By Gerald V. Paul
QUEEN’S PARK: Among the people to thank for Lincoln Alexander Day, come January 21? Trinidad and Tobago- born, Scarborough-Rouge Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon.
It was Balkissoon who sponsored a bill to declare January 21 in honour of the late Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who was the first black person to hold the post, which was passed at Queen’s Park on Thursday.
January 21 will not be an official provincial holiday, however. The bill received support from all three political parties. It was also sponsored by Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott.
In attendance at Queen’s Park for the announcement were Alexander’s wife Marni Beal and Rosemary Sadlier, President of the Ontario Black History Society.
Hamilton Mountain MP Chris Charlton tried to introduce a similar motion by unanimous consent Thursday at Parliament in Ottawa to have January 21 commemorated nationwide. But it was turned down by a handful of Conservative MP’s. He said he will try again, and would like to see it passed by Christmas.
Alexander, the son of an immigrant railroad porter, was the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, with three goals at the centre of his mandate: advancing the cause of youth, fighting racism and advocating on behalf of seniors.
“Linc was one of Canada’s most groundbreaking influential leaders. He led our University with grace and dignity for more than 15 years, and remained a great supporter and friend. He was an inspiration and a role model, and one of a kind,” an enthused Alastair Summerlee, President of the University of Guelph where Alexander was also Chancellor, told The Camera.
Summerlee noted that by naming January 21 in Alexander’s honour, teachers and students will have the opportunity to study his life, contributions and challenges.
“It will allow all of us to pay tribute to the values of perhaps the most admired and respected public figure in Ontario,” he said. “It’s also a good lead-in to Black History Month in February.”
Alexander died in October 2012 at the age of 90.
Known as a man of many firsts, Alexander is a name synonymous with the word legend.
As Canada’s first Black MP, he had several Ontario schools, buildings and a highway named after him during his lifetime, in addition to being the first black Lieutenant Governor in the country.
“It’s a wonderful platform for students and teachers to start discussions on what it means to be Canadian. So many children need a role model, someone who came from a disadvantaged background to make strides towards a successful personal life,” Alexander’s widow, Marni said.