Arriving in Canada four decades ago with just a high school education, Diana Burke took advantage of opportunities in her new environment to learn and grow professionally.
She secured a university education from Queen’s and rose to the position of senior vice-president with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
Burke’s migration came shortly after the passage of the Immigration Act 1976 that created four new classes of immigrants – refugees, assisted relatives, independent immigrants and families – who could come to Canada.
“I was able to come to this country because of the Liberals’ immigration policies at the time that also allowed me to bring some of my family here, including my parents who hoped for and became successful contributors to Canada,” said Jamaican-born Burke. “Naturally, I have been a Liberal ever since and I am living a Canadian immigrant dream.”
The retired banking executive is vying for the Liberal nomination in Toronto Centre after Bob Rae vacated the seat last month.
Burke, who has resided in the constituency for 25 years, is disenchanted with recent changes to Canada’s immigration policies that she feels could have a dramatic impact on the country’s economic and social fabric and how Canada is perceived by potential immigrants.
“New immigrants are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs and I have begun to feel that the Canada of great opportunity and equality that I chose to love is under siege,” said the Rosedale resident, who launched her campaign last Tuesday. “I believe that running for office under the Liberal Party of Canada banner that gave me and my family hope is the best way for me to give back to this country and to our community of Toronto Centre.”
Burke began her association with RBC as a teller straight out of high school at age 16. When she came to Canada in 1972, the bank rehired her and she rose from an entry-level position to become senior vice-president and chief information security officer.
“During my career, I was proud to work on and help lead many of the bank’s technology innovations at the time, such as the banking machines, debit and credit cards systems and internet banking,” she said. “I believe that my information technology and security expertise are important and would help to ensure the future of our open democracy and transparency in government which is now seriously at risk.”
In addition to her professional career, Burke has championed and supported several community and charitable causes, including early childhood education, poverty reduction, women’s leadership, health and rehabilitation, employment opportunities for disabled people and seniors’ quality of life.
A former Toronto Rehabilitation Institution board member and Online Presence Jamaica 50th anniversary co-chair, Burke is a member of Verity women’s club, director of the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) and president of People Bridge Foundation created in 1997 by consultant and philanthropist, Betty Steinhauer, to reduce poverty and promote health care in developing and under-developed countries.
“I believe that no other country in the world would have provided me with these exceptional opportunities to experience such extraordinary professional and intellectual growth and merit-based advancements and to be in a position to help improve the quality of life for my family and those who I have supported,” said Burke, who served on Rae’s Toronto Centre executive for the last two years.
By RON FANFAIR