By Lincoln DePradine
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that Canada, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, ought to become a better country, without the inequities that Black people and others have had to endure for a long time.
“We can’t go back to the way things were before this virus. We need to keep moving Canada forward,’’ Trudeau said in a recorded message at a Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration.
It was organized by Educational Foundation for Children’s Care Canada (EFCCC), with main sponsorship support from TD Bank.
For a second consecutive year, because of COVID protocol measures, the event was hosted online, combining a variety of entertaining performances, award and scholarship presentations, and speeches. The theme was, “The Dream: Building an Equitable Tomorrow, Today’’.
Trudeau, and other politicians such as Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath and Ontario Liberal Party’s Mitzie Hunter, highlighted King’s legacy and stressed the need for ensuring justice and equality for all.
King’s “words and his vision of a more just and equitable world are more important now than ever’’, Prime Minister Trudeau said. “In many ways, and for too many Canadians, the pandemic has only worsened an already difficult situation. It has laid bare the inequalities that far too many face,’’ he added.
“We have an opportunity now to build a better and more equal Canada. That’s why we’re committed to taking action to tackle anti-Black and systemic racism; to creating an economy that works for everyone and to helping those who need it the most.’’
Hunter, the longtime Liberal MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, said King’s dream of just and equitable society “is still alive today’’.
Tory, for his part, said King’s “courage and his perseveration are an example to our city and to its residents to this day and beyond’’.
“Martin Luther King Jr., and all that he stood for so valiantly, are worthy of our continuing attention and our immense gratitude,’’ the mayor said.
Tory admitted that “anti-Black racism is a longstanding issue’’ in Toronto, but said he has committed himself to fighting it.
King, an ordained Baptist minister and avowed non-violent activist, was the leading civil rights figure in the United States, until his assassination on April 4, 1968. He was 39.
The commemoration of King’s legacy is an opportunity to continue his “lifelong work to build a better and brighter future’’, Premier Ford said.
“Our strength as a province comes from our diversity and inclusiveness. It’s what makes us the greatest province and the greatest country in the entire world,’’ aid Ford.
“Although we’ve made tremendous progress, there’s still work that needs to be done. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to create a more equal and just society for all people.’’
Horwath described King’s work as a civil rights leader as “a bright flame that grows every generation as new leaders pick up the torch’’, which King and others lit, “and continue to carry it forward’’.
“Today and every day, New Democrats renew our commitment to stand with you, to work with you, to keep the flame burning and build a more equitable, open and just Ontario; one where we tear down barriers to education, resources and power that continue to exist for Black folks and ensure that Black people, families and communities across Ontario can grow and thrive,’’ said Horwath. “An Ontario where people of every background, faith and identity live together, united by our love of humanity and of peace.’’
EFCCC president Pauline Christian, who also was the event’s executive producer, emphasized that “we must continue the fight for social justice; justice for all God’s people. That’s what building an equitable tomorrow for all looks like’’.
Dr Mansfield Edwards, who delivered the keynote address, referred to this year’s EFCCC virtual program as a “deeply meaningful event’’.
EFCCC presented 10 students with Martin Luther King Scholarships to help with their post-secondary education.
Five others – Ray Williams, Delores Lawrence, Dr Charles McVety, Dr Sheridan Cyrus and Sam Riad – were recognized for their hard work and community building efforts and presented with Martin Luther King Awards.