Premier John Horgan, Rachna Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, and Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education, have released the following statement in celebration of Black History Month:
“February is Black History Month, which is an opportunity to honour, celebrate and reflect on the stories, experiences and accomplishments of Black Canadians.
“Members of Black communities first arrived in B.C. in 1858, seeking a place free of oppression where they could make a life for themselves and their families. Since that time, Black communities with diverse histories and cultures have played a vital role in shaping this province.
“There are many examples of remarkable Black figures in our province. From William Allen Jones, the first dentist in B.C. to be granted a licence under the British Columbia Dental Act in 1886, to Eleanor Collins, Canada’s First Lady of Jazz who played a significant role in the development of B.C.’s music business. As the first Black artist in North America to host a nationally broadcast TV show, Collins is an inspiration to many.
“Despite these important contributions, members of Black communities are all too often met with the same oppression and racism here in B.C. that they had been trying to escape. From the destruction of Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver in 1972 to the ongoing systemic racism in government programs and services, Black British Columbians continue to face unjust barriers in their daily lives.
“As government, we must do better. It is not enough just to acknowledge the past actions that harmed Black communities in British Columbia. We must deliver meaningful action to better support Black British Columbians now and into the future.
“We have already started this work by proclaiming Emancipation Day for the first time in B.C.’s history last year. We also continue to work with community organizations to identify new teacher and student resources with an anti-racism lens, support the teaching of Black history topics in the K-12 curriculum and build on the work underway through the provincial K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan.
“Alongside this, we are providing supports to Black business owners and entrepreneurs, and soon will be introducing anti-racism data legislation, which will help to pave the way to better outcomes for Black communities.
“We’re also committed to recognizing the International Decade for People of African Descent and have met with community organizations on various topics over the past year – including health care, mental health, education and support for businesses – to better understand the needs of Black communities. We will be sharing more on how we’ll move forward on this commitment in the coming months.
“We want to acknowledge the community members and organizations who are speaking out against systemic racism and discrimination, while continually pushing for social justice and equity for everyone. Their examples inspire us to reflect on how we need to improve, both as government and as individuals.
“As we consider what Black History Month means in 2022, we encourage British Columbians to take the time to learn more about Black histories and how Black Canadians have shaped our communities and our province.
“At the same time, we must take this moment to reaffirm our commitment to being anti-racist and standing against racism and hatred in all its forms. Together, we can build a brighter future for all British Columbians.”