'I wasn’t invited into the boardroom - I had to create my own company': Founder of Kingsdale Advisors, Wes Hall
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.
“For too long too many have said, ‘this is not my problem’; that anti-black systemic racism and hate are somehow distant from the lives we live here in Canada,” Hall, who is black, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Enough is enough, 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.
“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 the statement.
As a first step, the group is asking corporate leaders to pledge their organizations enact policies and create specific targets to end systemic anti-black systemic racism.
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
“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.