A Philanthropic Family

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A Philanthropic Family

Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk may be music industry heavy hitters, but they’re also big believers in giving back.

Canadian musicians are often honoured with Junos, Much Music Video Awards, a star on the Walk of Fame and any number of other music-specific nods, but it is rare for them to rack up awards in another area entirely: philanthropy.

Husband and wife Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk – he the frontman for multi-platinum-selling rock band Our Lady Peace and she a chart-topping solo singer-pianist – have tallied up a number of music prizes, but in December they added something new to their arsenal of awards: two Order of Canada appointments.

The duo is more than just musicians. They’ve dedicated a large part of their lives to giving back. They’ve raised money and awareness for War Child Canada, Polar Bears International and The Canadian Mental Health Association, among other organizations.

They’ve also left the comfort and safety of their home on numerous occasions to travel – together and separately – to Iraq, Darfur and Ethiopia with War Child Canada to see first-hand the work the organization is doing to help the children in conflict areas. “You can read about it all you want but until you’re there with the people and experience it and spend some time there, it’s hard to really understand,” says Maida.

Naturally, becoming a Member of the Order of Canada, which recognizes “outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation,” is a huge honour, but it’s one that Maida and Kreviazuk are a little uncomfortable with. “I grew up in Winnipeg. This was not ever something that I heard about as a kid,” says Kreviazuk, 40.  “Honestly, I still feel like that girl. I am who I am and do what I do, and I do not feel that should be rewarded. But I am honoured that the way I live my life is considered to be worthy of such an acknowledgment.”

Maida agrees. He’s not doing charitable work for the recognition. He does it because it matters to him. He also feels that while he’s doing his part, there are others more worthy of the prize. “We just try to accept it on behalf of all the people who really deserve it, to be honest,” he says. “I always preface everything like this: We don’t get up in the morning trying to save lives, like War Child or other people do. It’s not my main occupation, so to accept an award on it is very odd, but hopefully it helps draw awareness.”

Maida and Kreviazuk met in 1996 at a Pearl Jam concert in Toronto – he was sitting in the row behind her and they also shared the same record label. They quickly became friends and after three years together, they married in 1999. When they tied the knot, they were already successful artists, both having written chart-topping albums. Since then, they’ve also penned hits for other artists, such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani and more.

They make a good songwriting team, but when it comes down to it they’re just an exemplary couple who are kind and direct, hard-working careerists and also devoted parents to their three sons, Rowan, 11; Luca, 9; and Salvador, 6.

One of the reasons why they’ve been so successful in their careers, and in their philanthropy, is that they’ve made a point not to get involved in celebrity life. They are out there when they need to be – to perform, to promote their music and to highlight a cause they support. Otherwise, they mind their own business.

The two came to their activism differently. Maida remembers leaving a Peter Gabriel concert at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens and being handed an Amnesty International sticker and Greenpeace flyer and talking with their representatives. He signed up to Amnesty’s mailing list and then to Irish band U2’s newsletter, who have always been political and charity driven. “I was always connected to the musicians who had a social conscience, and as I started as a musician and an artist it was just part of it from the beginning,” he says. “Obviously, it wasn’t until I really got to know the people at War Child that that became the main cause. But I always felt like that was part of being an artist for me, in a weird way. It just didn’t work without it.”

For Kreviazuk, there wasn’t one incident that set her down a charitable path. “I have always been the justice police. I have always been curious and questioned the establishment and the world around me in general. Even as a child, I could not accept the poverty in my hometown’s downtown core. I was dismayed by the quality of life that our indigenous population seemed to endure. My father was generous – to the church, to NGOs – I saw that.”

When Maida and Kreviazuk first met, they didn’t talk about social and political issues or shared views on certain causes, he says. They were busy making music. But in September 2000, after Kreviazuk played a huge benefit concert for War Child Canada in Winnipeg, they decided that they wanted to get more deeply involved. A dinner with Dr. Samantha Nutt and Dr. Eric Hoskins, War Child’s founders, set them on the same philanthropic course. “The night we had dinner with Sam and Eric about (going to) Iraq, we knew that was something we both wanted to do. And basically through that trip, and through the interaction with War Child in the years that followed, it kind of just set the tone,” says Maida.

“Raine and I were meant to challenge each other intellectually and that was clear right from the start.”

Still, they never set out to support similar causes. It just worked out that way. “We’re like-minded people in terms of what we write about, what we talk about, what we’re passionate about, but in terms of ever really having a conversation about what we believe in, it never actually had to happen,” he says. “We were always on the same page, luckily.”

“Raine and I were meant to challenge each other intellectually and that was clear right from the start,” adds Kreviazuk. “It was going to always be more than self-serving incentives that would sustain us as people and as a couple. Awareness and exposure to the greater world would be key.”

While receiving the Order of Canada pin is, no doubt, a major milestone in the couple’s lives, their work is by no means done. Maida hopes others will join him. For those who want to give back, Maida says to find out as much as you can about the people running the charity. “Charity is all about relationships,” he says. “Try and get to know the people in charge.”

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