by Frederick H. Lowe
A Canadian legislator recently introduced legislation in the Ontario provincial parliament, which if passed, would honor the first-black Canadian to serve in the national government as a cabinet member
Ted Arnott, a Member of the Provincial Parliament, the equivalent of the state legislature, introduced on Oct. 31 legislation titled, “An Act to Proclaim Lincoln Alexander Day in the Ontario Legislature. The body is located in Toronto, Canada’s largest city based on population. The legislative building is called Queen’s Park, which is named in honor of Queen Victoria.
Lincoln Alexander, who died Oct. 19, 2012, at the age of 90, served as Minister of Labor from 1979 to 1980 in the government of Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark. Alexander also served as lieutenant governor of Ontario after being appointed to the position in 1985 by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Alexander, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, was lieutenant governor in 1990, when Arnott, a freshman legislator, first met him.
Arnott, also a Progressive Conservative, received support for legislation honoring Alexander from a member of Liberal Party, the party in power, and a member of the New Democrats. Canada has three major political parties. The legislation is co-sponsored by Bas Balkissoon, a Liberal member of the provincial parliament (MPP) and Paul Miller, a New Democrat member of the provincial parliament.
Alexander’s second wife, Marni Beal Alexander, and family members Joyce Alexander and Erika Alexander, also attended the ceremony, as did Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society.
The legislation was first read on October 31. “After it was read, there was a standing ovation,” Arnott told The NorthStar News & Analysis. A second reading followed by a vote is scheduled for November 28, he added.
If the bill passes, Jan. 21, 2014, would be the first day designated Lincoln Alexander Day in Ontario. Each successive January 21 also would be designated Lincoln Alexander day. Alexander was born Jan. 21, 1922. It would not be a statutory holiday, one during which stores and government offices would close, said Arnott, whose legislative district of Wellington-Halton Hills, is near Toronto.
Similar legislation honoring Lincoln Alexander was introduced in a 2007 by Jennifer Mossop, a Liberal member of the Provincial Parliament, but it failed when she did not run for re-election.
“He was an outstanding Canadian who overcame racism,” said Arnott, adding that he came up with idea of honoring Alexander while attending an event in the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario “I was thinking of his time as chancellor at Guelph, and it struck me that there should be some kind of official recognition to honor him.”
Alexander was University of Guelph’s longest-serving chancellor, first appointed to the position in 1991. He served until 2007. A scholarship, several Ontario schools and buildings are named in his honor. Alexander Hall on the University of Guelph’s campus also is named in his honor.
At 81, Alexander headed the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, which dealt with racial profiling by the police.
Alexander served in a variety of other posts. He was also a Member of Parliament and chair of the Workers Compensation Board.
He first ran for office in 1968 as a candidate in the Hamilton West, Ontario, electoral district. He won successive elections before stepping down in 1980.