Senator Donald Oliver
Nova Scotia's Senator
|The Late Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander, P.C., C.C., O.Ont.|
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, it is with mixed feelings that I, too, rise today to pay tribute to one of Canada's much engaging and much-loved politicians, the Honourable Lincoln Alexander, who passed away on October 19 at the age of 90.
I associate myself with the tributes paid by Senators LeBreton, Housakos and Meredith. I am also honoured to refer to Lincoln as a friend.
Lincoln Alexander is a Canadian legend. Despite his stature, Lincoln Alexander was a simple, down-to-earth man. How many times have we all heard him say "just call me Linc"?
Lincoln Alexander was born in Toronto in 1922. In 1942 he served his country in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. After the war, he attended McMaster University and graduated in 1949 with a B.A. in history and political economy. In 1953, he was called to the Bar of Ontario. Then, for the next few decades, Lincoln would become known as the man of firsts.
In 1955 he was the first Black person to become a partner at Canada's first interracial law firm, Duncan and Alexander. He was the first African-Canadian elected to the House of Commons in 1968. He was the first Black man to be appointed to the cabinet. He served as Minister of Labour in 1979. He was the first person of colour to serve as Lieutenant-Governor of a Canadian province. From 1985 to 1991, he served the people of Ontario as the Queen's representative. From 1991 to 2007, he served as Chancellor of the University of Guelph. His appointment was renewed five times. He would become the longest-serving chancellor in the history of the institution, and I was honoured to receive an honorary degree from him.
Honourable senators, I had the honour of collaborating with Lincoln on many occasions over the years. Eleven years ago — in honour of Lincoln's eightieth birthday — Galen Weston Sr., a good friend of Linc's, and I organized a fundraiser to establish the Lincoln Alexander Chancellor's Scholarships at the University of Guelph. We hosted a black tie gala dinner in Toronto where family, friends and special guests came together to celebrate Lincoln's life. We raised more than $50,000 that evening for the new chancellor's scholarships in his name.
These scholarships are intended to enhance student diversity and recognize students of academic distinction who have made significant contributions to their schools and communities. They are awarded to students who are Aboriginal, a member of a racial minority, or a person with a disability. That fundraiser was a major achievement that showed my deep affection for Linc.
Honourable senators, Lincoln Alexander was a great friend but, above all, he was a mentor to me. I still remember the day he was first elected to the House of Commons. It was June 25, 1968. I was a young lawyer in Halifax at the time. The African-Canadian community was ecstatic and filled with joy when he was elected to Parliament. It gave our community a sense of empowerment at a time when racial segregation and discrimination was still prevalent in our society.
Honourable senators, please join me in honouring one of our country's greatest Canadians, a man of wisdom, kindness and generosity. He will be forever missed.