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Celebrating 20 years of diversity and inclusion in Canada

August 30, 2023


CGLCC celebrates two decades of effectively connecting 2SLGBTQI+ businesses, government, corporate members, and community partners.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) – a national not-for-profit organization developed and dedicated to the support and sustainability of 2SLGBTQI+ entrepreneurship.

Founded in 2003 by Darrell Schuurman and R. Bruce McDonald, the CGLCC was created in response to an expanding movement of regional LGBT business organizations and Chambers of Commerce, alongside a need to connect, provide support and grow opportunities at a national level.

“The regional organizations, some established in the 80’s, were hosting regular events in their communities attracting local LGBT businesses and allies,” says CGLCC Co-Founder R. Bruce McDonald. “Within the NGLCC’s formation in the US, starting to connect the regional organizations and beginning a national dialogue on economic inclusion, we could see the path for a national organization in Canada.”

Darrell Schuurman, current CEO and Co-Founder continues, “We started out by building important government and corporate connections to allow us to deliver on our mandate. We needed to raise the profile of 2SLGBTQI+ companies and the important contribution they make to the Canadian economy.”

Canada is a ‘nice and welcoming’ place

The 2SLGBTQI+ community continues to face an uphill battle as the lived experiences of individuals are doubted or silenced. “There was a perception that Canada is a ‘nice and welcoming’ place, that an organization like the CGLCC was not needed,” explains Schuurman. “It took a long time and many conversations for corporations and others to really see and understand our collective, community-based experiences, and the barriers and challenges our 2SLGBTQI+ entrepreneurs face.” He points out that it has only been over the last few years that the issues facing our community are becoming more visible.

One of those challenges faced by 2SLGBTQI+ businesses is equal access to procurement opportunities; 2SLGBTQI+ companies are underrepresented in corporate and public supply chain. To change this, and to create greater business opportunities, CGLCC launched the LGBTQ Supplier Diversity program in 2014. CGLCC acts as the only national certifying body of LGBTQ owned businesses in Canada, working to connect them with corporations and governments actively seeking to diversify their supply chains. CGLCC has certified and matched hundreds of LGBTQ Business Enterprises with a steadily growing number of corporations.

The CGLCC has continued to increase its programs throughout its 20 years, offering support and resources in response to the ongoing needs of the 2SLGBTQI+ business community. The Global Program and OUT For Business Youth Entrepreneurship initiative were both launched in 2017 and continue to offer opportunities for 2SLGBTQI+ businesses and individuals to grow and expand knowledge and networks. These programs provide access and support to 2SLGBTQI+ businesses at critical points in their journey – from formation, to scale-up and possible international expansion.

CGLCC goes Global

The first 2SLGBTQI+ trade mission, an inaugural one for CGLCC’s Global Program in 2018, brought 15 Certified Suppliers to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The government-led trade mission that included The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification further enabled these 2SLGBTQI+ businesses to access global markets.

Additional trade missions have brought greater business and international trade exposure for CGLCC’s members and global supporters – with missions to Florida (2019) and Nevada (2022), Colorado (2023) in the US, Colombia (2021-virtual), and a more recent mission to the European Union and United Kingdom (2023). In August 2023, CGLCC was awarded Global Affiliate Chamber of the Year by NGLCC in Denver, USA.

“Everything we’ve built out has been with a mission of supporting the economic empowerment of the 2SLGBTQI+ community,” explains McDonald. “In the early days it was Darrell and I as volunteers. I am so proud of what Darrell and team CGLCC have built in the past few years, along with our amazing board of directors and many corporate and government partners.”

Strategically building a supported future

Starting with the Supplier Diversity program, everything CGLCC has done has been strategic, explains Schuurman. “Seeing young entrepreneurs as the future built the OUT For Business mentorship program to support them. We are constantly asking ourselves ‘how can we best support our members and stakeholders?’”

Schuurman points to various 2SLGBTQI+ businesses who have continued to find long-term benefits and opportunities in CGLCC’s programs. “We have entrepreneurs who came in via OUT For Business; we supported them along the journey to help them grow and become certified, then we opened the doors to enter the international marketplace!” Schuurman excitedly explains. “When I hear these stories, when entrepreneurs say CGLCC has helped them – they’ve expanded their businesses, they’ve made it through COVID, and are now increasing staffing and scaling up – it feels good to know we are making a difference for and with these businesses.”

The CGLCC marked a new milestone by launching the Rainbow Registered accreditation program in June 2021,Canada’s national accreditation for 2SLGBTQI+ safe and welcoming spaces. This distinctive program emphasizes Canada’s dedication to promoting inclusivity across diverse sectors. By choosing Rainbow Registered businesses and organizations, one directly supports spaces championing diversity and inclusion, creating a safer environment for all.

Major events and amazing growth ahead

Another major milestone occurred in June 2023 where the Government of Canada chose CGLCC to oversee an inaugural $25 million Entrepreneurship Program aimed at further aiding 2SLGBTQI+ entrepreneurs in overcoming business barriers. The initiative seeks to address systemic challenges in starting and growing enterprises within the Canadian business community.

Each year CGLCC hosts two signature events to celebrate the achievements of the community – including the annual Global Business Summit & Supplier Diversity Forum in June, and the Black and White Gala in November. Marking its 10th anniversary in 2023, the Summit continues to offer companies, 2SLGBTQI+ entrepreneurs, business leaders and subject matter experts the opportunity to network and share ideas.

First held in 2016, the annual CGLCC Black & White Gala is an event offering attendees a chance to celebrate the past year, and the achievements made, together. Awards recognizing significant contributions to the 2SLGBTQI+ business community are celebrated at both the Summit and the Gala each year.

Today, the CGLCC continues to advocate and work for the over 100,000 2SLGBTQI+ owned businesses in Canada who generate over $22 billion in economic activity and employ over 435,000 Canadians.


About Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce
Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) links 2SLGBTQI+ businesses in Canada to the wider business and corporate community. It fosters economic growth by supporting and nurturing 2SLGBTQI+ businesses, entrepreneurs, students and allies, and by helping Canada’s corporate world connect with the 2SLGBTQI+ business community.

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