ACAA shines the spotlight on community stalwarts
March 11, 2017
For Dr. Tabo Sikaneta, the apple certainly didn’t fall far from the tree.
His father was a family physician in Zambia and he would often accompany him on visits to rural homes to disburse medicine and care for community residents.
“He was one of those old school doctors who walked around with a medical kit and I just loved being in his company when he was on the road,” said Sikaneta.
It’s no surprise that the son followed his father’s footsteps.
Those trips sparked Sikaneta’s love of science and dedicated teachers encouraged him to fulfil his dream of pursuing medicine.
With political unrest gathering momentum in Zambia in the late 1980s, Sikaneta – just 15 at the time – and his three brothers migrated to Canada which is their mother’s home country.
Graduating from high school in Cambridge, he completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, his medical degree at McMaster University, his general internal medicine program at the University of Toronto and four years of nephrology training at Harvard University.
The Scarborough Hospital general internist and nephrologist was recently honoured with an African-Canadian Achievement Award (ACAA) for medical excellence.
His two sons, nine-year-old Zane and Shamisol who just turned 12, accompanied him to the awards ceremony.
“This award is really for them,” said Sikaneta who is a founding member of the African-Caribbean Kidney Association and the Scarborough Hospital Ethics Review Board vice-chair. “By doing the same thing my father did with me, I bring them out to events like this to encourage them to be the best they can be. I want them to know if I could do it, so could they.”
A total of 15 outstanding Canadians and one group were honoured with the awards for brilliance in myriad fields.
In 2002, Marie Clarke Walker made history when she was elected the first racialized woman and youngest person to the position of executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Being the first means you have an added responsibility to ensure that you are not the last,” said Clarke Walker who is in her fifth term in the role. “I take that responsibility very seriously and am ensuring that the door remains open so that others can come through.”
She paid tribute to her mother Beverley Johnson, who was the Ontario Public Service Employees Union first human rights officer, her partner and their children.
“My mother taught me about human rights, justice and the importance of treating others the way I would want to be treated and my children remind me that we do this work for future generations,” she pointed out. “Whether it is a fight for universal health care, the importance of pharmacare, a better Canada Pension Plan so that no one has to retire in poverty, the banning of asbestos so that all communities can be healthy and safe or the fight against racism and discrimination, particularly anti-Black racism and Islamophobia, the labour movement plays an important role and yes, workers are the most important part of every single business.”
Clarke Walker, who is the chair of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (Canada chapter) women’s committee, dedicated her business award to the ‘strong Black women in my life, including the women of Black Lives Matter and those who mother me and have mothered me daily and who continue to stand for justice, even in the face of adversity.’
Like Clarke Walker, Dr. Rinaldo Walcott is a fierce advocate for equity and human rights.
He dedicated his award for excellence in education to Michelle Ross’ life-saving and nurturing public pedagogy. She is a Black Drag Queen who has been working in the city since the 1970s.
“Michelle’s performances have saved countless lives in the community and I hope she will be honoured soon for all she has done,” said Walcott who is the director of the women and gender institute and an associate professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
A staunch reader, he related his love for books and education were nurtured at a young age while growing up in Barbados.
“Education is bigger than schools and universities,” noted Walcott. “It is about the people in your lives and what they share with you. My sisters have always shared books with me, even when I was not old enough to understand what was under the covers of those books. From ‘The Valley of the Dolls’ to James Baldwin ‘Giovanni’s Room’, I read them all before I was 15 years old.”
When Ingrid Berkeley-Brown joined Peel Regional Police Service 31 years ago, she became the organization’s first Black female cop.
“The history-making moment came with significant challenges,” she recounted. “However, quitting was never an option.”
Just over a year ago, Berkeley-Brown was promoted to superintendent making her the highest ranking female Black police officer in Canada.
The trailblazer said her mother provided the sustenance she needed to overcome the many barriers along the way.
“My mom was a widow with 11 children and she brought us all to Canada,” said Berkeley-Brown whose father was a police officer in Guyana. “She was a very strong and determined woman and I had to look no further than her when things were dismal and not heading in the right direction for me.”
Jamaican-born entrepreneur and philanthropist Delores Lawrence was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Introduced to business at an early age by her mother who owned a supermarket in Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coast, Lawrence graduated from the University of Toronto with a nursing degree and the University of New Hampshire with a Master’s in Business Administration.
In 1985, she launched Nursing Health Care Inc. out of her home. The company provides health care services to hospitals and nursing, retirement and private homes.
The successful businesswoman, who is a four-time winner of the Consumer Choice Award for Business Excellence in Nursing, has made the Profit/Chatelaine Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs List nine years.
Other award winners were Canadian Football League commissioner Jeffrey Orridge, RBC Insurance Advice Centre head Mark Beckles, Unifor national representative and Toronto Police Service Black Community Liaison Committee co-chair John O’Dell, newspaper publisher Anthony Joseph, registered nurse Sheryl Bernard, former Malton Black Development Association president and Peel District School Board trustee Rick Williams, ordained minister and singer Kay Morris, husband and wife Royston and Claire Jones who have been married for 47 years, Remi Ojo Jr., the Heritage Singers and York University professor emeritus Dr. Allan Carswell.