The Impact of Black Women on Canadian Society
Zaena Harrison

Bramalea Secondary School


As a people, blacks have come so far but still have further to go. For instance, black women have endured much discrimination over the years but still manage to triumph despite the stigma society once placed upon them. Women like my seventh grade teacher, Ms. Nunes, and the late political activist Rosemary Brown have made an impact on the structure of Canadian society and have helped lay down the foundation for the extremely diverse and accepting country that we live in today.

My seventh grade French teacher, Ms. Nunes, has made a positive impact on the community and is a great role model for her students. Upon interviewing her, it is clear that she has overcome many obstacles to get to where she is today. “Growing up in Brampton was not how it is today”, she said. One of her first experiences of racial discrimination occurred when her second grade teacher recommended she leave the French Immersion program without explanation. When assessed by school administrators it was proven that she was in fact gifted, especially in regards to language. She attended Queen's University and was subjected to discrimination yet again, this time by her peers, who made comments about her background as well as her being from the public school system—seeing as most of them had attended private schools. She has been able to overcome these experiences and keep moving forward all the while being understanding and not allowing them to change who she is. These are the values she instills in her students as well. She teaches them to be open-minded and always says "I want to see you in the paper for doing something positive." The values her students learn are being carried out of the classroom and changing the community for the better.

The late politician Rosemary Brown was an activist who fought for gender equality and encouraged many other women to do the same, and in doing so made a lasting impact on society. Brown moved to Montreal, Canada from Jamaica to attend McGill University in the year 1950. It was then that she was faced with the nightmare that is racial prejudice for the first time in her life. Brown once said: "To be black and female in a society which is both racist and sexist is to be in the unique position of having nowhere to go but up." This is exactly what she did. Brown encouraged many other women of different races to join the feminist movement and fight for gender equality. Brown made political history when she became the first black woman to win a seat in a provincial legislature [British Columbia]. Brown played a very important role in introducing legislation that "prohibited the discrimination due to marital status or sex." Because of her, British Columbia was the first provincial government in Canada to fund a shelter for battered women as well as rape relief centres. She fought for social justice and equality for the women of Canada and played a fundamental part in making Canada a country well known for its gender equality. Canada is an equal and diverse society. We have been able to improve the lives of many female refugees from all around the world, as well as improving the lives of women who have experienced many different types of discrimination across Canada.

As a young black female, my life has been impacted by these exceptional women as they are a constant inspiration and reminder that my generation can make a positive change in the community, and that one person really can make a difference. These women have directly, as well as indirectly, influenced who I am as a person. Their courage and strength have motivated me as well as countless others. Role models such as these are inspiring a new generation of leaders, and each generation is getting closer to social equality. If people such as these powerful women continue to make a lasting impression on the youth of Canada, then as a country we will continue to make progress.

Amazing leaders such as Ms. Nunes and Rosemary Brown continue to make a lasting impression on the community and society, and have changed the very structure of Canada. Anyone can make a difference in the world around them, but what sets these women apart from the average Canadian citizen is their willingness to take action. Dr. Seuss' the Lorax could not have used better words, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” Ms. Nunes and Rosemary Brown cared "a whole awful lot." and I want to be able to show that I do too.

Works cited:
Forster, Merna. 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces. Toronto: Dundum, 2011.

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.