Cal Best

One of the problematic aspects of Black History Month is that the teachings are often focused on very typical black activists and historical figures. This is not to say these incredible individuals don’t deserve the attention, just that it’s also important to
highlight lesser known people and groups.

One such person is Cal Best. He was born in Nova Scotia – as James Calbert Best to be exact - in 1926. Best grew up in an activist household. His mother, Carrie Best, founded and ran a community newspaper focusing on Black issues. Best
would go on to be a lifelong activist.

After graduating from King’s College, Best worked for the Department of Labour overseeing collective bargaining of federally regulated industries. The kicker was that federal government employees were not allowed to unionize themselves or even bargain around their working conditions. Cal Best was elected the President of the Civil Service Association of Canada in 1958.

Best aimed to eliminate the labyrinth of employee situation and unite all workers in a single union with bargaining power and results to prove it. Best worked for the
Civil Service Association of Canada until it merged with the Civil Service Federation. Best is considered to be a father of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Before his death, Car Best went on to hold higher-ranking government positions and
even acted as Canada’s first black ambassador. He may not have been too flashy, and he may not be well known in the same way as Martin Luther King – but Cal Best is definitely one of our own Canadian activist heroes.

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