By: Ezinne. N '24
The month of February marks Black History Month 2022, and after all that has happened over the past few years, I find this a very relevant article.
Black History Month in Canada will begin on Tuesday, February 1 and end on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. During this time, Canadians celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities, who have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous nation it is today.
Black people have been part of Canada’s heritage since the early 1600s. However, historically, little is mentioned regarding people of African descent who served as soldiers in the War of 1812 or settled in the Maritimes as Loyalists. Furthermore, it is easy to believe that America is the only country with issues, and it is often forgotten that Black people were once enslaved in Canada as well. So, while Canada is often seen as being “better,” it is essential to remember our nation's stories.
The story of Viola Desmond is a widespread one in Canada. She was a businesswoman and a civil rights activist. Desmond made a career and business as a beautician and was a mentor to young Black women in Nova Scotia. In 1946, Viola Desmond contested racial discrimination when she refused to leave the segregated Whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. She was arrested but was released the next day. Unfortunately, she was convicted, without legal representation, for an obscure tax offence.
This story acted as inspiration for Black people in Nova Scotia and eventually the rest of Canada. In December 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that Viola Desmond would be the first Canadian woman to be featured by herself on the face of a banknote — the $10 note, which was released on the 19th of November in 2018. Viola Desmond was also named a National Historic Person by the Canadian government in 2018.
It is stories like Viola Desmond’s that shape Canadian history.
Black History Month is about honouring the enormous contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make, in all sectors of society. It is about celebrating resilience, innovation, and determination to work towards a more inclusive and diverse Canada—a Canada in which everyone has every opportunity to flourish.” (Government of Canada, 2021).
The theme this year is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.” I find this a very valuable statement. Take the time to learn about the many accomplishments and important stories of the Black people of Canada. The Government of Canada website includes lots of information to get started with. After discovering these, keep them in your heart not only during this month but remember them every day!
Government of Canada. (2021, February 1). Black History Month.
Bingham, R., & Yarhi, E. (2021, April 16). Viola Desmond. The Canadian Encyclopedia.