One year ago today, the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism was formed with their first initiative: the launch of the BlackNorth Initiative (BNI). As a response to the glaring inequalities seen across corporate Canada, the BlackNorth Initiative’s mission was to increase the representation of Blacks in boardrooms and executive suites across Canada. In just one year, close to 500 corporate leaders across the country have signed the BlackNorth Initiative pledge, covering almost every major sector across Canada.  While providing support to corporate Canada pledgees, the BlackNorth Initiative has also developed and implemented several core programs aimed at supporting Black Canadians across a range of areas, including business mentorship, a homeownership bridge program, and a mental health program for Black youth.

“We founded the BlackNorth Initiative a year ago to increase the representation of Blacks in boardrooms and executive suites across Canada. One year in, we continue and will continue to push corporate leaders in our nation to take meaningful action to end anti-Black systemic racism. While much work remains to be done, we are heartened by the corporate leaders across Canada who have stepped up to pledge that their organizations are joining to end systemic anti-Black racism by developing policies and specific targets,” said Wes Hall, Founder and Chair of the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism. “In order to welcome a new and truly inclusive era and to create an equitable future for all Canadians, we need to redouble our efforts. Corporate Canada cannot allow complacency or inertia to rob Canada of this historic opportunity. Now more than ever, we need the support of our allies.”

BlackNorth Initiative Milestones 

Key accomplishments over the past year include:

  • Close to 500 signatories in the country’s largest and most influential organizations, including TELUS, Enbridge, Brookfield Asset Management, CIBC and more.
  • The development of a Homeownership Bridge Program with a goal of raising $17 million for the GTA and $65 million for Canada with government grants totaling $50 million in the GTA and $150 million across Canada to help build generational wealth and mobility for the Black community.
  • Being at the forefront of the national mental health crisis, the Rise-Up powered by Kids Help Phone- A BlackNorth Initiative. Launching Canada’s only 24/7 Mental Heath Support Service for Black youth. Enabling 24,000 phone and text conversations with Black youth in 2021 — growing to 60,000 conversations with Black youth in 2025.
  • In partnership with CivicAction, and over the next two years (2021-2023), CivicAction and the BlackNorth Initiative will work to increase Black leadership representation in the workplace, breakdown systemic barriers that young Black people face when applying for jobs, and accelerating leadership opportunities for racialized emerging leaders in our region
  • In partnership with CIBC Scholarship Initiative, the launch of a scholarship program that will help remove barriers for the next generation of leaders and change-makers from the Black community.
  • The development of a diversity Playbook that serves as a how-to guide to help signatory organizations level up or kickstart diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
  • Spearheading the data collection on race and ethnicity to understand gaps in the system and determine where progress is needed.
  • A diverse Board of Directors and Committee Chairs comprised of 20 of the most powerful executives and high-ranking officials and 12 active committees each with a specific action-oriented mandate, such as education, justice, and health, singularly focused on removing barriers to opportunities that Blacks face.

“This past year has been a significant journey for us as we worked tirelessly both to launch the BlackNorth Initiative while supporting our pledges and co-developing programming with grassroots community organizations with partnerships that have a direct impact in our communities that need it most,” said Dahabo Ahmed-Omer. “I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished. However, the success we have had to date has only fueled our ambitions and we are very excited about the programs we will be launching and executing in the coming years. The future of the BlackNorth Initiative is bright due to the support of corporate Canada and the driving force of Black communities across Canada.”

BlackNorth Initiative Summit

The second annual BlackNorth Initiative summit will be held virtually on July 20, 2021. Senior leaders from the top 250 TSX companies, over 100 of the biggest private businesses in Canada, major banks, insurance companies, international companies that have a significant presence in Canada, and the largest asset managers and institutional investors in the nation have been invited to attend. At the summit, leaders will be asked to sign a CEO pledge and deliver a statement regarding what their organization will do to combat the issue and to make our society at large free from anti-Black systemic racism.

Those interested in participating in the summit or learning more are encouraged to email info@blacknorth.ca.