Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute
Canada is a culturally diverse country, especially in Toronto where I'm from, which is by far the most multicultural city in Canada. Throughout history, black Canadians have helped to define Canada's diverse heritage in areas such as politics, culture and demographics. Viola Desmond, Rosemary Brown and Caribana are integral people and events that have shaped the social, political, and cultural landscape of our diverse and modern Canadian society.
Black women have made huge contributions and taken great strides to help form Canadian society. Rosemary Brown is known for being the first black woman to run for leadership of a federal political party. She is also known for her contribution in establishing women's rights and equality in Canada. In addition, Brown also fought to eradicate sexism from school textbooks and prohibit gender and marital based discrimination. Viola Desmond, another key figure in creating the path to contemporary Canadian society, was arrested and held overnight for sitting in the main area of a theatre reserved for whites while blacks were condemned to the balcony. She was fined $20 for her actions and took the case to the Supreme Court where she was represented by civil rights activist Dr. Carrie Best. The original verdict did not change, but Desmond and Best didn't stop there. Along with the support of the public, they successfully organized black people to lobby the government to repeal the province's segregation laws. In 1954 the Nova Scotia government backed down and repealed its discriminatory policies. The actions taken by Viola Desmond as well as Rosemary Brown paved the way for the politics we see in modern society to take place.
The immigration of black people to Canada has dramatically changed the overall culture of the country. Things such as music, food and tradition have been influenced by black Canadians. Black people have brought many of their diverse traditions to this country, one of which being the grand festival known as Carnival. The original Caribbean Carnival began in Trinidad and Tobago in 1785, where enslaved Africans dressed in masks and costumes designed to bring good fortune and scare away bad spirits. After slavery was abolished, the freed Africans brought this celebration to Canada. Today there are Carnival celebrations all over North America but none more compelling than the one hosted in Toronto every August known as Caribana. Every year nearly one million people attend Caribana and celebrate the tradition of Caribbean culture; all kinds of races from black, white, Chinese and Latino come to enjoy the parades, the food and especially the diverse selection of music. During Caribana all kinds of music are played, music solely based on celebration. Genres such as soca, dancehall and reggae dominate the playlists of most DJs during the event and everyone who goes loves the positive vibes and energy they receive from the music and people around them. Another thing we today enjoy due to black Canadians is great Caribbean food. Family favourites such as oxtail, rice & peas, roti and macaroni pie are foods everyone from any culture can enjoy. Caribbean culture has had a huge impact on Canada, making it more diverse with its food, music and traditions, which are all enjoyable for any and everyone.
Black Canadians and their immigration to Canada have shifted and redefined Canadian identity. A prime example of this is the intermixing between races that took place after the successive waves of immigration. Mixing races is possibly the highest degree of diversity one can achieve when it comes to changes in demographics. Take me for example, I'm what some people like to call a 'Heinz 57', a joke which is a way of saying I'm mixed with everything. My father's side hails from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and other parts of the Caribbean. My mother's side is mixed with Native-Canadian, Spanish, French, German, and so many other things I think I get a new answer every time I ask. All jokes aside, the population of Canada is changing due to all the mixed children being born, children born with parents who each have different cultures and get to learn both. If that isn't diversity, I don't know what is.
Since the first wave of immigration, black people have shifted the face of what it means to be Canadian. Canada's diversity has become a staple in its identity; we experience many different cultures on a daily basis and it was all made possible by the contributions of black Canadians.
The essays submitted pursuant to the RBC® Black History Month Student Essay Competition and provided herein are the original work of the students who have entered the Competition. Royal Bank of Canada assumes no responsibility for material that is false, inaccurate or violates or infringes upon the rights of third parties, including privacy and intellectual property rights.