Canadian Club Toronto
A Celebration of Black Joy
Alica Hall (Nia Centre for the Arts), Charlene Theodore, (McCarthy Tétrault) and Ray Williams (National Bank Financial), in conversation with David Simmonds (Great-West Lifeco).
DATE: Tuesday, February 15th, 2022
TIME: 12:00pm - 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Alongside the important lessons of Black history in Canada, it’s critical to honour the resilience, creativity, and vitality of Black people in the face of inequity past and present. This year, we’re continuing to elevate Black history by honoring the theme of Black Joy. Join Canadian Club Toronto on February 15 for a celebration of Black creativity, Black leadership, and Black agency, featuring some of Canada’s most accomplished leaders: Alica Hall (Executive Director, Nia Centre for the Arts), Charlene Theodore, (Chief Inclusion Officer, McCarthy Tétrault) and Ray Williams (Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Financial Markets, National Bank Financial), in conversation with David Simmonds (Global Chief Communications & Sustainability Officer, Great-West Lifeco).
This panel will discuss lessons and insights from their individual paths to leadership, the contributions that they are making within their sectors, and share insights on what it will take to accelerate and amplify the beauty of Canada's Black diaspora.
Executive Director at Nia Centre for the Arts
Alica Hall has been working at the intersection of art, communications and community development for the past 10 years. Her curatorial practice is driven by a desire to explore identity and power, excavate lesser known stories and expand narratives surrounding the Black experience. In 2018, she took on the role of Executive Director at Nia Centre for the Arts, a Toronto-based charity that supports and showcases art from across the Afro-Diaspora. In her time at the Centre, she has launched their first residency program, curated the first Art Fair and raised $9-million in capital funding. Alica is now heading up the renovation of the Centre’s 14,000 sq. ft. facility to create Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary space dedicated to Black artistic traditions.
Chief Inclusion Officer at McCarthy Tétrault
Charlene Theodore is Chief Inclusion Officer at McCarthy Tétrault. Committed to concrete action in advancing the Firm’s core mission to accelerate diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility, Charlene oversees McCarthy Tétrault’s award-winning Inclusion Now program. Charlene sits on the Firm’s Inclusion Now Council, an action-oriented governance model that leads the implementation of our EDI programs. Charlene also supports the firm’s clients with strategic advice on innovative and impactful solutions to realizing equity in the workplace. Charlene has a unique understanding of the interconnection between the legal profession and EDI, and how to achieve tangible results.
As the first Black president of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) and 10th woman to hold Office, Charlene designed and implemented a series of initiatives for law firms and Corporate Canada to reimagine workplaces ꟷ building productive, profitable, healthy, diverse and inclusive work environments. Charlene’s achievements in workplace equity and inclusion are informed by her experience as a former employment and labour lawyer. She has appeared before administrative tribunals and various levels of court, including Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal. She has also represented the interests of Canadians of African descent before federal and provincial legislative committees, as well as United Nations human rights treaty bodies. Her employment and labour practice is centred on advising management and boards on all aspects of governance and workplace operations including government relations, labour negotiations, pensions, and benefits.
Charlene is a member and former Director of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), Canada’s largest national association of Black lawyers and judges. She is a recipient of a 2017 Lexpert Zenith Award honouring her for work in advancing the interests of women in the legal profession and society. In 2020, Charlene was named one of Canada’s 25 Most Influential Lawyers by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. Charlene is also a member of the Top 40 Advisory Board, a body that reflects the diversity and leadership excellence in Canadian business, and identifies outstanding young business leaders for Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award.
Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Financial Markets at National Bank Financial
Ray Williams is a financial services executive with more than 35 years of experience in Global Capital Markets. His expertise is in debt capital markets derivatives and has held leadership roles in marketing, trading, risk advisory & execution as well as securitization.
Mr. Williams currently holds the position of Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Financial Markets at National Bank Financial, one of the top six investment dealers in Canada. In this role, he is responsible for facilitating engagements with strategic accounts, working closely within financial markets to promote the banks’ One Mission synergistic approach.
As a Financial Services executive, specialized in global capital markets, Mr. Williams has extensive experience in Cash and Derivatives products in multiple asset classes, Infrastructure Financing, Provincial & Federal Liability Management, and Mortgage Finance Companies (MFC) Financing and Hedging of Securitized Product. Mr. Williams is also committed to community engagement, in particular in the area of diversity and inclusion efforts. He serves on leadership boards for various organizations, including 100Strong Foundation. In 2018 Mr. Williams was awarded The Ontario Black History’s Society (OBHS) Rev Addie Aylestock Award – “Paving the way for others to follow” as the organisation celebrated its 40th year. In 2019 he was presented with the President’s Award at the Annual Harry Jerome ceremonies.
Mr. Williams is also a Co-Founder of the Black Opportunity Fund, established in 2020 and designed to be the largest fund in Canada addressing anti-black racism through social & economic empowerment.
He is also an Executive-in-Residence (EiR) at Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and sits on the George Brown College Foundation (GBCF) as Board member, as well as Canadian Ditchley Foundation.
Mr. Williams is married to Georgina, his wife of 32 years, and has two adult children and resides in Oakville, Ontario.
Global Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer at Great-West Life
David Simmonds is the Global Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer for Great-West Life. In this role, David has accountability for driving strategy and alignment around corporate purpose, ESG, and global impact across LifeCo’s executives, business units, and employees. He leads cross-functional efforts focused on harnessing the full strength of LifeCo’s efforts to affect positive change while creating value for stakeholders. He also provides strategic partnership and advisory guidance to the CEO agenda.
Prior to LifeCo, David had a successful career at McKesson. A member of the company executive leadership team, David worked in both the US and Canada leading teams across corporate marketing, enterprise strategy, and public affairs, until his promotion to SVP, Communications & Public Affairs for McKesson Canada.
David is a member of Western University’s Board of Governors; Director and President Elect of the Canadian Club of Toronto; a Governor of the Stratford Festival; and an Advisory Board Member at Catalyst Canada.
David’s been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Black Canadians by the Diversity Advancement Network; he serves as an expert panelist at the Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation; and recently completed an appointment as Visiting Professor at Western University where his teaching focused on social storytelling, brand, and cause marketing.
A graduate of Western University, David holds an Honours BA, MA, and completed the executive development program at the Wharton School.