Oxfam Canada Backgrounder
Oxfam Canada traces its history to the early 1960s, when the British-based Oxford Committee for Famine
Relief sought to establish a Canadian branch. The Oxford Committee itself had been founded during World
War II at Oxford University in direct response to the plight of Greek refugees. (Oxfam was the abbreviation
used as the telex name) By 1960 it was a major international non- governmental aid organization, and in 1963
it founded the Canadian Committee for World Relief.
Oxfam Canada incorporated in 1966; the first Board of Directors included 21 distinguished and influential
Canadians. By 1967, Oxfam Canada became a key organizer of the hugely successful, annual "Miles for
Millions" fundraising walk. By the late 1960s, Oxfam was beginning to provide educational materials to
schools and undertake early advocacy work in public policy development.
Initially, the fledgling group was largely dependent upon the Oxford Committee, but by 1964 a broadly based
grassroots organization had established itself in Canada. This grassroots factor has remained fundamental to
the growth and success of the organization throughout its history. The Committee began to call itself Oxfam of
Canada. This was the first time the term "Oxfam " had been used in connection with any structure outside of
the Oxford Committee.
The early 1970s was a critical period of growth as Oxfam began its own programming overseas in Africa, Latin
America and the Caribbean, and established an infrastructure of staff and volunteers in Canada to support its
work. As these networks of support solidified, the organization evolved into four regions – the West, Ontario,
Quebec and Atlantic Canada. In 1973, with the support of Oxfam Canada, Quebec became a separate
member of the international Oxfam movement.
During this same period, Oxfam Canada began to analyze its role in the development process, moving from a
traditional model of charity (handouts) towards long-term development programming (working with
communities to affect lasting positive change.)
Through such issues as anti-apartheid during the '60s, '70s and '80s and Humanitarian Aid to El Salvador,
Oxfam Canada became aware that the fundamental causes of poverty needed to be addressed. As a result
development programming was directed toward self- realization and community action.
Today, Oxfam Canada works with over 100 partner organizations around the world: tackling the root causes of
poverty and inequity and helping people to create self-reliant and sustainable communities.
In Canada, Oxfam works on development education, advocacy, public awareness and building a constituency
of support for our work.
Oxfam Canada is a member of Oxfam International, an alliance of the 12 Oxfams worldwide. With Oxfam
International, we work on joint campaigns, for example, Make Trade Fair, to raise awareness of issues and to
influence the policy of governments and institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund
and the World Trade Organization.
Contact: Naureen Khan at 1-800-466-9326 ext 220 or Roger Musselman at 416-535-6767 ext 206. Visit
our website at www.oxfam.ca
Updated: September 13, 2005