The Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism launched, announces chair

Diverse group of senior leaders pledge to create pathways for Black people, Indigenous peoples and people of colour and to help end systemic racism within the innovation economy.

Claudette McGowan of TD Bank Group will chair the new coalition.

June 29, 2020 – Today, a diverse group of leaders launched the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR). The coalition’s mandate is to connect Black, Indigenous and people of colour to the innovation sector — a critical part of rebuilding and transitioning to the new economy. Composed of senior members of Canada’s tech, innovation and advanced industry sectors, CILAR’s work will be driven by its broad membership. Using the strong institutional influence of its members, as well as a system-focused approach, CILAR aims to have a wide network impact.

Senior leaders from growing startups, local government, institutional investors, national foundations, major banks, insurance companies, academic institutions, and multinational organizations with a significant presence in Canada, have joined the coalition. Each has committed as a first priority to help end anti-Black and systemic racism and to hire and support more diverse talent, employees and founders. This first step will inform how the coalition acts to engage other underrepresented groups, including indigenous communities within their organizations and the community at large.

The coalition’s founding members include:

  • Armughan Ahmad, President & Managing Partner, Digital, KPMG
  • Monique Allen, EVP Data & Technology, OMERS
  • Andrew Chunilall, CEO, Community Foundations of Canada
  • Dubie Cunningham, Partner, ScaleUp Ventures
  • Rola Dagher, President, Cisco Canada
  • Lawrence Eta, CTO, City of Toronto
  • Danielle Graham, Principal & Founder, Sandpiper Ventures
  • Faisal Kazi, President & CEO, Siemens Canada
  • Dr. Kamran Khan, CEO & Founder, BlueDot
  • Mohamed Lachemi, President & Vice-Chancellor, Ryerson University
  • Jeanne Hwang Lam, GM, Wattpad
  • Jarret Leaman, Founder, Akawe Technologies and Centre for Indigenous Innovation and Technology
  • Humera Malik, Founder & CEO, Canvass Analytics
  • Alexandra McCalla, Co-Founder & COO, AirMatrix
  • Claudette McGowan, Global Executive Officer, Cybersecurity, TD
  • Sam Sebastian, CEO, Pelmorex Corp.
  • Mike Serbinis, CEO, League
  • Abdullah Snobar, CEO, DMZ Ventures
  • Kirstine Stewart, Executive Committee Member, World Economic Forum
  • Humza Teherany, Chief Technology and Digital Officer, MLSE
  • Susan Uthayakumar, CEO, Schneider Electric Canada
  • Rajesh Uttamchandani, CPO, MaRS
  • Yung Wu, CEO, MaRS
  • Mary Ann Yule, President & CEO, HP Canada
  • Lekan Olawoye, Founder, Black Professionals in Tech Network (Advisor)

Claudette McGowan, Global Executive Officer, Cybersecurity, at TD, has been nominated chair of CILAR. Claudette is a global technology leader with more than 18 years of success leading digital transformations, optimizing infrastructure and improving service experiences. She has worked for several organizations including Deloitte, Metropolitan Police Services, North York General Hospital and Bank of Montreal.

“It’s our responsibility as technology leaders to do more than just express our support,” said McGowan. “We need to take action and steer Canada’s innovation economy towards ensuring equal opportunity for every Canadian, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Further, as our industry continues to evolve, we must include perspectives that reflect our communities in order to ensure that everyone benefits from technology-driven innovation. This means spearheading initiatives and programs — like this coalition and the Black Innovation Fellowship — that will level the playing field and clear pathways to both access and success.”

The coalition’s approach is focused on five priorities: youth skills development, job opportunities, venture and founder support, investment and funding as well as community leadership. MaRS will incubate the initiative by providing support and ecosystem access.

“At a time when the transformation of the entire economy depends on startups connecting with incumbent businesses, we have a small window to reimagine and re-configure our economy,” said Yung Wu, CEO, MaRS. “Our first priority is to increase representation of Black professionals and founders while taking on systemic racism in all forms. As a coalition, we will create a new grassroots movement, bringing catalytic change and enabling diverse employees and founders to be leaders in Canada’s future economy.”

Recently, the DMZ and members of this coalition announced a $1 million program expansion for the DMZ Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF) program. With a commitment from Harley Finkelstein, COO, Shopify and entrepreneur Lindsay Taub, combined with a promise from Ryerson University to match new major donations of up to $500K, the funding will enhance programming initiatives and ensure BIF has the capacity to immerse more Black founders in a space that meets their unique needs, and helps break down barriers for business growth. BIF launched in May 2019 in partnership with Dream Maker Ventures, Shopify, BMO, and Canadian Women’s Foundation and now aims to serve more than five times the number of startups currently in the program.

“It’s not just about taking jobs by increasing quotas in large tech organisations, it’s about creating jobs and generational wealth,” said Alexandra McCalla, Co-Founder & COO, AirMatrix. “Fuelling and funding Black founders to create careers, companies and products that serve multiple communities is paramount towards closing the gap and changing perspectives on risk/reward for entrepreneurship and leadership in Black communities. To do this we must disrupt insular flows of capital, making real change with real commitment.”

While CILAR is focused on the innovation economy, the coalition will collaborate with other initiatives, including the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism, founded by Wes Hall, and will support its inaugural BlackNorth virtual summit on July 20, 2020.

“COVID-19 has created the perfect storm that brought many of the injustices in society to the forefront, such as the destructive forces of racism and prejudice,” said Armughan Ahmad, President and Managing Partner, Digital at KPMG. “It is incumbent on every one of us to understand the barriers that exist, and commit to doing our part to eradicating racism in all its forms. As we build the post-COVID new economy we have the opportunity and responsibility to create a more inclusive and just society.”


About the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism 

The Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR) is a diverse group of senior business leaders committed to fighting anti-Black and systemic racism and creating pathways for diverse professionals to participate meaningfully in the innovation economy.


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