Breathalyzer test fundraiser raises concerns
Burn Victims Aid Society claims to work with local firefighters
Posted: Nov 21, 2012 5:13 PM CST
Last Updated: Nov 21, 2012 8:50 PM CST
A Winnipeg group that helps fire burn victims has questions about The Burn Victims Aid Society, a Toronto-based group that is asking restaurateurs to install its coin-operated breathalyzer units to raise money for charity.
About 10 Winnipeg establishments, including the King's Head Pub in the Exchange District, have been approached by the society about installing the breathalyzer machines.
Signs placed above the machines invite patrons to "Blow for a Cause" — the cause being The Burn Victims Aid Society — by inserting a $2 coin and blowing through a straw into the units to check their blood alcohol levels.
King's Head owner Jay Khanuja says he agreed to have a breathalyzer machine installed in his pub because he was led to believe it would raise money for local charities that support burn victims.
"Everything was represented as if it was through the Firefighters Burn Fund, so we were glad to help out with that," Khanuja told CBC News.
The Burn Victims Aid Society, based in Toronto, says on its website that it works with local firefighters.
But the Firefighters Burn Fund in Manitoba says it only heard about the society when a concerned restaurateur contacted them.
"If they're deliberately misleading people, I would be terribly disappointed," said Martin Johnson of the Winnipeg-based burn fund.
"I'm very concerned that people are drawing an assumption that they are the burn fund."
B.C. fire department issued warning
Johnson said he learned that the fire department in Coquitlam, B.C., issued a warning last month about the Burn Victims Aid Society and its breathalyzer test machines.
"Individuals posing as sales personnel are approaching local business owners to install coin-operated breathalyzers, claiming all proceeds will go to the Coquitlam Fire Fighters Burn Fund or other Fire Service-related charities," a news release from Oct. 26 stated in part.
"Coquitlam Fire/Rescue and Coquitlam Fire Fighters Charitable Society do not condone, support or are in any way associated with this company or the cause that these parties claim they are representing, namely, 'Burn Victims Aid Society.'"
Allan Julius Zanoni, one of the Burn Victims Aid Society's founders, says the group has never said it's affiliated with local firefighters.
"I really don't think we said we work with the firefighters 100 per cent. The point is we're a charity that helps burns," he said.
"I find a lot of people assume that naturally, just like they assumed we are part of the Manitoba Burn Fund, even though no one ever, ever said that."
The society has been online for about a year, and Zanoni said it has already made a $1,500 donation to the Toronto Fire Department.
But fire officials in Toronto told CBC News they have never heard of the society.
The Burn Victims Aid Society later told CBC News it will donate the proceeds from the breathalyzer machines in Manitoba to the Firefighters Burn Fund.
But officials with the Manitoba fund said they will not accept the society's money.
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