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Free Virtual Event: The BlackNorth Initiative

Free Virtual Event: The BlackNorth Initiative

Rola Dagher, Wes Hall, Andria Barrett, Hon. Don Oliver and David Simmonds, moderated by Dwight DrummondConfronting Anti-Black Racism in Corporate Canada
Thu, Jul 16, 2020
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
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It is another age of reckoning. As a new generation of voices join activists and allies in North America and across the globe, they continue their fight against anti-Black racism in all its forms. There are important discussions being had about reflecting the diversity of our population in the systems that ultimately influence our everyday life: that includes businesses. The lack of racial diversity and the presence of systemic racism is a not so secret reality of Corporate Canada, and boards and executive management teams find themselves overwhelmingly governed by white men. And yet, attempts to address these deep-seated issues have not resulted in lasting and tangible change. As the call for reform grows louder and as the consequences become clearer everyday, we must ask what needs to change in Corporate Canada, and how do we get there from here?

Join Canadian Club Toronto on July 16 as we celebrate the launch of The BlackNorth Initiative, a council dedicated to holding corporations accountable for ending anti-Black racism in their organizations, with opening remarks from founder Wes Hall (Kingsdale Advisors/BlackNorth Initiative) and co-chair Rola Dagher (Cisco Canada/BlackNorth Initiative). Our panel discussion, moderated by Dwight Drummond (CBC), will feature Andria Barrett (Diversity Agency/Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce), The Honourable Dr. Donald H. Oliver CM QC and David Simmonds (McKesson Canada), who will speak to their lived experiences and their insight as to what it will take to end anti-Black racism in the corporate world.

This virtual event is free of charge. All you need to access the event is to register.

Sponsored by


Rola Dagher
President and CEO, Cisco Canada & Co-Chair, The BlackNorth Initiative 

Leadership is not simply a role that you fill; it is an action that you take each day. It is this philosophy that guides Cisco Canada President & CEO, Rola Dagher. Over her career of more than two decades, Dagher has worked with some of the brightest minds in the technology industry while honing her natural leadership style.

Dagher joined Cisco from Dell EMC where she held a variety of leadership roles in sales, channels and IT. Prior to this, she also held various sales leadership roles at Bell Canada for 15 years.

Since joining in 2017, Dagher has led Cisco Canada to quickly emerge as one of Cisco’s top globally performing regions. Yet Dagher will be the first to say that her success is a direct reflection of the dedication and drive of the entire Canadian operation. Dagher believes in diversity of thought and has made it her mission to empower and nurture employees, regardless of gender, culture, orientation or age.

Her commitment to empowering women is shown through her role as Americas President for Women of Cisco, a program that encourages more female participation in the technology industry, and through a range of additional work that defines her as a leader far beyond the technology sector.

Most recently, she was recognized as one of the 2020 Top 25 Women of Influence™, by WXN as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100™ and by CRN as a Woman of the Channel in 2020 and 2019. Previously, she was selected as one of RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrant winners for 2019, was named the “Lady of the Cedar” by the Lebanese Embassy, was selected by Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) as the 2019 Woman of the Year, and received the 2018 Leadership Award from the Lebanese Chamber Business of Commerce.

In addition to her role at Cisco, Dagher is an active member of, and a contributor to, several non-profits. She sits on the board of Cedars Cancer Foundation – where she supports the organization in advocating for pediatric and young adult cancer patients – and is a member of the Circle of Champions for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, where she helps with promoting growth through diversity in the workplace. Dagher also sits on the foundation board for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, on the advisory board for Catalyst, and is a member of the Kids Help Phone board.

As an active member of the Business Council of Canada and a member of the U.S.-Canada Innovation Partnership, Rola helps shape policy around the workforce of the future and promotes the adoption and acceleration of emerging technologies, innovation, and research. She’s also taken on a leadership role with the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Racism and is a founding member of the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR).

Yet, through all of her accomplishments, Dagher firmly believes that no one achieves greatness in a silo. She believes that you have to “learn it, earn it, and return it.” And this process is one that she continues to work through at every stage of her career.

Wes Hall
Executive Chairman and Founder, Kingsdale Advisors & Founder and Chair, BlackNorth Initiative

With over 20 years of experience in corporate governance and shareholder communications, Wes Hall has established himself as the preeminent leader in shareholder advisory services and contested investor situations. Canada’s leading newspaper The Globe & Mail has called him one of the nation’s “most influential powerbrokers” and Canadian Business magazine named him one of the “most powerful business people” in 2016.

Wes founded Kingsdale Advisors in 2003 to provide clients with best-in-class services for communicating with shareholders and managing any transaction or event that requires a shareholder vote. Wes has since enhanced Kingsdale’s wide range of services by building a unique governance advisory practice, specializing in helping issuers meet the changing expectations of shareholders and their proxy advisors, a strategic communications division, and creative department.

Under Wes’ leadership Kingsdale has set itself apart by delivering an unparalleled track record of success for North America’s biggest names including: Air Canada, Barrick, BHP Billiton, Citigroup, CN, CP, Encana, Goldcorp, Talisman, and Suncor. He has been sought out to lead some of the highest profile deals and activist campaigns in North America. They include Enbridge’s $37 billion merger with Spectra Energy, Agrium, and Potash Corp.’s $36 billion merger, Tim Hortons’ $12.5 billion merger with Burger King, Pershing Square Capital Management’s campaign to replace the board of Canadian Pacific Railway, and Petro Canada’s $19 billion merger with Suncor Energy.

Committed to sharing his expertise and setting a new standard in governance leadership, Wes was a founding board member of the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries (CSCS) and is regularly featured on BNN, Bloomberg TV, and in The Globe & Mail, Financial Post, The Wall Street Journal, and has appeared on the cover of the Report on Business as “The Fixer”. In 2020, Wes was one of five individuals appointed to the Ontario government’s Capital Markets Modernization Taskforce, an advisory group of experts tasked to review and modernize the province’s capital markets regulations.
Other accomplishments include the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® Award Recipient 2009 and, in 2011, Wes received the designation ICD.D from the Institute of Corporate Directors’ (ICD) in partnership with the Rotman School of Management of the University of Toronto. In 2015, Wes was the recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Award and in 2017 an honorary doctorate both from the University of the West Indies.

He is currently a director of SickKids Foundation, board member of Pathways to Education and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and former Chairman of the Board of Difference Capital Financial, former Director of Equity Financial Holdings Inc., Longford Energy, Wellgreen Platinum Ltd. and the Exempt Market Dealers Association of Canada.

Andria Barrett
CEO, Diversity Agency & President, Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce

Andria Barrett is the CEO of the Diversity Agency and represents some of the most sought after Diversity and Inclusion Facilitators specializing in systemic bias, anti-racism training & racial diversity.

Andria is President of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce where she believes that success in the Black business community, results in a stronger and more successful Canadian economy.

She has been with the Chamber since its inception and is responsible for leading a team that contributes to creating and supporting Black-owned businesses across the country.

She is also a licensed John Maxwell Coach, Trainer and Speaker, with over 15 years of experience working in Hospitality, IT and Media.

Hon. Dr. Donald H. Oliver CM QC 
Retired Senator

Hon. Don Oliver (born Wolfville , Nova Scotia, November 16, 1938,) is a retired senator, lawyer and businessman, who devoted his life to public service. He graduated from Acadia University in 1960 with a BA (Honours) in History, and he was class Valedictorian. Later, he won a coveted Sir James Dunn Scholarship and graduated with an LLB from Dalhousie Law school. For the next 25 years, he practiced law and became a senior partner at Stewart Mckelvie Stirling and Scales, Barristers. And, at the same time, he was a part-time professor of Law at three universities. The court room, (where he was a trial lawyer), and community work highlighted those years in which he served on more than 26 charitable organizations, including as chairman and honorary life director of Neptune Theatre Foundation and the Atlantic Co-Chair Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, and he was the founding President of the Black Cultural Centre in Nova Scotia.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney summoned Don to the Senate of Canada in 1990, and he was the first Black man in Canadian history to be so honoured. He was privileged to serve as Chairman of six Standing Committees, including National Finance, Transport and Communications, and Legal and Constitutional. As senator, he was a catalyst in raising and spearheading issues of under representation and racism in parliamentary institutions, including the House of Commons, the Senate and the Library of Parliament. That work of fighting for diversity and fairness began in the early 1980’s when he was appointed Atlantic representative by Honourable Robert de Cotre, President of the Treasury Board, to the committee on the employment of visible minorities in the Public Service. Throughout his 23 years in the Senate, he was engaged in extensive work with senior Deputy Ministers in seeking ways to combat systemic racism in government departments and agencies.

For his work in fighting anti- black racism and making the business case for diversity throughout Canada and Europe, he was awarded five honourary degrees from Canadian universities, (Guelph, York, Dalhousie, St. Mary’s, and Acadia), the Distinguished Men of Honor award from the Black Business and Professional Association, Toronto, and the Canada 150 medal for unselfish service to community and country.

Earlier this year, he was awarded The Order of Canada “for his untiring efforts as a senator, educator and civic- minded community member who promotes inclusion and diversity in Canada”.

David Simmonds
Senior Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, McKesson & President-Elect, Canadian Club Toronto

David Simmonds is McKesson Canada’s Senior Vice President Communications and Public Affairs. A member of the company’s country executive team, David leads a team responsible for internal communications, corporate marketing, media relations, public policy and communications strategy. While at McKesson David has led Government Realtions and Public Affairs for a variety of its Canadian businesses, and Enterprise Strategy for McKesson Corporation’s US, Canadian, and European operations.

Throughout his career David has advised senior leaders in the private, public, and non-profit sector on mission critical communications strategies demonstrating particular expertise in higher education policy, financial communications, health policy, crisis management and reputation recovery.

David is past President of Western Univeristy’s Alumni Association and a member of the University’s Board of Governors; a Director and President Elect of the Canadian Club of Toronto; and a Government of Ontario's appointee to the Board of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

In 2015, the Diversity Advancement Network named David to their list of the Top 100 Black Canadians.

From 2016-18 David served as a member of the Ontario Government's External Implementation Advisory Committee on efforts to combat Anti-Black Racism.

A sought after public speaker, David’s commentary can be found in a variety of media including the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and CBC News: The National, where he served as a regular news contributor.

Dwight Drummond
Host, CBC Toronto News

Dwight Drummond has been a reporter and news anchor for over two decades. He was awarded the Ryerson University Alumni Award of Distinction and has been inducted into the Faculty of Radio and Television Arts Wall of Fame. Currently, Drummond is the co-host of CBC NewsToronto, the flagship supper hour program and winner of Best Local Newscast at the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards.

Drummond has done "just about every job there is to do in a newsroom" as he worked his way up through the industry.

Known for his exclusives, he's broken local stories that have gone national and has reported from the U.S., Caribbean and Africa. He had the lead story on CityNews' Gemini win for best newscast, and a top story for City's Edward R. Murrow win for best newscast.

Drummond has also received a number of awards for his police reporting and commendations for his community work. He is a recipient of the Men of Excellence Award, the Distinguished Men of Honour Award and the African Canadian Achievement Award for excellence in media.

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