Bose Sookdeosingh Vic 7T1

Chandra Bose Sookdeosingh Vic 7T1 Named 2018 Victoria College Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

Bose Sookdeosingh Vic 7T1 immigrated to Canada with a young family in the late 1960s. Working many jobs, he enrolled at Victoria College. He went on to earn a BA in economics and political science. Then he earned an MA from U of T in criminology. This master’s degree was the first step in a career of nearly 40 years dedicated to corrections with the Ontario Public Service.
Sookdeosingh’s work has made a profound impact on the professional practices of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. He changed the landscape of correctional services within Ontario’s Central Region: upon his retirement in 2011, then Deputy Minister Jay Hope remarked that Sookdeosingh had been “almost single-handedly responsible for diversifying Central Region” and had been “largely responsible for Community Services—as a division—being as diverse as it is today.”

His commitment to social justice, including racial equality within the ministry, began in the earliest days of his career. He joined the Bay Street Probation & Parole Office as a probation officer in 1974 and by the end of that year he had introduced a racialized volunteering program after having persuaded his area manager that the office’s volunteer probation officers ought to better reflect the diverse populations they were serving. By the time Sookdeosingh became an area manager himself, he introduced more equitable hiring practices that would ensure candidates were given an equal opportunity, irrespective of their racial background. The result was a profound shift in the demographic composition of the region’s workforce. Sookdeosingh’s efforts to diversify staff have also had a lasting impact; by the turn of the millennium, many of the area managers within the region had been trained by Sookdeosingh, meaning that his pioneering efforts have now become entrenched practice.

Sookdeosingh was not just a pioneer of diversity and inclusion practices within the ministry; he also introduced key innovations that changed the professional practice landscape more broadly. Sookdeosingh introduced a specialized service delivery model that used the principles of streaming, based on the needs of different offender populations. The system meant probation officers would also need specialized training, and a key innovation in this respect was a 13-week training program to help officers effectively address the newly recognized problems associated with domestic violence. At the time of its introduction in 2000, this model was the only one of its kind across the entire province and it was later put into practice in offices across the Central Region.
Sookdeosingh spent most of his career as an area manager. By the end of his career, he had risen to the post of regional director for Central Region (2009) and served as acting assistant deputy minister in 2010—the highest rank that a civil servant can achieve without appointment. When he retired in 2011, he was the recipient of the Viola Desmond Award for contributions to diversity.
Sookdeosingh’s contribution to and participation in the cultural life of the city were recognized in 2012 through his inclusion in a commemorative book produced by the High Commission of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to mark the 50th anniversary of Trinidad’s independence and its diplomatic relations with Canada. Sookdeosingh was among a select group of Trinidadian Canadians who were celebrated for their contributions to Canadian society.
“My father’s University days provided him with the tools he needed for career success, and also nurtured his innate sense of justice,” says Rhea Sookdeosingh Vic 0T5. “He has influenced the next generation through mentorship and paved the way for people of colour to thrive within the Ontario Public Service.”

There will be a reception for Bose Sookdeosingh on May 31. All are welcome to attend.