By William Boei
Sunday, July 01, 2005
From the early 1990s on, if you wanted to raise money for charity in
Victoria, you called Ian Thow, a senior investment counselling executive
with the Investors Group and later with the Berkshire Group.
Thow organized charity dinners for the
homeless, with local celebrities serving the food. He helped raise
$100,000 to buy a police boat for the Victoria police department. He and
his family pledged $500,000 to Royal Jubilee Hospital a year and a half
ago for its gastroenterology department.
For years, he served as president of CrimeStoppers in Victoria, pledging a
$100,000 donation, and he was the driving force behind the new Greater
Victoria Police Foundation and a campaign to raise $2 million to buy
things like defibrillators for police cars on southern Vancouver Island.
Thow was credited with bringing in $1.1 million in donations for a
foundation named for Thrifty Foods president Alex Campbell.
In 2000, he made the winning bid of $1,700 on an Edmonton Oilers sweater
donated to a charity gala by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, and shelled out
another $1,200 for a seat at Klein's table.
And when retired National Hockey League players Russ and Geoff Courtnall
staged celebrity golf tournaments in 2003 and 2004 to raise money for a
new psychiatric emergency services unit in Victoria, Ian Thow was right
there. He pledged $100,000 himself.
Now Thow is being sued by several clients who claim the money they thought
Thow was investing for them is missing.
The B.C. Securities Commission said Thursday it is looking into Thow's
activities but has not decided on a formal investigation.
The Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada would not say whether Thow
has come to its attention. The association would reveal information about
an investigation only if it led to a notice of hearing or a settlement
agreement, corporate secretary Laurie Gillett said Thursday.
The RCMP's Integrated market Enforcement Team for B.C. said it wasn't
aware of the case.
Officials of the Courtnall celebrity golf tournaments -- the 2003
tournament featured retired hockey player Wayne Gretzky and B.C.- born
actress Pamela Anderson, among others, and basketball star Steve Nash
attended last year's event -- did not return calls Thursday.
The Greater Victoria Hospital Foundation would not confirm if Thow's
$100,000 pledge was actually delivered.
"We can't really discuss any aspect of a gift or pledge without the
consent of the donor," said foundation executive director Melanie
McKenzie, citing privacy legislation.
McKenzie did confirm that the Courtnall tournaments raised more than $2
million for the psychiatric emergency facility.
"It was one of those spectacular and wonderful projects," she said. "The
Courtnalls went out and raised the money and we were able to open it last
McKenzie said the foundation is worried about publicity around the Thow
"We're concerned that we will be affected by this," she said. "We've
already had one donor withdraw a gift as a result of the fact that we
won't talk about [whether Thow delivered on his pledge]. So it's deeply
troubling to us on all fronts."
A pledge is not a binding contract and charitable fundraisers understand
that a donor's circumstances may change after a pledge is made, McKenzie
The Berkshire Group's founder, Jamaican-Canadian billionaire Michael
Lee-Chin, could not be reached Thursday.