Black Canadian women: stories of strength, courage and vision | National Union of Public and General Employees

Black Canadian women: stories of strength, courage and vision

We in the labour movement care deeply about rights, fairness, and equal dignity. That’s why confronting racism is a fundamental aspect of our struggle every day in the workplace, and across our communities.

Ottawa (05 Feb. 2018) — Every February Canadians are invited to participate in Black History Month festivities and events that honour the legacy of black Canadians, past and present. The government of Canada introduced this special month in 1996 to raise awareness about Canadians of African descent. For 2018, the theme is “Black Canadian Women: Stories of Strength, Courage and Vision.”

We in the labour movement care deeply about rights, fairness, and equal dignity. That’s why confronting racism is a fundamental aspect of our struggle every day in the workplace, and across our communities.

Accordingly, today NUPGE salutes 3 noteworthy strong and courageous Canadian black women who struggled for rights, fairness and equal dignity. These 3 women are just a few who inspire our work as trade unionists in our ongoing struggle for equality and fairness.

Viola Desmond

Viola Desmond was a Black rights activist jailed for defiantly sitting in the "whites only" section of a New Glasgow, Nova Scotia film house on November 8, 1946. As reported by the CBC, Desmond will be the first black Canadian woman to be featured on Canada’s $10 bill. Desmond is often referred to as "Canada's Rosa Parks," though her historic act of defiance occurred 9 years before Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Dionne Brand

Renowned and accomplished Canadian poet, novelist, filmmaker, and essayist. Dionne Brand has worked extensively for activist causes and organizations, including the Ontario Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Toronto Immigrant Women’s Centre.

Rosemary Brown 

Feminist, public advocate, founding member of the Vancouver Status of Women Council and the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (from 1993 to 1996), Rosemary Brown dedicated her life to helping others, and has the distinction of being Canada's first black female member of a provincial legislature, and the first woman to run for leadership of a federal political party, as a candidate for the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party in 1974.

Background of Black History Month in Canada

In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month following a motion introduced by the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine. The motion was carried unanimously by the House of Commons.

In February 2008, Senator Donald Oliver, the first black man appointed to the Senate, introduced the Motion to Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month. It received unanimous approval and was adopted on March 4, 2008. The adoption of this motion completed Canada’s parliamentary position on Black History Month.

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NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE

 

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