The CWB Group commemorates Black History Month

February 1, 2022

Celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -Barack Obama                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Black history in Canada

Black people have called Canada their home since the 1600s. The earliest inhabitants were enslaved; by 1759, over 1000 enslaved people of African origin had been brought into Canada. After the American Revolution, white Loyalists fled the U.S, settling in the Atlantic provinces, bringing about 3,500 enslaved black people. At the same time, about 3,500 free Black people also emigrated from the U.S, setting up roots in what would later become Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Between 1813 and 1816, over 2000 people fled from the United States and settled in Canada, facing hostility, segregation, and low-paying jobs. In 1850, the United States passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which stated that “refugees from enslavement living in the Northern states could be returned to enslavement in the South once captured.” ¹ For the next decade following the implementation of this Act, 15,000-20,000 African Americans settled in Canada. With the end of slavery in 1865, many returned to the United States to reunite with their families. Still, they continued to face legal, social and economic injustices in the States, causing them to return to Canada in search of a better, more equitable life.

Unfortunately, Canada offered little refuge, and Black people faced discrimination in every facet of life, including housing, employment and access to public services. Many restaurants, hotels and theatres refused to serve Black Canadians. So much so that in 1910, Canada passed exclusionary immigration legislation that extended the government’s powers since Black people were considered “unsuited to the climate and requirements of Canada.” Systemic racism has been entrenched in Canadian history, and many of us are unaware of our tragic past. By celebrating the contributions made by Black Canadians, we recognize that they have helped shape Canadian heritage and identity.

Origins of Black History Month

The story of Black History Month dates back to 1915, about half a century after the abolishment of slavery in the United States. In the decades that followed, the movement swept across the country. By 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history.” ²

The celebration of black history brings an increased awareness of the racialized issues of a community that has overcome significant adversity for inclusion and acceptance. It calls upon us to strive towards a more diverse and inclusive society for all its citizens regardless of caste, creed or colour.

Black History Month in Canada

For many years, Black history was not celebrated nor highlighted in Canada. There is very little known of the Loyalists who arrived in Canada after the American Revolution being of African descent or the many sacrifices made by African soldiers as far back as the War of 1812. These are the details missing from our historical archives and have failed those who gave our country their lives. Celebrating Black History Month is honouring those that have been forgotten or overlooked by recognizing the enormous contributions that Black people have made and continue to make in all facets of society.

The celebration of Black History Month is relatively recent in Canada. The Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) was established in 1978. Its founders, Daniel G. Hill and Wilson O. Brooks presented a petition to the City of Toronto formally declaring February as Black History Month. In 1979, the first-ever Canadian proclamation was issued by Toronto. Nova Scotia soon followed suit in 1988 and was later renamed African Heritage Month in 1996. In a victory for Black communities across Canada, in December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada in a unanimous motion. ³

As a country that is making progress toward celebrating diversity in all its forms, Black History Month is an important celebration that honours the leaders that paved the way for us and allowed us to be part of a culturally inclusive Canada.

Some noteworthy Canadians that have helped shape our history:

Lincoln M. Alexander
Viola Davis Desmond
Dorothy Williams
William Edward Hall
Lucille Hunter
Michaëlle Jean

For information about more noteworthy Black Canadians, visit the website below:

Noteworthy historical figures -

CWB Group’s commitment to diversity

As an organization, we remain committed to our core values, which include respect and learning. We are continuously looking for ways to make a difference and bring awareness to important issues. To celebrate Black communities across Canada, the CWB Group is proud to have partnered with the East Preston Empowerment Academy (EPEA) for a podcast with Frederick Crawley. EPEA is an organization dedicated to equipping and empowering members of their communities to fulfill their lifelong dreams, and they do this in partnership with the Black Educators Association, Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, and Literacy Nova Scotia. Plus, the CWB Welding Foundation, in partnership with the CWB Group, is exploring the different programs and camps geared towards attracting members of Black neighbourhoods into the trades sector. Through these initiatives, we hope to support marginalized groups to increase their opportunities in the job market.


Educational Video: