The Order of Canada is the second-highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. Grange was appointed to the Order of Canada because of his pioneering work in diversity and inclusion, as well as his passion for social justice. Grange was pleasantly surprised to learn of his appointment to the Order of Canada after getting a call from the Governor General's office.
“It’s a great honour to join a very exclusive group of individuals. I've received tremendous support from individuals in the community congratulating me, which is just remarkable,” says Grange. Adding, “I didn’t do the work just to be recognized, but if I can make a small change that could have a broader impact on the world, I would be content with that.”
Gerard Etienne, a longtime friend and colleague of Grange who has known him for over 20 years, says, “This award is less about Grange and more about his family’s sacrifices over the years and receiving the honour as a Black person. It is as much about anti-racism as it is about activism,” says Etienne.
Robert Small is a Black Canadian artist and a former Director of the YMCA Black Achievers Programme. Grange was Small’s mentor at the YMCA Black Achievers Programme. Small, who is also one of the newly elected Black Canadians to the Order of Canada, is thrilled to know that Grange is on the list.
“Grange embodies what the Order of Canada represents and sets the tone for what other Black people should aspire towards,” says Small.
About Hamlin Grange
Grange is a diversity trainer, keynote speaker, journalist, athlete, and photographer, who likes to think outside the box and explore as many perspectives as possible.
He is a Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory, a developmental tool that helps individuals and teams assess and reflect on their stages of cultural sensitivity. And he is also a Certified Associate of Emergenetics, a psychometric assessment tool that measures the thinking and behavioural preferences of individuals and teams.
Pushing the boundaries
Grange’s road to success was not an easy one. He experienced his share of ups and downs, but he never gave up his ideals or stopped striving to achieve more.
At age 10, Grange moved to Canada and endured an adjustment period after coming from Jamaica. This was one of the earliest defining moments in his life because everything began to change around him.
“It's almost like hitting a reset switch. First, life in Jamaica as a very young child and then life in Canada as a teenager and adult,” says Grange when he recalls how people treated him because of his race.
He was an exceptional athlete in school. His contributions allowed his high school, Central Tech, to win its first city championship in 25 years. Grange also held the Canadian record in the junior 400-metre hurdle for several years. He won the 1975 Canadian Senior Championship in Sudbury and almost qualified for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
He was also the first Black student to be elected to the council president in his high school. Grange says that’s where he developed his leadership abilities and sense of activism.
Grange was in a technical program in high school and studied to be an electrician. But Grange was more passionate about writing, storytelling, and poetry. After graduating from Electricity, Grange returned to high school and studied for another two years in a program that would send him to university.
Subsequently, he was offered a scholarship to the University of Colorado, where he majored in journalism and also studied African American history.
Leaving his mark on the Canadian media landscape
Grange was a reporter, news anchor, program host, and assignment editor. He was a reporter for Denver's Rocky Mountain News, Global Television, Toronto Star and CBC Television. He hosted Workweek on CBC Newsworld, TVOntario, and CBC’s More to the Story. He also co-hosted a news and current affairs program called Good Evening Jamaica.
Grange cherishes his experience in journalism, including the stories he wrote about the Black community and other communities. But his path was not always easy.
"I was critical of how our community was portrayed in news stories and tried to change things in newsrooms," Grange says. "I'm sure I didn't make any friends due to this, but it didn't matter to me."
Advocating for more representation of Black people in the media
A pivotal moment for Grange was the creation of Innoversity in 2001 with his wife, Cynthia Reyes. Their goal was to provide a platform for creators of colour working in the media, and connect them with decision-makers.
Grange and his wife sometimes had to fund projects out of their own pocket. And while Grange believes the tangible changes they made on the Canadian media landscape was worth the effort, he says more needs to be done.
“Black and Brown faces should be represented on more than just the big screen, whether it’s operating cameras and microphones. We need to see our people as decision-makers, such as executive producers or senior editors. Besides, there are a lot of lagging areas where our community is not covered at all.”
Teaching diversity and inclusion
Grange is the president and co-founder of DiversiPro, a diversity consulting firm that started in 2000. DiversiPro originally started as a production company called Pro Media International. It made television programs and created opportunities for creators of colour to work in the media landscape.
The company later evolved into a consulting firm based on the constant demand for training and consulting services.
Etienne recalls when he was Vice President at TD Bank financial group, and they were just getting started with inclusion and diversity. Grange was brought in to help build an inclusive culture at TD Bank.
“Way before the whole anti-racism bandwagon ever caught on, Grange got corporate Canada to have a conversation and understanding of anti-racism,” says Etienne.
Etienne realizes that most people will never know about Grange’s contributions to Canada over the past 20 years. “They may not know that their next job or promotion is probably due to a speech that Grange gave to the CEO that changed their perspective on diversity. We stand on the shoulders of giants without ever understanding who they are.”
Besides the Order of Canada, Grange has received numerous awards, including:
- The B'Nai Brith Human Rights Award for Journalism (1989)
- The African Canadian Achievement Award (1999)
- A CHUM TV-Black Film and Video Achievement Award and Award for Leadership (2002)
- The YMCA's Peace Medallion (2008)
- Queen's diamond jubilee medal for community service (2012)
However, Grange believes that his greatest achievement is becoming a husband, father and, subsequently, a grandfather. “Becoming a father is a big responsibility because you have to raise another human being,” Grange says enthusiastically.
Behind his success is his life partner Cynthia Reyes who is an accomplished writer in her own right who has been his greatest cheerleader and supporter.
He also recognizes his mother’s influence and role in his life. “If there's anybody who inspired me, I think it was my mother, who raised me as a single mom. She was a hard worker who was always helping people, sometimes to her own detriment.”
Grange also recognizes the strength of Black women, “Black men have done great things, but we sometimes forget the role of Black women. They have saved the community and been at the forefront of activism.”