By Kelly Khizakia
February is Black History Month for many countries like the United States, the United Kingdom. But it’s celebrated differently here in Canada.
“Although newcomers of colour are more welcomed in Canada, there are national holidays like Martin Luther King Day in the U.S.,” Cothran said.
Boyd Cothran, a U.S. Indigenous and Cultural History professor at York University, was born in the United States but currently resides in Canada.
Those small differences come together to make Black History month’s purpose to honour and remember the contributions of those of African descent.
According to the Government of Canada’s Canada and Immigration page, the first recorded person of African heritage to come to what would become this country arrived about 400 years ago.
“It is believed that, in 1604, Mathieu Da Costa arrived with the French explorers Pierre Du Gua De Monts and Samuel de Champlain. Da Costa, a free man, worked as an interpreter, providing an invaluable link with the Mik’maq people encountered by the Europeans.”
Slavery existed in Canada, although unlike the United States, Canada did not have major plantations where slaves worked. In 1783, the Abolition Act was passed in Ontario, which was then known as Upper Canada, and slavery officially ended in Canada in 1833. Slaves over the age of 25 were freed and the law made it illegal for there to be slaves in Ontario.
In 1978, the first black history Canadian association was formed. It would later be known as the Ontario Black History Society. This formation became one of the main reasons why February was proclaimed as black history month.
The Ontario Black History Society’s President, Rosemary Sadlier, said Toronto is the frontrunner for black history celebrations. “The first black history month in Canada took place in Toronto 35 years ago,” Sadlier said to RADIO HUMBER.
Sadlier also said since then, proclamations for black history month have been successful with the Canadian parliament.
Sadlier also worked alongside the honourable Jean Augustine in making February Black History month on a national level.
In 1995, Augustine introduced a motion for the House of Commons to recognize Black History Month in Canada. It was passed unanimously.
Augustine was the first black Canadian woman elected into Canadian parliament.
On Tuesday February 4, Humber’s HSF is hosting an event called Roots – a celebration of black culture and history. Television personality and creator of 1LOVETO Tyrone ‘T-rexXx’ Edwards is the host and will be joined with performances of poetry, gospel singers, cyphers and a fashion show. The event is located at north campus’ student centre, and it starts at 11 a.m.
Listen below to hear the full interview with Rosemary Sadlier speaking to RADIO HUMBER’s Espe Currie.