By: Jamil Jivani, founder of the Citizen Empowerment Project
Pictured: Wes Hall
This past weekend I attended the 2016 Toronto Black Film Festival to see a screening of a new documentary, WES. This documentary is about one of Canada's great modern success stories: Wes Hall, founder and CEO of Kingsdale Shareholder Services.
Wes' journey from poverty in St. Thomas, Jamaica to leading one of the most successful companies on Bay Street is a truly inspiring rags to riches story. In telling this story, the documentary also includes valuable lessons in personal resilience and entrepreneurship that any viewer can benefit from. Certainly, any one who watches the film will walk away with motivation to tackle whatever challenges they encounter, professionally or personally.
What struck me most about the film is that it serves as a powerful affirmation of the work we do at the Citizen Empowerment Project. The story of Wes Hall stands as a symbol for what's possible in an inclusive society with a dynamic economy. He was able to come to Canada as a young man from Jamaica, seize opportunities through education and then start his own business in a growing industry. The Citizen Empowerment Project is motivated by a desire to create those same conditions for success for all Canadians, so that we can say with confidence that Canada is a nation where merit above all else will determine your success.
Our initiatives are motivated by a desire to empower youth, newcomers and low-income families to pursue a life like Wes Hall's. The #JaneAndFinchVotes campaign makes Canada a more inclusive country by encouraging democratic participation from all citizens. The Policing Literacy Initiative works to remove barriers to equality and promote a positive approach to law enforcement. Future of Canada's Oil Sands is the first of our efforts to engage with Canada's economic challenges and do our part to maintain a progressive but dynamic economy that can provide opportunities to Canadians with entrepreneurial spirit. By empowering underrepresented Canadians through these initiatives we can contribute to creating an inclusive society with a dynamic economy.
Our commitment to creating opportunity for Canadians is also a commitment found at the very core of the documentary. As Wes explained in a Q & A session at the Film Festival, he chose to work with 19 year-old director Samuel Lehner because he recognizes that young people like Lehner are in need of opportunities to prove themselves and he was impressed with the young director's work ethic and commitment.
I encourage all people interested in an inclusive and dynamic Canada to seek out the film WES, which will be appearing at other film festivals before further distribution. It is a reminder of what makes Canada great, and why we must continue our work to make our country even better.
Watch the trailer for WES