Cirque founder pledges millions to help poor


TORONTO -- Cirque du Soleil founder and CEO Guy Laliberte said Monday that he will donate CAN$100 million ($97 million) to increase access to clean water for impoverished people worldwide.

Laliberte told reporters in Montreal that the operating costs for the One Drop foundation will be covered by his CAN$100 million injection over 25 years.

"No one can remain indifferent when we know that at least every eight seconds, a child dies from a disease caused by drinking contaminated water," Laliberte told reporters.

"With the creation of One Drop, we want to mobilize people everywhere in the world to find sustainable solutions to the problem of access to water, and to adopt better practices for the use of this precious resource," he added.

Laliberte, whose personal worth has been tabbed at CAN$1.5 billion ($1.45 billion) by Forbes magazine, was accompanied at the press conference by Prince Albert II of Monaco and Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.

In addition to the launch of technical projects to improve water quality for the poor, Laliberte said Cirque du Soleil staff will help the One Drop Foundation by using circus arts and traditional visual arts to promote community involvement and public awareness of water issues internationally.

Laliberte founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984, and today has five permanent shows in Las Vegas.