“The Cal Best Project” celebrates the life and legacy of this extraordinary activist with a travelling exhibition that includes a documentary (Simply the Best), multi-panel bilingual educational display, and panel discussion. From his early days as a reporter covering the controversial Viola Desmond case to his tenure as Canada’s first Black High Commissioner, Best’s efforts are brought to life through interviews, archival footage, and contemporary news accounts. A special focus on Best’s commitment to a more inclusive public service examines his efforts as co-founder and president of the Civil Service Association of Canada (the precursor to today’s Public Service Alliance of Canada) and highlights the debt that thousands of Canadian public servants owe him even today.
The WHM’s explorations into Cal Best’s life started small, using parts of a panel discussion with PSAC Founders to look at the life and career of Cal Best. We soon discovered that what we knew was only the tip of the iceberg. As Arthur Carkner, coordinator of the project, recalls, “We learned about his early struggles with racism, his Nova Scotia achievements, about his mother, Carrie Best. Best’s role in immigration, amateur sport, senior positions in various government departments ending in being Canada’s first Black High Commissioner (ambassador) gradually came to light, and we continue to learn more.”