” Black History Month is an opportunity for Black Canadians to reflect on their history, to keep alive the memory of their past, and to uncover keys to understanding their present.”
So said Canada’s Heritage Minister Melanie Joly at a reception which she hosted at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Monday evening to mark Black History Month.
” It is also an opportunity for all Canadians to better understand the history of Canada’s Black communities, and to learn how they intersect with—and enrich—their own,” she added.
“This is a moment to celebrate the progress that has been made to date, and to recognize that we still have a ways to go,” she told the gathering at the reception which included prominent members of the Black community from various parts of Canada.
Among the hundreds of guests at the reception were Members of Parliament, including Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer) and Celina Caesar-Chavannes (Whitby).
Noting that Canada’s Black history has its ” its great figures, its struggles, its breakthroughs,” the Heritage Minister recalled the story of Viola Desmond, the Black woman from Nova Scotia who in 1946 sat in the ” white” section of a segregated movie theatre in New Glasgow and was forcibly removed from the theatre and fined for her “audacity.”
She reminded the gathering that the injustice shown to Desmond was recognized only after her death,
” In 2018, we will do more than acknowledge that injustice. We will honour Viola Desmond …She will be featured on our new ten-dollar bill” said the Heritage Minister.
She said this is a well-deserved recognition of “her dedicated stand for the rights of Black Canadians ” and “by commemorating her contribution, we recognize that our country has experienced racial segregation.”
” This is an opportunity to learn from the past, and to continue the struggle against racism and exclusion,’ she added.
` Noting that the government in Canada is sustained by a “social contract,”the minister said that ” inclusion is a central pillar of this social contract.
” With inclusion comes the celebration of diversity—diversity that builds our strength.
” I think of author Dany Laferrière, a member of the Académie française. I think of Drake. And I think of track star Andre De Grasse and soccer player Kadeisha Buchanan, whose exploits at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games filled us with pride.
” As Canadians, we choose to live in a country where we value diversity as a strength. ”
” Even when tragic events challenge this conviction, we will continue to protect and promote our values, and to unite our communities,” she said.
” All of us have a responsibility to fight injustice and discrimination in our daily lives.” she added.