As Black History Month is being observed, Canadians of all ethnic groups are joining in the rich celebrations across the country.
To launch the month-long celebrations at the Canadian War Museum, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney is calling on Canadians to take part in recognizing the achievements of black Canadians who work in law enforcement.
“Black Canadians have made significant contributions to all areas of Canadian life, and this year we are focusing our celebration on the contributions of past black pioneers and present leaders who have done so much to serve and protect our communities,” said Kenney.
Devon Clunis, who last year became Canada’s first black Chief of Police in Winnipeg last year while Lori Seale-Irving was the first black woman to become a commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The launch event also provided an opportunity to honour the courage of one black Canadian hero who this past year went beyond the call of duty and heroically saved three lives in Ottawa. For his brave actions, Minister Kenney presented Abdulkadar Mohamed Dualeh with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“These inspirational stories remind us of the significant contributions that black Canadians have made throughout our shared history,” said Minister Kenney.
Newly appointed Citizenship Judge and Guyana native, John Dennison, led the audience in a reaffirmation ceremony.
Meanwhile, a non-black Grade 12 high school boy was selected to be among the top 10 students, who submitted essays on Black History to the Royal Bank of Canada essay writing competition.
Patrick Beard of Erindale Secondary School wanted to know more about the contributions made by Black Canadians to the country. He said the textbooks provide limited information on Black Canadians, so he decided to research and write on three of outstanding Canadians.
“I researched some of my favourite Canadians of Black decent such as Oscar Peterson (Canadian jazz pianist and composer). I really liked his music and Michelle Jean (former Governor General of Canada), I have a lot of respect for her and she did a good job. Donovan Bailey, my dad actually knew him and I think I met him when I was a kid and he did a really good job at the Olympics; he worked hard. He really amazed me.”
Beard also found out that despite prejudices faced by these Black Canadians, they persevered. He says he is honoured to be selected in the top 10 from the more than 160 entries submitted.
Beard’s father said he played basketball with Bailey and that Oscar Peterson lived in his neighbourhood in Mississauga.
The Camera will be bringing you more about Black History Month and the RBC essay competition in a subsequent edition.