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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 36)
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
RelativesMarc Kielburger (brother)

Craig Kielburger (born December 17, 1982) is a Canadian human rights activist. He is the co-founder, with his brother Marc Kielburger, of the WE Charity (formerly known as the Free the Children), an international development and youth empowerment organization; ME to WE, a social enterprise,[1] and WE Day, an annual youth empowerment event. On April 11, 2008, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada.[2][dead link]

Early life[edit]

Craig Kielburger was born in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada.[3][4] to Fred and Theresa Kielburger, two teachers and real estate investors.[5] He attended Blessed Scalabrini Catholic School, in Thornhill, and Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in Scarborough,Toronto. He graduated with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from Trinity College at the University of Toronto.[6] In 2009, he completed his Executive MBA at Schulich School of Business at York University and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University as the dual-school program's youngest-ever graduate.[7] [8]


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 who was forced into bonded labour in a carpet factory at the age of four, became an international figurehead for the fight against child labour by 12 years old, and was murdered in 1995.[9]

Kielburger did more research about child labour and asked his grade seven teacher to speak to his classmates on the topic. Several students offered to help, and the group of pre-teens started "Kids Can Free the Children" (later named WE Charity).[10] Craig’s parents, Fred and Theresa Kielburger, supported the early stages of the organization[11], 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.[12]

In December 1995, Kielburger travelled to Asia with Alam Rahman, a 25-year-old family friend from Bangladesh. While there, he learnt that then-Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien was travelling to India. After initially being denied a meeting, Kielburger sat with Chretien for a 15-minute meeting to put child labour on the Prime Minister's agenda, making headlines across Canada and internationally.[13] Upon his return, Kielburger attracted international media attention with features on 60 Minutes and the Oprah Winfrey Show.[14][15] His South Asian trip was documented in his book "Free The Children" and the Judy Jackson documentary "It Takes a Child".[16]

ME to WE[edit]

In 2004, Craig and his elder brother Marc 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.

In 2008, Kielburger also co-founded ME to WE[17], a social enterprise that offers socially conscious products, leadership training and travel experiences. The social enterprise donates 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.[18][19]

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[20], Halifax Chronicle Herald, Edmonton Journal, Victoria Times Colonist, Waterloo Region Record, Winnipeg Free Press, Huffington Post and Huffington Post Canada online.

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.[21]

In 2000, Kielburger was awarded $319,000 in damages as settlement for a libel suit launched against the now-defunct Saturday Night magazine.[22] The settlement covered Kielburger's legal costs and the remainder was used to set up a trust fund for Free the Children.[22]

He participated in the 2015 edition of Canada Reads, advocating for Thomas King's book The Inconvenient Indian.[23]

In 2007, at age 25, Craig Kielburger was inducted into the Order of Canada, the second-youngest Canadian ever to receive the honor.[24]

In 2013, Kielburger was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, alongside his elder brother Marc Kielburger.[25]



Orders, decorations and medals[edit]


  • Free the Children (1998)
  • Me to We (with Marc Kielburger, 2004)
  • 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)
  • Global Voices: Volume 1 (with Marc Kielburger, 2010)
  • 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)
  • WEconomy (with Marc Kielburger and Holly Branson, 2018)


  1. ^ Brown, Jennifer (October 16, 2008). "Changing attitudes one T-shirt at a time". Toronto Star. Torstar. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  2. ^ "Craig Kielburger honoured with the Order Of Canada". Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  3. ^ "The Freedom Fighter".
  4. ^ "Craig Kielburger | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  5. ^ Spiering, Brenda. "Two teachers who helped their kids start a movement". Canadian Living. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  6. ^ "News | University of Toronto".
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Craig Kielburger | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  9. ^ "Craig Kielburger (Profile)". Beyond Intractability. September 12, 2016.
  10. ^ Craig Kielburger, "Free the Children Speech", St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas, October 5, 2010
  11. ^ Rysavy, Tracy. "Free the Children: the Story of Craig Kielburger".
  12. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 2014".
  13. ^ "CANADIAN, 13, WAGES WAR ON CHILD LABOR". February 23, 1996 – via
  14. ^ "Promise to help children kept 17 years later".
  15. ^ "Winfrey, Kielburger launch youth initiative | The Star".
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Marc and Craig Kielburger's do-gooding social enterprise". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  18. ^ "Yorkdale Me to We pop-up offers one-stop Christmas shopping | The Star".
  19. ^ "Craig and Marc Kielburger believe changing the world is possible". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  20. ^ "Vancouver articles - Craig Kielburger".
  21. ^ "High school named after founder of Free the Children". 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ "CBC announces Canada Reads finalists". Toronto Star, January 20, 2015.
  24. ^ a b "Order of Canada recipients | The Star". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  25. ^ "Craig Kielburger | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-13. Retrieved 2010-02-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ The Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award
  29. ^ "2005/2006 Fellows - Action Canada". Action Canada. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  30. ^ "Social Entrepreneur Of The Year 2008 Winner Canada".
  31. ^ "Meritorious Service Medal".
  32. ^ "Toronto Catholic District School Board". Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  33. ^ "Diamond Jubilee Gala toasts exceptional Canadians - Arts & Entertainment - CBC News". 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2019-02-05.