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Reflecting on the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition with Cassandra Dorrington, Fred McKinney, and Beza Getachew

Cassandra Dorrington

Cassandra Dorrington, President & CEO CAMSC


My name is Cassandra Dorrington, President & CEO of the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council.

We are the culmination of what has happened in the past. The underpinnings of economics in North America are linked to the Slave Trade and unfortunately the vestiges of the Slave Trade are still being felt to this day.  Given the slave trade impacted, families, health, education, and our ensuing economic wellbeing, change only happens when at first you acknowledge the issue. It is vital that we acknowledge what has happened in the past and the ensuing abolition to begin the healing and take the steps towards change.

There are two key factors which drive change, education and economics. While both the school and academia take on the education pillar, the work that CAMSC undertakes in conjunction with our corporate and government stakeholders sets the stage to drive economic inclusion. The result of economic inclusion allows business owners to grow their businesses, provide for their family and hire people who look like that, and last but not least, to reinvest in their communities.

Companies continue to work with people they know. Given our stakeholders may not be well known, it is important for us to connect our suppliers with corporate and government clients such that get to know our suppliers and their capabilities. Hence it lays the foundation for building the relationships such that when corporate members and government put out RFP to companies they know, out supply base will be part of the mix.

Over the last few years, Canadian companies have become more cognizant of the need for diversity in our supply base and have slowly begun to make changes to be more inclusive. For any organization, this is a strategic decision and requires commitment from the top. Diversity involves inclusion at the broad and executive level, the employee level, the supplier level to ensure we meet the needs of our many diverse stakeholders. The early wins in Canada were the recognition of the richness of our diverse environment, as such companies have worked towards a more diverse employee base at all levels. The next steps which require more thought is being strategic in driving diversity in our supply base. Those who have taken the steps towards inclusion have identified a champion at the top, designed a corporate policy towards economic inclusion and taken steps to identify and include diverse suppliers in their supply chain. We are still at the early steps and the potential of what can be achieved is incredible.

The success of our suppliers is intricately linked to the success of the Canadian economy. CAMSC’s role is key to identify and certificate those diverse owned businesses and connect them into the Canadian supply chain. Since our inception, we have seen a number of successes that have positively changed and impacted companies and communities. More of these successes are required if we are to be a truly inclusive society. Canada will not be successful until we are all successful. CAMSC’s work in the area of identification, certification and connection is critical to ensuring the success of our diverse supply chain.

It is important for us to remember, that while diversity is naturally happening around us, economic inclusion is where we play an active role in ensuring the alignment and connection of our diverse suppliers into the Canadian supply chain to ensure a prosperous and inclusive Canada.

Fred McKinney


My name is Fred McKinney.  I am a principal co-founder of BJM Solutions, LLC, an economic and supplier diversity consulting firm based in Trumbull, Connecticut.  The issue of remembrance of the slave trade and abolition is something that is both historical and current for me.  While I reside in Connecticut, I was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1954, four months after the U.S. Supreme Court rule in the Brown v. Board of Education that “separate is not equal.”  My parents and grandparents picked cotton on land that was once worked by men and women stolen from Africa. I had the good fortune that those parents and grandparents knew that the path out of financial poverty was education and they made sure that despite that financial poverty we were rich in the things that are most important – love and wisdom.

It was because of the love of knowledge that I pursued my education and became a professional economist.  Economics is the study of how society allocates scarce resources.  My motivation as an economist has been dominated with my concern for creating wealth and economic security for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.  My journey to supplier diversity is a natural result of that interest.

I have seen how corporate supplier diversity has the potential to transform an entrepreneur, but more than that, supplier diversity transforms families and through those families, transforms communities.  I do not think my grandparents could have imagined that their grandson would earn a Ph.D. from Yale in economics and go on to run a successful business, but they had no doubt that if given the opportunity it would be possible. Supplier diversity makes what seems impossible possible.

Beza Getachew


My name is Beza Getachew, and I am the Marketing and Communications Intern at CAMSC. As an Ethiopian, this day is important to me because it reminds us to continue to fight against all forms of racism and discrimination, and a reminder of the importance of perseverance.

The international day for the remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is an important day as it raises awareness of the issues with the slave trade and allows us to reflect and understand the many consequences we ​face even today.​ Although the abolition was a step forward, as a society​, we have a long way to go to bring equity to the black community here in Canada and globally.

As a student attempting to get her foot into the corporate world, diversity and inclusion are factors I must always consider ​when I consider where I might want to be placed; To feel welcomed, heard, and comfortable should always be a given but unfortunately is not always the case.

In my previous experience as a business student going into university in a new city, I had to overcome ​several barriers. There weren’t many students who looked like me and I felt excluded.  I believe in being an agent of change and so I took it upon myself to help others feel welcome in my program where I never did. My passion led me to become a mentor to other incoming first years and a student council member to be the representation for other black students

I invite you to take a moment to reflect on our history, the victory of the abolishment of slavery and the path we need to forge ahead and ask yourself what steps have you taken to make a difference?