Black History Month

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, every February, Canadians celebrate Black History Month. It is an opportunity to honour the legacy and contributions of Black Canadians to their communities and to their country.

The theme for Black History Month this year was “Ours to tell.” This theme represents:

. . . both an opportunity to engage in open dialogue and a commitment to learning more about the stories Black communities in Canada have to tell about their histories, successes, sacrifices and triumphs.

In that spirit, senators and staff of the Progressive Senate Group, or PSG, participated in a full day of educational training sessions last month. Our day began with a fascinating glimpse into the often-untold history of African Canadians and their contributions to Canadian society.

This history lesson came from Aly Ndiaye, better known as Webster, who is one of the pioneers of the hip hop movement in Quebec. I was pleased to learn that he was recently appointed to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. His voice will be an important addition.

We also heard from Victoria Gay-Cauvin who provided us with key information with respect to systemic racism as it relates to economic development. With this context, Frantz Saintellemy offered concrete steps that we can take toward improvement.

These sessions were an invaluable tool to help us learn, but also reminded us how much more needs to be done to combat racism in this country. Though Black History Month may be over, our work continues.

Honourable senators, I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn from our colleagues, and I would particularly like to thank both Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard and Senator Amina Gerba for all the work they do. I am proud to call them both colleagues and friends. They are but two African-Canadian women who are setting an example for future generations, and who are leading the way to combat stigma and racism.

The Progressives have a shared vision that states that we are inspired by the Algonquin word Mamidosewin which means “meeting place and walking together.” This principle guides us — not only in the reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, but also in righting the wrongs of all forms of racism in this country.

On behalf of the PSG, I would like to thank Senator Amina Gerba and her staff for organizing such a meaningful day of educational training. We look forward to learning more as we move forward together.

Wela’lin. Thank you. Asante.

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