A pool of Black excellence in the construction industry

Black Excellence in Construction


IVAN DAWNS – First Black Business Representative in Canada for the International Union Of Painters & Allied Trades (IUPAT)

Ivan has been a member for over 20 years as a Drywall Finisher/Plasterer. He is currently the Political Director, a member of the Local Apprentice Committee at the Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre (IFSTC) and the Co-chair for the African American Community Organizing for Real Economics (AACORE) Committee, where he is tasked with the job of finding how the union can better serve Black members, recruiting and retaining Black youth and identifying programs in communities that need assistance.


ROODNEY CLARKE – First Black President of UA Local 46

Roodney has been involved in the politics of UA Local 46 for twenty years. He has served on the Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Join Training & Apprenticeship Committee, as Chairman of the Bylaw Committee, Chairman of the Shop Steward Committee, Executive Board Member, Vice President, and currently as President of UA Local 46. He also leads the local charity drive for the UA sponsored charity, and the CBTU charity dedicated to ending youth homelessness across Canada. He also helps youth navigate the apprenticeship system as a mentor in the TCBN NexGen Mentorship Program.



MAMADOU BAH – First Black Business Representative of LiUNA Local 506

Mamadou Bah joined LiUNA Local 506 in 1990. He has worked in several sectors, including precast, demolition, concrete and general construction. In 2002 he was appointed as a Business Representative for Local 506, the first Black Business Representative in Canada. He has served on numerous committees including LiUNA Ontario District Council Minority Group, Ontario Building Trades, Canadian Labour Congress, CLC Workers of Colour, CLC Human Rights Advisory and Toronto & York Region Labour Council. Mamadou volunteers his time working with Black youth through the TCBN NexGen Mentorship Program and sits on the LiUNA African American Caucus board.


TRISTAN RAWLINS – First Black Business Manager of Brick and Allied Craft Worker Union Local 2 (BACU)

Starting as an Apprentice in 2009, Tristan has had the opportunity to serve on the Executive Board of BACU Local 2 as Sergeant at Arms, Recording Secretary, Business Agent and is currently the Business Manager for Toronto, Barrie, Oshawa. He is also on the Provincial Executive Board as First Vice President of BACU/OPC. He works alongside the Hammer Heads Program that assists inner city youth to get into the trades. Since becoming Business Manager, his Local has made positive steps in helping apprentices across the GTA with their training costs and job placement.



CHRIS CAMPBELL – First Equity and Diversity Representative of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario

Chris Campbell is the Equity and Diversity Representative of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. He has been a member of the Carpenters Union for 30 years and a full time staff representative for 17 years. Chris is presently on several boards and committees in the construction industry as well as in the local community. He also plays a major role in the recruiting of youths from his community for careers in the construction trades. 


By Lincoln DePradine

Construction people

Some people decide on a definite career choice during their high school years. Others may decide on one career, begin studies at college and university, and suddenly would change program to pursue another career path.

However, this has not been the approach of Errol Blackburn

From an early age growing up in his  homeland, Jamaica, Blackburn always wanted to be a carpenter.

“I learned the trade early in life and quickly became skilled in the craft,’’ says Blackburn, who arrived in Canada in 1985.

This week, we continue in a series started last week in which we examine the Black contribution to, and involvement in, the local construction industry.

The series is sponsored by the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), as part of the commemoration of Black History Month 2021.

TCBN is a coalition of 120 members drawn from community and labour organizations and groups and social enterprises, which include 10 of Ontario’s largest construction unions.

In an attempt at increasing the Black presence in trades and construction, TCBN has been facilitating training and employment opportunities for youth through its “NextGen Builders Mentoring Program’’.

“We have a talented pool of Black excellence that we can we can draw from and it’s important that they have the opportunity to be able to contribute to building up their community,’’ says Rosemarie Powell, TCBN’s executive director.

Three-year provincial funding for the mentorship program has just ended. Powell says TCBN will be reapplying shortly for continued financial assistance from the Ontario government to maintain the NextGen Program.

In this week’s edition, we profile Blackburn and five other Black Canadian men and women, who are working in the construction and skilled trades in Ontario.

Blackburn says he was “excited to start a life in Canada’’, with his first goal being to learn architectural drawing. Hence, he enrolled in college. While attending school on evenings and Saturdays, he continued working as a carpenter.

Over the years, Blackburn also has become deeply involved in trade unionism. He first joined the Carpenters’ Union Local 27. Later, he became a member of Local 183 of LiUNA –the Labourers’ International Union of North America.

One highlight of Blackburn’s career was when he recommended that the union should hire an economist to assist with negotiations on behalf of workers in the framing sector. At the end of negotiations, the union obtained an 18 percent increase in pay for the framers.

Shortly thereafter, in 2004, Blackburn was hired by LiUNA 183 as an Organizer/Business Agent. He’s the very first Black man to be hired by the union in this role.

He’s credited with influencing such union ideas as purchasing of land for building a massive campground to serve as a recreational venue and as a unique way of giving back to the union membership; hiring of an in-house Human Resources Hiring Manager; implementing an annual Family Day picnic; and introducing  a Complaints Office/Information Centre for union members.


Les Carbonaro

Les Carbonaro

For 35 years, electrician Les Carbonaro has been a member of Local 353 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He sits on the executive board and holds the title of Organizer/ Executive Officer.

Carbonaro describes himself as “a proud union member, community activist and father’’. A Scouts Canada leader for 20 years, he also has been a representative at labour and political conventions. In addition, for more than 25 years, Carbonaro has been teaching and developing leadership courses in his Local.


Tristan Rawlins

Tristan Rawlins

Tristan Rawlins is a bricklayer, who started as an apprentice in 2009. In 12 years, he has moved up the ranks of Local 2 of BACU – the Brick & Allied Craft Union of Canada.

“I have had the opportunity,’’ says Rawlins, “to serve on the executive board of Local 2 as the Sergeant of Arms, Recording Secretary and Business Agent. I am currently the Business Manager  for Toronto, Barrie, Oshawa. I am also on the provincial executive board as a First Vice President. Our Local works with the Hammer Heads’ Program for inner city youth to get them into the trades. Since becoming Business Manager of our Local, I have made some positive steps in helping apprentices across the GTA with their training cost and job placement.


Hardy Jalloh

 Hardy Jalloh

Hardy Jalloh is a veteran, university-trained tradesman. He holds a degree in Business Management from Ryerson University, a
certificate in Microcomputer Applications and a certificate in Construction Project Management.

For 30 years, Jalloh has been a member of LIUNA Local 506 and has been a union shop steward. He began as a construction labourer. Since then, his roles have included working part-time as a Construction Safety Trainer for Local 506 and was hired in 2013 as a dispatcher for Local 506.

A married father of three daughters, Jalloh has served as a representative of the Construction Trade Board, for the Ontario College of Trades. He’s also a lifetime volunteer in the Sierra Leone community in Toronto.

Ivan Dawns

Ivan Dawns 

Ivan Dawns has a 20-year career as a Drywall Finisher/Plaster. He has the distinction of being the first Black business representative in Canada for the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades. He currently serves as political director and member of the Local Apprentice Committee at the Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre.

As well, he’s co-chair for the African American Community Organizing for Real Economics (AACORE) Committee. In addition, Dawns is a CBTU members, involves himself in speaking engagements on the trades to high school students, and participates in TCBN’s NextGen Builders Mentoring Program.

Mulisius Joe

The number of women employed in construction isn’t as large as  the men. But, the women, including Mulisius Joe, are just as skilled as their male counterparts.

Joe, a carpenter for 11 years, is a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and a mentor with TCBN. A member, too, of the Carpenters’ & Allied Workers’ Union Local 27, she sits on its Diversity and Equality Committee. She also enjoys volunteering, offering free services with organizations such as the St Vincent & the Grenadines Association and the Breast Cancer Society.