When Tisha King was asked to collaborate on a research project for Black History Month, she had no idea how difficult it would be.
King, a professor at Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance, joined together with Steve Salterio, a professor of accounting at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, and Marcia Annisette, a professor and former associate dean academic at York University’s Schulich School of Business, to find and pay homage to Canada’s first Black accounting professionals.
As more institutions are being encouraged to address their racist histories and decolonize their curriculum, Salterio thought that learning about Canada’s early Black professional accountants would be a good exercise for his students.
The problem was that the search came up empty—which is when Salterio reached out to King and Annisette for help. Together, they put the word out to practicing and retired senior leaders within the accounting community and painstakingly reviewed the histories of the professional accounting bodies (CA, CGA, RIA/CMA).
Annisette, who had published papers on chartered accountants who had immigrated to Canada, was also surprised by the lack of information about Canada’s earliest Black accountants.
Collectively, Salterio, Annisette and King decided that they would continue to dig, driven by the need to shed light on the contributions of early Black accounting professionals. They felt that this research would help promote awareness of the history of the accounting profession in Canada and help chart the way forward toward greater diversity within the field.
With funding support from the Stephen JR Smith Chair in Accounting and Auditing at Smith School of Business, a position held by Salterio, the trio were able to connect with a researcher specializing in Black Canadian genealogy.
After several months and more than 100 hours of research, the genealogy results finally produced 10 names—with no guarantee that any were affiliated with professional accounting bodies.
From here, the researchers turned to their personal networks and made some major headway. Annisette—originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and King— originally from Barbados, looked to their home countries for potential leads.
Annisette reconnected with a former mentor, while King also discovered a Canadian Chartered Accountant in Barbados who obtained his designation in Canada in the 1960s. Salterio began looking in the Maritimes, where he knew of some Bermudians who had been enrolled in an accounting program in the 1980s. There, he found a Chartered Accountant who had obtained her designation in Canada and is notably the first Black professional accountant in Bermuda.
Once the researchers were able to connect with and interview these individuals, additional connections were found and a great deal of progress was made.
In total, Salterio, Annisette and King were able to identify over 20 Black accounting pioneers and have connected with those who are still alive.