Alberta has become the fourth province in Canada to proclaim February as Black History Month. In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine. The motion was carried unanimously by the House of Commons. The month-long celebration recognizes the contributions of people of African and Caribbean descent.
During Black History Month, Canadians celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation it is today.
People of African descent have been a part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity since the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator, and an interpreter, whose presence in Canada dates back to the early 1600s. The role of Blacks in Canada has not always been viewed as a key feature in Canada’s historic landscape. There is little mention that some of the Loyalists who came here after the American Revolution and settled in the Maritimes were Blacks, or of the many sacrifices made in wartime by Black Canadian soldiers as far back as the War of 1812.
Few Canadians are aware of the fact that African people were once enslaved in the territory that is now Canada, or of how those who fought enslavement helped to lay the foundation of Canada’s diverse and inclusive society.
Black History Month is a time to learn more about these Canadian stories and the many other important contributions of Black Canadians to the settlement, growth, and development of Canada, and about the diversity of Black communities in Canada and their importance to the history of this country.
Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond was immortalized this past year on Canada’s $10 bill. When the new banknotes entered circulation, Desmond became the first woman who is not a Royal to have her face featured on Canadian currency. Called the “Rosa Parks of Canada,” Desmond defied the colour barrier at a New Glasgow, N.S., movie house in 1946.
Whether it be politician Lincoln M. Alexander, writer Dorothy Williams, singer Portia White, hockey player Willie O’ree, basketball player Andrew Wiggins, rapper Drake, or dancer John Alleyne, Black Canadians who have excelled and contributed to the fabric of Canada's culture are many.
For more information visit the Canadian Encyclopedia page on Black History Month and for a more detailed account of Viola Desmond watch below.