BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATIONS: Is it any longer relevant in Montreal?

By Dr. Clarence S. Bayne (President of BCRC)


Mr Egbert Gaye, the Editor in Chief and owner of Community Contact (Community Contact, Volume 28, Number 02 Jan, 26 20118) in an interview featuring Michael Farkas, the President of the Black History Month Round Table (BHMRT) posed the question: “Is the celebration of Black History Month any longer relevant in Montreal?” Egbert, in the lead up to this question, described the official opening event for Black History Month traditionally held at City Hall in a way that captures the feeling in the Black English speaking community. He said it is an event in which the Black English speaking community has lost interest and from which they feel that they have been excluded. By and large the key organizational leadership in the English speaking Black Community have absented themselves from the event; and the same is true of the major Black French speaking organizational leaders.

Let me put it up front I believe that the event in and of itself is important but for it to be truly meaningful and not be mere smoke and mirrors, the City Administration and Provincial government must show evidence that they are aggressively eliminating the systemic barriers to Blacks in their administrations and their distribution of resources. In general, most Blacks I speak to do not believe that this is happening or will happen. Moreover, because of my working relationship with the BHMRT I have had to respond in private to many of the questions and observations made by Egbert in his interview with Michael. So in this article I am going to pretend that I am being interviewed and responding to Community Contact and several other Community leaders from the English speaking community questioning me, as in fact they have, about the relevance of the celebration and the significance of the events at City Hall.

The first question. “Clarence as a leader in this Black community and a Professor I do not have to tell you that Black history is about life, survival, and living. We do that every day. So why you and your friends get together with the City to celebrate Black History for only one month in the year? Do you feel that makes sense?”

The first thing I do when I attempt to answer this question is to get out of this leadership role that is so gratuitously being assigned to me. Because it usually is a trap. So I make the point that I want to breath fresh air, drink clean water, and to be safe from the cold and other inhospitable things like ”bad mouthers”, reproduce myself and feel good. But I can’t do that to the maximum possible without making sure that some others also survive. So I do what I have to do (act responsibly) so that my true friends and my family all have a better chance. So let’s drop the preamble, “as a leader, etc,” Moreover being a professor is how I make a living salary. That’s it. Having said that, I agree with those that say “Black history month is every day”. But I think that when we compare Black activities and visibility in the early sixties with today, we are living our history and reproducing our cultures as a people incredibly more than we were then. Unfortunately, we are doing it under great stress and negation by the mainstream White culture and the levelers in our own community. Part of the problem is that we have no one telling our stories and singing the praises of our achievements between the events at City hall. So we are more likely to hear the voice of the personality assassinator than the creative voice of achievement and hope. But the reality is that the activities that our children take for granted today and question did not exist in 1960: there were only 5000 Blacks living mostly in Little Burgundy; there were only three Montreal born Blacks at McGill and Sir George University; and Mr. Clyke, with a Master’s degree, could only find work as a porter on CNR. There was no Black Theatre Workshop, no Vues d’Afrique, no Nuits d’Afrique, no Black Film Festival, no Carefiesta, no Ragae Festivals, no Jamaica Day, no Trini Day, no Oliver Jones, no Charlie Biddles, no Oscar Peterson, no Blue Ribbon or DouDou Boicel Jaz Festival, no Calypsonians, no Eddie Tousaint, no Zab nor Westcan, no taste of the Caribbean, no African and Caribbean restaurants; no Caribbean Associations, no Black Doctors or Nurses, no University trained managers and professionals, etc. Blacks were trapped in low paying jobs as porters with CNR and CPR, suffered discrimination at most restaurants, night clubs and bars, and were not permitted to rent in most neighbourhoods of the City. We began to push back the barriers to our progress from the mid-sixties during the “quiet revolution”. The Sir George William computer Crisis, the Black writer Congress, the creation of the National Black Coalition of Canada represent high points in the struggle to change the inhospitable landscape that we met in the late fifties and early sixties.

In 1991, a group of activists went down to City Hall and told the mayor that we were fed-up with being excluded from the cultural, social and economic proprietorship of this City and Province, and that we wanted our culture and contributions recognized. We wanted greater strategic control in the social, cultural and economic life of the City. The City Administration of the day, under Mayor Jean Doré, agreed. The City not only agreed but become engaged in getting the province to put in place a Table de Concertation to address the broader issues of racial discrimination and the economic isolation of the Black community in Montreal and Quebec. To accommodate this the Black Community Forum was created in July 1992 to mobilize the Black English speaking Black communities.

Concretely, one of the things the City and the Black Community leadership agreed to was to adopt the Black American model for Black History Month and officially declare February Black History Month, to be celebrated by all Montrealers. This declaration did not give ownership to the City Administration. Nobody owns Black History month. It is a time for celebration of our presence and contributions and to get some recognition of the contributions of Bauxite, Sugar, cotton, banana, rum, citrus and slave labour to the development of the British Empire and Canada. God knows in the English speaking Caribbean we ate a lot of salt fish tail and processed salted herrings not suitable for European markets to keep cost cheap and profits high for the Canadian and its booming Maritime economies of the time. In effect, “Black History Month” in North America and the Caribbean evolves out of the English speaking Black experiences of the triangular mercantile trade, and slavery and capitalism. It is a celebration of the victory of the Western Black victory over the hell hole of plantation slavery and the embracing of hope and the march to the “mountain top”.

It would be crazy for us, as Blacks, to say that the City and Province should stop this symbolic and official recognition of Blacks; that only Blacks should celebrate Black History Month. The latter would defeat the purpose of the Event here in Canada. What we need to do is to get the mainstream to learn more about us and incorporate our contributions in a valid and more integrated history of Montreal and Quebec. That has to be a struggle that we must continue above all else. We cannot just allow City officials, policy makers and administrators to think that all they have to do is invite us to City Hall once a year and that we will be satisfied with a superficial type of fraternization. Unfortunately, this is what many activists in the English speaking Black community believe has happened since 1992.

The polite terms in which Community Contact puts it is that it has become an event where, after some chit chat from the Mayor and maybe the Police Chief, “guests will mull around the hall, chit chatting and enjoying the dipsy variety of cheeses, finger foods and wine whisked around by servers dressed in formal attire. And when it is all done it appears as if that is the end of Black History Month.” Egbert expresses a view that is widely held in the English speaking Black Community. And if you try to tell those individuals anything different, they will tell you that “you are just trying to defend your buddies.”

Egbert says that interest has waned and Michael, the President of Black History Month Round Table, agrees. But the reason is not, as Michael is reported as saying, that there is a “societal shift towards acknowledging diversity in a broader sense.” Black History Month in North America is not simply about diversity. It is about reconciliation, inclusion and community education and the correction of history. The concept of a larger diversity is the type of avoidance that one might expect from the French nationalists pre-occupations with distinctions between “multiculturalism” and “inter-culturalism” or their increasing impatience with the “others” cultures. In my opinion, what has really happened is that the population, both Black and White, sees the City Hall event as not pertinent to what they are doing. One thing I am constantly being asked is why, out of courtesy, English is not spoken at the event. Second statement of detachment is that the event is no longer an expression of the Western Black struggle for reconciliation, recognition and strategic control. The English speaking Blacks, especially the Caribbean English speaking Blacks, feel that they have been excluded from the decision making processes with respect to the City Hall event. In general, it is believed that the “Calendar” has two serious flaws: one is that it no longer promotes other events in the Black community outside the control of the Black History Month Round Table. Thus, at times, it is a competitor with the events it was created to support. The second problem frequently cited in both the Black and White communities is that awarding twelve Laureates per year raises questions about the value of being a Laureate. One critic actually said to me that awarding a laureate to a sixteen year old Black Youth for having gained a “Black Belt” is an insult to Youth achievers. A prominent Black politician complained to me about the seeming absence of consistent criteria for making choices of laureates. The person ventured the statement, that it should not be aimed at the superficial satisfaction of the individual’s need for self-actualization but at the promotion of excellence. Here again they say that the BHMRT seem to be competing with other Black agencies and not marking out a niche need area, like youth achievers in certain fields of endeavour, etc.

My Opinion
I do not believe that Black History Month is being honoured less. I believe that Black arts, cultural and social events have increased in quantity and quality; that these events are taking place throughout the year. I believe that the reason that there appears that interest has waned in the Black and White communities is because there is not effective coverage and encouragement of activities. Some attempts have been made to improve that situation by the Pan-Black Website created by an alliance of Black community organizations and administered by the BHMRT. But the BHMRT is awaiting support from the City and other sponsors to manage the site professionally. Also, I would like to point to the fact that the Black Theatre Workshop School Tour which takes place specifically for Black History Month has been booked for over forty schools in the English speaking school Boards in each of the last three years. Moreover, the schools have been inviting speakers to make presentations and participate in programs on diversity put on by the school staff themselves.

However, BHMRT has to become more active in supporting and promoting these events. In particular, it has to promote the initiatives of the Union United Church walking tour of its history all year round, as well as the Church’s Martin Luther King Jr Birthday church service; and it has to actively support the Vision celebration event of BTW as the opening event leading into Black History month; and the educational school tours during February. This is particularly important, since BTW was one of the original Black English speaking companies that lobbied the City to declare February Black History Month, and was active in the early years organizing and staging a number of its variety theatrical performances.

I do not think that Black History Month events alone should be responsible for defining us and our place in Quebec. However, it has put the focus on us in a way that is not the case with other cultural groups. But we must realize that it lends itself to being exploited as a mechanism for token recognition. It receives none of the kind of financial support that would qualify as identity defining support. It is the operations of agencies like Zab, Black Theatre Workshop, Nuits d’Afrique, Vues d’Afrique, Black Film Festival, Carifiesta, Blue Ribons, the Ragae Festival, the poetry jams and readings of Black artists, cultural displays by Concordia and McGill universities; and the University of Montreal, cultural sponsor of Black arts and culture such as the BSC Charitable Fund, Michaelle Jean Foundation, the TD Bank, the Cole Foundation, private arts and cultural events that are doing that work on a long term basis to define us and the roles we play in this society.

The City Default
On the other hand, the City has defaulted on early promises. It has cut key resources to the English speaking events such as the Carifiesta and the Black History Month celebrations. It has failed to give the full value to the contributions of Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones here in this City where they were born, grew up and became World greats. Other Cities have done more for Peterson. No organization knows better than the Black History Month Round Table the sting of the slap we received as a community from the City in the 375th Montreal Celebration year of 2017.

Black English Speaking Community Gratitude and recommendation
We must commend the Organization and its President, Mr Michael Farkas, for the role they played in expressing our concerns and anger at our exclusion from the celebrative events. The Black History Month Round Table theme “Ici pour rester, Ici pour durer” represented our feelings as a community. Also the Black Community Forum partnership with the BHMRT was successful in representing the community frustration and anger at the rejection of BHMRT project for full participation in the 375th celebration. It led to the naming of a building in the Sud-Ouest after Oliver Jones. The news coming from the English speaking Caribbean sectors of the Black communities is that BHMRT needs to do more of this type of collaboration and to more actively promote and celebrate the English speaking communities and organizations. This is the message I am getting and asked to deliver.


For Full Version of Semaji February 2018 Click Here

Opinion: The Quebec Human Rights Commission Is Too White
By Yvonne Sam (Chairman of Rights and Freedoms Committee at BCRC)

The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has come under harsh scrutiny, following the hiring of a senior manager in its Investigation Division. The Commission has failed to diversify its senior management personnel, with almost no managers from racial minority backgrounds and no Anglophones. Now, front and center of conversations, are the concerns about this displayed inability of the Commission to practice what it preaches, especially as it refers to employment.

From its inception in 1976, the Human Rights Commission was constituted under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedom to ensure that Quebec’s laws, by-laws, standards and institutional practices, both public and private, comply with the Charter, which prohibits discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic or national origin and religion in the exercise of human rights and freedoms.

The organogram organizational chart of the Human Rights Commission shows that starting from the very top and with virtually no stop, diversity is totally disregarded. Both vice presidents, Camil Picard (Acting President) and Philippe-André Tessier, are Francophones and white. The same is true for 12 out of 15 senior managers.

Completing the landscape is an unprecedented absence of Indigenous and racialized Anglophones, which further serves to impair the decision making process.

Meanwhile, political uproar surrounded the appointment of the Commission’s first Black president, Tamara Thermitus, currently on sick leave since last fall. Before becoming head of the Quebec Human Rights Commission she found herself at the center of growing controversy as both parties in the National Assembly objected to her appointment, claiming that she was too “multiculturalist” and much too close for comfort to Dominique Anglade, Liberal Economy, Science and Innovation Minister who also shared her roots.

One is left with a troubling sense that the principal agency tasked with ensuring diversity is the one doing the least effective work. Another aspect of the problem may be that the true meaning of diversity in Quebec has not been fully understood where it matters most.

“It is time for the Quebec Human Rights Commission to look in the mirror, and cease the denial before they find themselves on trial.”

To juxtapose the current situation and place it in its correct perspective, the judicial system also displays a glaring lack of diversity. Of the more than 500 judges operating at different levels in the courts of Quebec, only three are black.

Considering the fact that at the level of the Commission decisions are made daily, the majority of which have a profound and long lasting impact on the lives of visible minority individuals, it’s important that diversity is reflected in the makeup of those who occupy the role of judge and listener. Plainly put, powerful institutions must or should reflect the society they serve.

In order to cultivate an arena of legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, Premier Philippe Couillard was called upon to give thoughtful and deliberate consideration to racial and linguistic diversity, and Anglophone and minority representation when filling existing vacancies, such as at the Human Rights Commission.

It is time for the Quebec Human Rights Commission to look in the mirror, and cease the denial before they find themselves on trial. All that is being asked is to carry out their mandated task by practicing what they preach.

This plea has sadly fallen on deaf ears as the task of creating and maintaining diversity has fallen to those who are themselves considered “diverse.” A leopard cannot change its spots and it is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.

Originally Published in Huffpost February 2, 2018.


For Full Version of Semaji February 2018 Click Here

Black Theatre Workshop is proud to present Rendez-vous With Home written and performed by Djennie Laguerre, and directed by Dayane Ntibarikure. Rendez-Vous with home is the story of sisters Josephine and Suzette, who are sent by their mother on a trip to Haiti to bury their father, a man they barely knew. Josephine, who has scant memories of her father, is anxious. Suzette, on the other hand, has no memories of her father and considers the trip an all-expenses paid vacation. But what the two sisters experience in Haiti proves to be more moving than they had expected – a journey of discovery combined with love, humour, and Haitian oral and dance traditions.

This production is being presented in both official languages – schools may select a performance in either English or French!

Opinion: After the Sexual Harassment Epidemic—What’s Next for future generations?

By Yvonne Sam

There are Weinsteins everywhere, but only in certain industries is there a Weinstein effect. Now for the sake of the coming generation we must from here on inspect how we teach sexual respect.

It is blatantly apparent that the time of reckoning for sexual harassment and sexual miscreants has finally arrived. Every day the name of a new high-powered figure is added to the chorus of accusers and accusations, ultimately bringing in its wake shame and career-altering consequences. Along with Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, L.A Reid, Ben Affleck, Dustin Hoffman, George H. W. Bush, Alabama judge Roy Moore, Charlie Rose, Brett Ratner, and the latest Disney Executive, George Lasseter, comes an unmistakable sign that methods formerly used by political figures, stars, top executives, directors and producers to cover up their wrongdoings is no longer working. (

The proclivity for paying hush money to victims, and forcing them to sign heavy-handed non-disclosure agreements, can no longer buy silence. The veil of secrecy has been rent and a very clear message is being sent.

The latest surge of females such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Kate Beckinsale and Mira Sorvino stepping forward from the Harvey Weinstein fallout has certainly flicked the script on a culture that has become deep rooted in many industries across the board.

Abuse and mistreatment of women extend far beyond Hollywood. In a survey, conducted in 2015, by Cosmopolitan Magazine, of 2,235 female workers, one in three were victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. The survey also found that less than a third of women reported the harassment and only 15% felt the report of harassment was handled fairly. (

Dating from the 1970’s and onwards, the concept of sexual harassment, in its modern understanding, was a relatively new one, only being brought to public attention in the late 1970’s through pioneer organizations—Working Women’s Institute, along with the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion. The term nevertheless remained largely unknown until the early 1990s when Anita Hill witnessed and testified against the U. S Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. (

Now, amid much perturbation surrounding unwarranted masturbation, exposed parts, lewd calls, obscene gestures, sexually graphic comments, groping and not coping, there still remain several unanswered questions, such as what created this environment, and who is prepared to step forward and change it. Lip service, anonymous accusations, or open scandals are certainly not the answer. Changes in workplace policies, revised legislation, abhorrence of silence in known cases of harassment, and greater employer demands among other measures may serve only as a panacea. (

The existing moral atrocities, and the ensuing toxic tidal wave, have not only aroused an undying hunger for justice, but a countervailing pressure to try and remedy the problem for the next generation. It is somewhat pathetic, that so many years after the feminist revolution, we have to teach men how to speak and behave in the presence of females, or, in more specific terms, how not to be a cad. Let us momentarily shift our attention to the ages of the men who have fallen from shepherds in disgrace to becoming mere sheep; they are either nearing retirement age, well past it, or far from being able to maintain a decent pace in any race. (

Our children have been taught to be wary of strangers, no going or showing, and certainly no taking of gifts or lifts. Even now, our children are still being taught to shout “Stranger! Danger!” when they are either in fear of being taken or forced against their will. With all the displayed silence surrounding the current sexual harassment saga, as our children transition into adulthood, how do we teach them to speak up and let their voices be heard? Where do we start? With society poised to play what part?

Future generations will look back on this recent tsunami of sexual upheavals and see an industry that allowed the powerful to prey on the powerless, and the multitude that were able to detect but failed to protect. Grown adults who used their fame and access to the industry as a conduit in manipulating young males and females into having sex with them, or getting them to do things against their will. ( And what’s with the locking of females in hotel rooms and blocking of hotel doors? (

Yes, the younger generation will most certainly wonder how supposedly rational people could have yielded so easily to collective insanity. It is obvious that sexual harassment is an entrenched feature of the workforce, and firing or suspending an individual will not stop it from happening again. ( Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, said that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. ( So, from a very young age, the male and female population in our society should be informed of this prevalent problem, and the process of changing the mindset put into effect through the implementation of well-planned lessons.  Parents will now be called upon to play a greater role, and be seen as symbols in whom their daughters can confide, rather than someone from whom they will their secret hide. They should also be taught to immediately walk or run away when inappropriate behavior comes into play. Sexual harassment will never again peak if every victim vows to speak, not many years after the fact, but from the outset of the act.


For Full Version of Semaji December 2017 Click Here

Opinion: Democracy and Justice for Dogs, but Send the Muslims and Blacks Back Where They Came From!!!!!!

By Dr. Clarence S. Bayne


There is an increasing tendency in Quebec for the far right and the vote hungry political leaders to offer Quebec society a scented rose with the serpent of systemic discrimination and racism lurking under the lips and between the curls of seductive petals. We are not racist they say. We are very tolerant of immigrants and other (non-French) cultures. But our Governments are too lenient with immigrants. Thus, the far right French nationalists reject any notion that there should be an enquiry into systemic discrimination and racism in Quebec, because they claim that that would be accusing and judging Quebecers (meaning French Canadians). This has found support in the ranks of the present government and many French Quebecers. As a consequence, the Couillard Liberals enquiry into systemic discrimination and racism has been abandoned and the Minister of immigration asked to investigate and consult Quebecers on ways in which to improve the Government strategies for the settlement of immigrants and for promoting equality and diversity within a French speaking Quebec society and economic system protected by the “notwithstanding clause” and Bill 101. There is an analogy here to the rejection of the Coderre Pit Bull legislation in Montreal and its subsequent withdrawal by the new Plante Administration.

The rejection by the Plante Administration of the previous Mayor, Coderre, administrative decision to ban Pit Bulls from the environments of Quebec as dangerous to life and the security of the public has unleashed streams of empathy from the population of dog lovers. It is so passionate and in the French language presented as no other language can; with such romantic vigour that some segments of the population may have been induced to wish they could be viewed as Pit Bulls: induce love and respect through fear and the cuteness of our “mugs”. The following is an excerpt from a comment to an article on the subject in Le Devoir of Saturday, December, 9 2017 (Les pitbulls ne seront plus interdits à Montréal):

“Je n’ai pas de chiens, deux chats seulemnt, mais lorsque je me promène dans la rue et que j’en vois, et particulièrement les pittbulls, je les regarde avec une certaine crainte, mais en même temps je voudrais m’en approcher tellement ils ont un regard tendre. De les interdire n’avait pas aidé ma cause, et je trouvais ça bien dommage, surtout que les maîtres les aiment tellement!

Moi aussi je crois que tous les chiens peuvent être dangereux quand on est cruel avec eux! On dit que parfois ils acceptent leur sort, ces pauvres bêtes! Un animal est tellement dépendant de nous: on les a domestiqués, il faut accepter de s’en occuper comme «nos enfants»! On leur doit le respect!” (Solange Bolduc)

Now, it is true that the indiscriminate framing and application of the law may have placed an unfair burden on the owners of dogs and unduly diminished the satisfaction owners derive from the relationship between this animal and the human person. Moreover, as it is quite effectively pointed out, the damage done in an attack from a Chihuahua is not comparable in its seriousness to that done in an attack from a Pit Bull. In some cases the latter has ended in death of the victim. So, clearly, there is room for differentiation in fines and penalties to fit the seriousness of the outcome of an attack. However, my observation is the swiftness with which the Plante Administration moved to correct the unfairness of the situation, to bring justice through the democratic process and logic to bare on the problem; as compared to the slowness of their response to the Black Community Forum request for a meeting to discuss outstanding business with the Black Community extending from the Tremblay Administration to the Coderre Administration. It also baffles me to understand the urgency, love and concern expressed by Quebecers for this unpredictable killer; while in sharp contrast the provincial politicians and nationalist groups act to ban hijabs and to deny the existence of the destructive impact of systemic discrimination and racism on the lives of immigrants, Blacks and other visible and non-French minorities. It is amazing that the Provincial Government cannot stand its ground with the same arguments and empathetic passion as Solange Bolduc makes for the Pit Bull. It is amazing that the French leadership does not have the courage to understand that, like the “dog” in this case, these human immigrants and minorities are at such a disadvantage in terms of their power position and dependencies on the established French mainstream that “il faut accepter de s’en occuper comme «nos enfants»! On leur doit le respect!”

“In the primitive unconscious of the unevolved White race supremacist, Blacks, indigenous, and other visible minorities are viewed as evolving and not quite capable of achieving……….”

We pose the question: Why? Why do they love the killing dog, but want to send us back? I believe it has to do with power relationships and Darwinian adaptation. Dogs have learned to be subservient and loyal to their “masters” in return for care, attention and defense. We even pick up their “shit” after them and build conversation and social spaces for them in our parks. For, they are the slaves that we wish we could have; that amaze and entertain us with tricks or fulfill our need for gladiator sport. They are things in our showcases. Humans in captivity and today’s democracies are much more inclined to act persistently, even violently, to free themselves from loyalties that restrict their freedoms at all levels and stages of their lives. The selfish gene borrows, steals, appropriates, collaborates when convenient and by whatever means, but closes the door after. At the end of the day, everything beyond the fence is suspect and foreign to its central interest, life by any means. Everything outside the gated kinship group is a threat. In the primitive unconscious of the unevolved White race supremacist, Blacks, indigenous, and other visible minorities are viewed as evolving and not quite capable of achieving, when left to themselves, the excellence of Whites (the Aryan races). The anger of those human species that Arthur De Gobineau and his modern day followers (Hitler, the KKK, La Muete, and institutionalized discrimination and racism) rank at the bottom of the Mosaic totem scale are not viewed with the same understanding as the behaviour of the Pit Bull that has been cruelly treated by humans. Our anger, accumulated after years of oppression; of being  racialized, stripped of our self-esteem and reclassified as humans without the capacity for developing a soul, is associated with the imperfections and dysfunctionalism assigned to Blacks and indigenous people by Western race theories and the practices of White supremacy. It is a systemic discrimination and Fascist way of thinking and organizing the world. It is the Mission School way. It produces reconciliations and apologies without change. The only solution is the continuous and relentless democratic and morally responsible struggle against the persons and systems that support this distortion in thinking and misplaced compassion for Pit Bulls over other humans: US.


For Full Version of Semaji December 2017 Click Here

Meeting of Black Community Forum with Culture Montreal

By Dr. Clarence S. Bayne
President of BCRC


Chair of the Secretariat of Black Community Forum, Editor of Semaji, Administrative Coordinator of BCRC, Artistic Director  of Black Theater Workshop, General Manager of Black Theater Workshop, Union United Church Representative, Black Writers Guild Representative and Coordinator of Logos Readings, Directrice du Développement Strategique de Culture Montreal, Directrice générale de Culture Montreal, and Member of Board of Culture Montreal.

The meeting was opened by the Directrice du Développement Strategique de Culture Montreal, who introduced the members of Culture Montreal and welcomed the members of the Black Community Forum. She briefly described the process in place at CM for restructuring the organization (Culture Montreal) so that it could more effectively foster and promote diversity as a central principle in the development of arts and culture in Montreal. She, and the Directrice générale of Culture Montreal, set out the challenges of embarking on this plan of action and the anticipated implementation problems. But the organization is committed and resolved to see it through. They expressed the desire that the Black Community Forum (BCF) and its member organizations support Culture Montreal and its network to achieve the objectives set out in the organization’s Action Plan, which has been constructed after extensive consultations with a large number of organizations and persons. Among those were the Black Theatre Workshop, and the Black History Month Round Table.

Dr. Bayne thanked Culture Montreal for inviting the Forum to meet with BCF and briefly presented the mission, mandates, principles and purposes, and operating structure of the BCF against the background of two documents circulated to the CM administrators in advance of the meeting. BCF focused its observations and comments on the principles of inclusiveness in a democracy that constitutionally recognizes and respects diversity. It was pointed out that the Forum is a network of 13 English speaking Black Community organizations. He stated that these organizations represent a wide range of cultural and community activities; and minority artistic expressions. Moreover, these organizations have been providing services to the Black communities and contributing to the art and culture of Montreal for 25 to 100 years, if not more. Bayne, and the Artistic Director of BTW, summarized the concerns expressed by the Black English speaking artists and cultural organizations at the October 27th 2017 Conference and Meeting. Bayne drew attention to the well documented and recognized fact that the contributions of Blacks, and English speaking Blacks in particular, have been eliminated from Quebec’s history and ignored in Quebec and Canadian societies. He said it is absurd that a Black man (Mathieu DaCosta) helped Champlain to win the welcome and acceptance of indigenous peoples of Quebec, yet Blacks were denied full participation in the 375th planning, presentations and displays. In particular, the exclusion of the English speaking communities from full participation in Montreal’s 375th is dishonest and insulting. Bayne re-echoed the complaints of cultural leaders and artists at the Forum (27 October 2017) about systemic discrimination and biases in the funding of minority arts and culture, and, in particular, the English speaking and Black artists. This was referenced by both the artistic director of BTW and the representative of the Black Writer Guild (Logos Readings) who spoke of the difficulties of Black and other minority writers getting financial support from the funding agencies. Bayne talked about the distortions to Canadian multiculturalism that result from the persistence of the “two founding nations” concept and “linguistic duality” under-pinning the institutional arrangements and agreements that hold the Country together under the threat of separation. He said that in the present arrangements, Blacks and other minorities have become second–class citizens, enclaves of one or the other “Settler class” mainstream language entities.

Bayne stated that the Secretariat of BCF is encouraged and inspired by Culture Montreal’s reengineering of its structure and reinventing the organization to empower itself “to foster greater inclusivity” and respect for diversity. He said that BCF espouses the principle of “collaborative unity and existential responsibility”, which he associated with the concept of network leadership, as opposed to centralized top down management leadership. He said that the days of the “superman leader” are gone. He made the observation that Culture Montreal’s intention to “reflect as completely as possible on issues and realities regarding the participation of all Montrealers in culture, across our territory and through the bodies and activities that make up the cultural scene” addresses and supports the demands of BCF for full participation of English Speaking Blacks and other minorities in the policy making, the art and culture, and decision making processes of the society. A summary of the Culture Montreal Diversity Project is presented below:

Culture Montreal Diversity Project Observations and 2018-2020 Action Plan

To arrive at its Action Plan, CM held several consultations and sensing meetings with a large number of persons and organizations. The Observations made at the various sessions by persons and organizations involved in the Culture Montreal’s consultation process that preceded its action plan (2018-2010) are grouped under three categories that constitute the focus for Culture Montreal planned reform. They are:

Focus1: Representativeness and instrumentalization of cultural diversity in artistic and cultural life and practice.

Focus 2: Access and systemic obstacles can hamper development and prevent citizens from diverse communities from participating in arts and culture life.

Focus 3: Governance and inclusion with Culture Montreal and the Entire Cultural Community

From the sub-categories (influencing sub-factors that make up each of the categories/focus) Culture Montreal has developed three objectives which are part of its three year Action Plan.

Year 1: 2018
Objective: Create the conditions internally to foster greater inclusivity within Culture Montreal (CM), the Board, working Committee, team, activities, events, etc.

Year 2: 2019
Objective: Consolidate good governance, practices, and extend the influence of Culture Montreal’s efforts beyond the organization.

Year3: 2010.
Objective: Acquire tools to make diversity project efforts permanent.


CM stated that there are a number of changes in its by-laws and policies and structure that Culture Montreal is in the process of making before it can operationalize its revised mandate and mission; and carry out its purposes of artistic and cultural diversity and complete inclusivity. However, CM is prepared to work with BCF and individually with member organizations to assist with access to resources, facilities, programs available in the City and other public and private spaces.

CM’s overarching policy requires that it work with anyone in the Arts and culture that wishes to work with, or seek, its assistance. Of course, this is subject to its limited resources. However, CM recognizes that greater efficiency and effectiveness is achieved if groups collaborate. CM is also prepared to work with and assist clients and partners even while they (CM) go about creating the internal structures and capacity for accomplishing the long term objectives of its Action Plan.

BCF has put CM on notice that it wishes to have its assistance to engage the City and Tourism Montreal and Canada to work with the Black Community Forum to create a Black Creative Tourism Sector based on the creative artistic and culture competences of artists and cultural institutions in the Black English Speaking Communities. The Secretariat will be pursuing this by developing a proposal drawing on expertise and assistance of CM. The initial plan will engage specific member organizations of the BCF (Union United heritage and historical program; BSC and partners archival displays, BCRC Education and history walking and audio tours). [Such a proposal has been placed in very general terms on an agenda at the City under the Coderre Administration].

The Secretariat of BCF will also speak to CM about helping to set up and participating in the BCF Toponomy Committee and advising on operationalizing it.

CM has invited BCF, and individual member organizations, to collaborate with it to assist in achieving its diversity and inclusivity objectives. We note from the Action Plan circulated at the meeting that two of BCF member organizations, BHMRT and BTW, participated as individual sovereign organizations in the reflections meetings called by the CM and leading to the development of its Action Plan.


Explicit in the working action plan and collaborations between organizations is the principle of good governance and best practices. This is also as guiding principle of the Black Community Forum.


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The ‘English Boss’ and Company Towns: Quebec’s English-speakers in the industrial economy, then and now


Call for Papers

Deadline for abstracts: January 18, 2018

Date of Event: May 9-10, 2018

Université du Québec à Chicoutimi Saguenay, Quebec, Canada



By Ashlie Bienvenu


With the holidays right around the corner I’m sure everyone has had the opportunity to hear the carolers in the streets, or holiday music on the radio. So, for this issue, we will be looking back to a famous musical figure, Portia White. White, an Afro-Canadian from Nova Scotia, was admired for her ability to sing “spirituals with pungent expression and beauty of utterance (Historica Canada).” She was also described as having a voice which was “a gift from heaven (Historica Canada).” White is significant to the Black Community due to her efforts to break through the colour barrier and become the first Black Canadian to gain international fame as a concert singer (Canadian Encyclopedia). This can be seen through her early years and performances, her time as a teacher, and the awards and recognition that she later received.

Born in Turo, Nova Scotia, in 1911, to William A. White and Izie Dora White, Portia White was a descendent of Black Loyalists who fled to Nova Scotia, after the American Revolution, to escape slavery in the United States. Due to the fact that her father, William White, was a minister, Portia White began her music career at the age of six, singing in the church choir, under the direction of her mother, Izie Dora (Canadian Encyclopedia). By the age of eight Portia had learned parts from the Lucia di Lammermoor opera and was asked to sing on the Canadian radio (Black Past). White was so dedicated to her craft that she would walk 10 miles for music lessons (Canadian Encyclopedia). White participated in a Halifax music festival in 1935, 1937 and 1938, where she won the Helen Kennedy Silver Cup. White, a recognized talent, was given a scholarship by the Halifax Ladies’ Musical Club, to study at the Halifax Conservatory of Music, in 1939, with Ernesto Vinci. Once she completed her studies, in 1941, she began performing as a contralto, at the age of thirty (Canadian Encyclopedia). It was in 1944 that White made her first debut into United States, when she auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera, in New York City, which was managed by Edward Johnson. White was the first Canadian to sign with the Metropolitan Opera (Black Past). While White did not make any recordings in the studio, there are a few concert recordings, most notably the song Think on Me, which can be found (Canadian Encyclopedia).

In 1939, at the University of Dalhousie, White gained her teaching degree and began teaching in Africville. She later resigned her position, in 1941, to concentrate on her music career. Once she had retired from music, in 1952, due to physical difficulties and voice strain, White went back to teaching. She went on to teach voice at Branksome Hall, in Toronto. Some of her noteworthy students included “Dinah Christie, Anne Marie Moss, Lorne Greene, Don Francks and Robert Goulet (Canadian Encyclopedia).” Although White decided to go back to performing part-time, in the mid-1950’s, her performances were sporadic through the fifties and sixties. One notable performance for White, however, was a performance for Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II, in Charlottetown, in 1964 (Canadian Encyclopedia).

White’s legacy lives on in the fact that “her popularity helped to open previously closed doors for talented blacks who followed (Black Past).” A Maritime newspaper, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, once dubbed her the “singer who broke the colour barrier in Canadian classical music (Historica Canada).” Due to her lifelong achievements, and contribution to the Black community, “White was named a ‘person of national historic significance’ by the Government of Canada (Canadian Encyclopedia),” in 1995. White was also awarded with a stamp of herself in 1999, a sculpture in front of a Baptistst Church in her hometown in 2004, and an award in her name, the Portia White Prize, which is given every year to “an outstanding Nova Scotian in the arts (Canadian Encyclopedia).” White was also awarded the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 2007 (Canadian Encyclopedia).



King, B. N., So, J. K., and McPherson, J. B. (June 21, 2007). Portia White. Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Portia White. Historica Canada. Retrieved from

White, Portia (1911-1968). Black Past. Retrieved from


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By Yvonne Sam (Chairman of the Rights and Freedoms Committee)
Originally Published in Huffington Post, November 27, 2017


The cancellation of systemic racism hearings means that there will be no focus on understanding the perilous effects of the problem on visible minorities’ well-being.

After Québec Solidaire MNA, Amir Khadir, tabled a 2,662-signature petition in the province’s National Assembly, calling for “a consultation commission on systemic racism” to be created, Premier Philippe Couillard’s government announced that it would look into the issue.

Then, in May, Kathleen Weil, immigration, diversity and inclusion minister, unveiled plans for a public consultation on systemic discrimination and racism in Quebec, which was scheduled to start in September.

Public consultations would address discrimination in employment, education, health care, housing, public security and culture. Premier Couillard mandated the Quebec Human Rights Commission to organize and lead the consultations, with the aim to put forward concrete and permanent solutions that engage all of Quebec society in combating these problems.

The commission would submit recommendations to the government, which was expected to release the findings and an action plan next spring.

In April, just a month before plans were set to be revealed, the Parti Quebecois accused the Couillard government of playing with fire. The party launched a petition against the commission.

On Oct. 18, the Couillard government announced an overhaul to the controversial initiative, cancelling systemic racism hearings and changing the focus to economic opportunities for visible minorities and immigrants.

“Blacks, along with other racialized people, have been left out in the cold and they cannot afford to be put on hold.”

In addition, Weil lost her immigration and diversity portfolio to David Heurtel. The project is now called “the commission on valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination.” I hope that there are no plans to sweep racism under the rug, as the emanating dust would be too much.

My recent column, “Political Demission at the Quebec Human Rights Commission,” is now being revisited, because there has been no response to the announced cancellation.

Quebec appears blind to the reality of racism and discrimination, and also the possibility of ensuing pain — a pain that unleashes itself in structural circles, meanders through the docks of courtrooms, finally ending in the unjustifiable deaths at the hands of law enforcers.

Politically speaking, the pendulum of public attitude regarding racism and discrimination has reached the limit of its swing, once again exposing the cold, hard truth that the story of racism will never be told, especially since from the outset opposition parties had, in no uncertain terms, called on the government to scrap the consultation process altogether, claiming that it puts Quebec society on trial.

In a September ninth La Presse piece, Francois Cardinal also urged Couillard to abandon the consultations, if he didn’t want to be found guilty of arousing the ashes of intolerance.

If the truth is to be both known and told, not only is a trial needed, but also long overdue. This continued reluctance to forthrightly confront racism persists and is also responsible for the economic disparities which impede race relations gains.

Another challenge lies in the fact that Couillard, among many others, covertly dismisses the fact that in Quebec, certain privileges are afforded and enjoyed by certain people, and further discounts any relevance of past practices having a bearing today. To behave as if racism does not matter is to deny the absolute truth, and this again is part and parcel of how wide the divide is.

Plainly put, the cancellation means that there will be no focus on understanding the perilous effects of interpersonal and institutional racism on both the psychological and physiological well-being of minorities. Let us not be misguided in thinking that institutional racism applies to a physical institution or building. We are the institutionalized racism, and become part of institutionalized behaviour each time we fail to stand up, turn a blind eye, walk away thinking that it is not our problem, hold our heads down or fail to intervene when we see someone being harassed or discriminated against.

Yes, the very racism which Quebec has so long failed to acknowledge can psychologically affect its victims by allowing society to deny their true value as individuals, and by compelling them to internalize the racist conceptions of themselves held by the dominant culture. Notwithstanding the odds, it is imperative that the present cancellation be seen as an opportunity to bring collective weight to bear. Sustained public pressure is the only way to make this happen. Blacks, along with other racialized people, have been left out in the cold and they cannot afford to be put on hold.

The overwhelming response of disbelief at the cancellation should herald the beginning of new commitments to sustain and transform righteous outrage into a collective resolve, focusing on strategies that would unapologetically benefit all affected racialized minorities. Racism remains a major issue that cannot be ignored. The facts are undeniable and should Quebec continue on the path of disingenuousness, a very painful confrontation may eventually ensue. According to Pope Francis, “racism today is the ultimate evil in the world.”

Premier Couillard cannot have his say and also his day — he put in motion an independent process under the control of the Quebec Human Rights Commission, only to dabble at the rumblings of a rabble.

Sustaining righteous outrage is now more important than ever.

Original article can be found at:


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By Dr. Clarence Bayne


The Black Community of Montreal has recently (November 2017) lost a leader that played a key role in the settlement of the large influx of Black immigrants to Montreal in the period 1960 to 2000. Carl (Lamumba) Whittaker. He was one of those immigrants that came to Montreal from Barbados, W.I., in 1966, to study at Sir George William University. It was a time of major social and political change in the former British colonies, and in North America. The emergence of Black organizations in Montreal, during the sixties through to the mid-nineties, follows a logical process, which I have described elsewhere, using patterns of simulated behaviours by intelligent and cultural agents in complex adaptive social systems. Human systems can be described using models of complex adaptive systems where the interactions between all existing and possible agents that make up the system are often random and so large that the outcomes are unpredictable. Making decisions about the best response to rapid change in the total environment is like taking a random walk in space. The psycho-social and economic environment can become so volatile that life gets stuck at the survival level of human existence. The role of leaders (the social entrepreneur) in such a system is to search for ways to ensure the sustenance of the community and improve the well-being (objective and subjective) of its members. My research shows that Blacks in Montreal, over the period 1960-2000, took significant action to achieve this objective. They created an impressive number of agencies aimed at providing services that informed the newcomers about workings and living in Montreal, entertainment, social activities, accommodation and essential services, health, education and employment possibilities, rights and freedoms, and about Canadian culture, customs and traditions. The research shows that several of these organizations were of a cultural and political nature and specialized in creating new social and cultural spaces, greater opportunity for full participation and improvement in the wellbeing of the members of the communities they served. One of the serious barriers to the growth and improvement in the wellbeing of the populations of African ancestry seem to stem from the fact that the community racialized as not-White were fragmented into a multiplicity of subcultures associated with and having their origins in many countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and other parts of the world. Moreover, notwithstanding their racial identity in Canada as Black (of African descent), these cultures were essentially closed to each other, social and cultural distance, and histories of colonial capitalism, and neo-liberalist capitalism and administration.

The simulations of human social systems, using complex adaptive systems theory, show that the greater the fragmentation (greater the number of closed cultural sub-groups) the smaller the objective and subjective wellbeing enjoyed by the members of the larger group. In the seventies and eighties, the leaders of the new Black immigrant groups in Montreal, Quebec, recognized this problem and moved aggressively to create alliances and coalitions. One group lead by Clarence Bayne, Winston Nicholls, Carl Taylor, George Richardson and Ivan Morrison, a former founding President of the Jamaica Association, moved to create a federation of Caribbean associations. This lead to the creation of the Caribbean House (1964) by Black residents and students at Sir George William and Mc Gill Universities. At the national level Clarence Bayne and Dorothy Wills, in collaboration with leadership from across the country, moved to create the first ever national federation of Black organizations called the National Black Coalition of Canada ( At the same time (1968-1972), Carl Whittaker was convincing local leadership to support his concept of “Communology development” which used a version of Pan-Africanism as the unifying principle. This cut across gender, country of origin, religion and ideology, focusing on Africanness in the Canadian context as the only criterion for membership. Organizational membership was only open to groups that served the Black community independent of gender, place of birth, religion, ideology. He became the leading voice in the creation of the Black Community Council of Quebec (BCCQ) with its regional outreach associations and a number of Black specialist organizations that predated its existence. There were 10 key organizations involved, with outreach associations in La Salle, Laval, the West Island, the South Shore, Cote des Neiges and NDG. Its activities touched on every aspect of Black cultural, psycho-social, economic, and political life. BCCQ constituted the voice of the Black community on matters that had to do with Blacks as a community in the Canadian and Quebec societies, especially the English speaking Black community. This movement lasted for approximately twenty five years from 1970 to 1995.

At Canada’s 150th and Montreal 375th, we pose the question: What has been accomplished? Before we address this question, let me take you back to 1982, and an interview of Carl Whittaker, carried out by Cecil Roach, the then Managing Editor of the BCCQ magazine, Umoja ( In this interview they address the question of the status of the Black Community in the Canadian and Quebec Societies.

[Carl], You have been intricately involved in many of the organizational efforts in the Black Community. What are some of the things that you would like to see Black people achieve in this society?

Mr. Whittaker:
Well…look, the history of the Black people goes back to the so-called founding peoples…to the first journey of Samuel de Champlain. In fact, the pilot and interpreter for Champlain was a man called Mathew Da Costa, a Black Man. Therefore, our history goes back into the very early period of Canadian history. However, if you look across Canada, you see no evidence of this presence. There are no Black institutions, there is no recognition of the fact that Black people were among the builders of the Canadian Nation. We have been deliberately excluded from the Canadian process, socially, politically and economically. One then begins to wonder what happened to Blacks who were part of the Canadian process. There are no institutions around that can mark with pride this tradition of our involvement in the growth and building of Canada. I react very vehemently to this. I assess it as being the ultimate effect of the racism that is inherent in White Canadian society. They deliberately write a whole people out of the Canadian nation-building process, out of history; to the extent that what is known is from the work of Black scholars deliberately digging around the archives and reconstructing the role that Black people played. It is as if we are a people like foot-steps on the sand just before a wave comes in and washes away the last evidence that somebody did walk there. We are a people without a presence, without an accumulated tradition within the Canadian process. Now, how do you establish that presence? We establish the presence by building institutions within the community that live on beyond the individual. My approach to community development is primarily institution building. Institutions that mark the presence of Black people in Canadian Society. Institutions that provide the services that are necessary for every human being to grow and to actualize whatever potential that individual has through life. I am not as pre-occupied with issue-organizing as I am with institutional development. Therefore, you hear me constantly say, “look, what we have to do is to create an organizational structure that present a representative infra-structure to the Black Community; one that is there whether Carl Whittaker is there or anyone else. It’s an institution that will last forever”.

That was Carl in 1982. Today in Quebec, under the clouds of French denial and neo-liberal betrayal, represented by the “notwithstanding clause”, Blacks are still excluded from the history of Quebec, ignored at the 375th   and reduced to an afterthought in some Borough events. They are still at the lower end of John Porter’s vertical Mosaic. We are still waiting for an apology and hoping to see a tear drop from the young Justin Trudeau’s eye that captures the pain that systemic discrimination, racism, racial profiling, and systemic exclusion have caused Blacks in Quebec and Canada.

Today, in the Back Communities of Montreal, there seems to be a prevailing opinion that, while there is significant evidence that many Blacks have benefited and have distinguished themselves as individuals, that, as a people of African ancestry, we have not accomplished much. On the angry side of the equation, there are those that say that the few have profited by the struggle of many but have given back nothing. They suffer the illusion that they are where they are entirely on account of their own work ethic and industry. On the other side of the equation there are those that argue that the social and political system is set up so that the country remains firmly under the control of a duality, the French settler classes and the English settler classes, and within those two groups all other sub-cultures and ethnicities are represented in scaled preferences, determined by constitutionalized and social systems of inclusion and exclusion. Predictably, as sub-cultures on the lower level of the totem of mosaic ethnicities, Blacks tend to show less development and less representation at all levels of the society as a cultural sub-group. There are many factors accounting for this. One is persistent race and cultural superiority traditions and beliefs still held and active in the conscious and subconscious psyches of the two settler groups; and another is denial of the existence of systemic and embedded racial discrimination in the social and economic arrangements of the society. In Quebec, the far right and the nationalist left are located between these two states. Unfortunately, the positions of most governments seem to be determined by the tug and pull between these two vectors. As I stated in an article in Community Contact, it should be no surprise that the enquiry on systemic discrimination and racism in Quebec is cancelled. Some members of Quebec’s La Muete will tell you that they are not racists, that there is no systemic racism in Quebec, and that such claims constitute a blackmail by people who have no respect for freedom of speech or have no logical explanation of their demands. They pronounce multiculturalism a failed experiment that has no future. This is the argument of a type of Darwinism based on fascist logic: there shall be in the end only one superior race. If I were to have to bet on the ultimate superior survivor race, I would not bet on La Muete. World relative rates of reproduction do not favour them. In fact, multiculturalism is favourable to their long term survival as a people on the world scale. The Black struggle in Quebec continues through the Black Community Forum. It has adopted the principles of organizational “collaborative unity and existential responsibility”. It is committed to the building and strengthening of Black institutions and creating effective communication networks as the way forward.


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