February marks Black History Month in Canada, a time when we seek to recognize, celebrate, and amplify the voices of Black Canadians. Today and every day, we are reminded of the profound impact that Black Canadians have had, and continue to have, in shaping Canada’s cultural, social, and political landscapes. We also seek to honour the history of Black resistance to white supremacy and the transformative power of community organizing that continues today.
We invite you to check out the events and actions below to celebrate Black History Month and support Black Canadians’ efforts to advocate for long-term solutions that address systemic racism and discrimination.
Black History Month Events
Amnesty Book Club Presents: Giller Prize-Winner Suzette Mayr
Join Amnesty International’s Book Club for an exclusive virtual event with Suzette Mayr, the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of The Sleeping Car Porter. Register now, and you can win a signed copy of The Sleeping Car Porter. Don’t miss this exclusive event with one of Canada’s top writers!
The Sleeping Car Porter is set in the early 20th century and is important in the context of Black Canadian history and the labour rights movement. This era experienced the growth of the civil rights movement, challenges to systemic racism, and the emergence of unions.
Black workers, like the protagonist Baxter, were at the forefront of these campaigns. They faced difficult working conditions and discrimination while also growing the Black middle class. This crucial moment is key to understanding Canada’s complex history of racism, labour struggles, and the fight for equality.
Online Webinar: Reflections on the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent
Join us for an illuminating webinar on Tuesday, February 27, at 7 pm (ET) as we delve into the goals, achievements, and lasting impact of the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent. During this event, we will reflect on the strides made toward advancing the visibility, well-being, and rights of the 200 million people belonging to the African diaspora.
We will be joined by a panel of distinguished advocates, each who has dedicated their career to championing the human rights of the Black diaspora communities in Canada and around the world:
- Gaynel Curry, Independent Expert Member of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent
- Evelyn Myrie, President, Hamilton Afro-Caribbean Association in Hamilton, Ont.
- Floydeen Charles-Fridal, Executive Director, Caribbean African Canadian Social Services in Toronto
Agapi Gessesse, Chair of Amnesty International Canada’s Board of Directors and the CEO of Toronto’s CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals, will moderate the event.
Take Action During Black History Month
Support the Black Class Action Lawsuit
After experiencing anti-Black racism within the Public Service of Canada, Black workers are pursuing justice in the courts through a proposed class action. The claim is brought on behalf of current and former workers and job applicants who allege they were excluded from hiring and promotion opportunities throughout the Public Service because of systemic discrimination.
The Black Class Action is seeking compensation for discrimination and the implementation of a Justice and Equity Promotional Plan for the hiring and promotion of Black employees, and the implementation of a mental health fund to support people dealing with the devastating effects of discrimination.
Honor Nell Toussaint’s Legacy
Urge Canada to Grant Health Care to All, Regardless of Immigration Status
On January 9, 2023, the international human rights movement lost a groundbreaking human rights defender and champion, Nell Toussaint. Ms. Toussaint fought courageously for equal access to essential health care for people with irregular immigration status in Canada, herself having been denied access to public health benefits due to her irregular migrancy status, placing her life at risk and leading to serious long-term health consequences. When the Canadian justice system failed to recognize her claim to the right to life and non-discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Ms. Toussaint successfully brought her case to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, achieving a precedent-setting decision in 2018 that the right to life under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) covers “essential health care to prevent a reasonably foreseeable risk that can result in loss of life.”
Unconscionably, Canada stated that it disagreed with the Human Rights Committee’s views and would not implement its decision. Canada refuses to ensure access to essential health care to people with irregular immigration status and has now, tragically, denied Ms. Toussaint justice in her lifetime. The Canadian government has maintained this position despite its international legal duty to implement treaties in good faith, including the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which Canada voluntarily ratified to give the UN Human Rights Committee jurisdiction to hear individual cases, like Ms. Toussaint’s.