Dr. Calbert Best

Civil Servant / Former High Commissioner, Federal Public Service, Ottawa, ON. Born: New Glasgow, NS.

Dr. Calbert Best was a labour and human rights advocate, and one of the founding members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). The son of a human rights activist and a railway porter, his career in the federal public sector began in the Department of Labour in 1949, where he co-founded the Civil Service Association of Canada, one of the organizations that merged in 1966 to form the PSAC.

Calbert was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and as a young man founded, with his mother, the first African-Canadian owned newspaper in that town, The Clarion. The paper covered local news and sports, but more importantly, the deeper racial issues facing Blacks in Nova Scotia and across North America. The Clarion featured the case of Viola Desmond, often referred to as the Canadian Rosa Parks. In 1946, she was arrested and fined for sitting in the “Whites only” section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow and refused to move when authorities tried to force her to.

After achieving degrees in political science and public administration, Calbert embarked on a 49-year career in the federal public sector, including a number of Assistant Deputy Minister positions and a three-year term as Canadian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, before becoming an Ambassador.

Career: National President, Civil Service Association, the first Black to hold such a senior position in this association (1957-66); Director, Personnel and Administration, Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury (1969-70); Director-General Administration, Department of Supply and Services (1970-73); AM, Operations (1973-75); Assistant Deputy Minister, Administration, Department Manpower and Immigration (1974-75); Director Applied Studies in Government, Commonwealth Secretariat, London, UK (1975-77); Special Policy Advisor to Deputy Minister/Chair, Employment and Immigration (1978); Assistant Deputy Minister, Immigration (1978-85); Canadian High Commissioner to Trinidad & Tobago (1985-88).

Affiliations: Chair, Ministry Task Force on Sport (1991-92); Commissioner, Core Sport Study (1993-94); appointed Member, President, Treasury Board’s Task Force on the “participation of visible minorities in the Federal Public Service (1999).

Honurs: Honorary Doctor of Civil Law, University of King’s College (1995); Centennial Medal (1967).

Works: Co-Author, Sport: The Way Ahead (1992); and various articles in periodicals.

Reviewed in: WWIC; Journey: African Canadian History (2000); Some Black Men (1999).

Education: BA, Dalhousie University (1948); Diploma Journalism, University of King’s College (1948).

Hero: Dr. Carrie Best.