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When did Canada officially recognize Black History Month?

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1 February 2022 marks the launch of the 27th annual commemoration of Black History Month. It was on 14 December 1995 that the Canadian House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month, following a motion introduced by the first black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine, P.C., C.M., O.Ont., C.B.E. (9 September 1937 – ). The motion "That this House take note of the important contribution of black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, the diversity of the black community in Canada and its importance to the history of this country, and recognize February as black history month" was carried unanimously. During the last four centuries black people in Canada have had a rich history of making significant contributions in all sectors of society – commencing with Mathieu da Costa (? – c.1607) who can be traced to be the first recorded black person to set foot in Canada. A linguist and interpreter, Da Costa was a free black Portuguese Moor who was part of the exploring party of Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons (1558–1628) and Samuel de Champlain (1567–1635) in the early 17th century. One of the earliest known commemorative plaques honouring black Canadians is that of a tablet erected at the Ontario Legislative Building in Toronto, Ontario, in memory of those who served with the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, during the Great War.

André M. Levesque

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