Anniversaries of significance in Black Canadian history in 2017

Celebrate and commemorate these days and anniversaries that recognize the important contributions of Black people in Canada and around the world.

Anniversary celebrations in 2017

The year 2017 celebrates many anniversaries of significant events in Black Canadian history.

180 year anniversary of the Corps of Negroes

In the early 19th century, few Upper Canada militia units included Blacks. When the Mackenzie Rebellion broke out, the government welcomed Black men into the colonial forces. On December 11, 1837, a militia order authorized Captains Thomas Runchey and James Sears to raise a "corps of Negroes." Four days later, approximately 50 Blacks had joined the corps.

160 year anniversary of William Neilson Hall Winning the Victoria Cross

William Hall served aboard the frigate HMS Shannon in Calcutta during the 1857 Indian Mutiny. Against all odds, Hall breached a wall of the Najeef Temple to allow British troops to overcome the mutineers. He was awarded the Victoria Cross on November 16, 1857. Hall was the first Canadian naval recipient, the first Black and the first Nova Scotian to win the prestigious medal.

100 year anniversary of the No. 2 Construction Battalion’s Departure Overseas

On March 28, 1917, this all-Black battalion in Canadian military history, sailed from Halifax. The unit operated in the Jura Mountains of France, primarily supporting the production of timber and repairing of roads.

Diamond anniversary of Caribana

Approximately two-thirds of Canada's West Indian population resides in the greater Toronto area. On July 28, 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.

Diamond anniversary of Downey’s first Canadian Middleweight Championship

On September 18, 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.

Lincoln Alexander Day – January 21

The Honourable Lincoln Alexander (1922-2012) became the first Black Member of Parliament in Canada on June 25, 1968. In 1985, he also became the first visible minority to be appointed as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. In December 2014, the Government of Canada declared January 21 to be Lincoln Alexander Day.

His other notable achievements include:

  • Second World War veteran (Royal Canadian Air Force)
  • Member of the Queen’s Privy Council

Federal Minister of Labour

  • First visible minority appointed as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
  • Chancellor of the University of Guelph
  • Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
  • Companion of the Order of Canada
  • Member of the Order of Ontario

International Decade for People of African Descent

The United Nations General Assembly resolution 68/237 declared 2015 to 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. The resolution underlines the important contributions made by people of African descent to their societies. States must take effective measures to promote the full inclusion of these communities and to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance directed against people of African descent.
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