“Like Mr. Slaight was saying, we are the rich people at the table,” the American-born Butler said onstage at the Juno gala. “Like the country of Canada, we are the rich, stingy people. We need to give more and give as much as we possibly can.”
While Arcade Fire has been involved with many causes since its formation in Montreal in the early 2000s, its primary focuses are Partners in Health and Kanpe.
Partners in Health is a renowned global health-care organization that establishes long-term relationships with sister organizations based in poverty-stricken areas. Kanpe -- co-founded by Chassagne and Dominique Anglade, both born to Haitian parents who fled to Canada -- works with its partners to help Haitian families escape poverty. Arcade Fire has raised and donated over $4 million, trained thousands of outreach volunteers and engaged some 500,000 fans in support of the people of Haiti.
In 2004, the band included a song called “Haiti” on its debut album, Funeral. That same year, Arcade Fire played two hometown shows and donated the profits to Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. In 2006, Arcade Fire started donating $1 per concert ticket sold to Partners in Health, and in 2010 Chassagne co-founded Kanpe. Four years later, Plus 1 was launched (now run by former Arcade Fire member Marika Anthony-Shaw), which encourages other touring acts to add a dollar to their ticket price directed to a charity of the artist’s choice. So far, Plus 1 has raised $6 million for numerous causes. Non-Canadian acts that have participated include Sam Smith, St. Vincent, Chvrches, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and The National.
The Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award is now in its ninth year. Previous recipients include Rush, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida, Simple Plan, Bruce Cockburn, Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado. This year, the honor comes with cash award of more than $23,000 at current exchange rates ($30,000 CAD), which is donated by the Slaight Family.
“The Slaight family is proud to acknowledge the great deeds that Arcade Fire has done for causes at home and abroad over the years,” says Slaight Communications president/CEO Gary Slaight in a statement. “My father, Allan Slaight, has always stressed the importance of giving back, and this great Canadian band has done so in spades.”
This article originally appeared in the May 5 issue of Billboard.