A number of MPs made statements before question period to mark the first day of Black History Month. The party leaders also sent out messages to mark the occasion.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
February is Black History Month and an opportunity to celebrate the values of perseverance and dignity that have defined the black community in Canada.
This year, we celebrate four outstanding Canadian icons whose stories characterize the pride, strength and dignity that have driven black Canadians to realize their ambitions in different fields.
John Ware, born into slavery in South Carolina, moved to Alberta where he achieved success and fame. As a pioneer of “steer wrestling,” his legacy is enjoyed by more than a million people each year at the Calgary Stampede.
At the turn of the 20th Century, Carrie Best broke down barriers and changed mindsets – thriving as a broadcaster, author, human rights activist and the founder of the first black-owned newspaper in Nova Scotia.
Two of Canada’s greatest athletes also overcame obstacles and changed attitudes in professional sports. Ferguson Jenkins became the only Canadian player to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, while Jarome Iginla was the first black captain in the National Hockey League.
During Black History Month, I encourage Canadians to learn more about the important contributions of black Canadians to our great nation and to participate in various events celebrating this part of our culture.
On Sunday night, Zsuzsanna and I were at the Old Mill in Etobicoke to celebrate the start of Black History Month. There was a huge turnout, including the great Jean Augustine, the first African Canadian woman ever elected to the House of Commons.
I kept looking around for Fergie Jenkins, the Chatham, Ontario–born Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, but I missed him. Canada Post is honouring Fergie with his own stamp (How about that!) and I wanted to congratulate him in person.
Looking out at the crowd, I thought about an afternoon in St. Catherines on the Liberal Express this summer. Zsuzsanna and I met descendants of the men and women who fled American slavery through the Underground Railroad in the 1850s. Here in Canada, they could say: “Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!“
May our country always be a refuge of freedom. May we always live up to the promise of equality.
Black History Month is a wonderful opportunity for Canadians across the country to celebrate the history and accomplishments of the members of the Black community in our country and around the world. This is also an occasion to thank the African-Canadian community for the vital contributions they’ve made to improve Canadian society for everyone.
As we honour and salute the role the community has played in Canada, it is important to recognize that there is a long road ahead before we can truly claim victory over racism and discrimination. It is the duty of every Canadian to promote fairness and unity for all. One of the ways we can break down barriers and work together is by learning more about one other and the history we all share.
During the next 28 days, I urge all Canadians to participate in community activities and to learn more about the rich history of Black people in Canada.
On behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada, I extend my very best wishes to all during Black History Month.