A generous endowment for Indigenous mining education


A generous endowment for Indigenous mining education

Michele Beacom - 09 March 2023


The Alex & Gillian Davidson Family Endowment will sustain in perpetuity two important CIM Foundation education grants

By Michele Beacom

This past holiday season, the CIM Foundation received a truly transformational gift, a $1 million endowment to sustain in perpetuity two education grants for Indigenous students. Both grants are open to students who wish to pursue studies in preparation for a trade or profession related to the mineral extraction and processing industries. Programs can include heavy-duty equipment mechanic, millwright, electrician, process systems and control, hydrology, instrumentation, carpenter, welder, surveyor, geologist, mine engineer/ technologist, as well as careers in wildlife management, environment, training, human resources, finance, law, archeology and other studies directly related to the industry.

The donors, Alex and Gillian Davidson, have vast experience in the mining industry. Alex, a Montreal native, graduated from McGill in 1976 and went on to a successful geology career, notably contributing to the remarkable success of Barrick Gold as it evolved from its North American base into the world’s leading gold producer. His career took them around the world, Chile, Peru, and places closer to home, such as northern Saskatchewan. “Jill and I have often talked about how lucky we are as a result of the opportunities that the mining industry has given us. We talked about ways to give back and we decided on a scholarship or endowment,” said Alex Davidson.

When asked what motivated them to target their endowment specifically for Indigenous students, Alex said, “we both have had interactions with First Nation communities in our careers. In fact, Jill taught at a First Nation school when we lived in northern Saskatchewan. First Nation communities are now inextricably involved with new mining projects, and we thought it would benefit both the communities and mining companies if there were more Indigenous students pursuing careers in the mineral industry who are able on graduation to return to their own communities with a better understanding of the pros and cons of new mining developments.”

While Indigenous students receive support for their studies from Indigenous Services Canada, the funds provided to them are very limited, covering just the education-related expenses, said Deborah Smith-Sauvé, CIM Foundation manager. The Alex & Gillian Davidson Family Endowment was created to enhance the students’ lives during their studies, and to support them during their critical years away from home. “Indigenous students usually attend school far away from their families and communities and just a trip back during the holidays can provide the nurturing support needed to continue their studies,” said Smith-Sauvé.

The Alex & Gillian Davidson Family Endowment for Indigenous students in Canada will provide two multi-year grants in the springtime. Students in their second year, enrolled in a technical program, will receive $4,000 a year for a total of $8,000, while students enrolled in a degree program will receive $5,000 a year for a total of $15,000.

The endowment also extends to the existing Taking Flight grants that are provided in the fall. Taking Flight was established in 2009 by the CIM Foundation, and recently supported by the COSMO Mining Industry Consortium and McGill University Laboratory, but it lacked long-term financial support. The Alex & Gillian Davidson Family Endowment provides that financial security and goes a step further. The grants, awarded to three students per year, have been increased to $4,000 each (up from $2,000) per one-time grant per student. Taking Flight is open to students from high school, community college, trade school or university.

This important endowment, which is managed by the CIM Foundation, is open to all individuals or companies, especially those working on First Nations lands, who would like to donate to the capital pool in order to increase the number of students who can receive these grants each year. For more information, contact Deborah Smith-Sauvé at