In Diversity Push, a Prominent Black Canadian Leads Charge
(Bloomberg) -- One of Canada’s most prominent black businessmen is creating a new group to fight racism and push for more black people in the country’s executive suites and boardrooms.
Wes Hall, executive chairman and founder of shareholder services firm Kingsdale Advisors, is launching the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism. He will co-chair the coalition with Victor Dodig, chief executive officer of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Prem Watsa, CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., and Rola Dagher, president and CEO of Cisco Systems Canada, are also on board.
“It’s taboo to discuss racism openly in Canada, but all that’s happening in the world brought it to the surface and we can’t hide it anymore because it became too obvious,” Hall said in a telephone interview. “We have to be leading the charge and set this precedent in this country. It’s time for anti-black systemic racism to end.”
The new coalition comes after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, which has sparked global protests against police brutality, racism and economic inequality that harms blacks. The movement has swept up Canada, prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a knee in solidarity last week, and the country to turn the spotlight on its own racism issues.
Hall said the plan is to tackle systemic racism like any other business problem, The group will identif the systemic issues, set committees to solve problems and go to the government when necessary.
One of the first tasks will be to track black people in senior positions and draft targets to determine progress.
“It’s going to take you a while before you find that number behind those minuscule, minuscule amounts,” he said. There are around 2 million black people in Canada “yet we’re going to see that when it comes to executive positions and boards, we will have a lot more zeros than numbers,” Hall said.
The group will hold an inaugural BlackNorth virtual summit on July 20. The country’s 250 publicly listed companies, and more than 100 of the biggest private businesses, largest asset managers and institutional investors will be invited to take part. Leaders will be asked to sign a CEO pledge and deliver a statement regarding what their organization will do to combat the issues.
“As allies and business leaders, it is incumbent on each of us to understand the barriers that exist, take accountability for increasing representation of black leaders within our organizations, and commit to doing our part to eradicating racism in all its forms,” Dodig said in a statement on Wednesday.
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“The time for passing the buck is over,” Watsa said in the statement. “As business leaders in Canada, we have a responsibility to not only recognize that anti-black systemic racism exists in this country but also take meaningful steps to end it.”
Hall’s Kingsdale Advisors has acted on some of the biggest proxy battles and takeovers in Canada, including advising Bill Ackman in his successful bid to install new leadership at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. He added a system that oppresses blacks is not a problem for blacks to fix. “It’s for the gatekeepers of the system. Those gatekeepers who fail to act must be moved aside,” he said.
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