February: Black History Month in Canada

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Black history in Canada is found in very few of our books. The month of February is therefore an opportunity to talk about it, to become aware of the past and the path that remains to be traveled. Here is a host of resources and activity ideas to talk about it in high school, also integrating digital!

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The origin of Black History Month dates back to the beginning of the 20the century. When it first started, the event only lasted a week. It was an American historian, Carter G. Woodson, who was the instigator of Black Week in February 1926, Tea Negro History Week. Woodson chose the month of February because it coincided with the month of the birthdays of two great slavery abolitionists, namely Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

“Black Week became Black History Month in 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial celebrations. This event was intended to commemorate black history in a more faithful and objective way. It is celebrated in major urban centers in North America, Africa, France, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. »

Source: Intercultural Quebec

Today, Black History Month aims in particular to highlight, by recalling historical facts, the contribution of black communities to the development of our society.

"The epic of Blacks in North America, unlike Whites, is characterized by the fact that many of them arrived here against their will. They were forced into slavery and this experience created chaos in their communities for generations. Canada played a role in freeing and, in some cases, returning many of the slaves to Africa. But for others, returning home was no longer an option."
Source: Radio-Canada International

“Each year, Black History Month highlights the contribution of black communities to the development of Quebec society and pays tribute to personalities recognized for their commitment to making Quebec a dynamic, open and inclusive society”.
Source: Immigration and cultural communities of Quebec

"Black History Month, from February 1 to 28, takes on a very special dimension this year. It comes on the heels of the passing of a great man, Nelson Mandela, and at a time when Quebec is vigorously debating identity and immigration."
Source: La Presse

The following activity ideas will help to better understand the reasons why Black History Month is celebrated in many countries, including Canada.

African-Canadians, a story that dates back to the founding of Quebec

It's a fact: the history of African-Americans is talked about more in the media than that of African-Canadians. But why? This is an excellent question that deserves to be explored with the students.

In fact, the best-known black history referent we have in Canada is that of the African-American slaves who fled the United States to seek refuge in our country in the late 1700s, early 1800s.

But it was long before that, in the 1600s, that black history in Canada began to take shape. Indeed, in 1608, Samuel de Champlain had a black interpreter by his side, Mathieu da Costa, when he came to found Quebec. This African was not considered a slave and he officially represents the first black person to have arrived in Canada. On the other hand, other African-Canadians as well as several Aboriginal people were not so lucky and were slaves until 1834, the year of the complete abolition of slavery in Canada.

Mathieu Da Costa (CNW Group / Canada Post)

The history of blacks in Canada is only found in very few of our books, so the month of February devoted to it is an opportunity to talk about it, to become aware of the past and the road that remains to be traveled. It is also a good time to get to know others better and to counter prejudices or racism.

“For some, it is absurd to devote a month to a group of individuals based solely on their skin. Others argue that confining this story to a single month favors it being overlooked for the rest of the year. Let's be clear, black history is not just a question of skin color, and devoting a month to collective memory in no way prevents the celebration of emblematic figures from the past or contemporary, to cultural sharing and to raising awareness of the realities and issues of black communities the rest of the year. "

Journal Métro, February 7, 2019

In early February 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Willie O'Ree, who in January 1958 became the first-ever black player in the National Hockey League (NHL):

“Mr. O'Ree, the 'Jackie Robinson of hockey', has served as Director of Youth Development and Diversity Ambassador for the NHL since 1998. He argues that any young person who has a big dream should remember that the only way to get there is through hard work. »

La Presse, February 1, 2021

To learn more about what led to the creation of Black History Month in Canada, you can watch this short video of the Honorable Bardish Chagger, who was in 2021 federal Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth:

Here is also a video from Radio-Canada aimed at the youngest:


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Several shocking situations of racism regularly make the headlines here and elsewhere in the world. Based on an event that particularly marked them, suggest that your students use a digital tool of their choice (blog, audio recording, video, etc.) to communicate their thoughts on the subject.


At the end of these activities, students will have reflected on issues of indifference, tolerance and intolerance related to Black history, particularly in Canada.


Disciplines and levels targeted

Ethics and Religious Culture
- Tolerance
History of Quebec and Canada
- 1608-1760: the evolution of colonial society under the authority of the French metropolis (slavery)
- Write various texts (blog)

Targeted dimensions of digital competence

  • Developing and mobilizing technological skills
  • Producing content with digital
  • Developing and mobilizing information literacy
  • Communicating via digital technology
  • Developing critical thinking with regard to the use of digital technology

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With the collaboration of Maxime Laflamme, Audrey Miller and Prof Numéric.

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