February 1911: Anti-Black Campaign
By 1909, hundreds of Oklahoma Blacks had moved to the Canadian Prairies, where they met the same wariness and discrimination that had allowed slavery to exist in an earlier time. In February 1911, a few newspapers in Winnipeg even predicted that the Dominion government would move to exclude "Negro immigrants." 

1911: Oliver's Immigration Policy
Alberta's Frank Oliver wanted tighter controls on immigration. He became the Liberal government's Minister of the Interior in 1905. Oliver was staunchly British, and his policies favoured nationality over occupation. By 1911, he was able to assert that his immigration policy was more "restrictive, exclusive and selective" than his predecessor's.


Harriet Tubman
Image: Harriet Tubman

10 March 1913: Heroine of the Underground Railroad Dies
Harriet Tubman, ardent abolitionist and heroine of the Underground Railroad, died in New York in 1913. As a conductor with the Underground Railroad, she made 19 secret trips to the American South and guided more than 300 slaves to freedom in Canada.

5 July 1916: WWI All-Black Battalion
In 1916, Canadian enlistment figures fell from 30,000 to 6,000 per month, while the year-end goal was a force of 500,000. When Reverend C.W. Washington of Edmonton offered to raise an all-Black battalion, military officials authorized the creation of the No. 2 Construction Battalion. The battalion served in France with the Canadian Forestry Corps.


A musical band from the No.2 Construction Battalion, c. 1917.
Image: A musical band from the No.2 Construction Battalion, c. 1917.

1914-1918: Black Canadians on the Home Front in WWI
Between 1914 and 1918, Black Canadians at home became actively involved in the war effort. Black associations—on their own and in cooperation with White groups—raised funds, worked in factories and volunteered in hospitals and as labourers.

1939-1945: Blacks Accepted into Canadian Services in WWII
Initially, the Canadian military rejected Black volunteers, but as the war continued, many Blacks were accepted into the Regular Army and officer corps. While there was still some segregation in the Canadian forces until the end of the war, hundreds of Black Canadians served alongside Whites in Canada and Europe.


Black Railway Porters 
in Montréal, Québec (courtesy 
Africville Genealogical Society).
Image: Black Railway Porters in Montréal, Québec. Railway porters played an important role in the struggle for Black rights in Canada (courtesy Africville Genealogical Society).

1939-1945: Conditions on the Home Front in WWII
Blacks at home assumed the responsibilities of the men and women serving overseas, working alongside Whites in jobs across the country. During World War II, hundreds of Black workers joined labour unions for the first time. The all-Black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was one of the greatest success stories of the war years. 

14 March 1944: Ontario Passes Racial Discrimination Act
Ontario was the first province to respond to social change when it passed the Racial Discrimination Act of 1944. This landmark legislation effectively prohibited the publication and display of any symbol, sign, or notice that expressed ethnic, racial, or religious discrimination. It was followed by other sweeping legislation.


Viola Desmond.
Image: Viola Desmond.

8 November 1946: Black Woman Sits in Theatre's "White Section"
The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) united civil rights forces. The NSAACP supported Viola Desmond, a Black woman from Halifax, in her case against a New Glasgow theatre where she was arrested for sitting in the "White-only" section, even though she was willing to buy the more expensive ticket.

2-3 September 1954: Toronto Telegram Covers the Dresden Story
Black discrimination continued in the 1950s, despite legislation prohibiting it. In 1954, two Blacks visited rural Dresden, Ont. and were refused service in two restaurants. The Toronto Telegram sent Black "testers" to investigate, who were also refused. When the Telegram ran the story, it confirmed what many Blacks suspected, that Canada's laws and regulations were ineffective.


Ellen Fairclough, former 
Minister of Citizenship and 
Immigration (photograph by 
D. Cameron, courtesy Library 
and Archives Canada / PA-12
9254).
Image: Ellen Fairclough, former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (photograph by D. Cameron, courtesy Library and Archives Canada / PA-12 9254).

19 January 1962: Fairclough Dismantles Discriminatory Policy
During her term as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ellen Fairclough oversaw improvements to the Canadian Immigration Service, but her most significant accomplishment was the radical reform of the government's "White Canada" immigration policy. Regulations tabled in 1962 helped to eliminate racial discrimination in Canada's immigration policy.

25 September 1963: First Black Elected to a Canadian Parliament
Leonard Braithwaite became the first African-Canadian in a provincial legislature when he was elected as the Liberal member for Etobicoke, Ontario in 1963.

1964 - 1970: Africville Demolished
Encouraged by media attention to Africville's "American-style ghetto," the Halifax City Planning Commission expropriated the land. Residents resisted, citing the community's proud traditions, although Africville lacked basic services such as water, sewage, and good roads. Between 1964 and 1970, residents were relocated and the community razed.

11 August 1965: Klan Activity in Amherstburg
In 1965, racial tension ran high in Amherstburg, Ont. A cross-burning set the tone; the Black Baptist Church was defaced and the town sign was spray-painted "Amherstburg Home of the KKK." Five days of racial incidents threatened to escalate but the situation was saved by an investigation by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. No arrests were made.


A performer at Toronto’s 
Caribana Festival (photograph 
by Jeffrey Gunawan).
Image: A performer at Toronto’s Caribana Festival (photograph by Jeffrey Gunawan).

28 July 1967: Toronto's Caribana Festival Founded
Approximately two-thirds of Canada's West Indian population resides in the greater Toronto area. On 28 July 1967, ten Torontonians with a common West Indian heritage founded the Caribana cultural festival to display their rich cultural traditions. The Caribana festival continues to promote cultural pride, mutual respect and social unity.

18 September 1967: African-Canadian Wins Middleweight Championship
In 1967 David Downey won his first Canadian Middleweight Championship, which he retained until August 1970. Downey's boxing career coincided with one of the most dynamic periods in Halifax's history, which saw the emergence of the city's Black population as a social and political force.

October 1967: Immigration "Points System"
Prior to 1967, the immigration system relied largely on immigration officers' judgment to determine who should be eligible to enter Canada. Deputy Minister of Immigration Tom Kent established a points system, which assigned points in nine categories, to determine eligibility. Ethnic groups all across Canada endorsed the new selection process. 

October 1971: Trudeau Introduces Canada's Multicultural Policy
Canada's multiculturalism policy grew partly in reaction to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which endorsed a "bicultural Canada," barely recognizing "other ethnic groups." This dilemma was partially resolved in 1971 by Prime Minister Trudeau's assertion that Canada was a "multicultural country with two official languages."

1971: African-Canadian Sprinter Receives Order of Canada
In 1971, sprinter Harry Jerome was awarded the Order of Canada medal for "excellence in all fields of Canadian life." Jerome proudly represented Canada in three Olympic Games, winning bronze at Tokyo in 1964.

1974: West Indian Immigration Overwhelms Black Communities
With the Immigration Act of 1962 and 1967 reforms, Black West Indians flocked to Canada. Indigenous Blacks and their established communities were overwhelmed by the influx and felt threatened by cultural differences. At first some thought skin colour was their only connection. In the early 1980s, Black Canadians of all backgrounds began uniting around common causes.


Dr. Wilson A. Head 
(courtesy Québec English 
Schools Network).
Image: Dr. Wilson A. Head (courtesy Quebec English Schools Network).

1975: Head Founds Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Black reformer Wilson Head brought a lifetime of experience in civil rights activism with him when he moved from the US to Canada in 1959. Among his numerous accomplishments was the creation, in 1975, of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. The organization is still dedicated to fighting discrimination against all ethno-racial communities.

1984: Nova Scotian Civil Rights Advocate Awarded Order of Canada
Dr. William Pearly Oliver and his wife Pearleen Borden Oliver helped unite the Black community in the 1940s and 1950s. William, founder of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP), received the Order of Canada in 1984. Pearleen received an Honorary Doctorate from Saint Mary's University in 1990.


The Honourable Lincoln 
Alexander (courtesy Office of the 
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario).
Image: The Honourable Lincoln Alexander, the first Black Canadian to sit in the House of Commons and to hold the office of lieutenant-governor (courtesy Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario).

20 September 1985
Lincoln Alexander was born of West Indian immigrant parents. He was sworn in as Ontario's lieutenant-governor in September 1985, the first Black person to hold the vice-regal position in Canada. Alexander was also the first Black MP and federal Cabinet minister.

1991: Race Riot at NS High School Prompts Education Reform
In 1991, at Cole Harbour District High School, a fight between one Black and one White student escalated into a brawl involving 50 youths of both races. The event mobilized provincial Black activists around the issue of unequal educational opportunities. Nova Scotia's Ministry of Education established a fund in 1995 to improve education and support anti-racist initiatives.

4 May 1992: The Yonge Street "Rebellion"
A daytime demonstration against the acquittal of police officers in the Rodney King case in Los Angeles descended into a nighttime riot on Toronto's Yonge Street. Ignoring the historical context, the media decried the "America-style violence" of the young Black men. However, the riot prompted Canadians to address the root causes of Black frustration.

7 June 1993: Father Convicted for Hiring Hit Man to Kill Daughter's Black Fiancé
Helen Mouskos, daughter of Greek immigrants, planned to marry Lawrence Martineau, son of Trinidadian immigrants. When her parents realized the couples' relationship, they protested. Helen's father, Andreas, was enraged and hired a hit man to kill Lawrence. The murder plot was discovered and Andreas was sentenced to five years in prison in June 1993.


book cover: Selling Illusions, Neil Bissoondath
Image: Bissoondath asserted that Canada’s multiculturalism policy, whatever its intentions, was “a gentle and insidious form of cultural apartheid.”

1994: Bissoondath's Selling Illusions is Published
Canada's multiculturalism policies came under attack by many authors who claimed that it had created a divided and fragmented society of hyphenated Canadians. The most powerful condemnation came from Neil Bissoondath, a Canadian novelist and immigrant from Trinidad who refused the "burden of hyphenation," which would label him "an East Indian-Trinidadian-Canadian."

6 August 1995: Canadian Sprinter Becomes "World's Fastest Human" 
In 1995, Oakville's Donovan Bailey assumed the title of "World's Fastest Human" by winning the 100-metre sprint at the World Track Championships at Göteborg, Sweden. Taking silver in the same race was Montreal's Bruny Surin. Bailey went on to win gold at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, setting a new world and Olympic record (9.84).


Author Austin Clarke, 
1999 (courtesy Athabasca 
University, Centre for 
Language & Literature).
Image: Author Austin Clarke, 1999 (courtesy Athabasca University, Centre for Language & Literature).

5 November 2002: Clarke Wins Giller Prize for Polished Hoe
Austin Clarke, Canada's most widely-read Black novelist, won the Giller Prize for fiction in 2002 and the Regional Commonwealth Prize for best book in 2003 for his ninth novel The Polished Hoe. Clarke, who was born in Barbados, has sensitized generations of readers to the plight of West Indian immigrants.

4 August 2005: First Black Governor General Announced
On 4 August 2005, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced the appointment of Haitian-born Michaëlle Jean as Governor General of Canada. Her dual French-Canadian citizenship and allegations of separatist connections generated controversy. Jean renounced her French citizenship before taking office and refuted a connection to the separatist movement.


The Right Honourable 
Michaëlle Jean, Governor 
General of Canada, at her 
swearing-in ceremony on 
27 September 2005 
(courtesy CP Archives).
Image: The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, at her swearing-in ceremony on 27 September 2005 (courtesy CP Archives).

27 September 2005: Jean Sworn in as Governor General
Michaëlle Jean was sworn in as Canada's first Black governor general. She emphasized freedom as a central part of the Canadian identity and has suggested that it was time to "eliminate the spectre" of the two solitudes, French and English, which has so long characterized the country's history.