Canada only joined in the tradition of its neighbour to the south, when, in 1996, Jean Augustine, the first black woman elected to the House of Commons, introduced a motion to recognize February as Black History Month. In 2008 the Canadian Senate passed the motion as well.
The history of people of African descent extends backward in Canada to the 1600s. Canada became a destination for slaves escaping from the United States, although Canada itself did have a much smaller legacy of slavery until it was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833. Slavery was legal at least in parts of the US until 1865 when the Civil War ended, but racism lingered, especially in the South, for much longer, pushing the African-American community northward, in some cases all the way to Canada.
Canada now counts vibrant Black communities from Africa and the Caribbean, augmented by healthy immigration each year. As Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, said to mark the occasion “Canadians of Caribbean and African descent have done much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation we know today.”
A notable immigrant of Caribbean descent is Michaëlle Jean, who immigrated to Canada from Haiti in 1968, eventually rising to be the country’s Governor General, which is the Queen of England’s representative in the country.