Wes Hall has a message for corporate Canada: there’s still plenty of work to do when it comes to fighting anti-Black racism.
This summer will mark two years since Hall led the creation of the BlackNorth Initiative, which challenged companies to step up and address systemic racism and improve diversity in the boardroom and management suites.
In an interview discussing BlackNorth’s progress, Hall said more than 500 companies and organizations have signed the group’s CEO Pledge, committing, among other things, to address unconscious bias and to build a pipeline to ensure at least 3.5 per cent of executive and board roles based in Canada are filled by Black leaders by 2025.
But he also said those figures fell well short of his expectations.
On Friday, Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of housing and diversity and inclusion, pledged $10 million in funding to the BlackNorth Homeownership Bridge Program which, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Toronto, is aiming to help 200 Black families in the greater Toronto area purchase their first homes.
Hall said the initial target for the bridge program is $65 million, and the goal is to eventually help fund 2,000 homes across Canada.
More developments were unveiled in the past week, among them the creation of a partnership between the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Statistics Canada that will, among other things, provide businesses owned by diverse segments of the population with focused research into their specific needs and opportunities. The Business Data Lab received a $2.8 million commitment from the federal government.
Hall said he is pleased with the momentum building in these areas, but stressed how much remains to be done to achieve the BlackNorth Initiative’s ambitions.
“I’m an overachiever, and I would like to see us way further than we are,” he said. “(But) considering where we started, we’ve come a long way.”