Message from the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health – Black History Month


February 1, 2024 | Ottawa, Ontario | Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Every February, we observe Black History Month, a unique opportunity to recognize and appreciate the significant contribution of Black people in building a strong, culturally diverse and prosperous Canada.

We acknowledge the existence of historical and ongoing anti-black racism, which has resulted in a significant gap in black health outcomes in Canada as well as a disproportionate under-representation of black researchers in health research and we will continue to intensify our efforts to fight against racism and discrimination in its various forms.

Keeping in line with this year’s theme Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate; a Future to Build, we are highlighting the contributions of Black Canadians in health care and health research.

We celebrate trailblazers like Dr. June Marion James, a pioneering Black physician, community leader, and passionate advocate for the Black community. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. James moved to Winnipeg in 1960 and was the first Black woman admitted to the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine. An allergy specialist, Dr. James was one of the founders of Manitoba’s Family Allergy College and she served as President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba. She has served on the boards of many community organizations, including the Caribbean Canadian Association and the Congress of Black Women, where she helped improve the lives of people in her community. We applaud Dr. James and other Black health care professionals across the country for what they have done and continue to do to help improve the health of people from Black communities in Canada and ensure they have access to high quality, culturally safe health care.

We would also like to acknowledge the remarkable Black health researchers in this country who are advancing science, working to find solutions to health problems facing Canadians, and serving as role models and mentors to a new generation of scientists and scholars. Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), our government is pleased to support Dr. Juliet Daniel, a professor at McMaster University, who is one of Canada’s leading cancer researchers. Dr. Daniel is focused on understanding and finding new treatments for triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of breast cancer that disproportionately affects Black women.

We are working to build a future where Black researchers and trainees can realize their dreams and pursue successful careers in the health sciences. CIHR has partnered with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada and Brain Canada to launch a new annual funding program designed to increase the number of highly qualified Black trainees in heart and brain research. The inaugural competition of the Personnel Awards for Black Scholars program awarded funding to 19 exceptional master’s and doctoral students. The recipients include Ngozi Iroanyah, a doctoral student at York University, who is studying the experiences of older Black adults living with dementia and their caregivers, and Deborah Baiden, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, who is working to improve our understanding of the effects of high blood pressure on women of African descent during pregnancy. In addition, CIHR and its partners have launched the CIHR Research Excellence, Diversity, and Independence (REDI) Early Career Transition Award program. The REDI awards help post-doctoral researchers, clinicians, and research associates from Black and racialized communities secure research faculty positions at universities and other health research institutions in Canada.

In addition to supporting Black excellence in health research, CIHR is also co-developing an anti-racism action plan with health researchers who have been impacted by racism. We are working with partners to address systemic racism across all aspects of CIHR’s health research funding system and achieve a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research enterprise in Canada.

We encourage you to visit the Black History Month website to learn about the rich past and present contributions and accomplishments of Black people in Canada. Let’s continue our work, together, to address all forms of anti-Black racism and improve the health, social, and economic well-being of Black Canadians.

The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health

The Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health


Christopher Aoun
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health

Alexander Fernandes
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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