I struggled for two years to bring diversity, equity and inclusion in the board and executive management of the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) as it lacked visible minorities. CBS is a publicly funded entity with the annual budget over one billion dollars. The board is appointed by the Corporate Board Members who are the Ministers of Health of all territories and provinces except Quebec.
This resulted in the public acknowledgement by the CEO of the existence of systemic racism in CBS, and promise by email, “We are […] strengthening efforts to attract and retain team members by modelling a culture of openness, empathy and inclusion to ensure that our workforce reflects the diversity of the communities we serve. We know that this work is an essential element for our continued success as an organization.”
To this, I replied to the CBS Board and executive management team thanking them for the opportunity to speak at their public meeting and stating that I was reassured knowing that the board had initiated concrete steps on two fronts, viz., the need for diversity on the board, and incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion on the CEO’s annual performance review. I indicated that in announcing their DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) statement, the CEO had missed many concrete targets and timelines to achieve desired goals within their organization which had been repeatedly demanded and considered the best practice in the field. I also requested a report of their staff survey mentioned in their presentation, indicating that it would help me monitor the progress made in the future. On July 21, 2021, I again stressed that DEI was a governance issue and requested the Board’s policy. Surprisingly, I finally received their first such statement – dated on the same day.
The past two and half years have been long and arduous. To bring even an obvious and needed change in a large, publicly funded non-profit organization is no mean feat. There were times when I felt truly disheartened and ready to quit; however, my inner voice kept telling me that this was a worthwhile fight. While I have had some success in the battle, I do not consider the war won. As I am an octogenarian (85 years), I leave it to the next generation to win the war against racism. I would like to end this with a quote by Roy T. Bennett, ‘If you don’t give up on something you truly believe in, you will find a way.’