Senator Donald Oliver
Nova Scotia's Senator
|Black History Month 2013|
Honourable senators, on the first day of February, to kick off Black History Month, I announced a $75,000 grant in support of a local War of 1812 project that highlights a very important chapter in the history of Blacks in Canada. The announcement was made at the Africville Museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative government believe in acknowledging and celebrating the legacy of Black Canadians past and present. The funds allocated will be used by the Africville Heritage Trust Society, in partnership with Eastern Front Theatre, to create a play that tells the story of the group historically known as the "Black Refugees."
Between 1813 and 1816, 4,000 enslaved African-Americans seized the opportunity to escape slavery and fled the U.S. during the war. About 2,000 sailed to Nova Scotia, including Adeline and Moses Oliver, my great, great grandparents, as did some of the descendants of the founders of Africville.
The play will be presented at the 2014 SuperNova Theatre Festival and, throughout the summer of 2014, at the Africville Church Museum. The production will give Canadians a deeper understanding of the history of Africville, the courageous stories of our ancestors and their contribution in shaping our country's history.
Honourable senators, as you know, the War of 1812 is a pivotal moment in our history. It laid the foundation for Confederation and the cornerstones of many of our political institutions.
However, most Canadians are unaware of the fact that an all- Black militia known as the "Coloured Corps" played an important role in defeating the American invasion.
One of its heroes is Richard Pierpoint, a former American slave who found freedom in Canada. Pierpoint offered to "raise a Corps of Men of Colour on the Niagara Frontier." The Coloured Corps defended the Niagara region during the war and built Fort Mississauga. This allowed the Canadian and British forces to prevent American vessels from sailing down the Niagara River.
The Coloured Corps defended Canada honourably and set the precedent for the formation of other African-Canadian military units throughout our history.
Honourable senators, Black History Month, which has been celebrated since 1926, is a month-long celebration that serves to remind Canadians of the important role African-Canadians have played in shaping our history and their history-making achievements — people like Richard Pierpoint.
This year, in particular, we are paying special tribute to the achievements of Black Canadians in the area of law enforcement. For instance, this month we honour incredible Canadians like
- Devon Clunis, who was appointed as Canada's first Black police chief in Winnipeg earlier last year;
- Alton Parker, Canada's first Black police detective in 1951; and
- Rose Fortune, who became Canada's first female police officer from Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, in the 1820s.
Honourable senators, I join Prime Minister Harper in encouraging all Canadians to participate in events this month that celebrate Black history and to "gain insight into the vital role that we have played in building Canada and shaping our shared national identity."