It has been 25 years since the Government of Canada declared February as Black History Month. In 1995, the Honourable Jean Augustine (pictured above) coordinated a breakthrough unanimous vote to officially designate February as Black History Month in Canada. Augustine is the first Black woman elected as a Canadian Member of Parliament and the first Black woman appointed to the federal cabinet. She has held roles such as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, and continues to dedicate her life to advocate for social justice and equality.
History of Black Farmers in Ontario:
The Elgin settlement, known today as Buxton, Chatham-Kent, Ontario; was a black settlement developed by Reverend William King, a white minister in 1849 for formerly enslaved Black people. Despite opposition, King wanted to prove that, if Black people were given the same opportunities as white people, they could become self-sufficient and prosperous. This proved to be true because Buxton developed from a heavily forested, swampy wilderness to a self-reliant community with established businesses and developed crops.
Shannon Prince, a Black Canadian farmer, and her family can trace their roots in Southwestern Ontario back to when her husband’s great-great-great grandmother, Francis fled South Carolina and settled in Buxton. She contributed to the community by growing spring wheat, potatoes, beans, corn, and raising livestock. Over time, Shannon and her husband, Bryan Prince inherited and purchased land that belonged to their ancestors. Today, the couple have four children who live in the Buxton area and help farm part-time.
In 1999, Prince began working as the curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, where she helps preserve and exhibit historical artifacts related to the Buxton Settlement.
To learn more about the history of the Buxton Settlement, visit the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum website. Black farmers are an important part of Canada’s history, as well as the current agricultural landscape. Therefore, it is crucial Black farmers are represented in leadership roles of farm organizations and commodity groups.
Honouring the late Desmond Doran:
Desmond Doran pictured with his wife, Joan Doran (née Bosley)
Desmond Doran, an alumnus of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph passed away peacefully on May 18, 2020, following a battle of lung and prostate cancer.
At the age of 20, he left his motherland in Jamaica for Canada and pursued a BSc (1960) in agriculture and a MSc (1961) in agricultural economics at the OAC. At the time, there were about 100 African Caribbean students out of a student body of 1,100-1,200, in which his race impacted his social life and made him feel like an outsider at times. In an interview with the college in 2019, he recalled an older woman asking to touch his hair on the bus because they had never been in contact with African Caribbean people before. However, this did not discourage Doran from making friends and it was later through his friends, he met his future wife, Joan whom he would later marry and have three daughters.
After graduating from OAC, he pursued his PhD in economics at McGill University. Doran dedicated his life to agricultural economic development and pushed for equity and diversity, while volunteering for numerous organizations for over 30 years. He has worked as a professor, an economist at Agricultural Canada in Ottawa, and in two international positions for the United Nations Development Program. Among his honours, Doran has received a Black History Ottawa Community Builder Award, the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the 2018 Jamaican Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation.
Every February, people in Canada are invited to participate in Black History Month festivities and events that honour the legacy of Black Canadians and their communities. This year’s theme is “The Future is Now,” and is a chance to celebrate and acknowledge the transformative work that Black Canadians and their communities are doing now.
To learn more and for resources that promote awareness of Black history, click here.