February, 2020 -- On December 14, 1995, Ms. Jean Augustine, member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, rose in the House of Commons to put forward a motion that called upon the House to “take note of the important contribution of black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, the diversity of the black community in Canada and its importance to the history of this country, and recognize February as black history month.” The motion received the unanimous consent of the House and, on February 1, 1996 the first national declaration of Black History Month went into effect. Ms Augustine the first Black women to be elected to the House of Commons and the first to serve as a cabinet minister saw the proclamation as a step towards correcting a problem in the way that Canadians understood their country. “Black Canadians,” she said, “were not part of the script and were not shown contributing to Canadian society.”
Twelve years later, in February 2008, Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Canadian Senate put forward a motion to that body to officially recognize Black History Month. That motion received unanimous approval and was adopted on March 4, 2008.
“Black History month provides all Canadians with an opportunity to learn about the contributions and achievements that have been made to Canada by members of the Black Canadian community,” said Teresa Woo-Paw Chairperson of the Board, CRRF. “Black Canadians have shaped Canada through their contributions to the Arts and Sciences, as politicians, educators and activists, to name but a few fields in which they have made an impact. Black History Month may draw our attention to these contributions but our awareness and gratitude should not be confined to a single month.”
“Black History Month also gives us the opportunity to learn more about the lived experiences of Black Canadians, and to consider the extent to which discrimination has limited their opportunities to fully participate in Canadian society, and what effect such barriers have had on both that community and the wider society,” said Dr. Lilian Ma, CRRF Executive Director. “The CRRF believes that an understanding of the history of this community can lead to a better future for all Canadians.”
CRRF black history month events:
About the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
The purpose of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society. The work of the Foundation is premised on the desire to create and nurture an inclusive society based on equity, social harmony, mutual respect and human dignity. Its underlying principle in addressing racism and racial discrimination emphasizes positive race relations and the promotion of shared Canadian values of human rights and democratic institutions.