Lincoln Alexander Day: Canada’s first Black member of Parliament honoured with virtual event
Canadian trailblazer Lincoln Alexander was a man of many firsts. Which is why Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard says she believes it’s time people gain a better understanding of the significance of his contributions.
“The fight for equality, the fight for rights, the fight for equity, the fight for racial justice, he was at the forefront of all of that,” said Thomas Bernard.
That’s why she has partnered with Senator Don Oliver and Lindsay Ruck, a program coordinator with the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institue in Halifax, to host a virtual Lincoln Alexander Day event.
“He broke down barriers and walls and paved the way for other Black men and women and children to go forward and do the work he started,” said Ruck.
Alexander was a Second World War veteran who studied law at McMaster University after leaving the Royal Canadian Air Force. He eventually opened his own practice in Hamilton, Ont.
He became the first Black person elected to the House of Commons in 1968. Ten years later, he was Canada’s first Black cabinet minister, serving as labour minister under Joe Clark. Then in the 80s, he became the first Black Canadian lieutenant-governor, accepting the appointment in his home province of Ontario.
In his new memoir ‘A Matter of Equality,’ Oliver dedicates a chapter to “Linc,” as he was affectionately known to his close friends.
“The fact that it (Alexander’s life) impacted someone like Senator Oliver so much and you look at the work he has done, he’s a social justice giant,” said Ruck.
“That was because of the impact of someone like Lincoln Alexander, so it just keeps going from generation to generation.”
Alexander died in 2012 at age 90. Friday would have been his 100th birthday.
“I see this day as a powerful tool that we can use to educate people in the broader society about our collective responsibility to address racism,” said Thomas Bernard.
Thomas Bernard encourages all Canadians to explore Alexander’s trailblazing story.
“It’s time for us to take the hidden figures, the gems from our own Canadian history and teach them to future generations,” said Thomas Bernard.
Lincoln Alexander Day has been observed across Canada since 2015.
Tonight’s virtual event can be viewed on the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute’s YouTube channel at 6:30 AST.
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