In December 1995, following a motion introduced by the Honourable Jean Augustine, the House of Commons unanimously voted to recognize February as ‘Black History Month’. Jean Augustine was the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament.
“Black History Month exists to remind us of the rich contributions within our society from people of African and Caribbean descent, and of their ongoing struggle for equity and social justice.”
Shouldn’t the imperative right to justice, inclusion and equity exist 12 months of the year? Shouldn’t the right to a public education, to healthcare, social services and protection by the law be continuously, comprehensively and equitably accessible to everyone across this country? And if a people historically and unremittingly experience exclusion and racism the other 11 months, we must ask ourselves what gains we collectively achieved since 1995, when we were called to account by people who identify as Black.
Ironically, we now have an opportunity to face and act to redress what this pandemic has made visible. We know that racialized populations are over-represented in poor housing, jails, correctional facilities, migrant worker dorms and homeless shelters. People within BIPOC communities are often poorer and forced to work in precarious employment without benefits. People who identify as Black are more likely to be arrested, charged, shot and killed not just in poor areas.
This February we will participate in antiracism workshops, read the news and learn how COVID has inequitably impacted the world. And when we are reminded of what Jean Augustine was telling us, we must commit to knowing, seeing and addressing racism from the places we occupy 12 months of every single year. Because, as Martin Luther King proclaimed‘, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’.
Lynne and Michelle (ED and Board Chair)