of recognition for their efforts.

“A lot of times, visitors come to these places, they receive help from people, but don’t necessarily see them as people. It’s nice to get the chance to glorify, for lack of a better word, the people involved,” said newly minted RTM board member Alex Woznica. “It’s their time to shine!”

So why should you buy a calendar? Woznica presented a simple ultimatum. “Buy these calendars, or we’ll start killing cats!” he joked. Richer objected to this sentiment immediately, offering her own form of incentive to potential purchasers: “You won’t need to buy me a drink to see me naked!”

The calendars themselves, however, are $15 each and are available both through RTM’s website and its downtown location, as well as at venues like Bike Curious, Le Yeti and La Bicycletterie Jr.


RTM is located in the alley between Bishop St. and Mackay St., below Sherbrooke West St.

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