SENATORS’ STATEMENTS — Black History Month

Honourable senators, I rise today to acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, and to acknowledge the significant change and progress that we have experienced as a country in the past years to make Canada a more inclusive country that values and honours Black Canadians.

I think of the decision to put Viola Desmond on the $10 bill. Her image signals to all Canadians that she represents what we believe is the best of our country.

I think of the recognition of the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent and how this moment was the beginning of a whole-of-government approach to change, address and recognize anti-Black racism in Canada.

I think of the apology to the descendants of the No. 2 Construction Battalion in Truro, Nova Scotia, in the summer of 2022, which I was honoured to attend. Their ancestors — our heroes — were finally recognized for their valour and bravery on behalf of this country.

And I think of the countless Canadians, in cities and towns in communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast, who invested countless hours and immeasurable energy to see these changes and this progress come to fruition.

They deserve the credit for this progress, more than anyone else.

Colleagues, an interesting recent phenomenon is the reference of Black History Month as “Black Futures” month by many young people. Indeed, our history is rich. The present is encouraging, and our future is bright.

Within the Senate, and under the leadership of Speaker Furey, the African Canadian Senate Group hosted the first of its kind Black History Month reception on February 7. I want to thank our Speaker for his sponsorship, and thank many of our colleagues who attended as well as our guests, including the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean and other distinguished Black Canadian leaders.

The highlight of our evening was a spectacular performance by spoken word artist Nonso Morah. I will close my statement by quoting this young woman, who makes me confident that our future is bright, although I’m sure I’ll not do her wonderful words justice:

Dear child,

When the history you are taught rebukes you,

Baptize yourself the lion’s daughter.

Or the lion’s author

Wrapped yourself in the arms of legacy.

And accept the wild call of your identity.

Your destiny.

To write truth, as it is meant to be read.

Not in red, but in right.

Not in darkness, but in light.

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