1st row: Oscar Peterson • Michaëlle Jean • Ferguson Jenkins • Anderson Ruffin Abbott
2nd row: Josiah Henson • Donovan Bailey • Deborah Cox • Mathieu de Costa
3rd row: William Hall • Jarome Iginla • Marlene Jennings • Clement Virgo
4th row: Kardinal Offishall • Elijah McCoy • Austin Clarke • Jamaal Magloire
2.88% of the total Canadian population (2011)
|Regions with significant populations|
|British Columbia||33,260 (0.77%)|
|Nova Scotia||20,790 (2.29%)|
|Canadian English • Canadian French • Caribbean English • Haitian Creole • African languages|
|Predominantly Christianity (95%)
|Related ethnic groups|
|Afro-Caribbean • African American • Black British • African Australian|
Black Canadian is a designation used for people of Black African descent, who are citizens or permanent residents of Canada. The term specifically refers to Canadians with partial or direct Sub-Saharan African ancestry. The majority of Black Canadians are of Caribbean origin.
Black Canadians and other Canadians often draw a distinction between those of Afro-Caribbean ancestry and those of other African roots. The term African Canadian is sometimes used by Black Canadians who trace their heritage to the first slaves brought by British and French colonists to the mainland of North America, but many Blacks of Caribbean origin in Canada reject the term African Canadian as an elision of the uniquely Caribbean aspects of their heritage, and instead identify as Caribbean Canadian. Unlike in the United States where African American is a widely accepted term, due to these tensions and controversies between the African and Caribbean communities, the term "Black Canadian" is accepted in the Canadian context.
Black Canadians have contributed to many areas of Canadian culture. Many of the first visible minorities to hold high public offices have been Black, including Michaëlle Jean, Donald Oliver, Stanley G. Grizzle, Rosemary Brown and Lincoln Alexander, in turn opening the door for other minorities. Black Canadians form the third largest visible minority group in Canada, after South Asian and Chinese people.
According to the 2006 Census by Statistics Canada, 783,795 Canadians identified themselves as black, constituting 2.5% of the entire Canadian population. Of the black population, 11% identified themselves as a mixed-race of "white and black". The five largest provinces of black population in 2006 were Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. The ten largest census metropolitan areas of black population were Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Halifax, and Oshawa. Preston, in the Halifax area, is the community with the highest percentage of blacks, with 69.4%.
Demographics and Census issuesEdit
At times, it has been claimed that Black Canadians have been significantly undercounted in census data. Writer George Elliott Clarke has cited a McGill University study which found that fully 43 per cent of all Black Canadians were not counted as black in the 1991 Canadian census, because they had identified themselves on census forms as British, French or other cultural identities which were not included in the census group of Black cultures.
Although subsequent censuses have reported the population of Black Canadians to be much more consistent with the McGill study's revised 1991 estimate than with the official 1991 census data, no recent study has been conducted to determine whether some Black Canadians are still substantially missed.
One of the ongoing controversies in the Black Canadian community revolves around appropriate terminologies. Many Canadians of Afro-Caribbean origin strongly object to the term "African Canadian", as it obscures their own culture and history, and this partially accounts for the term's less prevalent use in Canada, compared to the consensus "African American" south of the border.
Black Nova Scotians, a more distinct cultural group of who some can trace their ancestry back to the 1700s use both terms, African Canadian and Black Canadian. For example the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Black Cultural Center.
"Caribbean Canadian" is often used to refer to Black Canadians of Caribbean heritage, although this usage can also be controversial because the Caribbean is not populated only by people of African origin, but also includes large groups of Indo-Caribbeans, Chinese Caribbeans, European Caribbeans, Syrian or Lebanese Caribbeans, Latinos and Amerindians. The term "West Indian" is often used by those of Caribbean ancestry, although the term is more of a cultural description than a racial one, and can equally be applied to groups of many different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The term "Afro-Caribbean-Canadian" is occasionally used in response to this controversy, although as of 2013, this term is still not widely seen in common usage.
More specific national terms such as "Jamaican Canadian", "Haitian Canadian" or "Ghanaian Canadian" are also used. As of 2013, however, there is no widely used alternative to "Black Canadian" that is accepted by the Afro-Caribbean population, those of more recent African extraction, and descendants of immigrants from the United States as an umbrella term for the whole group.
One increasingly common practice, seen in academic usage and in the names and mission statements of some Black Canadian cultural and social organizations but not yet in universal nationwide usage, is to always make reference to both the African and Caribbean communities. For example, one key health organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention in the Black Canadian community is now named the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario, the Toronto publication Pride bills itself as an "African-Canadian and Caribbean-Canadian news magazine", and G98.7, a Black-oriented community radio station in Toronto, was initially branded as Caribbean African Radio Network.
One of the more noted aspects of Black Canadian history is that while the majority of African Americans trace their presence in the United States through the history of slavery, the Black presence in Canada is rooted almost entirely in voluntary immigration. Despite the various dynamics that may complicate the personal and cultural interrelationships between descendents of the Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia, descendents of former American slaves who viewed Canada as the promise of freedom at the end of the Underground Railroad, and more recent immigrants from the Caribbean or Africa, one common element that unites all of these groups is that they're in Canada because they or their ancestors actively chose of their own free will to settle there.
First black people in CanadaEdit
The first recorded black person to set foot on land now known as Canada was a free man named Mathieu de Costa. Travelling with navigator Samuel de Champlain, de Costa arrived in Nova Scotia some time between 1603 and 1608 as a translator for the French explorer Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts. The first known black person to live in what would become Canada was a slave from Madagascar named Olivier Le Jeune, who may have been of partial Malay ancestry. As a group, black people arrived in Canada in several waves. The first of these came as free persons serving in the French Army and Navy, though some were enslaved or indentured servants.
African Americans during the American RevolutionEdit
At the time of the American Revolution, inhabitants of the United States had to decide where their future lay. Those loyal to the British Crown were called United Empire Loyalists and came north. White American Loyalists brought their African American slaves with them, numbering approximately 2,500 individuals. The British also evacuated an additional 3,500 formerly enslaved Black Americans, who had gained their freedom through Lord Dunmore's Proclamation which guaranteed freedom to slaves that ran away from their masters and worked for the British. Others made their way to the colonies of British North America, settling predominantly in Nova Scotia. This latter group was largely made up of tradespeople and labourers, and many set up home in Birchtown near Shelburne. Some settled in New Brunswick, and like those who had settled in Nova Scotia they were subjected to discriminatory treatment often at the hands of prominent landowners who held slaves. Some of the refugees had been free blacks prior to the war and fled with the other refugees to Nova Scotia relying on British promises of equality. The charter of the city of Saint John was amended in 1785 specifically to exclude blacks from practising a trade, selling goods, fishing in the harbour, or becoming freemen; these provisions stood until 1870.
In 1782, the first race riot in North America took place in Shelburne with white soldiers attacking the African American settlers who were getting work that the soldiers thought they should have. Due to the unkept promises of the British government and discrimination on the part of white colonists, 1,192 African American men, women and children left Nova Scotia for West Africa on 15 January 1792 and settled in what is now Sierra Leone, where they became the original settlers of Freetown. They, along with other groups of free transplanted people such as the Black Poor from England, became what is now the Sierra Leone Creole people, also known as the Krio.
Maroons from the CaribbeanEdit
On June 26, 1796, Jamaican Maroons, numbering 543 men, women and children, were deported on board the ships Dover, Mary and Anne from Jamaica, after being defeated in an uprising against the British colonial government. Their initial destination was Lower Canada but on July 21 and 23, the ships arrived in Nova Scotia. At this time Halifax was experiencing a major construction boom initiated by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn's efforts to modernize the city's defences. The many building projects had created a labour shortage. Edward was impressed by the Maroons and immediately put them to work at the Citadel in Halifax, Government House, and other defence works throughout the city. Funds had been provided by the Government of Jamaica to aid in the resettlement of the Maroons. Five thousand acres was purchased at Preston at a cost of £3000. Small farm lots where provided to the Maroons and they attempted to farm the infertile land. Like the former tenants that were poor, they occupied horrible and unproductive land at Preston; as a result they had minor success. A reason the Maroons found farming in Nova Scotia difficult is because the climate would not allow their customary food crops such as bananas, yams, pineapples or cocoa to grow. Small numbers of Maroons relocated from Preston to Boydville for better farming land. The British Lieutenant Governor Sir John Wentworth made an effort to change the Maroons’ culture and beliefs by introducing them to Christianity. From the monies provided by the Jamaican Government, Wentworth procured an annual stipend of £240 for the support of a school and religious education. The Maroons were not interested in converting from their own religion to Christianity. They were very strong, opinionated people, and would not work for less money than an average white person.
After suffering through the harsh winter of 1796–1797, Wentworth reported the Maroons expressed a desire that "they wish to be sent to India or somewhere in the east, to be landed with arms in some country with a climate like that they left, where they may take possession with a strong hand." The British Government and Wentworth opened discussions with the Sierra Leone Company in 1799 to send the Maroons to Sierra Leone. The Jamaican Government had in 1796 initially planned to send the Maroons to Sierra Leone but the Sierra Leone Company rejected the idea. The initial reaction in 1799 was the same but the Company was eventually persuaded to accept the Maroon settlers. On August 6, 1800 the Maroons departed Halifax, arriving on October 1 at Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Upon their arrival in West Africa in 1800, they were used to quell an uprising among the previous settlers mentioned above, who after eight years were unhappy with their treatment by the Sierra Leone Company.
The abolition of slaveryEdit
The Canadian climate made it uneconomic to keep slaves year-round, unlike the plantation agriculture practised in the southern United States and Caribbean, and slavery within the colonial economy became increasingly rare. Not all owners were white. For example, the powerful Mohawk leader Joseph Brant bought an African American named Sophia Burthen Pooley, whom he kept for about 12 years before selling her for $100. In 1793, John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, attempted to abolish slavery. That same year, the new Legislative Assembly there became the first entity in the British Empire to restrict slavery, confirming existing ownership but allowing for anyone born to a female slave after that date to be freed at the age of 25. Slavery was all but abolished throughout the other British North American colonies by 1800, and was illegal throughout the British Empire by 1834. This made Canada an attractive destination for those fleeing slavery in the United States, such as minister Boston King. Furthermore, on 24 March 1837, black men in Canada were given the right to vote.
The Anti-Slavery Society of Canada estimated in its first report in 1852 that the "coloured population of Upper Canada" was about 30,000, of whom almost all adults were "fugitive slaves". St. Catharines had a population of 6,000 at that time; 800 of them were "of African descent".
War of 1812Edit
The next major migration of blacks occurred between 1813 and 1815. Refugees from the War of 1812, primarily from the Chesapeake Bay and Georgia Sea Islands fled the United States to settle in Hammonds Plains, Beechville, Lucasville, North Preston, East Preston, and Africville. A Black Loyalist named Richard Pierpoint, who was born about 1744 in Senegal and who had settled near present-day St. Catharines, Ontario, offered to organize a Corps of Men of Colour; this was refused but a white officer raised a small black corps. This "Coloured Corps" fought at Queenston Heights and the siege of Fort George, defending what would become Canada from the invading American army.
The Underground RailroadEdit
There is a sizable community of Black Canadians in Nova Scotia and Southern Ontario who trace their ancestry to African American slaves who used the Underground Railroad to flee from the United States, seeking refuge and freedom in Canada. From the late 1820s until the American Civil War began in 1861, the Underground Railroad brought tens of thousands of fugitive slaves to Canada. While many of these returned to the United States after emancipation, a significant population remained, largely in Southern Ontario, widely scattered in both rural and urban locations, including Toronto.
In 1858, James Douglas, the governor of the British colony of Vancouver Island, replied to an inquiry from a group of blacks in San Francisco about the possibilities of settling in his jurisdiction. Governor Douglas, whose mother was a "free coloured" person of mixed black and white ancestry, replied favourably, and, at the outbreak of the Cariboo Gold Rush, several dozen of these African American migrants travelled to Victoria. Two of them, Peter Lester and Mifflin Gibbs, became successful merchants there, and Gibbs was elected to the City Council in the 1860s.
In the late nineteenth century, there was an unofficial policy of restricting blacks from immigration. The huge influx of immigrants from Europe and the United States in the period before World War I included only very small numbers of black arrivals. This was formalised in 1911 by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier: "His excellency in Council, in virtue of the provisions of Sub-section (c) of Section 38 of the Immigration Act, is pleased to Order and it is hereby Ordered as follows: For a period of one year from and after the date hereof the landing in Canada shall be and the same is prohibited of any immigrants belonging to the Negro race, which race is deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada." (Compare with the White Australia policy.)
Early 20th centuryEdit
The flow between the United States and Canada continued in the twentieth century. A wave of immigration occurred in the 1920s, with blacks from the Caribbean coming to work in the steel mills of Cape Breton, replacing those who had come from Alabama in 1899. Some Black Canadians trace their ancestry to people who fled racism in Oklahoma, Texas, and other American Great Plains states in the early 1900s to move north to Alberta and Saskatchewan. (See for example those buried in the Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery in Saskatchewan.) Many of them encountered racism when they arrived in Canada, which they had regarded as the Promised Land. Many of Canada's railway porters came from the U.S. as well, with many coming from the South, New York City and Washington, D.C., and mainly settling in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. A noted cause célèbre in the 1920s was the case of Matthew Bullock who fled to Canada to avoid a potential lynching in North Carolina and fought extradition.
Late 20th century and early 21st centuryEdit
The restrictions on immigration remained until 1962, when racial rules were eliminated from the immigration laws. This coincided with the dissolution of the British Empire in the Caribbean, and over the next decades several hundred thousand blacks came from that region, establishing themselves as the dominant black population in Canada. Since then, an increasing number of immigrants from Africa have been coming to Canada, as is also the case in the United States and Europe. This includes large numbers of refugees, but also many skilled workers pursuing better economic conditions. Today's Black Canadians are largely of Caribbean origin, with some of recent African origin, and smaller numbers from Latin American countries.
However, a sizable number of Black Canadians who descended from freed American slaves can still be found in Nova Scotia and parts of Southwestern Ontario. Some descendants of the freed American black slaves have mixed into the white Canadian community and have mostly lost their ethnic identity. Some of the descendants went back to the United States. Bangor, Maine, for example, received quite a few Black Canadians from the Maritime provinces.
Like other recent immigrants to Canada, Black Canadian immigrants have settled preferentially in provinces matching the language of their country of origin. Thus, in 2001, 90% of Canadians of Haitian origin lived in Quebec, while 85% of Canadians of Jamaican origin lived in Ontario.
In 1975, a museum honouring Black Canadians, as well as African Americans, was established in Amherstburg, Ontario, entitled the North American Black Historical Museum. Though closed for several years, it re-opened in 2001. In Atlantic Canada there is the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, a similar establishment located in Cherrybrook, Nova Scotia.
- About 30% of Black Canadians have Jamaican heritage.
- An additional 32% have heritage elsewhere in the Caribbean or Bermuda.
- 60% of Black Canadians are under the age of 35.
- 57% of Black Canadians live in the province of Ontario.
- 97% of Black Canadians live in urban areas.
- There are 32,000 more black women than black men in Canada.
Below is a list of provinces by the number of Black Canadians in each province with percentages.
|Province||Blacks 2001||% 2001||Blacks 2011||% 2011|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||840||0.2%||1,455||0.3%|
|Prince Edward Island||370||0.3%||390||0.3%|
List of census subdivisions with Black populations higher than the national averageEdit
- Shelburne (town) (13.8%)
- Digby (town) (8.4%)
- Yarmouth (town) (7.8%)
- Guysborough (7.6%)
- Digby (municipal district) (4.5%)
- New Glasgow (3.9%)
- Truro (3.9%)
- Amherst (3.9%)
- Halifax (3.6%)
- Ajax (16%)
- Brampton (13.5%)
- Pickering (11.4%)
- Toronto (8.5%)
- Mississauga (6.3%)
- Whitby (6.2%)
- Ottawa (5.7%)
- Windsor (4.6%)
- Milton (3.3%)
- Markham (3.2%)
- Oshawa (3.2%)
- Hamilton (city) (3.2%)
- Kitchener (3.1%)
Although many Black Canadians live in integrated communities, there have also been a number of notable Black communities, both as unique settlements and as Black-dominated neighbourhoods in urban centres.
The most famous and historically documented Black settlement in Canadian history is the community of Africville, a district located at the northern end of peninsular Halifax, Nova Scotia, which was demolished in the 1960s to facilitate the urban expansion of the city. Similarly, the Hogan's Alley neighbourhood in Vancouver was largely demolished in 1970, with only a single small laneway in Strathcona remaining.
The Wilberforce Colony in Ontario was also a historically Black settlement, which evolved demographically as Black settlers moved away and eventually became the Irish-dominated village of Lucan. A small group of Black settlers were also the original inhabitants of Saltspring Island.
Other notable Black settlements include North Preston in Nova Scotia, Priceville, Shanty Bay and parts of Chatham-Kent in Ontario such as South Buxton and Dresden, the Maidstone/Eldon area in Saskatchewan and Amber Valley in Alberta. North Preston currently has the highest concentration of Black Canadians in Canada, many of whom are descendants of Africville residents.
One of the most famous Black-dominated urban neighbourhoods in Canada is Montreal's Little Burgundy, regarded as the spiritual home of Canadian jazz due to its association with many of Canada's most influential early jazz musicians. In present-day Montreal, Little Burgundy and the boroughs of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Montréal-Nord have large Black populations, the latter of which has a large Haitian population.
In Toronto, many Blacks settled in St. John's Ward, a district which was located in the city's core. Others preferred to live in York Township, on the outskirts of the city. By 1850, there were more than a dozen Black businesses along King Street; the modern-day equivalent is Little Jamaica along Eglinton Avenue, which contains one of the largest concentrations of Black businesses in Canada.
Several urban neighbourhoods in Toronto, including Jane and Finch, Rexdale, Malvern, Weston, St. James Town, and Lawrence Heights, are popularly associated with Black Canadians, although all are much more racially diverse than is commonly believed. The Toronto suburbs of Brampton and Ajax also have sizeable Black populations, which have migrated outward from Toronto over the past decade. (Ajax has the highest percentage of Blacks of any municipality of 5,000 or more in Canada, with 16%.) The Greater Toronto Area is home to a highly educated middle to upper middle class Black population who continue to migrate out of the city limits, into surrounding suburbs.
Media representation of Blacks in Canada has increased significantly in recent years, with television series such as Drop the Beat, Lord Have Mercy! and Da Kink in My Hair focusing principally on Black characters and communities.
The films of Clement Virgo, Sudz Sutherland and Charles Officer have been among the most prominent depictions of Black Canadians on the big screen. Notable films have included Sutherland's Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, Officer's Nurse.Fighter.Boy and Virgo's Rude.
In literature, the most prominent and famous Black Canadian writers have been Josiah Henson, George Elliott Clarke, Austin Clarke, Lawrence Hill, Dionne Brand and Dany Laferrière, although numerous emerging writers have gained attention in the 1990s and 2000s.
Since the late 19th century, Black Canadians have made significant contributions to the culture of sports, starting with the founding of the Coloured Hockey League in Nova Scotia. In North America's four major professional sports leagues, several Black Canadians have had successful careers, including Ferguson Jenkins (Baseball Hall of Fame member), Grant Fuhr (Hockey Hall of Fame member), Jarome Iginla, and Jamaal Magloire. In athletics, Harry Jerome, Ben Johnson, and Donovan Bailey were Canada's most prominent Black sprinters.
The largest and most famous Black Canadian cultural event is the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival (also known as Caribana), an annual festival of Caribbean Canadian culture in Toronto which typically attracts at least a million participants each year. The festival incorporates the diversities that exist among the Canadians of African and Caribbean descent.
Black Canadians have had a major influence on Canadian music, helping pioneer many genres including Canadian hip hop, Canadian blues, Canadian jazz, R&B, Caribbean music, pop music and classical music. Some of the earliest musical influences include Robert Nathaniel Dett, Portia White, Oscar Peterson and Charlie Biddle. Some Black Canadian musicians have enjoyed mainstream worldwide appeal in various genres, such as Dan Hill, Drake, Glenn Lewis, Tamia, Deborah Cox, Melanie Fiona, and Kardinal Offishall.
While African American culture is a significant influence on its Canadian counterpart, many African and Caribbean Canadians reject the suggestion that their own culture is not distinctive. In his first major hit single "BaKardi Slang", rapper Kardinal Offishall performed a lyric about Toronto's distinctive Black Canadian slang:
|“||We don't say 'you know what I'm sayin', T dot says 'ya dun know'
We don't say 'hey that's the breaks', we say 'yo, a so it go'
We don't say 'you get one chance', We say 'you better rip the show'...
Y'all talking about 'cuttin and hittin skins', We talkin bout 'beat dat face'...
You cats is steady saying 'word', My cats is steady yellin 'zeen'...
So when we singin about the girls we singin about the 'gyal dem'
Y'all talkin about 'say that one more time', We talkin about 'yo, come again'
Y'all talkin about 'that nigga's a punk', We talkin about 'that yout's a fosse'...
A shoe is called a 'crep', A big party is a 'fete'
Ya'll takin about 'watch where you goin!', We talkin about 'mind where you step!'
Because the visibility of distinctively Black Canadian cultural output is still a relatively recent phenomenon, academic, critical and sociological analysis of Black Canadian literature, music, television and film tends to focus on the ways in which cultural creators are actively engaging the process of creating a cultural space for themselves which is distinct from both mainstream Canadian culture and African American culture. For example, virtually all of the Black-themed television series which have been produced in Canada to date have been ensemble cast comedy or drama series centred around the creation and/or expansion of a Black-oriented cultural or community institution.
According to Statistics Canada's Ethnic Diversity Survey, released in September 2003, when asked about the five-year period from 1998 to 2002 nearly one-third (32%) of respondents who identified as black reported that they had been subjected to some form of racial discrimination or unfair treatment 'sometimes' or 'often'.
Throughout the years, many high profile cases of racism against Black Canadians have occurred in Nova Scotia giving it the title of "The Mississippi of the North". The province in Atlantic Canada continues to battle racism with an annual march to end racism against people of African descent.
- List of black Canadians
- African diaspora
- African-Canadian Heritage Tour
- List of topics related to Black and African people
- Slavery in Canada
- North American Black Historical Museum
- Black Nova Scotians
- Demographics of Canada
Sub-groups by country of originEdit
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (October 2012)|
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- Winks, Robin W (1997), The Blacks in Canada: a history, McGill-Queen's University Press, ISBN 0-7735-1631-X
- Walcott, Rinaldo (2003), Black like who?: writing Black Canada, Insomniac Press, ISBN 1-894663-40-3
- Williams, Dawn P (2006), Who's who in Black Canada two, Volume 2, D.P. Williams, ISBN 0-9731384-2-4
- Ebony Roots, Northern Soil A conference at McGill University and its legacy, an annotated compilation of online resources
- Alvin McCurdy – online exhibit at the Archives of Ontario
- Blacks in Canada: a Long History A Statistics Canada report by Anne Milan and Kelly Tran, Spring 2004
- Black History Canada A Historica Foundation annotated compilation of online resources
- Remembering Black Loyalists
- History of African Nova Scotians
- Underground Railroad Niagara's Freedom Trail
- Black Canada and the Journey to Freedom
- Alberta's Black Pioneer Heritage
- Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia
- Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society
- Buxton National Historic Site and Museum
- African Canadian Heritage Tour
-  An article by Claudette Knight on black education in 19th century Canada West