Word from the president

HERE WE STAY, HERE WE STAND/ ICI POUR RESTER, ICI POUR DURER

The Round Table on Black History Month will present a vibrant tribute to Montreal, for our city’s 375th anniversary. All year long, let us discover and mention the contributions and achievements of Canadians of African origin and descent who, thanks to the brilliance of their accomplishments, bring honour to our place in this land. Blacks, who began to arrive here in the 17th century as both free people and slaves, have made tremendous contributions to the building of the Canada that we know today. The descendants of these builders are filled with gratitude toward the First Nations, cognizant of the way they have shared this land with us. Those among us who arrived thereafter, to build and solidify this strong country, have forged links that have led us to the conviction that here we stay, here we stand. At the same time, we recognize the 150th anniversary of a country that never ceases to delight us, from East to West, through its undeniable diversity and its exemplary civic rights, and which also distinguishes itself through the leadership of our city, Montreal.

Several remarkable events have defined Black people’s role in the last 375 years in this place. We dedicate the 2017 Calendar to all those who love Montreal, and to those who have left their mark on the last 375 years: Mathieu Da Costa, Marie-Josèphe Angélique, Dany Laferrière, the Honourable Judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, Reverend Charles H. Este, Jean Alfred, Dr. Charles Drew, the Honourable Judge Daniel Dortélus, Régine Laurent, Dr. Dorothy Williams, Gregory Charles, Maka Kotto, Édouard Anglade, Yolande James, and the Honourable Michaëlle Jean. We also recognize the 110th anniversary of the Union United Church, where everything began for the families of the Anglophone Black community, who came from the United States, the Maritimes, and above all, from the islands of the Caribbean. Today, the church is the embodiment of resilience and dignity.

More recently, a number of brothers and sisters from the African continent have joined us, and we’re more than happy about this, because they allow us to continue to proclaim that people from Black communities integrate themselves as citizens of Canada, Quebec and Montreal. However, in order to get to this point, many movements were established over the course of the decades to counter racist positions and pave the way for human rights. We also recognize Mrs. Viola Desmond, one of our earliest activists, who has been honoured with a place on the Canadian $10 bill. She rose up against the injustice she was subjected to in 1946—at a time when the Nova Scotia judicial system had convicted her for sitting in a “Whites-only” section. It’s thanks to the tenacity of her sister, Mrs. Wanda Robson, that justice would be served several years after her death. Mrs. Robson continues to be a worthy example thanks to the bravery that she demonstrated—a bravery which has continued to inspire and teach us about the racial injustices that took place in Nova Scotia.  

In 2005, the Government of Quebec put in place a working group on the full participation of Black communities within Quebec society, which was led by then-MNA for Nelligan, Yolande James. One of the recommendations of this working group’s report was that the National Assembly should formally recognize the month of February as Black History Month, by law. On October 18, 2006, the then-Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, Lise Thériault, presented Bill 39 to the National Assembly, proclaiming Black History Month (BHM). On November 23, 2006, the bill was unanimously adopted. The bill proclaiming Black History Month was recognized on November 29, and entered into effect on February 1, 2007.                           On the occasion of this 10th anniversary of the law, we’d like to congratulate the Government of Quebec for the initiative that made Black history a part of the Quebec landscape. These moments are integral elements within the struggle and the progress that Canadian society has made over the centuries. These anniversaries—Montreal’s 375th and Canada’s 150th—make up special occasions on which to retrace our collective memory and bear witness to our attachment to our city and country.