Business Investments in Anti-Racism Strategic Initiatives and Innovation
Good evening, and thank you for joining us via zoom this evening, my name is Maude Prud’Homme, Senior Program Analyst on Stakeholder Engagement and Public Outreach at the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat Before we start, I will share few technical points to ensure a successful zoom meeting tonight. For people calling in and joining us only by phone, unfortunately, you will not be able to speak, you will only be able to listen to the conference. However, you are welcome to send us your questions or comments by email after this session. For people joining us via the Zoom app, we have attached a User Guide which you can refer too if needed.
Only for people joining us using the Zoom app, you will be able to access simultaneous interpretation by choosing the language at the bottom of the screen, look for the three dots. Please turn off other streaming services to dedicate all your bandwidth to this meeting. Make sure to clearly identify yourself with your display name (look for three dots on your screen and select “rename”). This will help us better identify participants that have sent a question. Most of you on this zoom meeting are listed as attendees (which means that your audio and video feeds have not been enabled). However, some attendees that will send a comment or suggestion will be promoted to panelist to be able to speak.
Lastly, here are the steps to follow if you wish to speak: Submit a comment using the questions and answers box (“Q&A” button at the bottom of your screen) An organizer will identify your comment Our moderator Dahabo Ahmed Omer will say your name and ask you to raise your hand using the “Raise Hand” button. An organizer will promote the attendee to “panelist”, enabling you to unmute yourself, activate your camera and then speak. Very important: only click on the raise your hand feature if Dahabo asks you to do so. Enough about technical instructions for tonight.
Have a great conference, and I'd now like to turn it over to Peter. [Peter] Thank you very much, Maude. Good evening everyone. First of all, I would like to introduce Claudette Commanda from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community who will open the session with a smudge ceremony and a prayer. Elder Commanda, I am offering you tobacco for you to bring us into prayers.
Elder Commanda. [Claudette] Thank you, Peter for the passing of the sacred medicine and tobacco, Chi-miigwech. Thank you. Good evening everyone. I am very honored to be with you today, to say words of greetings as well as a blessing to begin your session in a good way. The topic is quite emotional, speaking about racism and anti-racism strategies, initiatives, and innovation, in particular in the business world.
And it's important that we speak about this topic in all segments of society. But that being said, I want to say thank you for the protocol in the passing of the tobacco. It's an honour to be here with you. I see some wonderful people.
I see those that I have not seen in a long time, so, very honoured to be here. And it is said when we come together, we ask for help from the highest power, which is the Creator. And it is said when we come together and we have ceremony by the lighting of the sacred medicines, and that is to bring in that good energy. That is, to fill the space with that-- to make it a safe space, and therefore everyone is comfortable, everyone feels safe to... To share their knowledge, to share their concerns, to share their wisdom, and that we all learn from one another. But importantly, it's to build-- to build that space on respect and kindness.
And the sacred medicine that I will light and that I will use for this ceremony is sage. We are not together in a room for this sacred ceremony. But we are together through this virtual platform. And even though we are not together face to face, nevertheless the fact that I'm lighting the sacred medicine, holding this ceremony brings us together. It brings us together with that one mind, that one heart, one spirit, and one determination.
And that is to do the good work, the good work for all, good work for Indigenous Peoples, good work for Canadians. So, I lift this medicine in a good way, and I show it to you, all of you, that you are part of this ceremony, and I say [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] And I begin now by saying a prayer in my language, and then I will say words to explain what this prayer is said. It is said when we are responsible for our sacred medicines and for our ceremony, we must always use our language, that first language, that first breath that the Creator blessed this land with, the first knowledge, the first history, the first culture, the first language, and the first people. The first nation people, and I am Anishinaabeg, I am Algonquin, so I will use my language. [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] [speaking Algonquin] Creator, We give you thanks for bringing us together. We thank our mother, the earth, for this beautiful sacred medicine.
We thank our grandmother, the moon, and our grandfather, the sun, those sacred elements that are here for all human beings and for the animal, the plant life, and the water life each and every day. We come together, Creator, as brothers and sisters in this circle, and we acknowledge you. We say thank you for what you've blessed us with.
And it is my prayer for the people who are here, Creator, that you bless them with strength. Bless them, Creator, with kindness. Bless them, Creator, with love. Bless them, Creator, with that good life.
To them, and their families, in safety and protection today and tomorrow, and we thank you, Creator, for your blessings. [speaking Algonquin] And to all of my friends, welcome to the ancestral land of the Algonquin people. I wanted to give you words of welcome and blessings. And words of greetings to each and every one of you brothers and sisters, and I welcome you to this beautiful homeland of my people, the Algonquin people. Chi-miigwech. I acknowledge the ancestors of my people,
and I acknowledge all your ancestors. I acknowledge all the Indigenous lands that we are on at this moment as we come together, all the participants in the session. So, thank you for being here and thank you for inviting me.
And those words of prayer that were said in the language, they are for you. Continue that good work. And how we will combat that racism is together with that one mind, and one heart, one spirit, in kindness and respect, and using that wisdom and knowledge, and let us walk hand in hand to build a good-- a good future for the most important ones, and those are our children of today and tomorrow. So, Chi-miigwech. Thank you. Miigwech. Thank you very much, Elder Commanda, for those-- for the prayer, and the words of wisdom. It is indeed through holding hands, working hand in hand with kindness and respect that we can come together and make a dent, and try to eradicate racism across the land that we now called Canada.
So, hello everyone, and welcome to the virtual town hall on business investments and anti-racism strategic initiatives and innovation. As I said, my name is Peter Flegel and I am the Executive Director of The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat. Let me begin by expressing the extent to which it is a tremendous honour for us at the Federal Secretariat to join you this evening with The BlackNorth Initiative and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. And such an impressive array of members of the business sector in this timely dialogue.
As some of you may know, The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat is a brand new entity within the Government of Canada and responsible for leading a whole government approach to ensuring that the federal government does the right thing in eradicating systemic racism, including anti-Indigenous, and anti-Black systemic racism. This means working with and mobilizing all departments and institutions in the government, and across the board to remove systemic barriers, to identify gaps, to understand the impact of our actions in order to advance responsive initiatives that are better tailored to addressing the needs and realities of communities directly affected by racism. So, really, we operate as a hub, a convenor, and a catalyst to scale up and accelerate federal action in this area. But we also understand that the struggle against systemic racism cannot be done in isolation from key sectors of our society. For starters, the voices, experiences, and realities of communities that are directly targeted by racism.
Black communities, Indigenous Peoples, Asian communities, and many other racialized and religious minority communities. Their voices need to be centered, they need to be at the table when the policy making process is taking place. But also, systemic racism is a complex and a multi-faceted beast, which requires that all sectors of society come together to design collective strategies for collective change. And that is why we're so happy to be with you this evening. We have, for example, watched in the space-- in the space of, really, just a few months, watched in awe as the BlackNorth Initiative has, excuse the words, taken the country by storm.
And really mobilized in such an incredible way the highest echelons of the private sector to commit to tackling anti-Black systemic racism. As we say where I'm from in Quebec, "We've never seen it before." In my lifetime, I've never seen anything like that. So, it's impressive
and provides us with a great example, a model, for the types of actions that can be considered. And so, there's much for us to learn from the work that you, you are doing. The Aboriginal Business Council is also doing, and also, at the same time, recognizing that racial barriers persist in terms of access to employment, retention, promotion, and the list goes on. But also, and this is where there's good news, that, and this is exemplified by what you are doing today, in that-- that it is important that we also have a unique-- recognize that we have a unique opportunity with such incredible national intention-- attention on anti-racism to collectively make a dent and really be effective in eradicating systemic racism across the board.
That's why we are coming together to talk about ways that the business sector in Canada as we emerge from COVID-19 can make strategic initiatives to support the Black community, the Indigenous Peoples, Black communities and religious minorities in their efforts to combat racism and meet the challenges of their generation. I'm very, very pleased to be with you today as the cohost of this next two hour discussion and I'd like to thank of course, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the BlackNorth Initiative, created by the Canadian Council of business leaders against anti-Black systemic racism. And for partnering with us and co-organizing this landmark event.
This is part of our effort at the Federal Secretariat to bringing the federal government closer to racialize religious minority communities and Indigenous Peoples and demonstrating federal leadership in this area. So, without further ado, it's a great honour for me to present, um... Wes Hall, the executive chairman and founder of the Kingsdale Advisors and one of the co-chairs of the BlackNorth Initiative, who will be delivering some remarks and a presentation.
♪ -[man] Get up! Get in the car! -[man 2] I can't move. -[man] I've been waiting-- -[man 2 groaning] -[man] Get up! Get in the car! -[man 2] Mama! [man] Get up and get in the car right! [man 2] Mama! I can't! [reporter] Now, let's turn to the United States, to the city of Minneapolis. The city is still reeling from the death of an unarmed Black man in police custody. [helicopter blades whirring] -[crowd] George Floyd! -[man] Say his name! -[crowd] George Floyd! -[man] Say his name! -[crowd] George Floyd! -[man] Say his name! -[crowd] George Floyd! -[man] Say his name! [man] I am George Floyd. I am Ahmaud Arbery.
I am Andrew Loku. I am too many names to count. And these are just the names of those whose lives were cut short. He's like, 'Please, I can't breathe, I can't breathe.' And they did not care. [man] What about the names of those whose lives were made harder? Whose success was stifled. Whose value was diminished. Whose hard work wasn't rewarded.
Who fear for their families. Who know, for them, it's just different. The names of those who live with the pain, the burden, and the terror of anti-Black systemic racism? Every. Single. Day. [woman] We live in a time where Black men, and women, and boys, and girls can be choked, and shot, and beaten, and lynched in broad daylight by murderous pigs. ♪ [man] Their time is long overdue.
We can't be silent anymore. Take your knee off our necks! [man] We can't delay another day. -Not today! -[man] And make no mistake. [reporter] So, they are frustrated. [man] This isn't just an American issue.
No systemic discrimination. [man] It's a Canadian one too. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And it's not enough to just not be racist, we need to be anti-racist. It's not enough to just stand in solidarity.
We need to move in solidarity. It's not enough to just condemn. We need to transform. From the inside out.
As individuals, as families, as communities, as companies. As a country. BlackNorth is a call to action. It's a movement in the making. And it starts today. We're mobilizing the corporate community to not only transform itself. But to transform the country.
To move as one. To end anti-Black systemic racism once and for all. From the boardroom to the classroom, and everywhere in-between. There's no limit to what we can accomplish together. And the time is now. The world has put us all on notice.
And we will answer the call. With courage. With commitment. With collaboration on a level we haven't seen before. Because this is the fight of our lives. So, welcome to BlackNorth. Let's get to work. ♪ ♪ Well, thank you very much, Peter, and thank you for inviting the BlackNorth Initiative here to this wonderful discussion.
Um, I'm going to start by-- you saw the video, it talks about anti-Black systemic racism, and whether or not it exists in Canada. Anti-Black, anti-Indigenous racism. We often hear folks talk about this is not a, um... Why don't we just put everyone in the same bucket and we hear the term "Racialize," for example.
Which means that everyone who is not white should really fit into this bucket of racialized. And the question is, is that really a fair way to categorize and put everyone in that bucket? And, um, I'll give you an example of why we should consider that and why we should really be specific about the problems that we're trying to solve. And the focus, really, is on Blacks and Indigenous People. And why we should actually look at those two groups and do what we can to make sure that those groups are brought up, and if they're brought up, then there's nobody else to actually bring up.
I live in a very prestigious neighbourhood in Toronto, in the Rosedale neighbourhood. And, um, last week my wife works at-- you know, went to a retail store in the neighbourhood. And those who know this neighbourhood, it's a predominantly white neighbourhood. And my wife, who is white, went to the retail store, the grocery store, and she-- the package was too heavy, and she said, "My boys are going to come pick it up for me. And they're going to come tonight at 7:00."
This was last Wednesday. And my boys went to pick up the package at 7:00, as the appointment was set for, and as soon as they walked into the store, the store owner was there with a guest, with a customer and both of them screamed out loud. Because they thought my boys were there to rob the store. And all they did was just walked in. They didn't say anything at all. They just walked into the store like any other customer would walk into the store.
And my boy said, "I'm here, I'm Christine Hall's son, we're here to pick up a package." And the store owner kind of calmed down a little bit, but the customer was still frantic and was worried that these boys were there to harm her. And so, that's really...
what do you do in that particular situation? Right? Is that person a racist? Not really, because that person is used to hearing a narrative that put Black folks in a negative position. Right? Or that person, maybe if it was an Indigenous Person walked into the store, they have seen an Indigenous Person put in a negative position. 30.4% of the federal prison population are Indigenous People. 8.5% are Black people.
But yet-- So, those are the negatives. But when we look at the positives, like, the top of corporate Canada, there are no representation. When we look at the very nicest neighbourhoods in the city, there are no representation. When we look at the COVID-19 cases, the five most hardest hit COVID-19 cases in the city of Toronto are Black neighbourhoods. And they represent 22% of the cases but yet they only represent 9% of the population in the city of Toronto.
So, that's really setting the tone for what I really want to talk about. And it's really about optimizing our workforce and optimizing our population. So, I'm going talk-- use three things to determine that. I'm going to ask out, you know, what does a lightbulb, Queens University, and the Toronto Raptors have in common? Those are very, very different things.
I'm gonna-- so, let's go to the lightbulbs. This gentleman, Lewis Howard Latimer, was born in 1848. Now, Lewis Howard Latimer's parents were escaped slaves in the U.S. But he gained experience as a patent boy at a law firm.
I started my career on Bay Street in the law firm in the mail room. So, same with Latimer. And, uh, but his boss, kind of, recognized that this Black kid has talent, so he promoted Latimer to Head Draftsman in the department. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell, who we all know as Canadians, employed him to do the drawings to get the patent for the telephone. Everybody knows that Thomas Edison invented electricity, but what people don't know is Latimer made it better by creating the filament.
He was the one who invented that. So, as a result of the filament, we have all these beautiful bright lights in our cities as a result of this man. Again, this man is a Black man, he was born a slave in slavery. And somebody saw his talent, recognized his talent, and look at all the beautiful lights we have in the world today as a result of this man's talent. And somebody recognizing his talent. Queen's University.
Queen's University today is known as a white university. But I'm going to talk about Robert Sutherland. Robert Sutherland was a Jamaican man who emigrated to Canada, and back in the day when he was born, was born in 1830, you don't really immigrate the way that people immigrate, especially when you're a Black person. So, he came to Canada, and he was the first person of colour to graduate from a university in Canada. He graduated in 1849.
And Sutherland won 14 academic prizes in Queens. He was excellent in debating. And he just kept on winning prize after prize because he was an amazingly smart man. And again, he was a Black man.
He graduated in 1852 with Honours in Mathematics and Classics. And he actually went on to study law. And he qualified to study law in 1855 and became British North America, this is U.S. and Canada's, first Black lawyer. Can you imagine that? We had our first Black lawyer, that was here in Canada, that was an immigrant.
And people don't really know that. Because we don't really celebrate that. We're the first, and we haven't really celebrated it. This man, Sutherland, practiced law for over 20 years in Walkerton, Ontario. And he died in 1878, and he left his entire estate of $12,000 to Queen's University. Well, why was that $12,000 so significant? Because a few years back, Queen's University, their entire endowment was wiped out because of the collapse of a bank.
This was the largest donation, individual donation, that the university ever received, and if they didn't receive that donation, Queen's would not exist today. But yet, it's again referred to as a white university, but nobody knows that it was a Black man who actually saved it until this day. Now, why did this man give his estate, $12,000, of all the places that he could give the money to, why Queen's? He told his friends, "Queen's was the only place where I was always treated like a gentleman."
He gave them his entire estate because he was treated like a human being by that university. And yet, he was a scholar. He was smart. He had two Honours degree, and went on to practice to get a law degree, and practice law, and yet... could you imagine all the experiences that he had, and Queen's University, that education that he had, and how he was treated was the one that he remembered the most because they made him-- they treated him like a human being.
What does the Toronto Raptors have in common with this story? Well, the Toronto Raptors-- I'm a basketball fan, I think there's a lot of basketball fans on the call here, and I hated it when the Raptors would get knocked out of the playoffs. Every year they would get knocked out. And I remember calling Masai Ujiri, the president of the Raptors and said, "Masai, why doesn't Coach Casey, the coach of the Raptors, play the bench players?" And he said, "I don't know, Wes." But he got fed up eventually and he fired Coach Casey and he put in Nick Nurse.
That year, the Raptors won the championship. The Raptors were known as the deepest bench in the NBA. They had all these players that were sitting on the bench that Coach Casey wasn't playing before.
And guess what? They, um, [stammering] as a result of that, they were able to win the championship because they were able to optimize their bench. So, what does that really mean for us? For us, it means that if we do not optimize our population, optimize the use of the talent that we have, we have the Indigenous population in this country, represents 5% of the population. Black people represent 3.5% of the population. That's 8.5% of the population sitting on the sideline,
sitting on the bench, not participating. Not given an opportunity to win at-- to shoot that winning basket. So, what we're saying is that Canada is really known as a diverse society, and we pride ourselves in saying that. But that diversity ends in certain parts of our country and our economy. It ends at the very top of corporate Canada. And it ends in certain neighbourhoods like the one that I live in.
And we're saying that if we fix that, Canada will become the envy of the world. When people are looking for different places to raise their families because they're fleeing conflict from where they are, and they're going to look at us if we can fix our issues with respect to systemic barriers that causes people of colour, and Blacks, and Indigenous to move ahead, we're going to be able to attract the best and the brightest, and that's really what we need post COVID. We're going to go into a massive recession and we're going to need the brightest minds. We're going to need people like Latimer, people like Sutherland, people who can think outside a box and think differently, to help us to get out of this, and if we do that as a society, our society is going to recover the best and we're going to have the brightest talent coming to us. Right now, we're talking about immigration and how we're going to be able to attract immigration, we can attract people here, but we cannot attract them and get them to drive taxi cabs for a living because they're not given opportunities in corporate Canada.
So, as business leaders, I'm gratified in the fact that we have over 400 companies in this country. Some of the largest companies that have signed up to the BlackNorth Initiative to say, "On principle, I am going to make changes within my organization to make my organization a truly inclusive organization." And as a result of that, we believe that we can live up to the promise of being an inclusive and a welcoming society. So, that's my remarks. We're going to have a nice debate and discussion on the issue, and I thank you again for the opportunity to be here and to listen to this presentation.
Thank you very much for those very enlightening, powerful, and sobering words reminding us of the real realities that we face, but also the opportunity that we have collectively to bring about change. And so, now I believe that our next speaker is Tabatha. Tabatha, are you with us? [speaking French] Thank you. Chi-miigwech, to everyone for being here. Thank you, Elder Commanda for your opening and for starting us off in such a good way this evening.
For sharing the language and for acknowledging the first people that were here before us, and those that walk and care for the land that we live on every day. Thank you, Wes, for sharing your personal story and the personal stories that you shared with me and with so many others in the past. They make a real impact.
I'd also like to thank the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat for hosting this event, and to our event partners, BlackNorth Initiative for ensuring that there's a space for Indigenous voices and unique perspectives. It is important that we distinguish that as Indigenous people, we have rights that are affirmed in the Constitution, and the unique relationship with the crown as nations. However, we are all treaty people. We all have a role to play in this journey. So, thank you to everyone in attendance today.
I recognize that we are all spending way too much time in front of our screens, and depending where you are in the country in this particular moment, many of your families or partners may be sitting down to dinner while you are on your screen yet again. As we close out an unprecedented 2020 with us still uncertain of future, I want to reflect on where we are today. In this moment when we are awake. Add to the powerful video we just watched, names like Colten Boushie, Joyce Echaquan, and Barbara Kentner.
Many have finally, finally woken up. Woken up to our history, to social injustice, and to the reality of the stark, social economic gaps and inequities that exist for Indigenous, Black, and people of colour, for women, and for 2SLGBTQ+ people. It may seem a simple statement, but the late John Lewis said, "When you see something that is not right, and not just, you have to do something." We at CCAB have lots of ideas of what that something is, and we have extremely knowledgeable leaders and partners on the panel this evening, who I am certain will provide this something. I want to speak to a few core principles that I respectfully ask you keep in mind this evening in moving forward.
It isn't that we haven't been here before. In fact, we've been here time and time again. Some of the most important moments in history happened in times of stress.
This is our opportunity to ensure that history does not repeat itself, and instead to arm ourselves with that history and that truth. Without truth, there is no reconciliation. Of course, this is not meant to be a history lesson, but being here tonight I recognise that the audience is educated and enlightened to the histories of residential schools, to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. However, there's this excellent book by Bob Joseph called "The 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act." I want to highlight a few of those that you may not know that are specific to business.
From 1881 to 2014, the Indian Act contained a permit system to control and forbid First Nations ability to sell products from farms. This originally was with respect to agriculture, but as livestock became a commodity, it was also included, in addition to the control and often objection to permit the sale of farm machinery to First Nation People. In 1880, an amendment was made to the Indian Act which required compulsory enfranchisement for anyone who obtained a degree of Doctor of Medicine or any other degree by university of learning. And this remained enforced until 1951. Effectively, this excluded First Nation People from the economy until our very recent history. I must respectfully state this is only an example of the impact on First Nations, and the history of Inuit and Métis people, while similarly exclusionary is unique and must also be recognized and acknowledged.
Despite that, we have persisted. There are currently close to 60,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada in every sector, every province and territory. And they are being created at nine times the rate of non-Indigenous people-- businesses. And we are doctors, lawyers, engineers, electricians, innovators, and entrepreneurs. And we are the fastest growing population in the country.
But this is also about allyship. At CCAB, we have incredible corporate members who have been with us for almost 40 years, who are committed to growing the Indigenous economy along with us. Through procurement from Indigenous businesses, through creating equal equity partnerships, through building strong, respectful relations with Indigenous communities, and through creating safe and respectful spaces for Indigenous People to work, learn, grow, and lead. I give the most respect to the many corporate leaders that have signed on to the BlackNorth Initiative pledge.
Many of those same organizations are our members and are certified or committed to our Progressive Aboriginal Relations Program. As leaders, it is imperative that you lead your organization the entire way through this dialogue and journey. But it also must be a whole organization conversation. The conversation and action needs to happen in every department and at every level. If you dip your toe in the water, it will create a ripple for sure.
But after a short time, the water will be calm again. If you cannonball into the water and make a bigger splash, it will take a little longer, but the water will be calm again. What we need is to create constant wave, and to be comfortable with the water being choppy for some time to come. Brené Brown wrote, "People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or being wrong. Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change."
So, thank you, once again, for being here for this vital conversation. Chi-miigwech. [Peter] Thank you so very much for those very important words reminding us that we're all treaty people and that we have a duty of reconciliation. And there's a tremendous potential, [stammering] potential innovation already taking place within the Indigenous communities that is essential for the growth of our country. And next I have a great honour and pleasure to introduce [garbled French audio] So, the next speaker I'm delighted to present is Dahabo Ahmed Omer, no stranger to the federal government, and currently the Executive Director and panel moderator-- So, Executive Director of the BNI, of course, and the panel moderator for tonight. So, Dahabo, welcome. Thank you so much, Peter, and welcome to all of you.
I am beyond grateful to be among some of the most esteemed and pioneers in the struggle against anti-Black racism. I think this conversation is incredibly important and I thank all of you for taking part in this. Also, Peter and the entire team as well as Melissa and my entire team, and everyone at Tabatha's team, we have been through a lot these last couple of weeks to get this event organized, as we know, you know, some of the discussion points and the recommendations that are going to made are going to be very critical in the way that we advance in this fight.
And so, I want to say a special thank you to the organizing team. A reason to care. All we have to do is really give everyone a reason to care.
So, I'm going to give you one. We're all in this together. The march to freedom is a very, very long road. But the miles that we have journeyed together is already a testament to the human history that is being rewritten. As we speak today, as we are part of this conversation, you are rewriting history.
And so, thank you. I believe that we can end anti-Black racism. Once we know what we believe, I know that we can do something to act.
The BlackNorth Initiative is on a mission. It's a mission of unity and action. It's an initiative that intends to eliminate anti-Black racism and systemic barriers negatively affecting Black Canadians across this nation. Corporate Canada was bold enough to take up the challenge to add gender diversity to Canadian boardrooms and executive suites by declaring policies, setting specific targets, and holding itself accountable, and is now well on the way to reforming the system.
We believe that it's now time to do the same for Black Canadians. Our vision is simple. We believe in an equitable future for Canada where all Black Canadians can achieve their full potential free from systemic racial barriers.
And to achieve this, BlackNorth Initiative has been leveraging Canadian business leaders, partners through public and private sector, social sector, and we are using the power of Black communities. Together, we work to remove anti-Black racism from our systems. We are using the systems of health care, housing, justice, education, economic empowerment, employment, and all others in order to do this.
I can tell you that in the last couple of months we have done a lot of work. To date, we have over 400 organizations who have signed the pledge. 30% of TSX, 60 companies have signed the pledge in the total market cap of all committed organizations exceed one trillion dollars. This is representing of almost one third of TSX total market cap. Over 83% of our signatories are corporate. Some are non-profit, others are government, hospitals, universities.
And if we look at our pledges based on revenue, 61%-- over 61% are from large companies. This is all in less than six months. And I can see Wes is going to smile in a second, because he knows what I'm talking about. Through this incredible work, our signatories, our partnerships, our communities, and our devoted volunteers, with the charter of the pledge, the BlackNorth Initiative has been able to achieve great milestones.
I'm going to start with one of them. Wes Hall, who is our executive chairman [stammering] Executive Chairman of Kingsdale Advisors and the founder of BlackNorth Initiative, also my boss, has just been featured in a new Harvard Business school case study. That's a rare honour. An extremely rare honour that a few leaders in Canada have achieved, and one that positions anti-racism at the core of the business learning agenda.
The case study is called "Wes Hall and the BlackNorth Initiative." This is something we have never seen before. Our pledge, right now, is working to build pipeline so that we have representation of the Black community on board of directors and C-[indistinct] suites. In addition, we are looking at how do we now provide a real impetus for change? We've made a goal of a minimum of 3.5% of executive
and board roles based in Canada being held by Black leaders by 2025. Now, let's look at beyond the pledge. Many of our signatories have not only made the commitment to change, but they've also gone above and beyond. They have set unprecedented social impact goals with commitments of billions of dollars for marginalized communities; they have tied compensation to diversity, inclusion, and equity goals. They have created diversity in growth funds and millions of dollars have been committed.
They've also set tangible and achievable diversity inclusion and equity goals, and a lot of them now, and for the last few months, have been launching various recruitment processes to ensure representation. All through the BlackNorth Initiative pledge. The impact has been great and it's been beyond our wildest imagination. But we believe that together we can achieve. And so, in December, the BlackNorth Initiative will be launching it's first national fundraising campaign to continue to do the necessary and important work to accomplish real systemic change in all parts of our society.
By 2025, I promise you, we promise you, that the landscape of our society will look completely different. And so today, we are very, very lucky to have esteemed panelists who are leaders in their respective sectors and who will share their thoughts, their expertise, and provide recommendations on what we can do to advance the equity conversation. And so, I will present all of our panelists, and then I will pose one question to each panelist, and then I will open the conversation to all of you, as I know you will want to join in.
Alicia Dubois is a proud Indigenous professional who joined the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation from CIBC's executive team where she developed and implemented the CIBC's Indigenous Market Strategy and framework. Alicia is also the Co-chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and served as a member of the board of trustees of the Royal Ontario Museum. In 2019, Alicia was honoured with the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association inaugural award of distinction. Welcome Alicia.
Leanne Hall is the Chief Executive Officer of Creative Fire, a national 100% Indigenous owned, Indigenous strategy engagement communications design and research agency. Creative Fire is a proud member company of Des-- Nedhe Group of companies, a 30 year Indigenous economic development corporate of English River First Nation in [stammering] Saskatchewan. I was going to say it in French because I'm Francophone. Leanne is a board member of The First Mining Gold, and is also a member of the board of governors in Wilfrid Laurier University. Welcome Leanne. David Sharpe.
David is also part of the BlackNorth Initiative, is a Mohawk, and a member of the Mohawks of Bay Quinte. David is the Chief Executive Officer of Bridging Financing Inc., a lawyer, and was appointed to the board of directors of Historica Canada and Futurpreneur Canada where he is the vice-chair. He is the chair emeritus of First Nations University of Canada. He is a board member of the Economic Development Corporation of Eabametoong First Nation.
He's also a member of the board of trustees of Queens University, and is the chair of the dean's council at Queen's University faculty of law. Welcome David. Mark Mulroney. Mark joined Scotiabank in 2018 and served as the vice-chair in Corporate and Investment Banking. Prior to joining Scotiabank, he served as co-head of equity training and head of equity capital markets, National Bank financial markets. Mr. Mulroney currently serves as the director
of the board of Jarislowsky Fraser. He serves on a number of non-profit boards, including the BlackNorth Initiative, Boost Child, Youth Advocacy Center, and the Sinai Health Foundation. Welcome Mark. Paul Desmarais.
Mr. Desmarais has been Senior Vice-president of Power Corporation since 2017. He acts as chairman and CEO of Sagard Holdings, the executive chairman and the co-founder of Portage Ventures, and the chairman and co-founder of Diagram. He is the chairman of Wealthsimple and Dialogue, and a director of Koho and Grayhawk Investment Strategies.
He sits on the board of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert and Imerys. Mr. Desmarais is the founder and honorary chairman of Young Canadians in Finance. He now sits on the board of Alpine Canada and the Glenbow Museum. He also sits on the board of the BlackNorth Initiative and chairs the NEXT Canada Emeritus board of advisors. Welcome. As you can see, we have some of
the most incredible individuals in our society and our community that are here to share some of their thoughts. And so, normally we would be clapping but we can't do that. So, I'll start-- OK, all give a clap.
And so, I'll start with Alicia. As you know, 67% of our First Nations, Métis, or Inuit owned businesses have reported being highly impacted by a decreased demand for products and services, compared to 62% of other majority owned businesses. What do you think can be done to further support these businesses? [Alicia] Miigwech. Thank you very much for having me. Sorry, there's feedback.
I want to thank Wes for his very authentic opening, and also to Tabatha. It prepares us all to have genuine conversation, which is really important as we talk about these important topics. So, thank you. I'd like to share a few key facts about Indigenous businesses just to set the stage, and these facts come from the research of the CCAB.
Indigenous businesses contribute approximately $31 billion to Canada's GDP annually. There are over 50,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada. 99% of those businesses are small to medium enterprises, so they are particularly vulnerable in certain circumstances such as those we are experiencing with COVID. Indigenous businesses come in a variety of forms.
Entrepreneurial in nature, varying in size and level of development. And then, there's also economic development corporations. And these, for those individuals who aren't familiar with the concept, are corporations that are constituted by Indigenous governments in order to drive economic development, own source revenues, and employment within their communities.
So, these businesses really are kin to, say, Crown Corporations. What's important is that we have learned that approximately 25% of Indigenous businesses, being small to medium size enterprises, are not well positioned to survive a sustained closure of more than 30 days. While this is obviously detrimental to the businesses themselves, the real challenge behind the scenes is that it creates a serious echo effect of vulnerability for the Indigenous population.
And this is because Indigenous businesses are known to employ a higher percentage of Indigenous Peoples than other businesses, and are also known to give back to their community in very significant ways. Especially in the case of economic development corporations owned by Indigenous governments. Therefore, when Indigenous businesses suffer, or must completely close, there are serious negative eco effects that are felt widely by Indigenous people, in what are often already vulnerable, underserved communities. So, now that we find ourselves, I think, probably firmly in the second wave of COVID, and we note that the impact is likely becoming more severe in a larger number of Indigenous communities, the impact is particularly notable.
And that leads to a need for added supports. And we're familiar with some of the supports. We've seen the government funding programs that support access to capital by traditional financial institutions. And those are vital. Another approach which would be obvious for me to discuss is, um-- being the CEO of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation-- is to talk about models that involve government supporting Indigenous investments in the economy, and specific to the mandate that I am now driving.
The beauty of this is that the transaction and supporting the investment, obviously, is the foundation of what we do. But it's that halo effect that comes out of the transaction that really starts to drive Indigenous wellness. And that's because it drives, um-- It offers an opportunity for engagement in skills development, employment, and supply chain opportunities. So, it's a very useful and effective platform to support partnerships and active Indigenous engagement in the economy.
I think what I want to touch on most, especially in light of Wes and Tabatha's introductions for us, is that now is the time for a new era of partnerships. Partnerships are, and will continue to be, key in driving Canada's economy generally. But it will be particularly important when we are ensuring that vulnerable, marginalized people and businesses in Canada are supported, welcomed, and engaged. We need them to be positioned to add much needed value and perspective in our markets, and in our communities across the country.
Also, it's these partnerships, and it's this engagement, and this enhancement, and positive narrative that has developed out of the partnerships that will only serve to attract greater investment in Canada's economy generally. So, while we're creating partnerships that appear to support Indigenous access to capital and Indigenous wellness, it really is a win-win circumstance for everyone involved. So, I'd like to focus, perhaps, first on corporate alliances. And highlight five ways that large corporations are well positioned to support the Indigenous economy and create that win-win circumstance.
And, of course, we know that it's important to do so. Specifically, we recognize that there are pressures that are relatively new to us, that are becoming very important for us to respond to, such as ESG pressures. So, the five ways that I, um, would like to highlight for us as we think about the way that we can engage Indigenous peoples and businesses in an effective way in order to drive, not just the Indigenous economy, but our broader economy more effectively. I'll start with procurement.
So, procurement policies, um, that support diversity in supply chains are particularly important. The challenge here is that it requires a commitment. And I'm going to refer back to Tabatha's, um, analogy of the ripple effect. The challenge here is that many large institutions, in order to drive meaningful diversity in their procurement policies and in their supply chains will require a revamp to their policies, and to give space for real diversity in their supply chain.
Typically, the typical process now is that outsourcing procurement is prioritized based upon bottom line. And this approach works to actively edge out vulnerable businesses and peoples even further. The other thing that I would like corporations to consider is to build diversity into your own business development strategies. I think here I can refer back to my experience with large banks. What I think corporations might find most effective is to take diversity and inclusion programming out of your cost centers and make them part of your business growth. And I mean across various lines of business.
You'll be surprised at how robust this marketspace is when you begin to engage in it, and that's something that I know from experience. And ultimately what this requires, especially if we're going to talk about financial institutions, is enhancing what you already do best, and that's access to capital and building wealth for individuals and Canadians, and tweaking it so that you understand the unique nuances of Indigenous businesses and lending on and off reserve to that segment. In being more effective in driving your client segment in this way, you'll also find that it's much more easy for you to hire and retain Indigenous employees. Because they'll feel confident to get behind the, um, the business.
Another way that, um, I think corporate Canada can serve marginalized groups better is to take advantage of the employee diversity groups that most large institutions constitute. What I have observed is that, generally, the employee diversity groups tend to be wasted, high value resources that, um, would actually allow you to be innovative in solving a lot of the challenges within your institution. Your-- your employee base within these groups know your weaknesses and chances are, if you're a leader, they know your weaknesses better than you do, because they live within your teams, and they deal with the systemic barriers that are built within-- within the lines of business. And that's not just in colleague interactions, but also in the way that they observe colleagues treating vulnerable clients.
And, of course, I'd like to talk about board positions. And this goes back to ESG pressures. Diversity at the table is key in order to moving the dial. This is where, I think, we are able to move ripple effects to choppy waters that really drive change.
It's important to have those diverse opinions at the table, and it's important to ensure, as Tabatha was talking about, that those diverse opinions have an open space to be able to share their experience and create meaningful change. The last item that I think is worthwhile considering is creating internships for Indigenous entrepreneurs. Internships are an important mechanism by which typical non-employees get a chance to enhance key skilled development, and the beauty of that is it means that these individuals leave the large institution and go back and are in a position to be able to take that skill level and create stronger, more resilient Indigenous businesses. In addition, while they're part of the team, it's a great way to tap into more knowledge about driving effective business development efforts within those unique and often marginalized client segments. Chi-miigwech. Thank you very much.
I really appreciate this chance to be able to share my thoughts. Thank you so much, Leanne. You know, there-- sorry, Alicia. There's so much that you have said around, you know, procurement, and their policies, and how do we start to create real diversity, and how do we look at our boards and our leadership roles, and how does that trickle down to ensuring that we're building the pipeline around our internship and, you know, and it's very much in line with what we are doing at BlackNorth, and it just speaks to the intersectionality and the interdependencies that exist between anti-Indigenous racism and anti-Black racism. And, so, thank you for that. My next question is to Leanne. Um, Leanne, how do you feel that we can create some specific actions, or targets, or goals that are designed to support our communities as they strive to end systemic racism? What are some of the opportunities that we can create for all those that are in the underrepresented communities, specifically in the Indigenous and Black community? Good evening and thank you.
I'm joining tonight from the traditional territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River and Haudenosaunee People. My name is Leanne Hall, and I'm the proud CEO of Creative Fire, which is 100% owned Indigenous, um, consulting, engagement and strategy firm out of Saskatchewan, so it's an honour to be with everyone today. So, to talk about that, um, we really start by listening.
And when we listen to our communities, we can hear them share their priorities and focus for the future. So, again, the shifting the focus from us talking about our own companies to what are the communities, what are the conversations, what's important for them? So, your organizations can then build your plans around how to support these communities moving forward and helping them meet their priorities. So, here are some things that I have been hearing, you know, from Indigenous people, communities, and businesses, and some messages I have for corporate Canada and organizations tonight. So, on leadership commitment, I think we're all going to hear the same, the same themes here.
So, to ensure, you know, that we have that leadership commitment from the CEO and board chairs. You know, to commit to these highly actionable targets and goals around Indigenous reconciliation and prosperity. You know, this includes, um, you know, not just about setting those goals and targets, but actually creating implementation plans and accountability around those plans.
That's critically important. And, obviously, you know, I'll piggy back on Alicia's comments about at the board table. Absolutely, Indigenous People need to be included on your board and in senior leadership roles. And I'd like to, actually, flip the switch a little bit, that if we look at, you know, who are champions of board diversity, I ask you to look at Indigenous economic development corporations, Indigenous organizations, they're champions of having, you know, extremely rich and diverse board and then senior leaders as well. And so, I think it's really important, again, to look to community, to look at Indigenous companies and, you know, learn from them in how we apply, you know, diverse leadership. On employment.
Really, really extremely important that we have a plan for career progression of Indigenous people throughout your organization. It's about giving the ability to advance and progress in your company. This is extremely important as we move forward and unleash, you know, all of the wonderful talents of Indigenous people. Supply chain and procurement. So, for sure, there is a high barrier to entry in the procurement process. You know, we really need to ask Indigenous businesses what needs to be done to eliminate those barriers and how we can all support them to be successful.
You know, even for ourself as a... you know, organization, you know, sometimes the cost of just putting together an RFP can be close to $40,000. You know, again, it's taking us away from the good work that we're trying to do. So, what are the things that you can do to eliminate that? Do some coaching, do some workshops, those things are extremely important. My next comment around, uh, you know, really procurement and supply chain. Don't try and inquire of our Indigenous companies to meet your client's supplier diversity goals.
Support us, mentor us, help us scale, invest in us. But don't try to assimilate us into your organizations or your companies, and that's what-- that's what I see happening is a lot of, um, you know, um, offers to acquire. But again, it takes us away from what-- we are unique and designed to be doing in the marketplace. So, support us, mentor us, invest in us, and help us scale. There are incredible opportunities for joint ventures, in partnerships, in equity participation in Indigenous communities.
And one really exciting thing that's happening and, you know, I can see a lot of opportunities for that intersectionality is really around collaboration in the supply chain. So, can we get eight or ten companies together and start jointly bidding between, you know, the organizations, um, from Black organizations, Indigenous, and people of colour. How do we come together and start, really, working together and bidding on, and winning, you know, huge projects across this country? That's the future. It is really about that mutual collaboration and partnership. The last area is around corporate social responsibility.
Again, the key message is to help communities in supporting their community goals. As we report to our shareholders, we should also build and develop key performance indicators with our communities. And report on the progress of these outcomes to the community itself. I know many communities now are doing scorecards on their corporate partners. So, again, develop those shared goals, the common goals. Find ways that we can report, not only to our shareholders, not only to our employees, but also to our community partners to ensure that they prosper as well.
So, thank you very much for inviting me to join you this evening. Thank you so much, Leanne. Uh, you know, there's so much that you said that resonated with me. I mean, engagement is such a big part of this work. Making sure that we are centering Indigenous people and people of African descent in the way that we advance and the way that we create programs, or services, or initiatives. How do we ensure that those that are most impacted with lived experiences are represented in the creation of some of these, uh, some of these strategies, right? And so, um... and, you're right.
And I've heard Wes and others say this before, you know, their... We shouldn't be fighting for the pie. There should be, we should be building. Should get in the kitchen and build a bigger pie and make sure that everyone has a piece. And that, um...
that speaks to your comments around working collaboratively, right? How do we share the accountability, but also share success? And so, coming together and putting in an application or bidding together, that just ensures that everyone is resourced in the way that they need to be, right? And furnished the way that they should be. And so, thank you. The next question will go to Paul Desmarais. Paul, with a grateful kiss on the proliferation of anti-racism movements across Canada and of significance to the business sector, what do you think the business community and government can do collaboratively to support these initiatives while supporting grassroots communities? [Paul] Super. Thank you so much for the question, Uh, I think I'll start with acknowledgement-- Can you hear me properly? I think it all starts with acknowledgement and ultimately, uh, you know, looking-- one second.
[child] It's dinner time. Guys, you guys both need to leave. -[child] Papa! I, drink-- -I'm speaking.
-Sorry guys! -[child] Dinner time! [Paul] No, no guys, you guys have got to go downstairs. [child] It's dinner time. Papa, it's dinner time. [Paul] Apologies! [Paul laughing] You-- It's what happens when you have four children at home. But, you know, I think first and foremost is acknowledgement and, you know, I think, you know, my own journey was actually quite interesting on that front, where I would say before the summer's events, you know, I was really blind to this.
You know, I actually had no clue that there was as large of a Black community in Canada as there was. I had some generally good idea of, you know, the racism against Indigenous communities, and I'd spent a bunch of time actually working with Cape Dorset Arts Center, in terms of it's reconstruction. But, you know, really was ignorant as to a lot of the general issues that were happening in Canada. And, in fact, you know, I might even say I was probably part of the problem. And [stammering] the events over the summer were extremely eye opening for me and, actually, what was extremely eye opening was the combination of the events over the summer and discussions I had with some of my internal team members.
A Black man who was one of my stars in my legal department, and that combination really made me realize, wow, like, we have a real issue. And what's interesting is that, you know, when I think about the corporate sector, I think, actually, the BlackNorth pledge is actually a really interesting guide. And in many ways, it's a guide that I followed for my organization, and so, you know, I thought the best way to share what I think the corporate sector should probably do is just tell you a little bit about what I've done in my organization, and what we are in the process of doing. Because I think that's, you know, the best reflection of what I think the corporate sector should do. I mean, the first thing we did, you know, I liked the comment earlier on diversity groups and it being a, kind of, a misallocation of resources. You know, I formed a diversity group, I chair the diversity group.
And, and, and my direct involvement on the diversity group makes it important. And we have a lot of our team leaders on that group. That group initiated a measurement process where we, where we basically ran surveys of our employee base, figuring out where did we have diversity gaps. And ultimately, we identified diversity gaps in Black, Indigenous, LBGTQ, women, and veterans in our, kind of, employee base.
And so, once you identify that, you know, we were, like, OK, so, what are we going to do about this and what targets are we going to set? I mean, effectively we set the target that 50% of our new hires will be of those groups, and we will not conduct any interview process until 30% of the candidates, at least, are either Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ, or female. I work in the world of investments, which tends to be very, very, very, kind of, white male world. And I'd say, you know, I take pride that our organization is already one of the more diverse in our sector, but I think we can be way bigger than that. Ultimately, what's interesting is we also set targets about retention, because ultimately, someone mentioned earlier the importance of career progression. And career progression is actually really critical, because if you could attract diverse people, but then they feel that they're not progressing, they're going to end up leaving, and you end up having retention rates which your diverse team members that are lower. So, we set a standard
that our retention of diversity will be the same as everybody else's. And then, finally, we set targets at our partnership. So, our senior-- in our organization, senior leaders are called partners, and we set a target for a certain percentage of diverse partners within three years. And what's interesting about all that, and this diversity committee, is it actually surfaced a whole bunch of issues. And someone said earlier that, you know, often it's a...
you need to rethink and remake your systems. And I love the procurement analogy. Because I'm ready to bet that in a lot of corporations, like ours, there's a line in your procurement that says, like, "You shall only procure from companies that have at least, kind of, three or four years of financial records." Well, guess what? You know, any entrepreneur or any diverse group that's not already owning a business is not going to have three or four years of financial records. And so, there's a whole bunch of lines in procurement policies that are fundamentally, without you knowing it, or without the intent, exclusionary.
When we, kind of, analyzed our, kind of, public facing approach, we actually found that our website had to be redone, our job descriptions had to be redone, our recruitment process had to be rehashed. You quickly realize that, actually, a lot of the elements which you operate as a firm are actually, without you ever intending to be, a little bit exclusionary. You know, if you have a website where the photos of everybody on the website are white men, um, that doesn't send a really strong signal to people to come and, kind of, apply to your firm.
And so, all of these things are things that we're reworking as an organization, and I think that large corporations have a big opportunity to, kind of, do that, and rethink that, and include people as they think about those things. And so, finally, after measuring, setting targets, driving impact, moving, you know, a lot of the systems in our organization to try and be more inclusionary, which, you know, ultimately, you know, I rely very heavily on this, that diversity committee to guide me in these things because, you know, I've been part of the problem for a decade. You know, the question then is, "How do we share with the community?" And ultimately, as an organization, you know, we concluded that one of our biggest assets is our network. So, effectively what we've done is we've founded an organization called the Black Wealth Club.
This is a club of 50 young men and women that were actually selected this week that will have complete access to my organizations network. And we will, basically, organize monthly events for them to network. And also connect them with, you know, different career opportunities, different growth opportunities, and really try and create an ecosystem that allows their careers to accelerate.
And for us as an organization, it's a tremendous asset, because as we seek to significantly increase the amount of Black members in our management team, this will be an incredible poo