Young Adults

NFF Youth Blog: Black History Month

March 01, 2022

12 months, 365 days, and 525,600 minutes in a year, and only a tiny portion of this time is spent celebrating the lives of billions of humans. February is Black History Month, and I would like to thank and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black people.

Although Black History Month is celebrated in countries all over the world, I will be focusing on Canada’s history. Slavery existed in Canada until the 19th century. Since as early as the 1600’s Black Canadians have been shaping our country, however, it wasn’t until 1995 when the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month following a motion introduced by the first African Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine. 

You may be wondering why as a Canadian you should care about Black History Month, I mean racism doesn’t exist here, right? Well unfortunately I am here to tell you that you are wrong, and that way of thinking slows down progress. It was a year after the murder of Trayvon Martin, a facebook thread of community leaders resulted in the creation of an event that resulted in the formation of founding principles of Black Lives Matter- Toronto. The action was about the experiences of Black communities in Canada and elevated the local stories which are not seen in the mainstream media. Within two years, the movement grew rapidly throughout Canada . 

There are numerous instances where the black people have been murdered by the police. Pierre Coriolan was shot multiple times, tased, and eventually beat with a police baton while in his own home suffering from a mental illness. Clive Mensah, another man in his own home suffering from the effects of mental illness, who did not lie down on the ground of his backyard when asked, was then tased and pepper sprayed. Jamal Francique was not only dragged from his car for being a “person of interest” but was kicked by one of the arresting officers after being fatally shot. D'Andre Campbell another black man suffering from mental illness, while in distress called 911 to be taken to a hospital, was shot and killed by a police officer who now refuses to share anything that happened or co-operate with the investigation, and Sheffield Matthews another man suffering from mental illness (are you starting to see the same trend I am?) was shot and killed. These are just some of those who lost their lives at the hands of Canadian police. Regardless of whether they broke the law, these humans did not deserve to die, especially in such violent ways. It is important that we hold police, institutions, individuals, and ourselves accountable for racist actions that are experienced by Black people on a daily basis. Black people have contributed to Canada in myriad ways.  

Throughout Canada’s history, there have been many noteworthy figures such as the before mentioned Jean Augustine, as well The Honorable Lincoln M. Alexander, Dr. Alexandra Bastiany, a cardiologist working on decreasing race and gender biases that oftentimes lead to insufficient medical care. Jean Augustine was known for many things, including contributing to many causes such as her involvement on the boards of York University, The Hospital for Sick Children, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and Harbourfront Corporation, but most noticeably in 1993, Jean Augustine made history as the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to Canada’s House of Commons. Furthermore, the Honorable Lincoln M. Alexander became the first Black Canadian Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, both doing their part in the Canadian government. Dr. Alexandra Bastiany has touched the hearts of many Canadians- literally. Being Canada’s first Black female interventional cardiologist, Dr. Bastiany saves lives every day by learning and creating new techniques to fix someone's heart. She has paved the way for Black Canadians and women in the healthcare industry and particularly interventional cardiology which is noticeably a man's world. Viola Davis Desmond, William Edward Hall, and Elijah McCoy are among so many people whose lives and contributions helped and are helping shape Canada.  

It is important that we celebrate Black history and its contributions to Canada today and every single day. 

There are a few ways you can celebrate Black History Month: visiting a Canadian Black history museum, supporting Black-owned businesses and restaurants, learning about Black music history by listening online, reading a book by a Black author, or even just educating yourself on Black History Month.