PSAC North’s Racially Visible Committees welcome the commemoration of Black History Month. It is an opportunity to celebrate black labour leadership and to acknowledge that together we are stronger in our diversity and multiple voices.
While Black History month is in February, let us embrace diversity in our society throughout the year.
In the spirit of solidarity in struggle, PSAC recognizes and celebrates the important past and present contributions of Black people and people of African descent. We also acknowledge the discrimination, barriers and challenges that Black people continue to face in Canada.
In December 1995, the federal Parliament officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada, following a motion introduced by Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to the House of Commons. The motion was carried unanimously.
People of African descent are still absent in our history books and are not fully reflected in our political, cultural and economic institutions. Because of anti-Black racism, they are over-represented in the criminal justice system and under-represented in workplaces.
Black people are routinely targeted for racial profiling by police through carding and other means and are often victims of police brutality. As a response, activists are continuing the fight through movements such as Black Lives Matter and are supporting initiatives such as employment equity.
PSAC is encouraging its members to commemorate African Heritage/Black History Month by learning, organizing or participating in events in their workplaces and communities that raise awareness of the struggles and contributions of Black workers or workers of African Heritage in the Canadian labour movement.
Black History in Canada’s North
While not as well documented as many of Canada’s more prominent black and African-Canadian communities, there are still strong ties to Black History Month in the North.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog of an Iqaluit resident describing their experiences celebrating Black History Month in Iqaluit.
In reality, Iqaluit is home to a diverse range of ethnicities and cultures. Adrian, who has been living in Iqaluit for nearly 12 years, estimates we have over 150 people who identify as Black, representing 15-20+ nations. The 2011 National Household Survey Profile of Iqaluit counted 90 people of African origin and 35 of Carribbean origin, which doesn’t even make Black Iqalummiut the largest non-Inuit, non-White ethnocultural group in town (that designation goes to those of Southeast Asian origins).
All this is to say that Iqaluit has an interesting ethnocultural milieu that is affected by modern Inuit culture, ongoing immigration, and recent history. This creates the opportunity for cross-cultural connections, including reflection on the parallels between the experiences of Black people in the USA and Aboriginal people in Canada. The reach and possibility of Black History Month is summarized by Lekan, who stated, “Black History Month serves as a reminder to progress and elevate each individual, regardless of race, so that we never return to the oppression of the past.”
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Black History Month
2016 marks the 20th anniversary since Black History Month was first officially celebrated by the Government of Canada.
The month-long celebration was formally recognized following a motion introduced in the House of Commons by the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine.
The motion was carried unanimously by the House of Commons in December 1995 and the Government of Canada officially celebrated Black History Month for the first time in 1996.