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5 More Black Canadians Who Impacted Canadian History

When it comes to telling the story of Canadian history, the contributions of important Black Canadians are sometimes overlooked. These are 5 more Black Canadians who made important contributions to Canadian history.

Violet King (1929–1982)

As a child, Violet King dreamed of becoming a lawyer despite the absence of lawyers in Canada who looked like her. Nonetheless, King went to law school and became the first Black person to earn a law degree in the province of Alberta. After passing the bar, she became the first Black woman lawyer in Canada. King’s story not only speaks to her intelligence and perseverance but also highlights the importance of representation.

Rosemary Brown (1930–2003)

Feminist, activist, and politician Rosemary Brown was elected to British Colombia’s legislature in 1972, becoming the first Black woman elected to a Canadian legislature. Early in her political career, Brown became the first woman to run for leadership of a federal party when she ran for leadership of the federal New Democratic Party. Although her bid to lead the NDP was not successful, Brown’s political career was marked by advocacy for Canadian minorities and a focus on promoting equality.

Jean Augustine (b. 1937)

Politician and educator Jean Augustine became the first Black woman to be appointed to Canada’s federal Cabinet when she became the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women. In her role, Augustine successfully advocated for federal recognition of the month of February as Black History Month. In 2007, Augustine was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her contributions to Canadian politics.

Senator Anne Clare Cools (b. 1943)

In 1984, Clare Anne Cools became the first Black Senator in the Senate of Canada and the first Black woman senator in North America. Cools was a strong advocate for women and children, and survivors of domestic violence. When Cools retired from the Senate in 2018, she was its longest-serving member.

Michaëlle Jean (b. 1957)

Haitian Canadian journalist and filmmaker Michaëlle Jean became Canada’s first Black Governor General. As the Queen’s representative in Canada, she advocated for marginalized communities. Shortly after she completed her mandate as Governor General, in 2010, Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake. Jean served as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Special Envoy for Haiti to support the country’s recovery efforts.


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