Ted Arnott, MPP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2013
Legislature acknowledges Black History Month
(Queen’s Park) – On February 21, MPPs from all three parties rose in the Ontario Legislature to
mark Black History Month in Ontario. Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott spoke on behalf
of the Ontario PC Caucus.
“We all know that Ontario’s black community has a long and proud history in our province,” Mr.
Arnott told the Legislature. “In fact, black history is Ontario history. The two are inextricably
Mr. Arnott took the opportunity to pay tribute to the late Lincoln Alexander, who passed away
“Lincoln Alexander inspired thousands of young Canadians with his life story and example of
overcoming discrimination, pursuing excellence and working for a better Canada,” said Mr.
Arnott. “He inspired a new generation of leaders who continue to help shape our country and
our province today.”
Lincoln Alexander served as the first ever black MP elected to the Canadian House of
Commons, the first black member of Cabinet, and Canada’s first black Lieutenant Governor.
Mr. Arnott also noted that in 2008, he brought forward a Private Member’s Bill recognizing
August 1 of each year as Emancipation Day in Ontario. The Bill was the first bill ever
introduced in the Ontario Legislature to be jointly sponsored by MPPs from different parties. It
was passed into law by the Ontario Legislature on December 4, 2008.
“I hope that everyone in this House and indeed all Ontarians will take the opportunity to learn
more about this history and the important role that the black community has had in building our
great province,” Mr. Arnott concluded.
(Attached: Hansard record of Ted Arnott’s speech in the Ontario Legislature, February 21, 2013)
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Ontario Hansard – 21-February2013
Mr. Ted Arnott: I am honoured to rise in this House and speak on behalf of the people of Wellington-
Halton Hills and on behalf of the Ontario PC caucus. I am privileged to have this chance to recognize
Black History Month.
I want to begin by congratulating the new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and extend my
personal best wishes to him as he undertakes his new responsibilities. I look forward to working with him.
We all know that Ontario’s black community has a long and proud history in our province. In fact, black
history is Ontario history. The two are inextricably linked. The Ontario Black History Society reminds us
that black Canadians fought valiantly alongside English, French and aboriginal Canadians in the War of
1812, including the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
Thousands of escaped slaves fleeing the oppression and scourge of slavery in the southern United States
arrived in Ontario via the Underground Railroad in the 19th century. They established early settlements in
such towns as Windsor, Chatham, Guelph and St. Catharines. They became Canadians and raised their
families in freedom. They and their descendants went on to become farmers, teachers, business owners,
doctors and lawyers. Their contributions were fundamental in helping to build the Ontario we know and
Last November, Canada mourned the loss of Lincoln Alexander, one of our greatest Canadians, who
made a meaningful and lasting contribution to both our province and our country. He was a man who
broke barriers and led the way for the next generation of leaders who follow in his footsteps, inspired by
his example. It was appropriate and fitting that the throne speech presented to this House two days ago
began with a tribute to the Honourable Lincoln Alexander.
I will always remember an encounter I had with Linc in August 2008, when he visited Wellington county
to help unveil an historical heritage plaque in Glen Allan, which I will revisit again in a minute. “Good
afternoon, Your Honour,” I said as I greeted him. “They said there would be some big shots here,” he said
in reply. I smiled, protesting that I really didn’t see myself as a big shot. He said, “All you MPPs think
you’re big shots.” We both laughed, remembering that he, too, had been a parliamentarian, and so was by
his own definition a big shot himself.
Lincoln Alexander grew up in an Ontario that was far less tolerant and inclusive than the province we
know today, but as Sandra Martin wrote in the Globe and Mail shortly after his death, he was a man who
had the capacity “to turn rejections and despicable slurs into a personal challenge to excel.”
Lincoln Alexander was first elected to the House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative in 1968,
becoming Canada’s first black member of Parliament. He held his Hamilton riding through five
consecutive elections, and in 1979 was appointed Minister of Labour, earning the distinction of becoming
Canada’s first black cabinet minister. After he retired from partisan politics in 1980, he served as chair of
the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Board, and later broke yet more new ground, becoming Canada’s first
black Lieutenant Governor when he was appointed LG in Ontario in 1985.
That was the position he held when I was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1990. When he
came into this chamber for a throne speech or other special occasion, he had a regal bearing and a manner
that ironically seemed to be down-to-earth at the same time. Lincoln Alexander inspired thousands of young Canadians with his life story and example of overcoming
discrimination, pursuing excellence and working for a better Canada. He inspired a new generation of
leaders who continue to help shape our country and our province today.
As some members of the House may remember, in 2008 I brought forward a bill recognizing August 1 as
Emancipation Day in Ontario. This was to commemorate the day in 1834 when slavery was abolished in
Canada and throughout the British Empire. That bill also holds the distinction of being the first bill ever
introduced in this House to be jointly sponsored by members from different parties. I had approached
Maria Van Bommel, and she graciously agreed to work with me on it.
We brought this bill forward together after I had attended the ceremony I referred to earlier in the
community of Glen Allan in Wellington county in 2008 to unveil that plaque commemorating the Queen’s
Bush Settlement. As I was leaving the ceremony that day, a man whom I’d never met before approached
me. He told me that he thought there should be a bill in the Legislature recognizing August 1 of every
year as Emancipation Day in Ontario. As I was driving home, I kept thinking about what he had said.
Shortly afterwards, as a result of that conversation, I asked legislative counsel to draft the legislation that
was eventually passed into law by this House, with support from all three parties.
While working on the bill, I had the opportunity to get to know Dr. Rosemary Sadlier, the president of the
Ontario Black History Society. Rosemary has spent countless hours volunteering with the society because
she firmly believes, and I agree, in the importance of educating Ontarians about black history and the
significant achievements of the black community in building our communities all across the province.
This is a chapter of our history that should make us all very proud.
Black History Month is an opportunity to pay tribute to the legacy of countless individuals, including the
late Lincoln Alexander, and the lasting contributions that they have made to our province and to our
country. I hope that everyone in this House and indeed all Ontarians will take the opportunity to learn
more about this history and the important role that the black community has had in building our great
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.