Managing diversity effectively is essential to future growth, businessman and former Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader John Tory told delegates at the inaugural Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) convention and expo last week in Toronto.
Tory laid out the business case for diversity, arguing that diversity policies make good business sense and that companies that grasp the demographics of the marketplace they serve will enjoy growth in capacity and competitiveness.
“Why would you, in the best interest of your own business, if you are looking to get your message across to more people who are your potential and actual customers, not want to have a greater relationship with the economies of those in the community that represent visible minorities?” said Tory, a former president and chief executive officer of Rogers Media.
“Don’t you want to have access to the best and the brightest? That’s what you should be striving for in your organization. You are not going to have access if you are not reaching out to the Black and other visible minority communities.”
Tory said he values his relationship of over two decades with the BBPA because the organization has talent, experience and specialized skills of amazing proportion.
“I think if we were able to take full advantage of that by completely integrating BBPA members into the overall economy, we will be better off,” said Tory, chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance chair. “Nobody, including me, is asking for a mandatory inclusion. All we are seeking is just a sensible and sustained effort to give Black professionals and Black-owned businesses a chance to compete and a chance to be included on the list as it were. That’s all they want.
“We need visible minorities to be much more completely integrated into Canada’s economy because, aside from it been the right thing to do, there are other people who can do it.”
Statistics Canada projects that nearly 14.4 million – about one-third of Canada’s population – will be the majority by 2031. The projections suggest that Whites will become the minority in Toronto and Vancouver over the course of the next 30 years.
In his message, read by Ontario’s Health Promotion & Sports Minister Margarett Best, Premier Dalton McGuinty said the BBPA plays a vital role in the Black community by creating opportunities for professional growth and by recognizing and fostering community strength.
“Its commitment to enriching the Black community is clearly reflected in this inaugural convention,” he said. “I am confident that this much anticipated event will offer invaluable resources and networking opportunities to the delegates.”
New Democratic Party national leader, Jack Layton and its Ontario leader, Andrea Horwath, joined business leaders at the opening of the two-day event.
“The time is right for an event that speaks to stimulation and dialogue and one that builds networks, create opportunities, share skills for success and encourage empowerment,” the former community development coordinator said. “I am positive that the participants in this convention will be exposed to ideas, ideals and instructors that will help them make a difference, not only in their lives, but for the community as a whole.”
The event’s theme was “Stimulating Dialogue: Breaking Down Barriers and Creating Opportunities”.
BBPA president Pauline Christian said the goal of the inaugural convention and expo is to promote diversity, encourage economic empowerment and establish networks across myriad business sectors.
Def Poetry Jam co-founder, activist and motivational speaker Bruce George was the event’s keynote presenter.
“I was blessed to be able to transform my life from being in the streets,” said the New Yorker. “I was a member of four to five gangs and I did everything and used every imaginable drug. I am not proud of it or am I ashamed of it because the bottom line is everybody is on their own individual road. We, however, cannot allow ourselves to be judged by others.”
“I love the fact that I am speaking in front of bankers and people of the establishment that are giving back to the community because there are a lot of organizations that could care less about struggling people. All they are about is being parasites.”