Panel Discussion

Friday, February 19th 2021 | 7:00pm

Anti-Black systemic racism is defined as the policies and practices rooted in Canadian institutions including education, health care, and justice that mirror and reinforce beliefs, attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination towards people of Black-African descent. The term ‘Anti-Black Racism' was first introduced by Dr. Akua Benjamin, a Ryerson Social Work Professor as part of her PhD thesis. This moderated panel discussion will focus on illuminating the ongoing reality and impact of anti-Black systemic racism on Black/African/Caribbean Canadians with focus on understanding the intersectionality of the church and faith. The discussion will be candid and aspires to not only inform but also to serve as a catalyst for further dialogue and action to dismantle all forms of anti-Black systemic racism.


The Rev. Michael Blair
General Secretary of the United Church of Canada

The Rev. Denise Gillard
CBOQ Pastor, Founder, Executive Artistic Director of TC3 and The HopeWorks Connection 

Ms. Dionne Peart
Barrister, Legal Aid Lawyer

Dr. Claudette Knight
Vice President, CIBC Talent Development



The Rev. Michael Blair
Rev. Michael Blair is a member of the Order of Ministry in the United Church of Canada and currently serves the General Council of the United Church of Canada as the General Secretary a role he began, November 1, 2020.

In his time at the General Council Office, he has served as Executive Minister for Ethnic Ministry; Executive Minister of Communities in Ministry and Executive Minister, Church in Mission. Before joining the General Council staff, Michael served as the Executive Director of the Toronto Christian Resource Center (CRC), which was a ministry of the then Toronto South Presbytery, now Shining Waters Region. Michael was admitted to the Order of Ministry in 2010 and has previously served as a congregational minister of a number of Baptist churches in Toronto and St. Catherine's, Ontario; a staff member with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Toronto, and as a community chaplain with the Ontario Multifaith Council's Reintegration Program.

Michael lives in Toronto with his partner, and is the father of two adult sons one of whom is part of the CBC's Tallboyz comedy troupe. Michael enjoys photography in his spare time.

The Rev. Denise Gillard
Serving as Senior Leader of Denise Gillard Ministries, Founder and Executive Artistic Director of The HopeWorks Connection, CEO of My Divine Appointment, and Senior Pastor at Kingdom City Church, Denise focuses on supporting and activating healthy, impactful and accountable leaders who serve as change agents in the world.

Her impressive commitment to empowering people of African descent motivates her to invest in the spiritual development, equipping and mobilization of Black Christian leaders and their allies, while remaining intentional about helping people of all faiths, creeds and cultures to reach beyond their perceived limitations.

Born in Oakville, Ontario, Rev. Denise learned how to create opportunities for others from her Jamaican-born father and her Nova Scotian mother whose people settled in Canada by way of the Black Refugee and Loyalist movements.

Rev Denise received her undergraduate degree at Tyndale Bible College & Seminary (Toronto), and her post-graduate degree from the Divinity College of McMaster University (Hamilton). She was first ordained with the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec in 1999 and now leads the flagship church of Partners in Missions and Outreach International, a Catch the Fire church.

Rev. Denise is the recipient of several distinguished awards including The African Canadian Women's Achievement Award for Excellence in Youth & Women's Development and The African Canadian Achievement Award for Excellence in Religion. She is also an award-winning author and songwriter. Denise is mother to 3 children and grandmother of one. Along with her husband, Wilton, Denise lives in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

Ms. Dionne Peart
Legal aid lawyer since 2004 primarily, Dionne focussed on poverty law and bail law. She obtained a BA from York, did graduate studies at Queens, and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1997.

Dionne articled with Legge and Legge and was called to the bar by Laura Legge when Laura was the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Dionne sat on the board of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

Her hobbies include screenwriting and photography. She also worked in the music industry with Sam Sniderman who encouraged her to go to law school. Dionne was raised in Yonge Eglinton, Etobicoke and Leslieville neighbourhoods and lives in East York. She is married to Miroslav who is an amazing chef and has attended Yorkminster Park since 2010.

Dr. Claudette Knight
Claudette has over twenty years of experience in the Financial Services Industry and is passionate about empowering financial, social, physical, and emotional wellbeing in others. She is recognized as a collaborative leader who delivers high impact learning solutions that build employee capability and drive business results.

Additionally, she has a doctorate in the field of Business Administration with a focus on gender and leadership and several academic publications including: "Women, Leadership, and Promotion in the Corporate Arena", and "Black Parents Speak: Education in Mid-Nineteenth Century Canada West". Claudette is HR's Executive Sponsor for the CIBC Run for the Cure and co-executive sponsor of CIBC's Black Employee Network.

Claudette has been attending Yorkminster Park for at least ten years. She and her husband Guy live in the YPBC neighbourhood and have one young son.