James Calbert Best was 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.
Cal 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, delved into the deeper racial issues facing black people in Nova Scotia and across North America. It featured the case of Viola Desmond, who has been referred to as a 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, he embarked on a 49-year career in the federal public sector, including a term as Canadian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago.
Even in retirement, his considerable contribution continued. In 1999, he served as a member of the Treasury Board President’s Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service.
Cal Best died in the summer of 2007 at the age of 81.
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