ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism at the official launch of Black History Month

Ottawa, Ontario, February 1, 2011

As delivered

Thank you so much, friends, for having joined us here this evening. Normally we do this event up at 200 West Block, but that building is under renovation for a little while, and so we have this magnificent facility at the Government Conference Centre for what has become an annual affair, and thanks so much to members and leaders of the various black community organizations who have joined us from places far and wide. We really appreciate your participation.

This month is a chance for Canadians of all backgrounds to learn about, appreciate and celebrate the exceptional contributions to our society, both recently and historically, made by members of Canada’s black communities. Indeed, as this year’s theme declares, black history month is an opportunity to be “Proud of our History”. In keeping with this theme, we focus this month on the lives and legacies of four remarkable Canadians who have made an indelible mark on our society.

This year we celebrate the triumphs and contributions of legendary John Ware, pioneering journalist Carrie Best, baseball hall of famer Ferguson Jenkins, of course, and I have to say my own Calgary Flame, hockey MVP Jarome Iginla.

John Ware was born into slavery on a South Carolina cotton plantation in 1845. After gaining his freedom in the emancipation, he moved to Texas and learned the tough life of a cowboy. After settling in Alberta in 1882, he started his own ranch in 1891 and became a successful rancher and farmer.

By the end of the 19th century, he was one of the most well known and respected ranchers in western Canada with bronco-busting skills that are said to be legendary. He also created steer wrestling 20 years before the Calgary Stampede, an event that has now become, of course, an integral part of western Canadian culture.

John Ware continued to operate a ranch in southern Alberta until his death in 1933 from a horse-riding accident. I must also point out that two of his sons travelled to Nova Scotia to enlist as members of Canada’s Number 2 Construction Battalion of 1916 who did our country proud.

In 1946, the late Carrie Best founded The Clarion, the first black-owned and published newspaper in Nova Scotia. In her life of 96 years, she defied the odds to become a journalist, author, poet and advocate, and a Member and Officer of the Order of Canada.

Ferguson Jenkins, meanwhile, cemented his status as one of the all-time pitching greats when in 1991 he became the first Canadian inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Later this evening, stamps in honour of Ms. Best and Mr. Jenkins will be proudly unveiled by Canada Post. We are honoured that Mr. Jenkins is with us here tonight. I know many of your fans are here to greet you, and I want to thank for joining us this evening.

Born in Edmonton in 1977, pro-hockey player Jarome Iginla was named captain of the Calgary Flames in 2003, making him one of the first black captains in the NHL. He’s also the team’s all-time leader in points and goals scored, and who can forget him beautifully setting up Sidney Crosby for our gold medal goal at the Olympics last year?

In 2002, he won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league’s most valuable player. Last year, on home ice in Vancouver, he won a gold medal as a member of Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team.

Off the ice, Jarome Iginla is known for his considerable community service and has been recognized by the NHL for his humanitarianism. Since 2000, he has donated money to the KidSport charity for each goal that he scores. He also operates a non-profit hockey school and acts as an ambassador with the NHL’s Diversity Program.

These four exceptional black Canadians have distinguished themselves in their respective careers, making valuable and lasting contributions to their chosen professions and to our society as a whole. They and all members of Canada’s black communities past and present have been key actors in the creation of Canadian history, identity and society – and they will continue to shape our national story.

And now their stories and contributions are even more accessible than ever thanks to the launch today of an exciting new interactive Canadian black history learning resource. Canadian Black History: An Interactive Experience is an educational initiative developed by my department, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, in partnership with black cultural institutions right across the country. Several representatives of those groups are in this room and I want to thank them for their contributions and their support.

This initiative, ladies and gentlemen, is our follow-up to the workshop that we sponsored in 2009, Preserving and Promoting: Black Cultural Heritage in Canada, to encourage Canadians of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about black Canadian history.

The museum features online exhibits on subjects such as Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, black Loyalists and the War of 1812, and the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps.

This year we mark the 15th anniversary of official celebrations of black history month in Canada. But the 2011 edition of black history month is also special as it coincides with the International Year for People of African Descent. To raise awareness of this milestone and international observance, CIC has not only developed the Virtual Museum, but also produced five public service announcements which the Department is making available to TV stations across Canada to freely broadcast during the month of February.

So I encourage you all to visit the Virtual Museum on the Teachers’ and Youth Web Corner, which you can find on our website, and look at the treasure trove of interactive and informative material that it offers.

I also encourage all Canadians to participate in the many black history month events and activities taking place across the country throughout the month of February.

In doing so, you will not only learn more about some extraordinary people and their accomplishments and stories, you will also be taking an active part in promoting intercultural understanding and the building of bridges between communities.

So I want to congratulate everyone who is working so hard across Canada to make black history month a continued success. And thank you all for joining us tonight. I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening. Happy black history month.

Thank you.

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