Alongside the important lessons of Black history in Canada, it’s critical to honour the resilience, creativity, and vitality of Black people in the face of inequity past and present. This year, we’re continuing to elevate Black history by honoring the theme of Black Joy. Join Canadian Club Toronto on February 15 for a celebration of Black creativity, Black leadership, and Black agency, featuring some of Canada’s most accomplished leaders: Alica Hall (Executive Director, Nia Centre for the Arts), Charlene Theodore, (Chief Inclusion Officer, McCarthy Tétrault) and Ray Williams (Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Financial Markets, National Bank Financial), in conversation with David Simmonds (Global Chief Communications & Sustainability Officer, Great-West Lifeco).
This panel will discuss lessons and insights from their individual paths to leadership, the contributions that they are making within their sectors, and share insights on what it will take to accelerate and amplify the beauty of Canada’s Black diaspora.
**A link to the live stream will be provided closer to the event date.**
Executive Director at Nia Centre for the Arts
Alica Hall has been working at the intersection of art, communications and community development for the past 10 years. Her curatorial practice is driven by a desire to explore identity and power, excavate lesser known stories and expand narratives surrounding the Black experience. In 2018, she took on the role of Executive Director at Nia Centre for the Arts, a Toronto-based charity that supports and showcases art from across the Afro-Diaspora. In her time at the Centre, she has launched their first residency program, curated the first Art Fair and raised $9-million in capital funding. Alica is now heading up the renovation of the Centre’s 14,000 sq. ft. facility to create Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary space dedicated to Black artistic traditions.
Chief Inclusion Officer at McCarthy Tétrault
Charlene Theodore is Chief Inclusion Officer at McCarthy Tétrault. Committed to concrete action in advancing the Firm’s core mission to accelerate diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility, Charlene oversees McCarthy Tétrault’s award-winning Inclusion Now program. Charlene sits on the Firm’s Inclusion Now Council, an action-oriented governance model that leads the implementation of our EDI programs. Charlene also supports the firm’s clients with strategic advice on innovative and impactful solutions to realizing equity in the workplace. Charlene has a unique understanding of the interconnection between the legal profession and EDI, and how to achieve tangible results.
As the first Black president of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) and 10th woman to hold Office, Charlene designed and implemented a series of initiatives for law firms and Corporate Canada to reimagine workplaces ꟷ building productive, profitable, healthy, diverse and inclusive work environments. Charlene’s achievements in workplace equity and inclusion are informed by her experience as a former employment and labour lawyer. She has appeared before administrative tribunals and various levels of court, including Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal. She has also represented the interests of Canadians of African descent before federal and provincial legislative committees, as well as United Nations human rights treaty bodies. Her employment and labour practice is centred on advising management and boards on all aspects of governance and workplace operations including government relations, labour negotiations, pensions, and benefits.
Charlene is a member and former Director of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), Canada’s largest national association of Black lawyers and judges. She is a recipient of a 2017 Lexpert Zenith Award honouring her for work in advancing the interests of women in the legal profession and society. In 2020, Charlene was named one of Canada’s 25 Most Influential Lawyers by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. Charlene is also a member of the Top 40 Advisory Board, a body that reflects the diversity and leadership excellence in Canadian business, and identifies outstanding young business leaders for Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award.
Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Financial Markets at National Bank Financial
Ray Williams is a financial services executive with more than 35 years of experience in Global Capital Markets. His expertise is in debt capital markets derivatives and has held leadership roles in marketing, trading, risk advisory & execution as well as securitization.
Mr. Williams currently holds the position of Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Financial Markets at National Bank Financial, one of the top six investment dealers in Canada. In this role, he is responsible for facilitating engagements with strategic accounts, working closely within financial markets to promote the banks’ One Mission synergistic approach.
As a Financial Services executive, specialized in global capital markets, Mr. Williams has extensive experience in Cash and Derivatives products in multiple asset classes, Infrastructure Financing, Provincial & Federal Liability Management, and Mortgage Finance Companies (MFC) Financing and Hedging of Securitized Product. Mr. Williams is also committed to community engagement, in particular in the area of diversity and inclusion efforts. He serves on leadership boards for various organizations, including 100Strong Foundation. In 2018 Mr. Williams was awarded The Ontario Black History’s Society (OBHS) Rev Addie Aylestock Award – “Paving the way for others to follow” as the organisation celebrated its 40th year. In 2019 he was presented with the President’s Award at the Annual Harry Jerome ceremonies.
Mr. Williams is also a Co-Founder of the Black Opportunity Fund, established in 2020 and designed to be the largest fund in Canada addressing anti-black racism through social & economic empowerment.
He is also an Executive-in-Residence (EiR) at Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and sits on the George Brown College Foundation (GBCF) as Board member, as well as Canadian Ditchley Foundation.
Mr. Williams is married to Georgina, his wife of 32 years, and has two adult children and resides in Oakville, Ontario.
Senior Vice-President, Global Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer, Great-West Lifeco and Canada Life
David Simmonds is Senior Vice-President, Global Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer, Great-West Lifeco and Canada Life and a member of the executive management committee.
David drives the organization global communications strategies, which includes external engagement, investor communications and sustainability efforts.
In addition, David supports the company’s strategy and the development and execution of programs related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), sustainability, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), social impact and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
David joined the organization in April of 2021 as Senior Vice-President, Office of the CEO, Corporate Initiatives.
He has deep experience with reputation, brand strategy, financial communications, and corporate affairs across regulatory environments, with advisory experience to senior leaders in a variety of sectors.
David is a member of Western University’s Board of Governors; Director and President of Canadian Club Toronto; a Governor of the Stratford Festival and, an Advisory Board Member at Catalyst Canada. A graduate of Western University, he has completed the executive development program at the Wharton School. In 2015, the Diversity Advancement Network named David one of Canada’s Top 100 Black Canadians.