Nearly 4,300 Ontarians are serving on about 630 provincial agencies, boards and commissions.
Yet, there are only about 30 African-Canadians on these public service panels.
It’s for this reason that Operation Black Vote Canada (OBVC) – a local non-partisan organization aimed at encouraging Blacks to become more politically engaged – convened a public forum last week to create awareness about the public appointments process.
“We are trying to inform the community about these appointments, how the system works and how they can get on boards,” said OBVC chair Delores Lawrence. “We know there are a lot of positions, but the majority of our community does not know how to access them. It’s important that we get our voices out there by saying we are part of Canada and we want to be represented at the table.”
Appointments are made by an Order in Council on the recommendation of the Premier or a minister or through a Ministerial Letter where legislation permits. All appointments are made following a recruitment and review process managed by the Public Appointments Secretariat (PAS).
“The process is open and transparent and we try to appoint qualified people,” said Dawn Collens, the PAS deputy director. “We also try to reach out to more women and diverse communities. We think we have dramatically changed the face of boards in terms of diversity, but we can continue to do more.”
Collens advised applicants to submit resumes for positions they have an interest in instead of applying for many positions at the same time.
“See how your skills set matches the positions you are applying for and how you can contribute to that board,” she advised. “Also, don’t submit a package that includes recommendations from members of Parliament and other supporting material. We want to make the process fair.”
OBVC vice-chair Slavo Johnson encouraged Blacks who apply for public appointment positions to notify the organization.
“We are in the process of creating our own internal database,” he said. “If you apply, let us know so that we can see who is applying and who is getting appointed. Successful applicants can also give us feedback and become ambassadors for our organization in the sense that they can talk to people about their experiences in these positions.”
PAS director Gina Thorn also attended the forum at the North York Civic Centre.
Candidates can apply online by going to the PAS website at www.pas.gov.on.ca or by downloading an application form and mailing or faxing it.