Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

February 01, 2012 12:22 ET

OFL STATEMENT-February: Black History Month

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 1, 2012) - Ontario, 1950 was still an ugly and dangerous era with active colour bars to employment, housing and education. Segregated schools, restricted neighbourhoods, collusion by governments of all levels in favour of the status quo and a justice system that actively supported pernicious racism were common features of daily life. Add to this, of course, the social mores of allowable harassment, contempt and often open threats, and those of you alive during this era will remember it well.

But even with the entire state apparatus at its service and the never-ending attempts to destroy, diminish and isolate Black Americans and Canadians, leaders, employers, media, the police and yes - even many unions and average people that were also in the grips of the ideology of the era- were never able to stop the fight for equality. Never.

For years, railway porters criss-crossing U.S. borders, had been carrying news of a fast-growing event focused on that country's Black history - the truth of it - and the accomplishments of Black Africans there. The porters' early efforts were reflected in the Canadian Women's Negro Association's later celebrations. In 1978, the Black History Society organized and finally achieved the formal, high-profile public event that we now know as "Black History Month". In 1995, its efforts won a motion, passed unanimously by the House of Commons, to recognize Black History Month across Canada.

The February event, how and why it came to be, merits a much longer story. The real history of Canada is still untold which is why organizations call for Black History Month to continue until there is no longer a need for it.

We believe Black History Month should never disappear. We hope to see it become even more successful with the widest audiences possible. It is Canada's and the world's best lesson of what can be accomplished by generations of people whose courage, resistance, determination, fighting spirit and organizing has won singular rights and will win equality.

For all of us, it tells us what can be won even at the worst of times and under the most vicious circumstances. This freedom struggle spans decades of almost unimaginable obstacles; yet, every generation contributed its accomplishments, its refusal to take 'No' for an answer and its unparalleled strides forward.

We celebrate February. Our Black sisters and brothers are leaders in their unions and locals. They are on the front lines of securing democratic and economic change for all Canadians. They are workers and they are also human rights leaders, doctors, architects, philanthropists, artists and everything else in between.

They are also the children of the generations that came before them and are testimony to the fact that all things are possible. As we move forward into one of the most troubling times in recent history, a time when the federal and provincial governments are seized on twisting democratic principles and thwarting economic and social justice, let's revisit the images of police dogs, fire hoses, lynchings, brutality, violence and more, and remember what the courage and sheer determination of generations of Black Americans and Canadians managed to achieve.

It is a lesson for us all.

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Contact Information

  • OFL
    Sid Ryan
    President
    416-209-0066 (mobile)

    OFL
    Irwin Nanda
    Executive Vice-President
    416-450-9419 (mobile)

    OFL Communications
    Lynn Simmons
    416-668-7480 (mobile)