We live in a time with calls to make the world a more equitable place for everyone, and more diversity in workplaces is a key way of making that happen. At least that’s what we often hear, if we don’t always hear why. The reality is that diversity can benefit any workplace, and the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO) knows this is especially true in the construction industry. To that end, the CDCO appointed Chris Campbell as the Union’s Equity and Diversity Representative in November of 2020. A year later, Campbell has led the way for the encouragement and promotion of BIPOC individuals finding employment in Ontario's construction industry through the CDCO. 

Rokhaya Gueye, a first term apprentice at the College of Carpenters taking a scaffolding course, image courtesy of CDCO

Campbell is known in the industry as a long-time champion of diversity, and has been a Business Representative of Local 27 since September of 2003. Year after year, his work has inspired the leadership within his union to do more, and to do things differently, to ensure that Black, Indigenous, and other racialized youth and adults—including women and immigrants—know about, are prepared for, and can access employment and apprenticeships through the Union.

Campbell says that over the years, he has metaphorically seen the door continually open more and more for BIPOC workers in the construction industry, and that it has never been more open than it is today.

"The process to enter the union is more transparent today," said Campbell. "It's possible today to walk through the door of the Union and sign up as a first year apprentice. The Union has people like me going into the community telling the BIPOC community, 'look, we have good paying jobs with good benefits, pension, and training, come on in!'… and we didn't have that years ago, it was much more exclusive."

Campbell travels around the province speaking with local contractors and racialized groups, connecting the two with the appropriate contacts. He has worked with numerous organizations to help spread the word and encourage individuals, including Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), Tridel's BOLT, RESCON, Building Up, Tradelinks, and the Hammerhead Group, which all send new workers directly into the trades, or to places like the CDCO to get connected with an apprenticeship course for the trade they are interested in pursuing. 

Tridel's BOLT Day of Discovery, campaign image from Tridel

Campbell also speaks at events to spread awareness, most recently at RESCON's second annual Addressing Racism in Construction panel, where he shared insights about improvements that could be made to help benefit BIPOC in the industry. There, Campbell called for proper data keeping to detail the numbers of BIPOC workers in the construction industry. "If you don't have that information, how are you meant to measure your progress?" he asked. "With those numbers, you'll know where to send your revenue to, and where to market your services."

Participants of the Second Annual Addressing Racism in Construction

Marketing is another area that Campbell says is worth investing in to promote BIPOC to work in the construction industry. "Portraying the trade in a positive light is crucial, and the benefits definitely outweigh the costs," he said. "What made me want to pursue a career in this field was my family members who worked as labourers… but not everybody has an example like that at home, so the exposure [BIPOC individuals] get from marketing is crucial for them to consider a career in construction."

Campbell was joined on the panel by BOLT Executive Director Raly Chakarova, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario's Anti-Racism Directorate Nosa Ero-Brown, and Tridel Service Technician Joseph Chow, who all know and understand the importance of having diversity in the industry. 

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