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Business leaders pledge support for BlackNorth campaign against anti-Black racism

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    TORONTO — CEOs representing more than 200 Canadian organizations, including three of Canada’s big banks, have signed up to support the BlackNorth Initiative against systemic racism.

    A list of the signatories was released Monday for an online summit of Canadian business leaders, who have pledged to create conditions to support the success of members of the Black community.

    The BlackNorth Initiative is led by Wes Hall, executive chairman and founder of Kingsdale Advisors, which advises many of Canada’s large publicly traded companies.

    "Anti-Black systemic racism has to end," Hall said. "As business leaders, we must be aware that (systemic racism) has a material impact on our business, our Black employees and their families."

    The summit opened with comments from Hall in an interview-style presentation that was broadcast online from a theatre in Toronto.

    Hall said that even though he is a successful Black businessman, he and his family can’t avoid the effect of systemic racism.

    "I live in a nice neighbourhood and the repairman comes to my house and he would say, ‘Go get Mr. Hall, please," Hall said.

    "Or I’m driving to work (and) on a conference call with the chairman of the board of one of my clients and I get pulled over because my car is too nice."

    Hall said that 2020 could be remembered for "what COVID did to us all" or as the year that anti-Black systemic racism came to an end in Canada.

    The goal of the BlackNorth Initiative is to use the same type of collective effort that has been used against the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

    Hall’s co-chairs for the summit were Cisco Canada’s Rola Dagher, CIBC’s Victor Dodig and Fairfax Financial’s Prem Watsa, who are all chief executives of their organizations.

    The BlackNorth Initiative lays out goals that include having at least 3.5 per cent of executive and board roles in Canada held by Black leaders by 2025.

    The push to deal with systemic racism has gained strength in recent months in the wake of demonstrations held across Canada and the United States.

    The initiative is supported by organizations in a wide variety of industries and the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals (CAUFP), which has 600 members.

    This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2020.

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