hansard, feb. 24, 2015 black history month

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Hansard (record of proceedings) in the Ontario Legislature on Feb. 24, 2015 related to Black History Month.


  • No. 47

    Legislative Assembly of Ontario First Session, 41st Parliament

    Official Report of Debates (Hansard)

    Tuesday 24 February 2015

    Speaker Honourable Dave Levac

    Clerk Deborah Deller

    ISSN 1180-2987

    AssembiEe legislative de !'Ontario Premiere session, 41 e legislature

    Journal des debats (Hansard)

    Mardi 24 fevrier 2015

    President L'honorable Dave Levac

    Greffiere Deborah Deller


    Flynn, Kevin Daniel Forster, Cindy Fraser, John

    McMeekin, Ted McNaughton, Monte Meilleur, Madeleine

    Zimmer, David


    Hon. Michael Chan: I would like to welcome a number of people here today who have come to Queen's Park to celebrate Black History Month. They are Dr. Mohsen, Lawrence Dawkins, Trevor David, Monica Pollard, Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, Pranavan Ganesh, Gwyneth Chapman, Dr. Rosemary Sadlier and Omar Ha-Redeye. Welcome, and enjoy Queen's Park.

    The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Welcome to our guests. Further introductions?

    :Mr. Arthur Potts: This gentleman has already been introduced by the minister, but I also want to lend my greetings to Omar Ha-Redeye, who is a constituent and one of the many volunteers who got me here. Thank you and welcome.

    Mr. Granville Anderson: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce Arnella Csongradi from Don Valley East, a personal friend of mine. She's here to celebrate Black History Month.

    Ms. Sophie Kiwala: I would like to introduce Farah Cooper, Richard Lewis, Yinka Adegbusi, Penina Lam and Mr. Lam, Charmaine and Donovan Blair, Raymond Degby and Judith Brown. Thank you very much, and I enjoy welcoming you.




    The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): A point of order from the Associate Minister of Finance.

    Hon. Mitzie Hunter: Thank you, Speaker. Speaker, I'm sorry I missed the introduction of visitors, but I do want to recognize that there are many leaders from the black community here today. I'm not going to name them all, but I do see Rosemary Sadlier, the president of the Ontario Black History Society, and also Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, a leader in the financial services community. I also see my dear friend Lawrence Dawkins, the president of my PLA, and many other friends I would like to welcome here today.



    Hon. Michael Chan: Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Associate Minister of Finance, Minister Hunter.

    Speaker, I rise today to recognize February as Black History Month. Black History Month is a great occasion for everyone to appreciate the achievements of black Ontarians. 1520

    The history of people with African heritage who have come to Canada can be traced back to 1603. Later, during the mid-1800s, Harriet Tubman, a former slave herself, helped enslaved African Americans use the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom across the Ontario border to St. Catharines, where she lived for nearly a decade.

    Black Ontarians proudly served in the War of 1812, in both World War I and World War II and in other conflicts, past and present.

    However, recognition was often slow and hard-won. It took a long time before Canada elected its first black member of Parliament, Lincoln Alexander, in 1968. Mr. Alexander later became Ontario's Lieutenant Governor.

    This province's black history is not only full of historic and political legends. We also have an abundance of music legends, such as the late Oscar Peterson and the popular singer-songwriter Dan Hill, brother of literary star Lawrence Hill, who is the author of the award-winning novel The Book of-the word starts with anN.

    Their father, human rights activist Daniel G. Hill, was instrumental in founding the Ontario Black History Society in 1978. He was later Ontario Human Rights Commissioner and Ontario Ombudsman.

    In the sports world, the province has produced many black sports heroes, including Fergie Jenkins, the first Canadian to be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. How about-

    Applause. Hon. Michael Chan: I like that. How about Michael "Pinball" Clemons, and P.K.

    Sub ban, who currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens; Drake-my friend-an accomplished actor and rapper; and Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, who were each drafted first overall in the 2013 and 2014 NBA drafts.

    Do it again. Applause. Hon. Michael Chan: In the business world, Michael

    Lee-Chin is an example of a notable Ontarian, originally from Jamaica, who has made major business, cultural and charitable contributions in our province.

    As Ontario's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade, I know how important immigration and diversity are to building a province that is strong both culturally and economically.


    I urge everyone to participate in the many events taking place across the province during this Black History Month, to better understand and appreciate the extraordinary contributions made by Ontario's black community.

    Hon. Mitzie Hunter: I'm pleased to stand in the Legislature today, alongside my colleague the honourable Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade, to recognize and celebrate the importance of Black History Month. Each year, February is a special opportunity to acknowledge the history of the black community in Canada, celebrate our triumphs and look forward to the future.

    The black community in Canada has a long and storied history of hardship, resilience and hope. As the minister highlighted, we have had amazing achievements that have advanced humankind, but it is important to remember that we have also faced horrible hardships.

    This is why I am particularly enthusiastic to join with you to celebrate Black History Month. As with all such occasions, it invites us to reflect and consider the most enduring truths of our collective lives-for example, that each of us has a unique and purpose-filled role in keeping this province and this country great.

    In my own Black History Month reflections, I came across Mathieu Da Costa, who was the first known black man to arrive in the land that would later become known as Canada. A free man, not a slave or indentured servant, he was a member of the European exploration parties of the early 17th century, most notably those of Samuel de Champlain. His portfolio of languages, including Dutch, French, Portuguese and pidgin Basque-the language used by many First Nations people for trading pur-poses-made him a highly sought-after interpreter, translator and go-between by the French, Dutch and English. He was also fluent in the Mi'kmaq dialect and the eastern Algonquian languages before joining Cham-plain's expeditions, which suggests that he had been to North America before Champlain. His translation and communication skills helped bridge the cultural gap between early French explorers and the First Nations.

    Think about it: More than 100 years before the Fathers of Confederation were even born, someone who looked like me, who looked like more than half a million black people who call Ontario home, stood as a highly skilled professional and free man, shoulder to shoulder with the father of New France to lay the groundwork for a brand new nation.

    Mathieu Da Costa did not appear in the pages of my grade school or high school Canadian history books. But thanks to Black History Month, he and thousands of other heroes of the black community, both known and obscure, take their rightful place among Canadian greats-past, present and future.

    It is stories like this that remind us that, as members of the Legislature, lawmakers, we have a tremendous responsibility. We have a responsibility to ensure that we're creating laws that enable people to reach their full potential. We have a responsibility to ensure that we' re

    building a fair, inclusive society that truly recogmzes diversity as a strength.

    Why is this important? It's important because while Ontario remains a model of diversity, civil society and prosperity, we still have not achieved a perfect union. Inequalities among groups still exist. And still, too often, race, ethnicity, income, mental and physical health, gender and gender identity are markers of disadvantage.

    But Black History Month inspires hope. It is an integral part of our shared identity as Ontarians.

    We are one Ontario. And a vital and vibrant part of who we are can be seen in the story of black people in Canada, a story that speaks to invention, innovation and leadership in all aspects of Canadian reality-past, present and future. From the professions to the arts, from entertainment to sports-yes, including hockey-to edu-cation, to science and to politics, it is a story of struggle and of overcoming, of family and community, of entrepreneurship and hard work. It is a story that right-fully takes its place among our collective Canadian success stories. And I boldly say that it is a story whose most exciting chapter has yet to be written.

    Enjoy the rest of Black History Month. I know I will. The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It is now time for

    responses. Ms. Laurie Scott: It is my privilege today to speak

    and recognize Black History Month on behalf of the Ontario PC caucus. The month of February is set aside as Black History Month and is an important annual cele-bration of Ontarians who trace their family heritage to Africa and the Caribbean. It is also a time to reflect on the struggles of African Canadians for fair treatment and equal opportunity. 1530

    The proud