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AUPE Honours Black Canadians’ Contributions and Sacrifices

February is Black History Month in Canada

Feb 02, 2024

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February is Black History Month in Canada. It serves as an important reminder of the contributions that Black Canadians have made to building and shaping this country. It is also a time for us to reflect on the violence which was inflicted on Black Canadians, and our collective responsibility to do better for future generations. 

Black Canadians have been at the heart of the labour movement in Canada, leading the fight for equal pay and safe working conditions. In 1925, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which represented 18,000 members across Canada and throughout North America, became one of the first unions organized by Black leaders.  

Despite strong membership within labour unions, Black Canadians were still excluded from many professionals’ organizations, and even entire branches of government. It wasn’t until after Viola Desmond’s iconic act of civil disobedience when many professions began to desegregate, and upward mobility became more than just a fantasy.  

The Honourable Jean Augustine, who became the first Black woman to serve in the House of Commons in 1995 famously said, “Black history is not just for Black people. Black history is Canadian history.” 

During the month of February, many of our government institutions and workplaces will be hosting events to honour and celebrate the contributions of Black Canadians. Significant progress has been made over the past century, to reconcile with our past and provide positive steps forward for our Black communities. At AUPE, we remain steadfast that the commitments of Black History Month do not end on March 1st.  

“The struggles to achieve equity are happening all around us, they just require us to be paying attention,” says Bobby-Joe Borodey, AUPE Vice President and Chair of the Human Rights Committee. “ 

In 2020, law enforcement officials throughout Canada, engaged the public in discussions around police street check policies, in the wake of several high-profile Black deaths in the US. This ultimately resulted in the practice being banned in Canada, a big win for activists that has also made policing safer.  

"If these past few years have taught us anything, it is that we need to continue these conversations, even when they are difficult. Making a difference is possible when people mobilize and speak their truth," says Borodey.  

Confronting bias and fostering inclusion is a duty we all share. We encourage members to seek out events where Black Canadians are sharing their lived experiences, celebrating their communities, and honouring their ancestors. This helps to preserve Black stories, languages and traditions which have contributed to the rich and nuanced history of Canada. 

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