MPP Hazell’s Response to the Ministerial Statement on Black History Month

  • Legislative Review

Madam Speaker, it gives me great honour to stand before you and the members to speak about Black History Month. Black History Month is celebrated during February across Canada to acknowledge and understand the contributions and achievements that Black people have accomplished, despite the historical roots of racism, oppression and slavery. This month is an opportunity to celebrate and honour the past and present contributions of Black people in Canada—amazing—while embracing new opportunities for the future.

The roots of Black people in Canada date all the way back to the 1600s. In 1800, over 30,000 Black people came to Canada through the Underground Railroad, as a way to escape the slavery and racism experienced in America.

For centuries, Black people have been enslaved and oppressed in Canada, which came to an end on August 1, 1834. Since the 1800s, Black Canadians have had a positive impact on the Canadian life. From the stage to the halls of Parliament, from the union halls to Bay Street, Canada has always benefited from its Black inhabitants beyond the role of inexpensive manual labour. Those achievements are often dismissed, not recognized, erased from texts or left undocumented, creating a vacuum, which is often filled with negative, fictional tales.

In 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month, and we all know who is responsible for that. It’s the trailblazer Jean Augustine. We have since then recognized Black people for their accomplishments. There are many citizens who have notable accomplishments, such as the Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander—we’ve heard that from Associate Minister Charmaine Williams, in her speech—who was the first member of a racialized community to serve as the Queen’s representative in Canada; and the Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine, who is a trail-blazing politician and is the first African Canadian woman to be elected in the House of Commons.

These notable figures have paved the pathway and opened many doors of opportunities for the advancement of Black people in this country.

Black history is important to Canada, because Black communities have been a long part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity. I want to end by saying—because I didn’t have a lot of time—I would like to recognize the Black MPPs in this House: MPP Jill Andrew, MPP Patrice Barnes, MPP Sarah Jama, MPP David Smith and MPP Charmaine Williams. We are all trailblazers. We are the leaders now. I’m very proud of you all, and congratulations.