In December of 1995, the House of Commons unanimously recognised February as Black History Month, passing a motion sponsored by the Honourable Jean Augustine, a Liberal and Canada’s first black woman Member of Parliament. This month, Canadians from Halifax to Vancouver will have several weeks to celebrate the tremendous contributions and achievements of black Canadians.
From Mathieu Da Costa, who accompanied Samuel de Champlain as a translator more than four centuries ago, to the long struggle to abolish slavery and the ensuing Underground Railroad, black Canadians have played an integral role in shaping our country’s heritage.
While we can all be very proud of the equal rights and liberties that Canadians enjoy today, many of us are not aware of the struggles that helped achieve them. Black History Month provides us the opportunity for families, children in our schools and communities across the country to learn about and recognise the immense contributions by many individuals to the peace and freedoms we take for granted today. Whether it be Josiah Henson and Mary Ann Shadd, or Lincoln Alexander and the Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean, black Canadians have been central to our common story and progress.
I fondly recall my time as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism when Canadians observed the first Black History Month and our government bestowed the first Mathieu Da Costa Award; it is my sincere hope that again this year all Canadians will take the time to learn about the people and events that have intimately shaped our collective history.
The Hon. Dr. Hedy Fry, P.C. M.P.