Government of Canada recognizes the national historic significance of Olivier Le Jeune

Le Jeune is the first documented person of African descent to live in Canada (New France) and the first person of African descent known to have been enslaved in the colony

Olivier Le Jeune

GATINEAU, QC, May 10, 2022 /CNW/ – In the early 17th century, Olivier Le Jeune was the first documented person of African descent to live in Canada (New France) on a permanent basis and was the first person of African descent known to have been enslaved in the colony.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of Olivier Le Jeune as a person of national historic significance under the National Program of Historical Commemoration, on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Though few details are known about Le Jeune, records show he was a very young boy, living in either Madagascar or Guinea, when he was enslaved. Le Jeune died in his thirties on May 10, 1654. The historical record of Le Jeune’s life provides a glimpse into the experiences of enslaved people in New France, and how they were dehumanized and stripped of their identities and connections to communities in Africa.

National historic designations encourage us to acknowledge both the triumphs and the struggles that have led us to the Canada of today, and help us reflect on how to build a more inclusive society for today and future generations.

The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant persons, places, and events that have shaped our country as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. The Government of Canada is ensuring that Canadians have opportunities to learn about the full scope of our history, including the tragic and shameful periods that are part of our collective past.

The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historical event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application.

“I am honoured to commemorate the national historic significance Olivier Le Jeune, whose experiences as the first enslaved person of African descent in early Canada exemplify the struggles of Black Canadians. By sharing these stories, we hope to foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada’s past and present and commit to do better in the future.”

Aly Ndiaye

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada “It is with great pride that I have contributed directly to the designation of Olivier Le Jeune as a person of national historic significance, because his presence on soil that was to become Canada is an essential founding act of the African-Canadian history. It is a story several hundred years’ old which, gradually, tends to come out of the shadows and I am very happy about it.”

Aly Ndiaye (alias Webster) Musician, activist, and lecturer Nominated Olivier LeJeune for designation as a person of national historic significance  “It is important that Olivier le Jeune is being recognized as a person of national historic significance.  In his life, he knew he could not be free, but his legacy helps us to challenge our way of seeing our past and understanding our history.  Canada had slavery and Olivier, a child, was Canada’s first such person.”

Rosemary Sadlier Black History Author, Educator, and past President of the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) Nominated Olivier LeJeune for designation as a person of national historic significance

 “As we reflect on the designation of Olivier Le Jeune as a person of national historic significance, we can better appreciate the challenges faced by Black people, but also recognize their unwavering strength and endurance.  I encourage everyone to learn more about these designations and to celebrate the significant contributions Black Canadians have made to our shared heritage.”

The Honorable Greg Fergus,

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister The Government of Canada has recognized more than 40 people, places, and events of national historic significance that reflect the importance of Black Canadians to our country’s shared heritage.

    Canada officially recognizes the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, which began in 2015 and will be observed until 2024. The International Decade promotes greater global recognition of and respect for the cultures, history and heritage of people of African descent.

    Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under the National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.

    Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration, outlines a new, comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.