Sunday, 24 May 2020

Black Organizations to Distribute $25M Fund for Infrastructure and Capacity Building Announced


By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Kathy Grant     Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director of the Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN)
 

Meeting of the Minds (MOM), a group of Black community leaders and organizations, says it is pleased that after several months the results of its collective efforts have paid off.
 
 On May 16, Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development announced the names of the intermediary entities that will lead the distribution of the $25M allocated under the umbrella budget for the UN International Decade for People of African Descent.
The Black Business Initiative, Le Groupe 3737 and Tropicana Community Services were named as the organizations that will ensure that Black communities can fund programs and operations related to capacity building and infrastructure projects.
While congratulating them, MOM commended the federal government for choosing the agencies that it identified and recommended to the ministry last year.
On August 27, 2019, the government simultaneously announced the $25M capacity building fund in Montreal, Toronto and Halifax.
Both announcements are a result of several years of advocacy work by some Black community leaders who pushed the government to recognize the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, and the 2017 report from the UN Group of Experts on People of African Descent that followed their visit to Canada to look into the human rights condition of Black Canadians.
MOM also said a recommendation of over 35 Black community organizations and leaders from across the country at an all-day working meeting hosted by Employment and Service Development in Gatineau, Quebec on July 23, 2019 influenced the protocol of how these funds would be allocated.
The group said it was certain that these announcements are efforts to underscore the federal government's commitment to the UN International Decade for People of African Descent,” noting that Minister Hussen stated that “this is another step forward” in that direction.
“We look forward to the intermediaries’ continued engagement with Meeting of the Minds, their ongoing service to community and continued success in doing so. We stand committed to
working with government and organizations across Canada dedicated to equity and racial justice to build capacity in our diverse Black communities across this nation. We remain steadfast in mobilizing around these efforts,” said MOM.
In its presentation of the 2019 budget, the government noted that in recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent it would provide $25M over five years starting in 2019-20, for projects and capital assistance to celebrate, share knowledge and build capacity in Canada’s vibrant Black Canadian communities. 

A few months later, Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the minister of families, children and social development, announced the government’s support would help stakeholders to create the first national institute for Black Canadians. 

The Canadian Institute for Persons of African Descent (CIPAD) will work to advance initiatives that impact Black Canadians at a systemic level.

Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director of the Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN) in Toronto, collaborated with the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute in Halifax, Nova Scotia and other organizations had submitted a proposal to the government for CIPAD.

“We are excited about the meaning of this announcement to present and future generations of African-Canadians as it amplifies and honours our legacy, perspective and contributions towards building and strengthening this nation. The Canadian Institute for People of African Descent and the intermediary model will enable capacity building in Black communities and further underscores the value of applying a Black lens in addressing the long-term systemic issues that we have faced in this country for generations,” said Charles-Fridal shortly after the announcement made by Vaughan.

Within days of the October 21 federal election, an agreement was signed with Employment and Services Development Canada (ESDC) to begin a feasibility study for the national institute for Black Canadians.

On October 24, the government disbursed the first installment of funds, ($174,000.00), to get the study started.

Charles-Fridal says the feasibility study is underway and they anticipate that it will be completed by late summer “at the end of which there will be a final report that is to be shared with the funder (ESDC) and the public.  Because of the pandemic we do not know if we will be able to hold the gathering in person to share the report.  If not, it will be done virtually.”

She said CAFCAN and the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) would be able to apply for funding for capacity building projects.  

“The criteria as to what this process will be is not yet determined.  We understand that it will be at least the end of the year before the funds become available.  The three named intermediaries do not yet have a contribution agreement with ESDC.”

Asked what the $25M means for CAFCAN and the JCA as organizations, Charles-Fridal said they could secure funding through the $5M capital assist fund.  

“Because the focus of this portion of the fund is on infrastructure, we would each or collectively submit an application that could be about brick and mortar enhancement or some other form.”

She noted that with the capacity building amount, the original intent of the intermediary structure was to focus on different priority areas that were determined last year.  

“Since we do not yet know what this will look like, it is hard to say.  Our hope is that whatever eligibility criteria are established, we would qualify.  If I heard the minister correctly, entities (including CAFCAN and JCA) if eligible, could get up to $100,000.00 in funding to be used towards whatever capacity building initiative we have been successful at applying for.  

“It is a small amount of funding but could be treated as seed money towards an initiative that is more long term and sustainable. It serves as an opportunity for our organizations to build capacity in an area that we would like to develop.”

She said for some Black-led, Black-serving organizations that could be governance, board recruitment and development, operations, among other things.

The executive director said it will be interesting to see how this all rolls out post-pandemic as the decision to allocate $25M was almost one year ago.  

“As you know Black Canadians were already vulnerable before the pandemic.  Such is the case for many of Black entities doing meaningful and effective work.  I suspect that for those who survive, their applications would look very different now than they would have; meaning that they may more likely be seeking funding support to address the impact that the pandemic has had on their organization,” she said.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Ontario’s Plan to Collect Race-based Data on COVID-19 Applauded


By Neil Armstrong


 
After weeks of Black health leaders calling for the collection of race-based socio-demographic data on the impact of COVID-19, Ontario has finally agreed to do so.

Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health, recently announced that the province would soon begin the process, which comes after consultants said it was necessary to collect socioeconomic status data.

Dr. Williams said the data could also help to identify which populations are at risk, particularly as public health measures are eased and more efforts are geared towards containment. The information would also inform program or policy decisions.

This turnabout came weeks after a press briefing on April 10 where Dr. Williams was asked about collecting race and socio-demographic data.  The question was prompted in response to efforts that the leaders in the Black Health Alliance initiated by an open letter.

Their concern was informed by statistics in the United States and the UK indicating the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and racialized communities.

At that time the chief medical officer of health said all people are considered “equally important” hence the province would not be looking to collect race-based data.

The Black Health Alliance sees the government’s plan to collect race-based data as a good step forward but it has some concerns.

Its president, Paul Bailey, says communities have been asking for this kind of data collection for a while and more specifically with regard to COVID-19.

“Some of our concerns though are around data quality, specifically as it relates to different public health units… what standards they’ll be using to collect data, whether it’s asking very specific kind of questions, uniformity around those, and then how we have to actually analyze and then act on that data.”

 Angela Robertson, executive director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, and Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute and some other Black health leaders are putting together a working group to offer advice to the ministry of health and long-term care.

Black Health Alliance is a broader collective that helps to bring community voices concerns and issues to the table that they then advance.

Bailey said it is concerning to many that the Public Health Agency of Canada says it is still considering the collection of race-based data, given the fact that Canada is in the midst of the pandemic right now.

Meanwhile, public health units in Peel Region, Toronto and Middlesex-London, and the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec have decided to collect socio-demographic data. Alberta's chief public health officer had committed to begin looking into race-based data collection.

“So there’s a movement around it and yeah, folks are continuing to pressure the federal government to align on this front,” says Bailey, noting that it is frustrating but the data collection is important.

On April 2, Black health leaders issued an open letter calling for race-based collection of data on COVID-19’s impact on Black communities in Ontario. 

“To change this pandemic’s trajectory we must be willing to ask difficult questions, including asking who is left behind in current responses and which communities are at increased risk of harm. We will not contain COVID-19 without bringing critical analysis and differential population health actions to our pandemic response,” said the coalition of Black leaders who work in the community health sector.

“We have always understood that a plethora of factors affect health outcomes for Black populations in the province. “Good health” is a product of access, social, cultural and economic factors. Similarly, structural and systemic inequalities are contributors to poor health outcomes. Ontario is home to the largest proportion of Black people in Canada. Here too, as in the rest of Canada, race is a determinant of health.”

It noted that COVID-19 does not flatten these disparities but instead amplifies them.

The coalition said Black workers, particularly Black women, are over-represented in front facing service provider roles, including among personal support workers (PSWs) and registered practical nurses (RPNs). 

It said many are providing essential services, yet unable to access support for their families. 

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis. The policies enacted as the province and communities respond to the pandemic will have lasting impacts. Avenues for minimizing harm are available to the province, including comprehensive consultations with experts and strategists identified by our communities. We urge policy makers and emergency response planning bodies to adopt a critical lens in implementing policies. COVID-19 responses should not further disenfranchise and harm already marginalized communities.” Robertson was among the twelve signatories of the letter.

Meanwhile, Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, applauds the province’s move to collect race-based data on the novel coronavirus but is requesting responsible collection guidelines and asks other provinces to follow suit.

“The disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 disease on racialized communities has once again exposed how economic and structural inequality affects people’s health,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president.

 “We can observe this clearly, but without the data to guide us, governments will be ill-equipped to put in place lasting solutions. Ontario’s announcement to collect this data is a necessary first step.”

The union said the sharp rise and concentration of cases including infections and fatalities amongst people of colour in several countries prompted workers across Canada to call for race-based data collection. 

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Some Ongoing and Upcoming Virtual Events, Some Postponed to Later in the Year


By Neil Armstrong



The annual Blockorama at Pride Toronto Festival will be a virtual event and close the festival on June 28, 2020
 

As a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, several Black organizations have shifted their events to virtual platforms.

This is a compilation of some that have planned ongoing and upcoming events, or postponed them to a later date.


A Different Booklist Cultural Centre: The People’s Residence

A Different Booklist Cultural Centre has been hosting various activities online, including webinars, interviews with authors in its ‘Literary Salon’ and other presentations via Zoom and Facebook Live. adbcc.org


Black Business and Professional Association

The Black Business and Professional Association presents its ‘As a Professional Series’ and other webinars on Zoom. It has also rescheduled the date of the 38th BBPA Harry Jerome Awards to October 10, 2020 at the Beanfield Centre (at The Exhibition Centre across from Hotel X), 100 Princes’ Blvd., Toronto.  


Blockorama 2020

Curated by Blackness Yes! Blockorama is the largest and longest-running stage at Pride Toronto. Blockorama has a vibrant history that features local Black artists: Blocko DJ's, drag, ballroom, and musical performers.  This must-see event closes out the Pride Toronto Virtual Pride on Sunday, June 28. Check out the full schedule of programming at www.pridetoronto.com/virtualpride

In a Facebook post on April 2, Blockorama & Blackness YES! noted that because of COVID-19 “we cannot currently gather in large crowds, limiting our ability to gather and be together in a time of crisis.”

“It is perhaps not surprising that Pride Toronto has been cancelled/postponed for 2020, in light of this, we are deeply saddened to say that Blockorama will not take place in person this year. We applaud these efforts to maintain physical distancing and support saving the lives of folks on the margins. No one is expendable in this crisis, and staying home will ensure we all survive this,” read the post.

“We as a community worked together and fought for this space for Black queer, and trans folks to be together and thrive, and the spirit of Blocko will survive! Keep planning your Blocko outfits for the days when we can be outside, together, again. Keep supporting your communities and helping everyone to have what they need to survive this,” it continued.

Also programmed for Sunday, June 28 is BQC - Black Queer Collective, a showcase of Black queer and trans youth, and LatinX, a virtual party featuring Toronto's favourite queer Latin-American performers and DJs.

Blockorama at the Pride Toronto Festival

 


Black Gay Men’s Network of Ontario

The Black Gay Men’s Network of Ontario is a centralized hub for same-gender-loving men of African, African diaspora, Afro-Latino, Caribbean and Black identities, operating from Toronto as an independent and autonomous entity.
Its goal is to provide cultural, intergenerational and mentorship opportunities, leadership, self-development and empowerment, as well as activism support aimed at improving the lives of Black queer people in Ontario. BGMN kicked off a series of live performances on May 17. Check out bgmn.ca for more of its plans.


Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce

The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization. It is the initiative of the National African Canadian Association (NACA), which was created to serve one of the five tenets of the NACA which is commerce and economic development within the Black diaspora. The CBCC has been hosting various seminars on Zoom. www.blackchamber.ca


First Fridays

First Fridays is a community activity club whose purpose is to organize a monthly activity(s) and/or event(s) that are focused on building and improving upon awareness, networking and information sharing for youth, adults, minority and mainstream communities in education, employment, self-employment, health and wellness, the arts and other areas of interest.

First Fridays in Toronto was founded in 1994. It is one of over 30 First Fridays that occur on the first Friday of every month throughout North America in cities like Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and New York, to name a few. Recently, a First Fridays in Peel Region, Ontario was launched.  www.firstfridays.ca



Jamaican Canadian Association

The Jamaican Canadian Association has postponed its annual Walk Good Walkathon from May to August 30, noting that the new date is pending any directive or established protocols issued by Public Health officials regarding COVID-19.  Jcatoronto.org


Nia Centre for the Arts

Founded in 2009, Nia Centre for the Arts is a charitable organization that showcases and promotes arts from the African diaspora. It offers programs in music, photography, liter­ature, the visual arts, theatre and interdisciplinary arts. www.niacentre.org




The Walnut Foundation

The Walnut Foundation had initially planned its annual walkathon for Saturday, June 6, 2020 but that has been postponed. It is now a virtual walk throughout May and June. www.thewalnutfoundation.com


Grace International Jerk Food & Music Festival

Toronto Ont. (May 16th, 2020) – With the City of Toronto announcement on Friday cancelling all City-permitted major festivals and events with the attendance of 25,000 or more through August 31st, the Grace International Jerk Food & Music Festival (Grace JerkFest) was among the festivals on the City’s list. However Grace JerkFest is NOT cancelled and will take place in a virtual format on Saturday August 8th and Sunday August 9th, 2020.
“Of course we are disappointed that we won’t be having the festival in Etobicoke’s Centennial Park this year. This is a 19 year tradition that is a staple in the summer calendar,” said Anthony Plummer, executive director of the festival. “But we are now living in a different time and safety comes first and so we had to pivot and come up with a new way to bring the food, culture and music to Torontonians.”
The virtual Grace JerkFest will still consist of top headline performers, local acts, chef demonstrations and will incorporate a jerk food experience for participants. Full details will be released shortly.

For more information about Grace JerkFest:
Visit www.jerkfestival.ca, Follow @JerkFestival on Twitter  gracejerkfest on Instagram and GracejerkfestCanada on Facebook.

The Toronto Islands are a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario, Canada

Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada


Saturday, 16 May 2020

Pandemic Inspires Performer to Pen Poem About Global Affairs


By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed      Tania Hernandez aka Miss Tania Lou
 

The coronavirus pandemic and other global happenings have spurred a Jamaican Canadian cultural performer and vocalist to write a poem about her ruminations on the first quarter of the year.

Tania Hernandez aka Miss Tania Lou says the sheer “shock and awe of the leap year” inspired her to put her emotions into words, using her Jamaican dialect, Patois, to convey her thoughts in the poem “2020!”  

“Speaking my birth country language elicited a deep, primordial response of how my ancestors and descendants would have expressed themselves, through the use of our wise sayings, colorful, humorous, but packs a punch and sharp like a two-edged-sword,” says Hernandez who lives in Hamilton, Ontario and has worked in special education for over twenty years.

She says writing is cathartic and allows her to express deep thoughts that permeate her heart, spirit and soul.

“The catastrophic events that came one after another right from the beginning of 2020 leaped into the lives of everyone in the world - forest fires," Britain Brexit! /From di monarch/ Harry and Meghan exit," locust infestations, earthquakes, storms, geopolitical strife, and then to "crown" it all, there comes coronavirus- COVID-19 pandemic – ‘lick wi down fi six,’” she said.

Describing the virus as an invisible enemy, Hernandez said it brought the world to a standstill and that her poem speaks about “the continuous barrage of catastrophic attacks all over earth.”

“Then novel corona comes on the scene unleashing unmercifully, illness, death, fear, uncertainty, economic collapse, business closures (business shut braps!), job losses, people having to be social - distancing and quarantining and changing the fabric of life - the pace of life- as we know it.”

She believes the “new-normal is to take stock of ourselves, be still and be mindful of ourselves and others, take attention off ourselves and think of others by practicing good hygiene and protecting one another. The natural law of action and reaction, and the divine, biblical law of "You reap what you sow," and "Love your neighbor as yourself," seem to be playing out right now.”

“I strongly feel that man's inhumanity to man and nature has wreaked havoc on this earth and I feel that nature and the supernatural divinity of this earth is responding to our maltreatment of what we were given to protect. We are stewards of this earth,” she said.

The poem ends with a call for a spiritual cleansing.

 “It is only through heartfelt penitence, humility, changing of our selfish ways, and asking the Divine Creator -' Massa God' for forgiveness for our actions that have harmed the earth and others, that we can truly gain momentum, peace, stability and healing.  Yes, "Tek di case and gi mi di pillow/We plead fuh mercy Faada God!/We repent a wi sins!"

Hernandez is a multisensory language practitioner, teaching kids with dyslexia, and other learning/developmental exceptionalities. She has authored the books – What Teachers Are Made Of (2015), and Alphabet, Vowels, Consonants & Syllables Reading Magic (2019).

She has written and recorded reggae and soca songs, and is also a gospel, jazz and R&B vocalist.

As a cultural performer, she continues to pay tribute to Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett-Coverley whom she considers to be Jamaica’s ‘Mother of Culture.’

“I have made it one of my life's goal to carry on her legacy of preserving, promoting, protecting and performing Jamaican cultural heritage through songs, poems, stories, jokes, proverbs and dance.”

Hernandez says her poem, Happy Full Hundred Miss Lou!, has been a big hit on Facebook.

She admired watching Miss Lou on the 1970s’ children’s television show, Ring Ding, and even appeared on it. Hernandez is now working on a project with the Jamaican Cultural Association of Hamilton to put on a children’s program called Ring Ding later this year.


“It was from a child that I was motivated to perform my 'Jamaicanness' and I have been continuing to do so as a part of the diaspora community in Canada - spreading all that is lovely about our birth country. Like Miss Lou, I believe our children should learn about where they came from or they will not know their true power,” she said.

 In partnership with the Jamaica Foundation of Hamilton (JFH) and community members, she will be teaching many children how to perform cultural arts at its annual gala in November.  

The event will include a presentation of Miss Lou's digital archives at McMaster University Library and her son, Fabian Coverley, and his family will be in attendance.

The goals of the foundation are to support the Jamaican and Caribbean community, bring people together in unity, and to raise funds for the National Children’s Home in Jamaica.

Hernandez’s altruism includes being a sponsor, volunteer, mentor and theatre performer at Citikidz Hamilton, a not-for-profit organization which aims to end child poverty in Canada.

She is married and has four children and one grandchild.

Link to Miss Tania Lou’s poem, 2020!
https://youtu.be/ZQJh6zey-qA

[This story was published in the Thursday Star, April 16, 2020.]

Food Aid Project Launched to Help Low-income Black Households


By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed     Eno Akan-Essien, director of support services, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP)
 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) has launched a project that distributes food aid packages to low-income African, Caribbean & Black (ACB) households in Toronto.  

The AYA Project, which started over the Easter weekend from the agency’s seed funds, provides grocery packages consisting of a combination of basic food items that are culturally specific and can sustain a household for up to two weeks.  There are two types of packages: family and individual.

Eno Akan-Essien, director of support services, says the official launch of the project was held on May 1 and their fundraising goal to sustain the project is $50,000. They are accepting donations for its long-term sustainability.

The initial plan was to provide groceries to fifty of their clients fortnightly but they recently heard from some non-clients who are in precarious situations and also in need of packages.

“And we had a request from eight trans women and fifteen youth who are really precariously housed,” she said, noting that they want to provide for all those in need of food.

“As an agency people usually come to us and with social distancing measures in place…. We thought it would be great if we reached out to people to offer something practical.”

She said the majority of people that Black CAP serves are newcomers and they are not eligible for the emergency relief funds and different types of monetary aid that people are getting in the province.

These are people who already struggle with food insecurity so the agency thought it would be “a good way for us to reach out to people in a practical way and at least bridge that gap.”

Akan-Essien acknowledged that there are food banks and other ways in which the government is set up to help people but these are not familiar foods for people who are new to the country so the AYA Project provides culturally appropriate food “that people already know how to cook.”

“You can imagine a person who is at home with a bunch of children and this is not necessarily the time when they’re trying to be adventurous and figure out how to make something of a box or can of something they don’t know.”

She said, however, if they are given food they know “they can not only cook it but they can figure out ways to make it stretch. That is comfort, there’s something you know; it feels good.”

It also provides a bit of respite for them from anxiety because of the uncertainties they are experiencing around the halting of immigration processes for now.

To ensure social distancing, Akan-Essien and her team are delivering the food packages to their doorsteps.

“Of course, the reception is grand. Who doesn’t want a box of saltfish, red snapper and avocado, sweet potatoes and just wonderful things that you know coming to your door and you don’t have to go anywhere to source it.”

Akan-Essien said there are limits in many places regarding food quantity but fortunately they found Black grocers who are willing to not put a limit on what they can purchase.

“Because they are themselves a part of this same community they are willing to work with us to make it more affordable and extend our reach,” she said.

Nief Neamatt, communications coordinator of Black CAP, said the aim for the AYA Project is for it to be self-sustainable so they have developed an online page for people to donate monthly or to make a one-time donation.

They are in need of volunteer drivers to deliver the packages and all such volunteers will undergo an interview process.

“Now more than ever, the ACB community needs your support. Food is one of the most basic of needs. The ever-growing economic instability due to job loss and ineligibility for financial support makes it difficult to meet those obligations,” says Black CAP.

The agency chose the Adinkra symbol, Aya – a fern leaf – representing resilience and perseverance from its branding to name the project with the hope that they will be able to continue nourishing their clients and more.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Black Canadians Seek Leadership of Political Parties


By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed        Annamie Paul is running for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada
 

Black representation at the helm of political parties in Canada matters.

Forty-five years after Rosemary Brown sought the leadership of the New Democratic Party of Canada, two Black women of Caribbean heritage are following in her footsteps in their pursuit of leading a federal political party.

Annamie Paul and Leslyn Lewis are candidates in the leadership race of the Green Party of Canada and Conservative Party of Canada, respectively.

Since the start of this year, they and three other Black Canadians – Mitzie Hunter and Michael Coteau of the Ontario Liberal Party and Dominique Anglade of the Quebec Liberal Party – have been among contestants in leadership campaigns for national and provincial parties.

Hunter and Coteau lost to Steven Del Duca in the Ontario Liberal Party leadership election on March 7, while the elections for the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and Conservative Party of Canada were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, on April 29, the Conservative Party announced the resumption of the leadership election which will be done by mail-in ballot in August.

Paul is among eight candidates who will know if their bid to lead the Green Party of Canada is successful at its convention this October in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

In 1975, when Brown, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Vancouver-Burrard and Canada’s first Black female member of a provincial legislature, ran for the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) she came a close second to Ed Broadbent. It took four ballots for him to defeat her. 

Fourteen years later, Howard McCurdy, former NDP Member of Parliament for Windsor, sought the national party leadership in 1989 but Audrey McLaughlin won the selection.

The participation of five Black Canadians in elections for the leadership of political parties this year has been welcomed by Operation Black Vote Canada, a nonprofit and multi-partisan organization that supports the election of Black people to public office. 

It does so by educating, motivating and advocating for Black Canadians to participate in Canada’s government, agencies, boards, commissions, civil service and in Canada’s political process at all levels.

“Canada’s politics should be a reflection of the people our institutions seek to serve and represent. This should be seen not just in a diversity of membership and ideas, but at the leadership level as well,” says Velma Morgan, Chair of Operation Black Vote Canada.

“If Canadians of African descent are to break every glass ceiling across our political landscape, we must continue to aspire to leadership positions beyond the Cabinet table. And it begins with preparing, organizing, and running to lead Canada’s federal and provincial parties.”

In November 2019, Elizabeth May stepped down as the leader of the Green Party of Canada after 13 years in the position, which triggered a leadership contest. 

Annamie Paul, a lawyer, international affairs expert and social entrepreneur from Toronto, says she is very proud to be running for the leadership of the party.

“Thanks to the example of my mother and grandmother, I learned from an early age that positive change only happens when people commit to making it happen. I am running to lead the Green Party of Canada for the same reasons that I became a member: to offer Canadians leadership that puts people ahead of profit, power and party and offers Canada a real shot at achieving a just, sustainable and democratic society,” says Paul on her campaign website.

She holds a Master of Public Affairs from Princeton University, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ottawa and speaks four languages.

Paul is an inaugural Action Canada Fellow, an Echoing Green Fellow, a member of the Recruitment of Policy Leaders Program, member of the University of Ottawa Common Law Honour Society and a recipient of the Harry Jerome Award.

She has worked in diverse roles, in global conflict prevention, the International Criminal Court and Canada’s Mission to the EU.

Paul has founded two social non-profits and has launched and supported non-partisan organizations that have helped women and minorities to enter Canadian politics.

She is a first generation Canadian of Caribbean heritage (Nevis and Dominica) and is married with two sons.

The convention will be held from October 2-4, 2020 and online voting for the leadership contest will open September 26.

Paul said Canada is at the dawn of major economic and social transformation and that “it is an uncertain time, but also one that holds so much promise.”

“Who can Canadians trust to lead us towards this future? The old parties, which concentrate their decision-making in the hands of a small elite; or a young party that understands we are all in it together and actively seeks out the very best ideas and solutions, wherever they may come from?”

She said the Green Party of Canada is a political party of diversity, democratic renewal and daring. 

During the 2019 federal election, Paul ran for the Greens as a candidate for the Toronto Centre riding but was defeated by Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Photo contributed      Dominique Anglade, Liberal Party of Quebec MNA for Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne


Meanwhile, the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ) has suspended its leadership contest until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The party said this decision was made by mutual agreement with the two candidates in the running, Dominique Anglade and Alexandre Cusson.

 Anglade said her parents instilled in her the fundamental values of social involvement and personal achievement. 

“I now try to pass these same values on to my three children,” says Anglade who is the vice-chair of the Committee on Institutions, and official opposition critic for the economy and for immigration.

Anglade began her career in 1996 as an engineer for Procter & Gamble. Two years later, she was promoted to head of a business unit where she managed over 100 employees. 

From 2000 to 2003, she worked for Nortel Networks and, in 2004 she was named the company’s director of external and governmental affairs for Quebec. From 2005 to 2012, she worked at McKinsey & Company.

Until her election as the Member of National Assembly (MNA) for Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, she was president and CEO of Montréal International. 

“I have always sought to combine my professional life with my social involvement, sitting on the boards of directors of around fifteen organizations and chairing several of them. I also co-founded the KANPE Foundation, which supports the most vulnerable Haitian families in their quest for financial independence,” said Anglade who has been a MNA since 2015.

Born in Montreal to Haitian parents, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from l’École polytechnique de Montréal and an MBA from HEC Montréal.

The vote to elect the new leader of the PLQ was to be held on May 31 but the party has cancelled all of its public activities in compliance with public health directives.

In a statement, the Conservative Party of Canada’s Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) said it met on April 29 to discuss the resumption of the 2020 Leadership Election.

On March 26, the LEOC suspended the race due to the impact COVID-19 related health guidelines and government mandated closures were having on key processes needed to complete the race.

“The LEOC took the time over the course of that suspension to re-evaluate the timeline needed to complete the race, and has concluded the Leadership Election can resume with adjustments to accommodate current circumstances, effective immediately,” read the statement.

The membership deadline of May 15 will remain unchanged. The process will proceed with mail ballots, as required by the Party Constitution, and all ballots will need to be completed and received by August 21.  The result will be announced as soon as those ballots can be properly processed and examined by scrutineers while respecting any health guidelines in place at that time.

“The safety and health of volunteers has been top of mind for the LEOC, and while the date to announce a new leader will be largely dependent on what health guidelines and government orders are in place in August, the LEOC has committed to monitoring the situation closely, and will look to confirm the announcement details in the coming weeks,” said the committee.

Photo contributed    Leslyn Lewis is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada


Leslyn Lewis is one of four contestants vying for the leadership of the party. The others are Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan.

“I am running to be the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada because Canadians can and should expect much more from their leaders,” says Lewis on her campaign website.

She says her parents immigrated to Canada from Jamaica leaving everything behind so their six children could have a better life.

Lewis said she arrived in East York a wide-eyed five year old with no idea what to expect. “But the values of Canada and Canadians that I discovered - generosity, equal opportunity, and hard work - were everything that my parents hoped for their children.”

The lawyer said she watched her mother work 80 hours a week to give her children a better life, and by following her example she was able to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, Trinity College graduating Magna Cum Laude.

She also has a Master’s in Environmental Studies from York University, an MBA Concentration in Business and Environment from the Schulich School of Business and a Juris Doctorate from Osgoode Hall Law School and a PhD in Law from Osgoode Hall Law School.

“Following the example of everyone who sacrificed for me is why I have had success as a mother, lawyer, teacher and community advocate. And I believe that to whom much is given much is required.”

Lewis said she wants to serve the country as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada because “I see the opportunities that I had as a young woman being undermined - even within our own party.”

“Canada must remain a country where we can earn a fair wage, pay our bills without worry, and leave our children better off tomorrow than they are today. Canadians want to see competence from their leaders in their approach to the economy, the environment, and our resource and farming sectors,” said Lewis, who was the CPC candidate for Scarborough-Rouge Park in the 2015 federal election but was defeated by Liberal Gary Anandasangaree.

In 2019, Lewis was the recipient of the professional excellence award at the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) 37th annual Harry Jerome Awards ceremony.

Photo contributed    Mitzie Hunter, Ontario Liberal MPP, Scarborough--Guildwood


Mitzie Hunter, the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Scarborough-Guildwood in Ontario, has described her experience running for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party as great.

She was one of six candidates seeking to lead the party that was decimated in the June 2018 provincial election.

At the end of the party’s two-day convention on March 7 and 8, Steven Del Duca emerged the winner with 1258 votes, with Michael Coteau gaining 363 votes, Kate Graham 299 votes, Mitzie Hunter 122 votes, Alvin Tedjo 74 and Brenda Hollingsworth 24 votes.

“It was an incredible experience and one that I hope will continue to be open to men and women of the Black community,” says the Jamaica-born politician who was first elected in a by-election in August 2013.

Her advice to those interested in political leadership is to be ready and prepared, to be politically active in the party of their choice, and to take on leadership roles all the way through.

As someone who was a former Cabinet minister and who won three consecutive elections of her own, Hunter says leadership requires all of that and more.

She said the leadership race was a province-wide experience and she got a chance to connect with people in northern parts, rural, small towns and big cities of Ontario.

Hunter is proud of the high number of delegate counts she received in northern Ontario. She spent a lot of time in the north connecting with the people and their issues.

The former education minister said the relationships and connections within the party are also important.

She said she had a strong campaign regarding changes that the party needed to make and how that would impact Ontarians, and had put out strong ideas and a vision for the party and for the future of the province.

Hunter noted that this resonated with many people and gained her their support.

Between her announcement to run in August 2019 and the leadership convention in March, she said her campaign has been about ideas and connecting with people.

“It was about shaping good policy. I was very involved in my team and helping to shape that policy and it was about listening. It was about really listening to what it is that the people in this province need and I leave the contest very hopeful.”

Hunter believes the Ontario Liberal Party is stronger than ever and reinvigorated as a result of the leadership race.

In debates leading up to the convention, Hunter called for unity by insisting that, “we must leave the convention as one united Liberal team and I will be a member of that team and I am a member of that team.”

She said the campaign was a learning environment for her as she connected with people and that the leadership at the local level – the grassroots – is really the most important part of any political party.

Hunter said the strength of rebuilding the party will be dependent on people getting engaged in their local riding associations and feeling that they can have a political impact through the Ontario Liberal Party.

They should also feel that the things that are important to them and to their families and their communities are represented in the party, she said.

Hunter said the priority for the party is to make sure that in 2022 there is a change of government from Doug Ford to bringing back the Liberals under Steven Del Duca “who will really truly speak for all Ontarians.”

Photo contributed  Michael Coteau, Ontario Liberal MPP, Don Valley East


 Michael Coteau, Member of Provincial Parliament for Don Valley East, was encouraged by former Ontario Liberal MPP and Cabinet minister Mary Anne Chambers and others to enter politics.

The former youth worker, executive director of a literacy organization and school board trustee was elected to the Toronto District School Board three times and served as its vice-chair.

First elected to Queen’s Park in 2011, Coteau is in his third term as MPP and ran for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Born in Huddersfield, England on June 21, 1972, he immigrated to Canada with his family in 1975. They settled in Flemingdon Park where he and his two brothers grew up while their mother cleaned buildings and father fixed washing machines.

While pursuing postsecondary studies he became the president of the Carleton Young Liberals, and graduated with degrees in history and political science.

After graduation, Coteau worked as an English-as-a-Second-Language teacher. He started his own small business in web development and became executive director of a national literacy nonprofit. He also worked as a community organizer with a United Way affiliate. 
Coteau, who is of Grenadian heritage, and his wife, Lori, have two daughters.

The Ontario Liberal Party lost official party status in the results of the 2018 provincial election when only seven of its candidates were elected.


He described the fact that three of the four candidates who ran for the party leadership – Hunter, Alvin Tedjo and himself -- were visible minorities as “a massive shift in Ontario politics.”

Photo of Rosemary Brown in the book Jamaicans in Canada: When Ackee Meets Codfish published in 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence


Rosemary Brown died in Vancouver of a heart attack on April 26, 2003 at the age of 72.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, on June 17, 1930, she came to Canada in 1951 to study at McGill University in Montreal, where she completed her BA in 1955.

She went on to the University of British Columbia, where she completed a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 1962, followed by a Master's degree in 1965.

She was a member of the British Columbia legislature from 1972 until her retirement in 1986.

Photo contributed    Howard McCurdy, first Black NDP Member of Parliament


Howard McCurdy, a pioneer in science, civil rights activism, politics, and education in Canada, was born on December 10, 1932, in London, Ontario.

The former New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament for Windsor, Ontario, and first Black MP for the party died from cancer on February 20, 2018, at the age of 85.

After lawyer, former Conservative MP, federal Labour Minister and Ontario Lieutenant Governor, the late Lincoln Alexander, Dr. McCurdy was the second African Canadian elected to the Canadian Parliament.

Before entering federal politics, where he was elected to represent Windsor for the NDP from 1984 to 1993 (Windsor-Walkerville 1984-1988, Windsor-Lake St. Clair 1988-1993), he started his political career at the municipal level by being elected to city council in November 1979.

Having studied at the University of Western Ontario, Assumption University, and Michigan State University, where he earned a doctorate degree in microbiology and chemistry, he joined the University of Windsor’s science department in 1959.

Eventually, he became the country’s first African-Canadian tenured university faculty member and rose to head the department from 1974 to 1979.

On its website, Operation Black Vote Canada notes that Vivian Barbot, a former Canadian teacher, activist and politician, became the first Black person to lead a Canadian federal political party with parliamentary representation.

The former Member of Parliament and vice-president of the Bloc Québécois was the party’s interim leader and president following the resignation of Gilles Duceppe in May 2011. She became the first person of a visible minority group to lead a Canadian federal political party with parliamentary representation.

She remained in the position until Duceppe’s successor, Daniel Paillé, was elected on December 11, 2011.

Barbot was born in Saint-Marc, Haiti and was the MP of Papineau, Quebec.