By RON FANFAIR
Canada’s oldest and one of its most highly respected “think-thank” organizations that examines policy issues has welcomed one of its youngest leaders ever in its 113-year history.
Nicholas Chambers, 39, took over as president of the Canadian Club of Toronto this week, becoming just the third African-Canadian to head the influential organization comprising a volunteer board of civic leaders representing the business, government, academic and non-government organization communities.
Chambers’ mother, former Ontario Cabinet Minister Mary Anne Chambers, served as president from 1998 to 1999 while businessman Herb Phillips held the position from 1994 to 1995. Both of them migrated to Canada from Jamaica.
The club offers newsmakers the opportunity to address key issues to varied audiences.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” said Chambers. “When my mom was president, I did some of the research for the speakers and I was really fascinated by the experience. I got the opportunity to learn more about Ken Dryden and Michael Lee-Chin who made presentations during that period.”
Chambers, who joined the board seven years ago, says he’s excited about the new challenge.
“There is always value in carving out an identity in anything you do,” he said. “When I came on board, I looked at the make-up and realized there are some heavy hitters with high profiles and access to sponsorship and even a direct line to the Prime Minister’s office.”
A Hamilton journalist established the club in 1897 with the intention of promoting interest in matters affecting Canada’s welfare. Originally an evening affair, the club moved its events to lunchtime when the then president invited board members to join him for lunch at Webb’s restaurant on Yonge Street. The lunch format proved popular and speakers were added to the roster.
Prime ministers, presidents, Nobel Laureates and innovators are among the influential speakers over the past century.
“Some of the speakers approach us,” said Chambers. “We also ask our members to leverage their networks to ensure we get a diverse mix of speakers of high quality.”
The older of two brothers, Chambers grew up in Scarborough and attended Pope John Paul 11 Catholic Secondary School and McMaster University where he graduated with a kinesiology degree.
“I had aspirations of working in the sports rehabilitation field, but I was a bit impatient with that line of work and found my way into the training and development field,” he said.
Chambers is one of three partners with Benchmark Performance Inc., a Toronto-based firm offering performance consulting and innovative training design to progressive organizations across all sectors since 1986.