Bill Smith

Bill Smith

May 4, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The Alberta Knights of Columbus have again rejected casino fundraising by their member councils.

At their April 17-19 convention in Red Deer, the order ruled out of order a motion to allow their 170 active councils across Alberta and the Northwest Territories to raise money for charitable causes by working at casinos.

"We support our bishops," said state deputy Bill Smith of Calgary. "It violates our constitution to go counter to our bishops."

The Alberta bishops have long expressed concern over the spread of legalized gambling in the province and have asked Catholic organizations, including the Knights, not to accept money raised through casinos.

The bishops' 1998 pastoral letter, The False Eden of Gambling, argued that gambling addictions can have major negative effects on society and on families in particular.

Smith, who completes his two-year term as state deputy June 30, said K of C councils are earning substantial revenue to donate to charity from tailgate parties at sports events, their annual charity appeals raffle and by selling gift cards to use at grocery stores.

"Councils are making thousands of dollars off of those cards," he said.

Unfortunately, some councils still want to work at casinos, Smith said. "They say, 'That's the only way we have to make money.' Well, no it's not. You're going to have to change."

The Alberta jurisdiction is among the top 10 jurisdictions in the Knights in terms of charitable donations per member and its hours of volunteer service increase every year, he said in his report to the convention.

OFFSHOOT ORGANIZATIONS

Nevertheless, some knights have set up "offshoot organizations" not directly connected with the fraternal order of Catholic men in order to work at casinos. Those organizations have spouses, children and non-Catholics, as well as knights, as their members, he said.

"We have no control over that."

Smith admitted such organizations sometimes donate to the Knights without saying how they raised the money. The order cannot check the background of every donation it receives. "We do the best we can."

Replacing Smith as state deputy in June will be Grant Mann of Edmonton. Mann, the state membership chairman, defeated state secretary Ron Schuster of Edmonton in what Smith described as a close vote.

The new executive will also include Charles Russell of Calgary (secretary), Vince Reyes of Edmonton (treasurer), Ferdy Mendita of Edmonton (advocate) and Gaston Launiere of Calgary (warden).

MAKING FRIENDS

Smith, 60, said his two years as state deputy went by much too quickly. He enjoyed travelling the province and up to Yellowknife, and the many friends he made. "It's been a lot of miles on the car visiting the communities."

He has encouraged councils, especially those in rural areas, to become more active in the wider community in order to meet community needs and to raise the organization's profile, he said.

Before becoming state deputy, Smith had spent 15 years on the state board, including nine as treasurer.

MEMBERSHIP GROWS

Membership in the organization has just climbed past the 18,000 mark, with two councils being formed in the past year – one in Sherwood Park and the other for Syro-Malabar Catholics in Calgary. The Alberta Knights' insurance program continues to be one of the most successful in the entire order.