Moving from the Maritimes to Toronto can be quite daunting, even for a frequent flyer and visitor to this city like business executive Cassandra Dorrington, who relocated here three weeks ago to become the president of the Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC).
Established in September 2004, the non-profit organization is dedicated to the economic empowerment of Aboriginal and visible minority communities through business and employment.
The organization’s mandate is to identify and certify Aboriginal and minority-owned businesses and facilitate their access into the supply chain of major corporations in Canada.
Dorrington replaces Guyanese-born founding president Orrin Benn.
“I believe in the cause and, to fulfill that, you have to be here to make it happen,” she said of her geographic shift. “For me, that cause is ensuring the growth of economic development among Aboriginal and Minority suppliers. It’s much needed.
“There has been some movement in that direction, but there is still a great distance to go. Orrin has done a fantastic job in laying the foundation, but we still need to move further.”
Dorrington has been associated with CAMSC for several years as a minority supplier.
With nearly 25 years of business and consulting experience, Benn says his successor is well positioned to lead CAMSC through its next phase of national development.
“Cassandra is coming in with very good credentials,” he said. “She’s a strong addition in our community.”
The fourth of six children, Dorrington graduated from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Master of Business Administration degree and was the first Black in Pictou County to receive a Certified Management Accounting (CMA) designation. The holder of Certified Human Resource Professional and Certified Master Coach professional designations was awarded a Fellow of the CMA Society three years ago.
Dorrington, whose father, Francis, was the first Black elected official in Pictou county serving as Deputy Mayor for five years, worked in the high-tech/telecommunications and consulting industry for two decades before co-founding, with her sister Cynthia, Vale & Associates , which specializes in providing human resource management and consulting services to small to medium-sized companies, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Her company has clients in Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Trinidad & Tobago where she has spent a lot of time in the past four years assisting with organization restructuring and human resource and workforce assessment in government ministries in the twin-island republic.
“I have been in T & T for almost two weeks a month working with government departments and living there,” she said. “The Caribbean has a strong affiliation to Nova Scotia, so it wasn’t much of a culture shock for me being there as it is now. When you come here, it’s a different world altogether.
“Where I come from, the hustle and bustle is absent and everybody has time for one another. In Toronto, it seems everybody is busy doing something and going somewhere quickly. It’s very unusual for me to walk down the street and not speak to anybody.”
The vice-chair of the CMA Canada national board of directors, Dorrington sits on the Mount Saint Vincent University Board of Governors and is a former chair of the highly successful Halifax-based Black Business Initiative (BBI) established in 1996 by the federal and Nova Scotia governments to address the unique needs confronting the province’s Black community.
The organization, which is committed to growing the Black presence in a diverse range of business sectors, including technology, manufacturing, tourism and culture, has helped to create over 300 Black businesses and 700 jobs in Nova Scotia in the past 14 years.
Kittitian-born Rustum Southwell has been the BBI’s chief executive officer for the past 11 years.
“Rustum is one of my mentors and best friends and someone I strongly respect and have a lot of time for,” said Dorrington. “He invited me to one of their meetings and I was totally impressed with the way he conducted business and the outcomes. I went knocking on his door after that saying whatever you need, call me. The BBI is a strong organization under his leadership and it has really grown. Hopefully, it would become a national initiative.”
Southwell said Cassandra and her sister Cynthia – she’s now running Vale & Associates – are role models for Black youths.
“They demonstrate the importance of succeeding through excellence,” he said. “They network, listen and see opportunities where others see only issues.”
Dorrington stepped down as the BBI’s chair last June to take up her new assignment in Toronto.