Celebrating Black History Month

February 23, 2021

North to FREEDOM

Historically Speaking

Us Peoples

Histrionically Affected

Without Dramatics or Emotions

Freedom Limited

Boundaries, laid as foundations

For Walls already erected

And fortified

Braving Ocean Voyages

Captive and Afraid

While others Litter the oceanic floor

Speared the life, off in the distance

Human Cargo

Displayed For Sale

Packaged and Transported

As Jim’s Crow flies

Pushing through

A life rendered Lifeless

Criminal and Inhumane

Awaiting Escape

Guided by Stars,

Secret routes, Underground

Safehouses, Sanctuaries, lantern lit

North to FREEDOM

Poem by Hayley Millington, UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People

Hayley Millington is also suggesting a list of books and podcasts to explore during #BHM:

Best Reads

  1. Any known Blood by Lawrence Hill
  2. The Skin We’re in by Desmond Cole
  3. Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard 
  4. Black Writers Matter – University of Regina Press
  5. The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper
  6. Frying Plantain by Zalika Benta
  7. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
  8. Shame on me by Tessa McWatt
  9. What We All Long For by Dionne Brand
  10. Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Fave Podcasts

  1. Black Tea
  2. Colour Code
  3. Born and Raised
  4. The Secret Life of Canada
  5. Victory Speaks

Black History Month Quiz

February 9, 2021

As we are celebrating Black History Month, we invite you to take this quiz by UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People Hayley Millington to learn more about the legacy of Black Canadians.

Question #1: The first black man to set foot on Canadian soil was a free man. True or False?

Answer: True. His name was Mathieu Da Costa, a free man who was hired by Europeans to act as a translator.

Question #2: Where did the first shipload of enslaved Africans arrive in British North America (BNA)?

  • Jonestown
  • Jamestown
  • Georgetown
  • Trenchtown

Answer: The first shipload of enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown.

Question #3: What is the connection between Father Paul Le Jeune and Olivier Le Jeune? 

Answer: Olivier Le Jeune was the first enslaved African of New France. Olivier was 6 years old when he arrived in New France and was the property of Sir David Kirke. He received his education by Jesuit priest Father Paul Le Jeune. Father Le Jeune was his last owner.

Question #4: In which code was slavery for economic reasons stipulated?

Answer: Louis XIV’s Code Noir permitted slavery for economic purposes.

Question #5: This King of France permitted colonists of New France to own Black slaves and Pawnees, Aboriginal slaves. True or False? 

Answer: True. For more information on slavery in New France: Slavery.

Question #6: This slave set fire to her master’s Montreal home and destroyed 50 homes in Montreal. She was tortured and hanged as an object lesson for all blacks. Who is she?

Answer: Her name was Marie-Joseph Angélique. She allegedly set fire to her master’s Montreal house and destroyed nearly 50 homes.

Question #7: Runaway slaves fled to Canada via:

  • Greyhound bus
  • Via rail
  • Underground Railroad
  • Horse and buggy

Answer: The Underground Railway was created in the early 19thcentury by a group of abolitionists based mainly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The term Underground Railway began to be used in the 1830s. It was a complex, clandestine network of people, secret routes and safe houses.

Question #8: What was the Imperial Statute?

A. A statue of King Louis XIV

B. A statute about the enslaved only having to be fed and clothed

C. A statute about any child born of enslaved parents be free at 25

D. Anyone released had to ensure that she/he could be financially independent

E. A only

F. All the above

G. Number B-D

Answer: G

Question #9: This group of Blacks left Halifax to relocate to which African nation?  

Answer: Black Loyalists realized they would never find true freedom, so they left Halifax, almost 1200 of them, to relocate in Sierra Leone.

Question #10: Upper Canadians were shocked when Chloe Cooley, an enslaved woman from Queenstown, was beaten and bound by her owner and transported across the Niagara River to be sold in the US. This incident convinced Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe that the abolition of slavery was necessary. True or False? 

Answer: True. Upper Canadians were shocked when Chloe Cooley, an enslaved woman from Queenstown, was beaten and bound by her owner and transported across the Niagara River to be sold in the US. English law made prosecution impossible and the incident convinced Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe that the abolition of slavery was necessary. The Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada was enacted in 1793.

Question #11: Who were the maroons and where, in Canada, did they settle? 

Answer: A group of 600 freedom fighters landed in Halifax in 1796. These immigrants, called Maroons, came from a Jamaican community of escaped slaves who had guarded their freedom for more than a century and fought off countless attempts to re-enslave them.

Question #12: Slavery was abolished everywhere in BNA in 1834, and in 1793, Upper Canada (now Ontario) passed the Anti-Slavery Act. True or false?

Answer: True. Slavery was abolished throughout the British colonies by an Imperial Act, called the Slavery Abolition Act, which became effective as of August 1834.

Black History Month – Celebrating our Members: Celine Ahodekon

February 7, 2020

Celine works for Parks Canada at the Fort Langley National Historic Site as a heritage presenter, telling visitors about our shared history – something she is very passionate about.

Celine has been very active within her component and local and has held many positions, including serving on the Parks Canada bargaining team and as the equity representative for racialized members for the Union of National Employees (UNE). She sat on the organizing committee of PSAC BC’s first ever conference for racially visible members. Celine is also involved in her local PSAC BC Area Council and Human Rights Committee, where she is currently busy helping to organize a Black History Month celebration in Abbotsford, BC.

We asked Celine why she felt Black History Month was important and she explained: “We still have much more work to do in order to create a society where everyone feels equal. Having Black History Month is one way to remember, teach and learn about Black people’s contributions to the economy, politics and social life in Canada.”

Source: PSAC Website


The Legacy of a Woman: Viola Desmond

By Céline Ahodékon

February is Black History Month (BHM) in Canada. Every February, Canadians are invited to participate in BHM festivities and events that honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present.

In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as BHM in Canada following a motion introduced by Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament.

People of African descent have been part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity since the arrival of Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator and interpreter, whose presence in Canada dates back to the early 1600s. Many Loyalists who came to Canada from the States in the early 1800s were also Black people and most of them settled in Africville, Nova Scotia. As Canadian soldiers, Black Canadians made many sacrifices in wartime as far back as the War of 1812.

People of African descent contributed fully to the development of the Canadian society. Lawyers, doctors, politicians, teachers, hair dressers, barbers, just to name a few, were Black people. However, life wasn’t always easy for them. Black communities faced discrimination, racism, hatred and racial segregation.

In 1846, Viola Desmond took a stand for what she believed in, social justice: “Viola Irene Desmond was a Canadian businesswoman of Black Nova Scotian descent. In 1946 she challenged racial segregation at a cinema in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia by refusing to leave a whites-only area of the Roseland Theatre. For this she was convicted of a minor tax violation for the one-cent tax difference between the seat she had paid for and the seat she used. Desmond’s case is one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Canadian history. Her case helped start the modern civil rights movement in Canada”.

Viola Desmond’s courageous refusal to accept racial discrimination that day has shaped Canada’s history. In 2018, the Bank of Canada issued a new $10 bill featuring her likeness. This is the very first time ever in Canadian history that a Canadian woman, a racialized woman, and her story are featured on the money we all carry every day.

Viola Desmond is teaching all of us to do what is right! Stand up for those who face discrimination and unjust treatment. Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Her story is also a rich proof that Black Canadians, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, inclusive, compassionate and prosperous nation it is today.

Brothers, Sisters and fellow activists, I hope that when you see the $10 bill you will reflect on Viola’s story and stand up, and fight injustice and systemic discrimination. Let’s fight for human rights and social justice, and equality. These are paramount in the advancement of a healthy society and we all need to do our part. Please take time to celebrate and learn more about people of African descent and their contributions to society. There are many activities organized across the country to celebrate BHM.

Happy Black History Month!

Céline Ahodékon is the UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People.