ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

At an event to celebrate Black History Month

Ottawa, Ontario
February 5, 2013

As delivered

Thank you so much, Senator. And thank you, friends, for joining us here for the launch of the Government of Canada’s Black History Month 2013. It’s a great pleasure to be back with you. I see so many parliamentary colleagues here, I think too many to name. I know that my Parliamentary Secretary, Chungsen Leung, is here and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Alexander, Minister Fletcher, other parliamentarians, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests.

I’ll tell you, when I had the privilege of being Canada’s Minister for Multiculturalism six years ago, one of the things I wanted to really focus on was building up Black History Month as a key part of our annual commemorations, to teach Canadians about how the history of Canadians of African origin is really Canadian history.

And to show positive role models to today’s young people. And I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made with these commemorations and this educational process.

And when I see what’s happening here tonight, I am so excited. You’re going to see a tremendous program with some great Canadians who will be recognized tonight. I’m especially excited to be in the presence of Mr. Oliver Jones, one of Canada’s greatest living musicians. I think maybe you were on holidays down in Florida and you came all the way up to the cold just to join us here tonight.

When I saw Oliver, I said “I wish we had a piano up here so we could get a little bit of his fantastic jazz stylings.” And he said “When I came in the room and I saw there wasn’t a piano, I breathed a sigh of relief because I don’t have to work tonight.” So we’ll get you next time, alright, sir? Thank you for coming up.

Friends, as I said, Black History Month is part of our history as Canadians.

You know it was the black Loyalists who helped found Canada at the end of the 18th century. In return, Upper Canada, under the leadership of Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1793, was one of the first places in the world to ban slavery.

And, of course, this year marks the centenary of the death of the great Harriet Tubman, who was central in making the Underground Railroad a pathway to freedom for escaped American slaves who saw Canada as the North Star on the road to liberty.

So the history of Canadians of African and Caribbean origin, is in many important ways, Canada’s history. And, let me add, we’re going to hear from Citizenship Judge Dennison. He’s going to give us a reaffirmation of our national citizenship oath. In our new Canadian study guide for people aspiring to become citizens, which is called Discover Canada, we include Canadian black history. We made a particular point, I think, when we featured over a dozen prominent Canadians of African origin that are now studied by all of those aspiring to join our family as citizens.

This year we are celebrating in particular the contribution of black Canadians in law enforcement, whether they are historic pioneers or today’s leaders. I would like to thank all of the members of the Canadian police community here tonight. But I would like even more to thank you for your commitment to serve and protect Canadians.

Among those here with us this evening is our guest speaker, Mr. Devon Clunis. Last year, Mr. Clunis became Canada’s first black Chief of Police when we was sworn in as the Chief of Winnipeg’s Police Force. And we congratulate you on that benchmark, sir.

We’re also joined by Craig Gibson, who’s the RCMP’s first black Commanding Officer. Mr. Gibson joined the RCMP more than 30 years ago in 1980 and has since worked in five provinces.

Lori Seale-Irving is also here tonight. She’s the first black woman to become a commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She’s held many postings throughout her career and currently serves here in our nation’s capital.

Finally, we have with us Lyonel Anglade, a community relations officer of the City of Montréal who works with young people of various cultural communities, especially those of Haitian origin. His efforts at raising awareness contributed to improving trust and dialogue between young people and the Montréal police.

Thanks again to all of you for being here and for the service to Canada and your communities that you represent.

Of course, we’re also paying tribute to the achievements of black policing pioneers from Canada’s past — brave people like Rose Fortune, the very first female police officer in Canada. She was born into slavery in the British colony in 1774. Her family escaped to Annapolis in Nova Scotia as one of the black Loyalists, where she became a successful local businesswoman, transporting luggage from the ferry docks to hotels and homes. In recognition of her efforts to safeguard property at the town’s wharves, she earned the unofficial title of Canada’s first female and first black police officer.

Alton C. Parker was another great role model. Mr. Parker joined the Windsor, Ontario, Police Service in 1942 as that city’s first black police officer. He gained the admiration of his colleagues and was promoted to the rank of detective, making him the first black detective in all of Canada. In honour of that service, the City of Windsor has named a public park and street after him just this year.

A less well known story is that of Victoria’s first black police force, which consisted of some 10 black constables in 1858, if you can believe it. They arrived from San Francisco, where they had been recruited by the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, Sir James Douglas who, of course, himself was of African origin. Tragically, the constables faced many of the types of prejudice that they faced in San Francisco, that were repeated in Victoria. Conditions were tough and the police force was short-lived, but they didn’t give up on Canada. Many of these black constables went on to become successful businessmen, while others went on to police in other communities.

Ladies and gentlemen, by recognizing black history and by celebrating historic people, we are commemorating the heritage of Canadians. I would also like to remind you that you can learn more about the policing pioneers and leaders on CIC’s Web site.

And one of the really good things my ministry has done for black history in general is the creation of our virtual online museum that connects people to archival collections and black history museums all across Canada. We encourage you go to and visit that. There’s a big focus particularly on Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.

And this year we should in particular, I think, all keep in our minds on one of the great Canadians of Caribbean origin, the recently deceased Honourable Lincoln Alexander, a great Canadian. We miss him all.

So as we kick off celebrations that will honour those who have done so much for this great country, it’s also fitting for us to honour an outstanding individual here with us this evening for his ongoing contributions.

Born in Somalia, Abdulkadar Mohamed Dualeh, or Mo Dualeh, came to Canada as a refugee when he was just 13 years old. Today he patrols Ottawa’s streets as a city bylaw officer. This past year, Mr. Dualeh went above and beyond his call of duty when he heroically stepped in to save three lives in Ottawa, all on separate occasions.

This first incident happened when Mr. Dualeh was working the late shift on a cold January night. He found a toddler who had wandered away from home, lying on the ground in her pyjamas. Mr. Dualeh rescued the child and called paramedics who brought her to the hospital.

In the second instance, Mr. Dualeh bravely stepped in when he came across a man beating another man with a metal bar. He then pursued the man with this car until police were able to arrest him.

And on the third occasion, Mr. Dualeh was off duty when we saw a woman trying to jump to her death on highway 417. He immediately pulled over and ran back to the scene, where he grabbed the woman and prevented her from taking her own life.

Mr. Dualeh’s brave actions exemplify courage and heroism and so it is truly fitting at this celebration of the quiet courage and service of African Canadian law enforcement officers to recognize his dedication as an example of that service by presenting Mr. Dualeh with Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Mo, please come on up.

Now, by the way, Mo tells me he didn’t get this injury in any of his heroic acts, but he slipped on the ice in Ottawa if you can believe it. Just goes to show you that Canada will take down even some of our strongest. But, Mo, we hope you get better and you’ve got about three or four Deputy Chiefs of Police and Senior Sergeants and Chiefs of Police here and you should have brought your resume because they all want to hire you now.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a great celebration.

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