The Voice of Canada
By Asha Gordon

Gordon Graydon Memorial Secondary School


Canada today stages many celebrations depicting its diverse and rich culture. Throughout Canada’s history, many black individuals have triumphed over their highly marginalized status to stake a claim in Canadian history. Their stories woven together have contributed to the creation of the mosaic that is Canadian identity. However, the stories and voice of these Canadian heroes are not as widely celebrated given the role they have played throughout our history in shaping this diverse culture. It is essential for the unity of a nation, its identity and culture that all its voices are heard and given equal prominence. Two black individuals who have played a part in meeting this essential need and have made an immeasurable contribution to Canadian identity are Mary-Ann Shadd Cary and Carrie Best.

Upon arrival in Canada, Shadd Cary founded a non-segregated school in Windsor, Ontario, giving all its students, white and black, the opportunity to become literate and make a more effective contribution to society. She continued this theme of emphasizing and promoting the black race when she became the first black woman in North America to start and publish a newspaper. Shadd Cary’s newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, formed in 1853 was based on her fundamental belief that it was through self-reliance and assimilation that freedom was achieved. Provincial Freeman focused on sharing the triumphs and success of black people living in Canada. This had the ultimate effect of motivating other aspiring and ambitious black Canadians. This newspaper, and Shadd Cary’s part in starting and publishing it, is a pivotal example of a time in Canadian history where one individual accomplished the goal of highlighting not only cultural diversity and points of view, but also emphasized the importance of valuing the different voices and diversity across Canada.

Another black Canadian individual who epitomizes the importance of diverse stories and culture as an expression and representation of the values, beliefs and customs of all of Canada is Carrie Best. Carrie Best is a known civil rights activist within Western Canada who decided to take the next step in protecting and encouraging the views and rights of black people in Canada when she founded the first black-owned and black-published newspaper in Nova Scotia, Canada, The Clarion in 1946. The Clarion provided a place for black voices on controversial cases of segregation and other racial struggles. Best’s work The Clarion emphasized the fact that social struggles do not involve a single person, but instead involve whole communities and the entire nation. Best carried forward this foundation of placing importance on social issues in Canada with her radio program, The Quiet Corner. The Quiet Corner, founded by Best in 1952, was the first black-owned radio show in Canada and was broadcasted across the nation and therefore gave more prominence to the stories and voices of the black race in communities across Canada.

The work of Mary-Ann Shadd Cary and Carrie Best exemplify to me, perseverance, bravery and dedication to the cause of social equality and diversity in Canada. Moreover, their stories show me and other young individuals the importance of sharing the stories and values that contribute to building the history and identity of this country. The strong character of many blacks in their efforts and triumphs to create a space for people of colour in a restrictive society has paved the way for change in Canada by bringing attention to all voices in Canada, irrespective of colour, class or creed.