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Craig Kielburger

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Craig Kielburger
Craig Kielburger in 2010
Craig Kielburger at We Day Waterloo 2011 with his brother, Marc Kielburger.
Born (1982-12-17) December 17, 1982 (age 37)
Alma materTrinity College, University of Toronto (B.A.)
Schulich School of Business, York University
Kellogg School of Management (EMBA)
OccupationSocial entrepreneur
Known forFounder of WE Charity and Me to We
Spouse(s)Leysa Cerswell Kielburger
RelativesMarc Kielburger (brother)

Craig Kielburger CM (born December 17, 1982) is a Canadian human rights activist and social entrepreneur. He is the co-founder, with his brother Marc Kielburger, of We Charity, as well as We Day and the independent social enterprise Me to We[1]. On April 11, 2008, Kielburger was named a Member of the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada.[2] He currently serves on the advisory board of the Leaders' Debates Commission.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Craig Kielburger was born in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada,[5][1] to Fred and Theresa Kielburger, two teachers and real estate investors.[6]

He attended Blessed Scalabrini Catholic School, in Thornhill, and Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in Scarborough, Toronto. In 2002, he entered the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of Toronto. In 2009, he completed the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA program at York University, as the program’s youngest graduate.[1]


We Charity[edit]

In 1995, when Craig Kielburger was 12 years old, he saw a headline in the Toronto Star newspaper that read "Battled child labour, boy, 12, murdered." The accompanying story was about a young Pakistani boy named Iqbal Masih, a child labourer turned child-rights activist who was killed for speaking out against the carpet industry.[7]

Craig’s parents, Fred and Theresa Kielburger, supported the early stages of the organization,[8] which was initially headquartered in the Kielburger family home.

One of the group's first actions was to collect 3,000 signatures on a petition to the prime minister of India, calling for the release of imprisoned child labour activist Kailash Satyarthi, who went on to win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.[9] The petition was sent in a shoe box wrapped in brown paper. On his eventual release, Satyarthi said, "It was one of the most powerful actions taken on my behalf, and for me, definitely the most memorable".[10]

In December 1995, Kielburger travelled to Asia with Alam Rahman, a 25-year-old family friend from Bangladesh to see the condition of child labourers for himself. While there, he learnt that then-Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien was travelling to India. After initially being denied a meeting, Kielburger was granted 15 minutes with Chretien to advocate for Canadian action on the issue of child labour, making headlines across Canada and internationally.[11] Upon his return, Kielburger attracted international media attention with features on 60 Minutes and the Oprah Winfrey Show.[12][13] His South Asian trip was documented in the Judy Jackson documentary "It Takes a Child".[14]In 1999, Kielburger collaborated with novelist Kevin Major to write Free the Children, a book detailing his trip to South Asia, his meetings with child labourers, and the founding of Free The Children. [15]

Kielburger’s charity initially fundraised for organizations that raided factories and freed children from forced labour situations. When it became clear that the rescued children were being resold by their impoverished families, Free The Children changed its approach. The organization began to fund school building projects in Nicaragua, Kenya, Ecuador and India. [16] Eventually, it developed an international development model focused on education, water, health care, food security and income generation. [17]

In 2016, Free The Children rebranded as WE Charity,[18] The organization implements domestic programs for young people in Canada, the US and the UK, and international development programs in communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.[19]In July 2019, Kielburger opened an educational facility WE College in Narok County, Kenya with the Former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell, Margaret Trudeau and The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta attending the event.[20] In August 2019, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau and Craig Kielburger announced that the federal government will be donating $3 million to the WE Social Entrepreneurs initiative.[21]

Me to We[edit]

In 2004, Craig and Marc Kielburger published Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World. The book included contributions from Oprah Winfrey, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Dr. Jane Goodall, and outlined the tenets of the “ME to WE” philosophy, including the importance of community and the idea of service as a path to happiness.[22]

In 2008, Kielburger co-founded ME to WE,[23] a social enterprise that offers socially conscious products, leadership training and travel experiences. ME to WE donates a minimum half of its profits to its partner organization WE Charity, to support its operating costs and international development work and invests the other half back into growing the enterprise.[24][25]

Public life[edit]

Craig Kielburger addressing candidates at the 2013 York University Convocation

Kielburger contributes a regular column called "Global Voices" for the Vancouver Sun,[26] Halifax Chronicle Herald, Edmonton Journal, Victoria Times Colonist, Waterloo Region Record, Winnipeg Free Press, Huffington Post and Huffington Post Canada online.

He is the author of 12 books, several co-written with his brother Marc Kielburger [27] Their latest publication (2018) is WEconomy: You can find meaning, make a living, and change the world, co-authored with Holly Branson, daughter of business magnate Richard Branson [28]

In 2000, Kielburger was awarded $319,000 in damages as settlement for a libel suit launched against the now-defunct Saturday Night magazine.[29] The settlement covered Kielburger's legal costs and the remainder was used to set up a trust fund for Free The Children.[29]

In 2007, at age 25, Craig Kielburger was inducted into the Order of Canada, the second-youngest Canadian ever to receive the honor.[30]

In 2012, Craig Kielburger Secondary School opened its doors in Milton, Ontario. The school was named for the activist after a campaign by two former and two current students.[31]

In 2013, Kielburger was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, alongside his elder brother Marc Kielburger.[1]

He participated in the 2015 edition of Canada Reads, advocating for Thomas King's book The Inconvenient Indian.[32]



  • Reebok Human Rights Award[33]
  • World Economic Forum Global Leaders of Tomorrow Award, 1998[34]
  • Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award, 2003[35]
  • Action Canada Fellowship (2005-2006)[36]
  • EY & Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2008)[37]

Orders, decorations and medals[edit]


  • Free the Children (1998) [41]
  • Me to We (with Marc Kielburger, 2004) [42]
  • Take Action (with Marc Kielburger, 2002)
  • Take More Action (with Marc Kielburger, 2008)
  • Making of an Activist (with Marc Kielburger, 2007)
  • The World Needs Your Kid (with Marc Kielburger, 2009) [43]
  • Global Voices: Volume 1 (with Marc Kielburger, 2010) [44]
  • Lessons From A Street Kid (2011)
  • Living Me to We: The Guide for Socially Conscious Canadians (with Marc Kielburger, 2012)
  • The Power of We Day: Moving the World from Me to We (with Marc Kielburger, 2013)
  • My Grandma Follows Me on Twitter ( with Marc Kielburger, 2012) [45]
  • WEconomy (with Marc Kielburger and Holly Branson, 2018) [46]


  1. ^ a b c d "Craig Kielburger". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. October 10, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  2. ^ "Order of Canada recipients | The Star". 21 February 2007. Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  3. ^ Government of Canada (April 2019). "Leaders' Debates Commission". Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  4. ^ Vigliotti, Marco (March 22, 2019). "Ex-politicians Leslie, Manley, Grey to sit on debates' commission advisory board". CBC News. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  5. ^ "The Freedom Fighter". Archived from the original on 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  6. ^ Spiering, Brenda. "Two teachers who helped their kids start a movement". Canadian Living. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  7. ^ "Boy leader of child labour protest is shot dead". The Independent. 1995-04-19. Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  8. ^ Rysavy, Tracy. "Free the Children: the Story of Craig Kielburger". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 2014".
  10. ^ Rysavy, Tracy. "Free the Children: the Story of Craig Kielburger". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "CANADIAN, 13, WAGES WAR ON CHILD LABOR". February 23, 1996 – via
  12. ^ "Promise to help children kept 17 years later".
  13. ^ "Winfrey, Kielburger launch youth initiative | The Star". 26 May 2008.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Free the Children". Quill and Quire. 2004-03-01. Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  16. ^ April 25, rew Duffy Updated; 2015 (2015-04-25). "Free The Children at 20: An unlikely Canadian success story | Ottawa Citizen". Retrieved 2019-05-19.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "Significant developments in Free The Children's history". Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  18. ^ Thomson, Greg (October 18, 2016). "Free the Children Becomes WE Charity". Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  19. ^ "WE Charity". Charity Navigator. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  20. ^ Trudeau, Margaret; Campbell, Kim (July 19, 2019). "When barriers are lifted, women flourish. The growth in Kenya's communities prove it". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  21. ^ "Federal Government Gives WE Charity $3 Million To Create 'Youth-Led Enterprises'". HuffPost Canada. August 21, 2019. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  22. ^ "CM Magazine: Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World". Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  23. ^ "Marc and Craig Kielburger's do-gooding social enterprise". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  24. ^ "Yorkdale Me to We pop-up offers one-stop Christmas shopping | The Star". 19 November 2014.
  25. ^ "Craig and Marc Kielburger believe changing the world is possible". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  26. ^ "Vancouver articles - Craig Kielburger".
  27. ^ "Craig Kielburger | Humanitarian, Activist & Co-Founder of the WE Movement". National Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  28. ^ Chierotti, Logan (2018-02-15). "Holly Branson, Daughter of Virgin's Founder, Merges Profit and Purpose in Book 'WEconomy'". Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  29. ^ a b "Child Rights Activist Wins Libel Award". CBC News. November 11, 2000. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  30. ^ a b "Order of Canada recipients | The Star". 21 February 2007. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  31. ^ "High school named after founder of Free the Children". 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  32. ^ "CBC announces Canada Reads finalists". Toronto Star, January 20, 2015.
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2010-02-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-13. Retrieved 2010-02-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ The Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "2005/2006 Fellows - Action Canada". Action Canada. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  37. ^ "Social Entrepreneur Of The Year 2008 Winner Canada".
  38. ^ "Meritorious Service Medal".
  39. ^ "Toronto Catholic District School Board". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  40. ^ "Diamond Jubilee Gala toasts exceptional Canadians - Arts & Entertainment - CBC News". 2012-06-19. Archived from the original on 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  41. ^ "Significant developments in Free The Children's history". Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  42. ^ Kielburger, Marc. Take action! : a guide to active citizenship.
  43. ^ "Introducing The Kielburgers' New Series On Parenting And Social Change". HuffPost Canada. 2012-01-12. Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  44. ^ Kielburger, Craig. Global voices. Volume 1, The compilation.
  45. ^ "My Grandma Follows Me on Twitter: And Other First World Problems We're Lucky to Have | Portland Book Review". Retrieved 2019-05-19.
  46. ^ Kielburger, Craig. WEconomy : you can find meaning, make a living, and change the world.