parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

February 2020

“True History Includes Everybody”


We are reminded that the month of February is observed in the United States and in Canada (since December 1995 by an act of Parliament) as Black History Month (BHM). Like Asian Heritage Month in May, and other observances of various cultural and ethnic communities in Canada, BHM attempts to provide all Canadians with an opportunity to reflect upon the reality of Canada’s diverse people of colour – in this case those of African heritage – and celebrate their past and present contributions to the well-being and growth of Canada.


The inclusion and welcome of everyone is not only a human undertaking, our Christian scriptures and theology bear witness to the conviction that it is the very intention of God.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10


What follows is an abbreviated historical chronicling of some significant contributions to Canadian history by people of African heritage. It is important to know our history of exclusion and oppression.

For more information, see Historica’s Guide to Black History:


For a list of BHM events around Ottawa, go to:

Hope to see you at some of these important events.


Blessings and Peace to you all




An Abbreviated and Incomplete Litany

1628 - Olivier Lejeune was the first known Black person to be brought to the territory now known as Canada. He was en-slaved and is believed to have been six years old and lived in Quebec.


1800 to 1865 - Approximately 20,000 blacks found their way into Canada via the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman, one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad, spirited several hundred fugitive slaves into Canada, despite a $40,000 reward for her capture, dead or alive.


1812 - The Cochrane Proclamation invites refugees of the War of 1812 to become British citizens through residence in British territory, including Canada. The settlement of Oro is established by the government for black veterans of the War of 1812. A Coloured Corps is formed after petitioning by black veteran Richard Pierpoint.


1833 - The British Imperial Act abolishes slavery in the British Empire (which included Canada) effective August 1, 1834.


1850 - The second Fugitive Slave Act is passed in the United States, placing all people of African descent at risk. The Underground Railroad steps up its operations - freeing enslaved blacks by transporting them into Canada. The Common Schools Act is passed in Ontario, permitting the development of segregated schools. The last segregated school in Ontario closed in the 1950s.


1853 - Mary Ann Shadd left teaching in the U.S. to join with Samuel R. Ward and her brother Isaac in publishing and editing the Provincial Freeman, one of two black newspapers published in Ontario from 1853-1857. Mary Ann Shadd is acknowledged as the first black newspaperwoman and the first woman publisher of a newspaper in Canada.


1855 - Robert Sutherland, originally from Jamaica, was called to the Bar in Canada West (now Ontario) after having graduated from Queen’s University at the top of his class with 14 academic medals. He went on to have an illustrious career in law and municipal politics in Southern Ontario. When he died in 1898 he left his entire estate of $12,000 to Queen’s, which was just about to be taken over by the University of Toronto because of insolvency Queen’s University would have ceased to exist were it not for Robert Sutherland.


1857 - William Hall of Nova Scotia became the first Canadian sailor and the first person of African descent to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery and distinguished service.


1861 - Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott became Canada's first doctor of African descent.


1885 - Delos Roget Davis of Amherstburg, Ontario, became one of Ontario's first black lawyers. He was appointed King's Council in 1910.


1894 - William Peyton Hubbard became the first black council member elected to Toronto City Council, and was re-elected council member for 13 successive elections. He served on the Board of Control, and as acting Mayor on a number of occasions.


1905 - The beginning of the Black Trek, the migration of African-Americans from Oklahoma to the Canadian prairies, fleeing persecution and the horrors of Jim Crow laws. That year, a group led by W.E.B. DuBois and Monroe Trotter met secretly in Niagara, Ontario, to organize resistance to U.S. racism.


1911 - Ban on Black Immigration to Canada (Order-in-Council P.C. 1911-1324):

Order-in-Council P.C. 1324 was approved on August 12th, 1911, by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The purpose of the order was to ban Black persons from entering Canada. The practice held until the early 1960s with some exceptions.


1914 - During the First World War, black Canadians joined combat units, despite opposition, and in 1916, a segregated unit, the Nova Scotia Number 2 Construction Battalion, was formed.


1939 - In the Second World War, authorities again try to keep blacks out of the armed forces, but blacks insist on serving their country. Eventually, they join all services.


1948 - Ruth Bailey and Gwennyth Barton became the first blacks to graduate from a Canadian School of Nursing.


1950s - New laws make it illegal to refuse to let people work, to receive service in stores or restaurants or to move into a home because of race.


1951 - The Reverend Addie Aylestock became the first black woman to be ordained a minister in Canada. The following year, Wilson Brooks, an RCAF Veteran, became Toronto's first black public school teacher, and in 1959, Stanley Grizzle was the first black person to run for a seat in the Ontario Legislature. In 1963, Leonard Braithwaite, elected to the Ontario legislature, was the first black to serve in a provincial legislature in Canada.


1962 - Daniel G. Hill, an American-born black activist and writer who moved to Canada in 1950, was made the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the first government agency in Canada set up to protect citizens from discrimination. Hill later became chair of the Commission.


1967 - Isaac Phills is the first Black man to receive the Order of Canada


1968 - Canada saw the election of its first black Member of Parliament: the Honourable Lincoln Alexander, of Hamilton. In 1979, he became Canada's first black

cabinet minister, as Minister of Labour in the federal government. In 1985, he became Ontario's first black Lieutenant Governor, and the first black to be appointed to a vice-regal position in Canada.


1969 - The first Black History Week was celebrated. Maurice Alexander Charles became the first black provincial judge of Ontario.


1978 - The Ontario Black History Society is founded by Dr. Daniel Hill, Wilson Brooks and Lorraine Hubbard. The Society is dedicated to the acknowledgement and preservation of the contributions to Canada's development by Canadian blacks.


1990 - Donald H. Oliver, CM QC is the first Black person to sit in Canada’s Senate.


1991 - Julius Alexander Isaac, native of Grenada, was named Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada. He becomes the first black Chief Justice in Canada and the first to serve in the Federal Court.


1993 - Jean Augustine was sworn in as Canada's first black female Member of Parliament. It was the Honorable Jean Augustine who two years later moved the motion to establish February as Black History Month in Canada. It was passed unanimously in the House of Commons.


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


2014 - Lincoln Alexander Day was established to be celebrated throughout Canada on January 21st of each year.


2019 - Peter Sloly is installed on October 28th as the first Black Police Chief in Ottawa.


(Sources: Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Anthony’s re-search)