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Our Story

Sanctuary North sits on traditional Algonquin territory that is part of an ongoing land claim by the Algonquins of Ontario. We honour and respect the  deep connection Algonquin peoples have had to their traditional territories since time immemorial and stand in solidarity with their work to seek restitution for the ongoing impacts of settler colonialism. At Sanctuary North, we firmly believe Canada can only be fully understood by recognizing its historical and ongoing role in the destruction of Indigenous nations and the colonization of Indigenous territories, and that our future as a country will be defined by reconciliation, respect and collaboration.  We recognize the parallels between the experiences of refugees and the experiences of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, particularly through the history of displacement and the broader impacts of settler and neo colonialism.  We are committed to building meaningful connections to indigenous communities and perspectives into the Sanctuary North experience as part of the realization of our inclusive vision of community.



The initial vision that led to the creation of Sanctuary North came from Mary Jo Leddy of Romero House, Michael Creal and Lee Davis Creal of Holy Trinity, and members of their respective communities.  Their idea was to give refugees and their allies the opportunity to spend time together in a safe, rural setting where they could enrich their experience of Canada, commune with nature, share and learn from each other, and build community. In 2001, the current property was found in an pristine area on the York River, not far from Algonquin Park.  Funding to buy the property came from the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Sisters of St Joseph in Peterborough and the MacLaughlin Foundation.  The cost of  maintaining the property and sustaining the organization comes from a loyal group of donors, and occasionally through project specific grants.


Each year, since 2001, members of the community have shared responsibility for maintaining the property, and each year, in addition to basic maintenance of the road, the buildings and stewardship of the land, volunteers have thoughtfully and respectfully made improvements – building a dock, tent platforms, bunkies, outhouses etc. More recently, as a result of a substantial individual donation we were able to renovate the main cottage to create a more functional, welcoming space. 


Sanctuary North has no paid staff – we govern and manage the organization and the property through the shared energy, talents and commitment of our member organizations, as well as many community members who first came as refugees and continue to give back to and sustain this wonderful place.  We have also built a relationship with local contractors and trades and call on their support when needed.  Each year, there are ideas about how to enrich the Sanctuary North experience and maximize the use of the property over the summer and fall – new groups, new projects, new ideas to bring people together.  If you are interested in becoming part of the community in any capacity, please contact us for more information.

We believe in comfortable simplicity and a light footprint with respectful stewardship of the land and thoughtful maintenance and enhancement of the cottage and surrounds.  Creative minds explore ideas for our future - harvesting syrup from the many maples on the property, theme-based visits, bringing groups together who don’t normally have the chance to connect, strengthening connections before and beyond the Sanctuary North experience. The shared story of Sanctuary North continues to be written.

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