School of Accounting and Finance researcher helps find Black pioneers in acccounting through genealogy and international collaboration
By Rachel Doherty School of Accounting and Finance
When Dr. Tisha King was asked to collaborate on a research project for Black History Month, she had no idea how difficult it would be.
King, a professor at Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance, joined together with Dr. Steve Salterio, a professor of accounting at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, and Dr. Marcia Annisette, a professor and former associate dean academic at York University’s Schulich School of Business, to find and pay homage to Canada’s first Black accounting professionals.
As more institutions are being encouraged to address their racist histories and decolonize their curriculum, Salterio thought that learning about Canada’s early Black professional accountants would be a good exercise for his students.
The problem was that the search came up empty-which is when Salterio reached out to King and Annisette for help. Together, they put the word out to practicing and retired senior leaders within the accounting community and painstakingly reviewed the histories of the professional accounting bodies (CA, CGA, RIA/CMA).
Annisette, who had published papers on chartered accountants who had immigrated to Canada, was also surprised by the lack of information about Canada’s earliest Black accountants.
Collectively, Salterio, Annisette and King decided that they would continue to dig, driven by the need to shed light on the contributions of early Black accounting professionals. They felt that this research would help promote awareness of the history of the accounting profession in Canada and help chart the way forward toward greater diversity within the field.
The strategyWith funding support from the Stephen JR Smith Chair in Accounting and Auditing at Smith School of Business, a position held by Salterio, the trio were able to connect with a researcher specializing in Black Canadian genealogy.
After several months and more than 100 hours of research, the genealogy results finally produced 10 names-with no guarantee that any were affiliated with professional accounting bodies.
From here, the researchers turned to their personal networks and made some major headway. Annisette-originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and King-- originally from Barbados, looked to their home countries for potential leads.
Annisette reconnected with a former mentor, while King also discovered a Canadian Chartered Accountant in Barbados who obtained his designation in Canada in the 1960s. Salterio began looking in the Maritimes, where he knew of some Bermudians who had been enrolled in an accounting program in the 1980s. There, he found a Chartered Accountant who had obtained her designation in Canada and is notably the first Black professional accountant in Bermuda.
Once the researchers were able to connect with and interview these individuals, additional connections were found and a great deal of progress was made.
In total, Salterio, Annisette and King were able to identify over 20 Black accounting pioneers and have connected with those who are still alive.
Featured below are the five professional accountants who obtained their designations between the 1950s and 1970s and are considered to be Canada’s Black trailblazers in accounting.
Andrew L Phillips, 86, Saint James, Trinidad and TobagoEducation: Phillips studied at McGill University in Montreal where he obtained a B.Comm. in 1965 and a Licentiate in Accounting in 1967, followed by a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Quebec in 1967.
Employment in Canada: Phillips was a railway porter with the Canadian National Railways (CNR) while on summer breaks at McGill. After graduating, he articled with S. Hoffman & Co., an auditing firm in Montreal as an auditor from 1965-1967. In 1968, Phillips joined Northern Electric Co. Ltd (forerunner of Nortel) where he worked as an auditor and then became Manager of Accounting in the Construction Division until 1970. In 1970 he returned to Trinidad and Tobago.
Employment in Trinidad & Tobago: Phillips’ first job was as a Senior Auditor at Peat Marwick Mitchell (now KPMG) from 1970 to 1974. From there he became the General Manager of Finance at British West Indies Airways (BWIA) from 1974-1983.
Phillips continued his career in Trinidad and Tobago in several senior managerial positions including Corporate Manager at the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) until his retirement.
Notable Accomplishments: In 1956, Phillips responded to a job advertisement by BWIA and was asked to send his resume. Phillips was then asked to submit a photo, after which he was told that he was not successful presumably because of his colour. Many years later, he was hired as the General Manager of Finance at BWIA-- a noteworthy achievement at that time for a Black man.
Hon. Jeanne (Adderley) Atherden FCPA, CA, BermudaEducation: Atherden studied at McGill University and graduated in 1969 with a B.Comm. in accounting. She went on to receive her Licentiate in Accounting in 1970 and completed all but the thesis for her M.Comm. at McGill.
Designation: Chartered Accountant Quebec 1973
Employment in Canada: Atherden came to McGill University to study science in 1965 but after working for a chartered accounting firm in the summer of 1966 in Bermuda, she switched to the Commerce program. She notes that she was one of a few bilingual anglophone accountants at the time and was one of two women hired "on a trial basis" by Clarkson Gordon in Montreal.
Career path: Atherden articled with Clarkson Gordon (a predecessor firm of Ernst & Young) in Montreal from 1970 to 1973 and was offered a promotion to Computer Audit Manager (today’s IT Assurance). Atherden decided to return to Bermuda where she became an Audit Manager at Cooper & Lines/Coopers & Lybrand, which later became PwC Bermuda.
She went on to become a Financial Executive at the Bermuda Hospitals Board and held several board of directors appointments. Atherden was appointed a Senator in Bermuda in 2008 and later became the opposition leader in the Senate. She was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2012 and was appointed the Minister of Health (among other offices) in the Bermuda government. After her party was unsuccessful at the polls, she was re-elected as a shadow minister and ultimately became the Leader of the Opposition in the Bermuda House of Assembly. She served as an MP until she retired in 2020.
- First Black Chartered Accountant when she registered with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bermuda (ICAB).
- First Black female hired into a Big 12 (now Big 4) public accounting firm in Canada.
- Second Black woman to become a professional accountant (CA) in Canada.
- She was on the Board of the ICAB and was the ICAB’s representative on the board of directors of the Atlantic Provinces Association of Chartered Accountants, a predecessor body of the CPA Atlantic School of Business.
- She was appointed an FCPA by CPA Bermuda in 2017.
A. Meave Elliott-Vaucrosson CPA, CA, Trinidad and TobagoEducation: Sir George Williams University (now part of Concordia University) 1962, BA (economics) and B.Comm.in accounting.
Designation: Chartered Accountant Quebec 1964
Employment in Canada: Elliott-Vaucrosson articled with a small Jewish firm in Montreal and then became a Tax Assessor for Revenue Canada (now the Canada Revenue Agency) in 1964. Elliott-Vaucrosson moved to Ottawa with Revenue Canada in 1966, then to the Department of Finance as a Technical Interpretations Officer before moving into the Tax Policy Office.
Elliott-Vaucrosson became a Canadian citizen and is retired in Ottawa. In total, she was a federal civil servant for 27 years.
- Elliott-Vaucrosson was the only female in her B. Comm. Class and was told by her professors that she was wasting her time because a woman would never get a placement in accounting.
- Her faculty advised her to switch out of the B. Comm. program and into another degree program and Elliott-Vaucrosson’s response was "No, I’m not dropping anything I’ll do something else with it, and so I chose economics and ended up with two degrees".
Sir Kenneth R. Hewitt, CA, Dean’s Village, Station Hill, BarbadosEducation: McGill University, 1964 B.Comm. with honours in economics, Licentiate in Accounting, 1966
Designation: Chartered Accountant Quebec 1967
Time spent in Canada: Hewitt arrived in Canada in 1960 as a landed immigrant and returned to Barbados in 1967. Hewitt speaks fondly of his time in Canada, "I got married in Montreal, all my children were conceived in Montreal, and I achieved my academic and professional goals in Montreal - a great place."
- Hewitt articled with a chartered in the accounting firm Margolese, Margolese, Hitzig, Welikovitch & Shapiro, in Montreal.
- Joined Steinberg (a prominent Quebec grocery store chain) in their internal audit department.
- Returned to Barbados in 1967 and in 1969 he started Ken Hewitt & Co., the first Black public accounting firm in Barbados.
- In 1973 Hewitt merged his company with a predecessor firm of KPMG where he was the managing partner until 1998.
- Hewitt founded the first Black public accounting firm in Barbados (Ken Hewitt & Co. that later merged into the firm that became KPMG)
- Acted as Governor General of Barbados on various occasions.
- Former Independent Senator, Senate of Barbados and was awarded Commander of the British Empire (CBE).
- In 1973-74, Hewitt served as the President of the Barbados Association of Professional Accountants (which had close links to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants
- 1974-75 he served as the first President of the newly minted Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados.
- Participated administratively in many cultural, sporting and academic activities.
- Hewitt has been married for 61 years with three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Thomas Crawford, CA, Barbados in 1920 and died in Montreal in 2013Education: Sir George Williams University (now part of Concordia University), B.Comm. in accounting
Designation: Chartered Accountant Quebec 1958
Career path: Crawford articled with the Jewish Chartered Accounting firm, Freedman & Abramovitch, in Montreal. He stayed with the firm and its successors and became a partner in the firm Abramovitch, Abramovitch, Crawford & Rapport in the early 1970s until retiring in 2003.
Time spent in Canada: Crawford was born in Barbados and later became a Canadian citizen. He had one son with his wife, Barbara Griffith (1923-2016).
- First pioneering Black Professional Accountant to date, that King, Salterio and Annisette have found.
- Crawford was also the first Black Canadian partner of a public accounting firm, per this research. This firm still exists under the name Abramovitch & Associés.
If you have any information to help support the ongoing progress of this research, please contact Tisha King.