Two elected officials from the Villeray/St-Michel/Parc Extension borough council took the initiative in early February to celebrate Black History Month with a special ceremony at borough headquarters on Ogilvy Ave. during which certificates of recognition were presented to noteworthy VSP residents of African-Caribbean-Haitian-Canadian heritage.
29th Black History Month
Park Extension city councillor Mary Deros and Saint-Michel city councillor Josué Corvil hosted the event. Borough Mayor Giuliana Fumagalli was unable to attend due to a previous commitment.
This is the 29th year that the City of Montreal has been observing the month of February as a period when accomplishments by outstanding black people and historical occurrences associated with their legacy are noted as an example for those in the black community as well as others throughout the world to follow.
Recipients from Park Ex
From Park Extension, the recipients included Rose Ngo Ndjel from the Afrique au Féminin women’s group, Nelson Ossé of the Corporation de Gestion des loisirs du Parc, Pastor Marc-Élie Morisset of the Église de Dieu d’Outremont, Elizabeth Dembil who is the executive-director of Carrefour de Liaison et d’Aide Multi-ethnique (CLAM), and Harry Delva a highly-regarded leader in Montreal’s Haitian community who has helped youths in Park Extension.
A notable recipient of a certificate of recognition from the borough’s Saint-Michel district was boxing trainer and sport promoter Ali Nestor. While Ali Nestor was already well-known in the community for his promotion of boxing as a discipline and sport, he gained nationwide fame during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first foray into federal politics.
Taught boxing to Trudeau
Ali trained Papineau Liberal MP Trudeau to take on Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity fundraiser boxing match in 2012 in Ottawa. It was a highly-publicized event that Trudeau famously won, after which he went on to lead the Liberals to form a majority government in the 2015 election.
As Councillor Corvil pointed out, people who are black have been immigrating to Canada since at least the 17th century from African, Europe, the Caribbean and the United States of America.
History of blacks in Canada
It is believed the first black person to arrive in Canada was Mathieu da Costa, a member of the exploring party of Pierre Dugua, the Sieur de Monts, and Samuel de Champlain that travelled from France to the New World in the early 17th century.
After World War II, a major wave of immigration saw thousands of people from Haiti arrive in Montreal.
“The black communities and their cultures are part of the history of Canada since its beginning,” said Corvil. “It would be important to let this be known as it is true by teaching it to our students starting in grade school to make them aware of our place in history as well as in current events.”