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North Bay man first in north to receive national honour

'I’m very proud of the work that we do for the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation'

Those who have had the privilege of meeting North Bay resident Dave Bennett know the only thing larger than his hearty laugh, is the time he spends volunteering as his personal commitment to bettering his community.

Bennett has received many awards and attributes over the years.

His latest is a national title.

In a vote by his peers, Bennett was installed as Sovereign Grand Commander of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of Canada.

“I think I am the first one from northern Ontario,” Bennett said with pride.

“Basically, I am in charge of the running of the Scottish Rite in Canada. So, we have 45 valleys, districts if you will, across Canada and I interact with each one of those valleys through Deputies. We have 11 Deputies across Canada.”

There are approximately 10-thousand Scottish Rite Freemasons in the 45 Valleys across the country.

“We have degrees, and we learn life lessons if you will, from each one of those degrees. In simple form, it helps good men become better men,” explained Bennett.

“So, we go through these degrees and learn different skills to make us better in the community, and we serve the community.”

Bennett has spent many years actively involved in the fraternity, going as far back as 1978 in his hometown of Huntsville, working his way up to his current position.  

“I became a Deputy, then I was elected as Lieutenant Grand Commander in 2018 in London and then in 2022 on September 17, I was elected and crowned Sovereign Grand Commander, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.”

Bennett holds the position during an important milestone in his fraternity’s history.

“We’re celebrating our 150th anniversary of the Supreme Council of Canada. It was founded in 1874, so in September of 2024, we’ll be holding our 150th anniversary celebrations in Ottawa. That is where the Supreme Council was founded in Canada.”

The charitable side of the Scottish Rite falls under the umbrella of the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation.

“We deal a lot in areas such as Alzheimer’s and autism. We also have done tremendous work at our nine learning centres across Canada. Those learning centres help dyslexic children, and we are very proud of what we have done in that regard, with our charitable endeavours,” shared Bennett.

“And over the years we have assisted the Laurentian Learning Centre here in North Bay as well as One Kids Place.”

Bennett says lives are being changed thanks to their learning centres.

“We’ve got children in their primary grades who could not read at all, and we have children who are now young adults that are currently in their second or third year of university because of the work done at our dyslexic centres,” shared Bennett.

“The nearest one to us is in Barrie and we also have a satellite in Bracebridge. They’re very expensive to run and that’s why they’re not everywhere in Canada, but it is great to see that in North Bay we have the Laurentian Learning Centre and they’re doing excellent work here as well for children with dyslexia.”

The Charitable Foundation has also assisted the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

“We assist individuals, families, and centres with the puzzles of the mind. Our charitable foundation has got a huge capital investment with it. So, in addition, we sponsor research for scientists who are working their way up, again, with regard to looking at the puzzles of the mind.  And we’re very proud of that. We spend about 480 thousand dollars a year to support various causes.”

Partway into his four-year mandate, Bennett holds his head high.

“I’m very proud of everything that we do. We’ve got a real good base of individuals, members of the Scottish Rite who work very hard to put on our degrees and to run the valleys in an efficient manner. I’m very proud of the work that we do for the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation.”

Bennett says the ideals behind Freemasonry have remained consistent over the years.    

“Freemasonry is a fraternity; it is not a social club. I think our lessons, our morals, and our virtues have never changed over the years, however, we are admittedly in a changing society in which a number of younger gentlemen have other commitments, and it is difficult to commit as much to Masonry as we had hoped. But we continue to push on and it is great that we can promote Freemasonry through things like the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation and the various fundraising that we do. So, we are front and centre. We try to put a good foot forward all the time, not only serving the members of our fraternity but also the community as a whole.”  

Bennett has a background in communications, graduating from the Radio and Television program at Canadore College.

The business community is familiar with Bennett through his years spent in television sales at CTV.

During his time with CTV North Bay, Bennett could be seen hosting the Easter Seals Telethon and the Christmas Telethon.

In his downtime, Bennett enjoys curling, playing golf, travelling and spending time at the cottage.

Curlers and curling fans will also remember Bennett’s contribution as co-chair of the 2015 Canadian National Mixed Curling Championships.

He also played a role on the 2016 Northern Ontario Provincial Men’s Curling Championship Committee and was Vice-Chair for the 2018 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship held in North Bay.

Bennett is a recipient of the John Toswell Award from the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions to curling, and along with two other Vice-Chairs, was named North Bay Kiwanis Club’s Citizen of the Year for 2018.     

Bennett is looking forward to his next three years as Sovereign Grand Commander.