Updated: February 2022
Black History Month Background
In 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized the month of February as Black History Month in Canada following a motion by Dr. Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament. In 2008, Canada completed its parliamentary position on Black History Month by approving a motion by Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Senate.
People of all backgrounds in Canada are encouraged to learn more about Black history and people in Canada throughout the month of February and be more attentive to Black community issues throughout the year.
Early Black History
In 1604, Lusofonia (Mathieu) Da Costa was the first known free man of African heritage to arrive on traditional Mik’mak territory. The multi-lingual Da Costa served as an interpreter with the Mik’maq people encountered by the French.
Olivier Lejeune was the first known enslaved African to live in Canada in 1628. Taken from Africa as a young child, his birth name has been lost. Lejeune is the last name of the priest who purchased him.
Resources from The United Church of Canada
The United Church of Canada https://united-church.ca/ offers several excellent resources for use in worship, study, personal reflection, and song, and prayer. Several blogs share first-hand stories and reflections.
Emancipation Day August 1
In 2021 Canada officially designated August 1 as Emancipation Day, marking the legal abolition in 1834 of the end of enslavement in the British Empire. Communities of faith are encouraged to reflect on the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and present day oppression of peoples of African descent.
Ecumenical Emancipation Day worship service and information about Emancipation Day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eohxpbIvB3o&t=7s
International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024
The United Nations declared 2015-2024 to be a Decade for People of African Descent, recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. Consider how your community of faith can engage in the decade’s theme of recognition, justice and development as you participate in the last few years of the decade.
The Canadian Council of Churches https://www.councilofchurches.ca/ has a number of initiatives amplifying the decade.
African American spirituals or jazz music are not the only types of music that can amplify Black History Month. Canadian rap music teaches Black history as well.
D.O. (Defy the Odds) Gibson is a Toronto based educator and rapper. He spreads knowledge of Black Canadian history through rap, particularly in schools across the country.
Josiah Henson, abolitionist, enslaved from birth, escaped from Maryland to Upper Canada.
Josiah Henson story in rap. A good prelude to use to set the context for a spiritual worship hymn or any other time your worship uses a traditional spiritual. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAhpdH88c3k
Communities of Faith Support, Intercultural Diversity, Anti-Racism and Right Relations Minister
Phone: 416-231-7680 | 1-800-268-3781
Serves in: Shining Waters Regional Council
Location: Teleworks from her home in Toronto
Role: Kim encourages and connects communities of faith in their work and supports indigenous ministries in their relationship with the region and promotes and supports racial justice.
Contact Kim about: Anti-Racism; Conflict Resolution; Covenants; Governance; Intercultural Ministry; Right Relations; Vision and Mission