In memoriam: Peter Nares

8 April 2016
It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of our founder, colleague, friend, and mentor, Peter Nares. 

Peter will be missed as a dear colleague and friend, but also as a visionary with an unstoppable belief in the desire and capacity of all people to forge a decent life for themselves and their families, and a bottomless desire to give those burdened by poverty the chance to do so. 
 
One of Canada’s great social entrepreneurs, Peter worked tirelessly to introduce, refine and scale social innovations that would remove barriers and create real opportunities for Canadians with low incomes to build a brighter financial future.
 
Begun in1986 as a program of the Ontario Social Development Council, Peter transformed Prosper Canada (then SEDI) into a standalone non-profit organization in 1995 and spent the next 15 years introducing and helping to drive the development of Canada’s micro-enterprise, asset building and financial literacy fields. 
 
The programs he created, developed and inspired have since transformed the lives of countless Canadians. These programs include the Self-Employment Benefit program, which was built into Canada’s Employment Insurance system in 1992 and has since enabled approximately 9,000 unemployed Canadians annually to launch successful new businesses and become self-supporting. 
 
Peter’s landmark 10-year Learn$ave project, the largest asset building demonstration project in the world, proved the value of incentivized savings approaches in helping people with low incomes to access post-secondary education and launch successful small businesses. This success inspired the creation of the Canada Learning Bond, a federal program that has since flowed $607 million into the education savings accounts of 716,714 children living in poverty and encouraged their families to save an additional $3.16 billion for their futures. Evidence tells us these investments will double these children’s chances of going on to post-secondary education and breaking the cycle of poverty.
 
Struck by the financial literacy challenges of participants in SEDI’s programs, Peter became a tireless champion of financial education, convincing the federal government to launch a national financial literacy task force and establishing a partnership with TD Bank Group that has helped to create and grow a vibrant community financial education field across Canada.
 
The impact of Peter’s work continues to grow today through the many people and organizations he has touched. Informed and inspired by his ideas, they continue to work to level the financial playing field for people with low incomes in Canada – removing obstacles and building pathways to opportunity. Every year, more partners join in this work. 
 
It is sometimes hard to reconcile Peter’s extraordinary impact with the man himself.  His signature ‘west coast’ look, quiet charm, and laid back demeanour often belied the passionate determination that drove him, the brilliance of his ideas, and the political and practical acuity that enabled him to move mountains.  
 
In this and all other respects, he was and will remain a quintessentially great Canadian -- a modest man who harboured limitless aspirations for others, who believed in the dignity and capacity of every person, and inspired us to pursue and commit to justice, fairness and generosity in the policies that govern us, the sharing of our resources, and the ways we treat each other. 
 
We have lost a great friend and teacher but his lesson remains to guide us all.


Elizabeth Mulholland
CEO, Prosper Canada