Creating the Canadian Dream: Rose Fortune
Canada, as opposed to some neighboring countries, has come a long way in terms of acceptance and tolerance. We, as Canadians, can proudly say that around the world, we are known as a country that is welcoming and open to all those fleeing danger and fear. These people look to Canada as a place where everyone, no matter their age, race, background or sexuality can dream, and where those dreams can become a reality with hard work and determination. However, this was not always the case; it is only because of leaders such as the inspirational Rose Fortune that Canada has become the great country it is today.
Rose Fortune’s life began humbly in Virginia; born into slavery, an official record of her birth is conspicuously absent, leaving only an estimate placing her birth on March 13 of 1774 (“Rose Fortune - a “Privileged Character””; Chandler). Unwilling to continue living their lives shackled in the chains of slavery, Fortune’s parents made an important decision that, unknowingly to them, would ultimately impact millions upon millions of future Canadians. At age ten, Fortune joined her parents on the voyage to a place of freedom - otherwise known as Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia (“Rose Fortune”).
Travelling over two thousand kilometers enabled the Fortune family to earn freedom from enslavement, but racial equality was still decades away. Furthermore, as a young black girl in a society weighed down with the boulders of sexism and racism, Fortune’s path to success was already peppered with roadblocks. Yet these obstacles had no effect on the courageous young Canadian. Determined to escape the quicksand of racial and gender-based stereotypes, Fortune cleverly used the resources available to her (work ethic, perseverance and a wheelbarrow), and established a small business hauling goods from arriving ships into the town (“The Naming of Fundy Rose”). Her onerous treks on foot not only earned her income and respect throughout the town, but also played a crucial role in normalizing the idea of women working and providing for themselves. Fortune’s persistence, however, did not stop even when her transport business became successful; in typical Fortune entrepreneurial spirit, she recognized a need in her town and fulfilled it, providing her voice as a makeshift alarm clock for those resting at inns who wished to catch a departing boat (“Rose Fortune”). She then demolished yet another barrier in becoming the very first policewoman in all of Canada, paving the way for generations of Canadians with the aspiration to protect and serve their country as part of the police force (“The Naming of Fundy Rose”). Fortune was tough. She was clever. She was incredibly brave. But most strikingly depicted in most accounts of her is her unrelenting willingness to work laboriously for every single penny that she earned.
Sadly, Fortune’s life ended much as it began - with no great fanfare or even recognition for all that she had accomplished. Where a multitude of praise should be inscribed on her gravestone, there is instead a blank slate, offering not even her name (“Rose Fortune, a Special Canadian!”). Even today she is not bestowed with the commendation she deserves; while the effects of her audacity and spirit linger in every black Canadian, every Canadian woman, and most notably every Canadian policewoman, it is a disappointing reality that her impactful existence is unknown to many. Nevertheless, the effect that her life has had on Canada as a country is indescribable.
None of Fortune’s success came easily; she was not born into a wealthy family, nor did she always have access to an education, or even what most Canadians take for granted today: freedom. As a black girl, society in her time offered her little choice other than to become an obedient wife or housemaid, but Fortune’s resistance to conform to these expectations gives hope to young girls everywhere who, like Fortune, dare to dream of a better future. Her success story is a beacon of light in the darkness blanketing the millions of people in our world today who, sadly, face debilitating oppression. And her tenacity sets an example for us, as Canadians, to work as hard as she did to achieve the future that she never got to experience - a future where anyone and everyone is respected for who they are, a future where anyone and everyone can succeed. Yes, Canada is the country of dreams, but it is far from perfect. Rose Fortune did her part in advancing Canada’s diversity and equality. Now? It’s our turn.
Chandler, D.L. “Rose Fortune, Canada's 1st Female Police Officer, Born On This Day In 1774.” News One, newsone.com/2277618/rose-fortune-loyalist/. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017. “The Naming of Fundy Rose.” Rose Fortune, Northumberland Ferries Limited and Bay Ferries Limited, www.ferries.ca/rose-fortune/. Accessed 27 Nov. 2017. “Rose Fortune.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/rose-fortune/. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017. “Rose Fortune - a "Privileged Character".” Annapolis Heritage Society, Annapolis Heritage Society, annapolisheritagesociety.com/community-history/notable-personalities-past/rose-fortune-privileged-character/. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017. “Rose Fortune, a Special Canadian!” African American Registry, African American Registry, www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/rose-fortune-special-canadian. Accessed 27 Nov. 2017.