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


For Full Version of Semaji November 2017 Click Here

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:


For Full Version of Semaji November 2017 Click Here

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.


For Full Version of Semaji November 2017 Click Here

Position Overview

The Animator will be tasked with promotion, planning, structuring, and facilitation of workshops with either a boys or girls group in respective schools. Each group will be run within the project guidelines by the animator who will facilitate structured activities in accordance with objectives set out by the BCRC and the school they reside within. This person will report to the Project Coordinator on activities, issues, and act as an intermediary for general communication between school staff, parents and other facilitators and will be tasked with keeping detailed notes. The Animator(s) will work both in the school, and on occasion in, the community.


Duties and Responsibilities



  • Plan and facilitate group workshops in accordance with the program guidelines and the participants’ skills and needs.
  • Develop monthly work plans in accordance with program objectives.
  • Serve as liaisons between students, homes, schools and other contacts to help children who face problems, such as disabilities, abuse, or poverty.
  • Interview clients individually, or in groups, assessing their situations, capabilities, and problems to determine what services are required to meet their needs.
  • Counsel students whose behavior, school progress, or mental or physical impairment indicate a need for assistance, identifying students’ problems.
  • Encourage group participants to provide mutual assistance and emotional support to each other.


  • Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Psychology or DEC in Social Service, CRLT, Special Care Counselling or related field.
  • Previous experience working with children and families.
  • Excellent oral and verbal communication skills/exceptional client service skills
  • Ability to problem solve and multi-task.
  • Detail-oriented; strong organizational skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to work under pressure while juggling several competing priorities.
  • Ability to work and problem solve independently and as a team member.
  • Excellent computer skills (Microsoft Office: Power Point, Excel, and Word).
  • Spoken and written English (French an asset)
  • Crisis intervention skills an asset.
  • Cultural Sensitivity.
  • Experience (or related experience) with “at risk” youth an asset.

All interested candidates ready for this challenge are requested to send their resume to the attention of Ms. Raeanne Francis, Administrative Coordinator  at Applications will be accepted until November 30th, 2017. Please note that we will only contact those candidates retained for an interview. . We thank you for your interest in working for BCRC.

By Ashlie Bienvenu


It seems appropriate to dedicate this article to Oliver Jones, as he recently performed in Little Burgundy at the renaming of Sainte-Cunegonde Social Centre, into the Oliver-Jones Centre. The renaming was to honour a talented and renowned musician; however, the honour was also due to his dedication and commitment to his hometown, Little Burgundy. Oliver Jones has led a very amazing life, from his childhood as a prodigy, to his performing and recording points in his career, to the growing fame and subsequent world tours, and to his recent retirement. However, throughout all of these milestones, Jones has stayed true to his roots and remained a prominent influential figure in his community.

Born on September 11, 1934, in Little Burgundy, Montreal, to Barbadian parents, Jones had an early affinity for music. Considered a child prodigy, Jones was playing the piano in the Union United Church at the age of five, and playing in Café St-Michel at the age of nine. He later went on to play at clubs, one of which was the famous Rockhead’s Paradise. During his childhood Jones was tutored in classical piano by Madame Bonner, and later by Daisy Peterson Sweeney, the sister of Oscar Peterson. Jones later went on to tour the United States with a show called the Bandwagon. (Ware & Gagnon, 2016)

Jones worked in Montreal until approximately 1963, until he moved to Puerto Rico with his family to become the music director for the Kenny Hamilton Show Band. Jones returned to Montreal in 1980 and began to collaborate with Charles Biddle. They performed around Montreal, in bars and clubs, before opening a club of their own, the Biddle’s Jazz and Ribs, now called the House of Jazz, for which Jones was the in-house pianist. In 1985 Jones and Biddle recorded an album that caught the interest of Jim West, a record producer for the Jazz label, Justin Time. Jones, in a trio with Biddle and Bernard Primeau, recorded numerous songs. However, as Jones’ solo career took off, he was unable to devote his time to Biddle’s club. He played in Jazz festivals, went on tour around the world, and recorded over 15 albums. (Ware & Gagnon, 2016)

Jones also taught at Laurentian University, in 1987, and McGill University, in 1988, until his retirement in 1995. He was given many honours and awards, such as the PROCAN award, for his contributions to the world of Jazz, the Oscar Peterson Award, the Golden Ducat, Knight of the Ordre national du Québec, Officer of the Order of Canada, Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, for his contributions to the Black community in Canada, especially Montreal. Jones announced his retirement, originally, in 2000. He decided to continue touring in 2002 and continued with his music career until 2016, where, at the tenth annual International Jazz Festival, he announced his retirement due to health issues. Jones hoped that there would be young Jazz musicians to pick up the torch after him. (Ware & Gagnon, 2016)

One such young musician, who was inspired and supported by Jones, is the seventeen year old Montrealer, Daniel Clarke Bouchard. This young piano prodigy credits Jones as being his mentor and says that “It’s really changed [his] whole career, being able to be around [Jones] and have [his] career progress with his watchful eye.” (CBC News) Jones has made an impact on many young musicians from the Montreal Black Community. In fact, at his performance this past month, at the renaming of the Sainte-Cunegonde Social Centre, Jones gave a speech in which he declared he was “passing the baton to the next generations.” (CBC News) He also used this speech to give hope to the children who come from less influential homes and neighbourhoods. He uses himself as an example that, if you work hard enough, it does not matter which walk of life you come from. (CBC News)

Therefore, even though Jones is set to retire, his memory, legend, and good works will live on in Little Burgundy and, more generally, Montreal. Indeed, his name will live on in Little Burgundy, through the newly named Oliver-Jones Centre, which provides services to the St. Henri/Little Burgundy community. His hard work and dedication will always serve as an example to children to follow their dreams, no matter their circumstances.


Jazz legend Oliver Jones gives another ‘last’ performance after community centre renamed in his honour. (September 17, 2017). CBC News. Retrieved from

Ware, E. & Gagnon, A.J. (October 6, 2016). Canadian Encyclopedia: Oliver Jones. Historica Canada. Retrieved from


For Full Version of Semaji September 2017 Click Here

By Ashlie Bienvenu

We are pleased to announce that, as of September 11th, 2017, the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex (QEHC), which predominantly serves the Anglophone community in NDG, has been given the status of “super-clinic.” (CBC News) “Ensuring ready access to both medical and alternative health services, the QEHC is an attractive option to avoid the overcrowding, delays and other inconveniences so often experienced in hospitals and CLSCs.” (QEHC)

The QEHC has a long history of service to the community, since “1894 when it used to be the Montreal Homeopathic Hospital,” (QEHC) situated on McGill College Avenue. The hospital was later moved to Marlowe Avenue, its current NDG location, in 1927, when there was a demand for more beds and space. This hospital became renowned for their cutting edge medical practices and attentive staff, so much so that they were honored with the name of King George VI’s wife, Queen Elizabeth. However, the hospital’s very existence was put in jeopardy when there was a government directive, in 1995, to cut health care costs through the closure of “Montreal-area acute-care hospitals.” (QEHC) In the year after this directive, “the QEH Board of Directors, the QEH Foundation and other bodies and individuals in the community joined forces and decided to take matters into their own hands by forming the Centre-West Community Health Corporation (CWCHC).” (QEHC) This new not-for-profit organization allowed for the continuation of acute care services in the community.

“The Queen Elizabeth Health Complex, under the management of the CWCHC, is therefore a reincarnation and a new legal form for a century-old community institution. Its mission is to provide efficient, readily accessible medical services, complementary and alternative therapy, as well as emotional and mental health services that will contribute to improving the health of our community in accordance with the policies and guidelines of the Government of Quebec.” (QEHC)

The QEHC offers services such as:
-A walk-in clinic, open 365 days a year
-A medical specialist clinic: cardiology, internal medicine, neurology, urology, otolaryngology, endocrinology, ophthalmology, and a special educational diabetes program.
-Imaging centre: radiology, ultrasound, digital mammography, bone density, and fluoroscopy services.
– The MUHC Department of Family Medicine.
– A dental clinic affiliated with the McGill University Faculty of Dentistry.
– Health services, such as chiropractic, nutrition, dietetics, physiotherapy, osteopathy, audiology and aesthetic medicine.
-Provides in-home nursing services.
-Mental health services.
-Complementary and alternative health care services: acupuncture, massotherapy, homeopathy, etc. (QEHC)

Please visit the QEHC website ( for more information.


NDG’s Queen Elizabeth Health Complex to become ‘super-clinic’. (August 25, 2017). CBC News. Retrieved from
QEHC. Queen Elizabeth Health Complex. Retrieved from


For Full Version of Semaji September 2017 Click Here

By Yvonne Sam (Chairman of the Rights and Freedoms Committee)
Originally Published in The Montreal Gazette, September 18, 2017


Testimony has a greater impact if one can see and hear the person testifying. The hearings are an opportunity to heighten public awareness.

The Quebec inquiry on systemic discrimination and racism has yet to begin hearings, but what’s already apparent is that the Couillard government does not want the exercise to be transparent.

When the consultation was announced in July, all Quebecers were urged to participate, with the hearings being touted as an occasion to find tangible and permanent solutions to the issues at hand. Now we learn that Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil and the Quebec Human Rights Commission have indicated that local consultations will be held behind closed doors, hidden from the eyes of the media and the citizenry, away from the public setting that was expected by the public.

According to a spokesperson for Weil, “The people who wish to be heard will be heard.”

But by whom?

Weil herself has proffered the defense that privacy will ensure that those testifying will feel open to relaying their experience.

No way! Poor say!

Systemic racism concerns the denial of political, economic and social opportunities to individuals on account of their race or ethnic background. Marginalized groups who regularly deal with discrimination, mistreatment and unfair treatment are used to not being heard and, above all, not being taken seriously, and may view testifying behind closed doors as an extension of that attitude.

Let us not forget that there are many who already have little faith in the government and its previous handling of racism and discrimination, and now are called upon to sit behind closed doors to discuss their sufferings and injustices. This is similar to the fox declaring that he is now a vegan so that he can oversee the hen house. The history of the beleaguered Human Rights Commission, mandated to oversee the hearings but currently embroiled in its own issues, speaks volumes in itself; if it had, over the years, done a better job of carrying out its functions, this public consultation may have not been needed. It seems as plain as falling rain that hearings behind closed doors must be for the benefit of the rights commission, as they are not helpful to the victims.

The decision to hold closed-door hearings may additionally be because the province is unwilling to stir up debate as was evoked by the Bouchard-Taylor hearings on reasonable accommodation a decade ago.

Certainly, testimony has a greater impact if one can see and hear the person testifying. For those who do not feel the impact of systemic discrimination and racism, and may not even know it exists, hearing testimony as relayed by media could be educational. It is challenging to see a problem or barrier if it is not within our lived experience, or to comprehend its urgency. The hearings are a good opportunity to heighten public awareness of these issues.

The second phase of the inquiry, open to the public, begins in November and features the testimony of experts and transmission of some of the issues raised by working groups that are to focus on specific areas, like education and employment. Why would only some of the issues be given priority, rather than have them all addressed?

Of further concern is the fact that the government intends to release the findings along with an action plan in the spring, just months shy of the general election scheduled for October 2018. That does not leave much time for implementation of any recommendations.

It is not too late for the government to clean the slate, for at the end of the day the objective is to have a better Quebec, where racism and discrimination would be sent into remission.

The closed doors should be opened wide, so there is nothing to hide.


For Full Version of Semaji September 2017 Click Here

Position: Animator


Position Overview

The Animator will be tasked with promotion, planning, structuring, and facilitation of workshops with either a boys or girls group in respective schools. Each group will be run within the project guidelines by the animator who will facilitate structured activities in accordance with objectives set out by the BCRC and the school they reside within. This person will report to the Project Coordinator on activities, issues, and act as an intermediary for general communication between school staff, parents and other facilitators and will be tasked with keeping detailed notes. The Animator(s) will work both in the school, and on occasion in, the community.


Duties and Responsibilities

  • Plan and facilitate group workshops in accordance with the program guidelines and the participants’ skills and needs.
  • Develop monthly work plans in accordance with program objectives.
  • Serve as liaisons between students, homes, schools and other contacts to help children who face problems, such as disabilities, abuse, or poverty.
  • Interview clients individually, or in groups, assessing their situations, capabilities, and problems to determine what services are required to meet their needs.
  • Counsel students whose behavior, school progress, or mental or physical impairment indicate a need for assistance, Identifying students’ problems.
  • Assist parents with understanding social dynamics of High School, and intervening appropriately with students.
  • Encourage group participants to provide mutual assistance and emotional support to each other.


Qualifications: DEC or Bachelors in Social Work, Psychology, Social Service, CRLT, Special Care Counselling or related field.


All interested candidates ready for this challenge are requested to send their resume to Applications will be accepted until November 30th, 2017.

Canada’s Black Walk Of Fame: Dr. Charles R. Drew

By Ashlie Bienvenu


For our next inductee into the Black Walk of Fame, we look to someone who, while not born in Canada, gained the inspiration for his ground-breaking blood plasma discoveries at Montreal’s own McGill University. The story of his never ending determination in the face of adversity, and his fight for racial equality in the medical field, are truly awe-inspiring. This man surely deserves recognition, not only for his innovative medical discoveries, but also for his activism in the field of racial equality.


Charles Drew was born in Washington, D.C., in the year 1904. Even as a child he was hardworking, driven and goal oriented. These characteristics would later help him in his pursuit of education, in a field that did not admit many Black figures. While Drew ended up entering the medical field, he began his education with a focus toward sports. In his high school, Drew lettered in four different sports and was given the James E. Walker Medal for excellence in sports. Drew later went on to Amherst College, with an athletic scholarship, and received a reputation as a legendary athlete that brought his school to numerous victories. However, it was during this time that he developed his interest in medicine through his biology classes, his football injuries, and the death of his sister from tuberculosis. Drew graduated from Amherst in 1926 and began to move forward with his vision of medical school. Drew never gave up his sports, in fact, he turned many of his schools’ sports teams into champions; but, his new focus became medical school.


Drew, as a Black man, in a pre-Civil Rights Movement society, did not have many options in the racially segregated academics. Receiving an education in medicine was even harder, as many patients would have refused the services of a Black doctor. This did not stop Drew, however, and, when he was made to wait a year to get into Harvard, he decided to apply to McGill, which had a reputation for better treatment of racial minorities. While at McGill, Drew became a star athlete and student. He graduated second in a class of 137 students and won numerous prizes and fellowships in his time there. Drew finished off his time in Montreal by completing his residency at Montreal General Hospital, alongside Professor John Beattie, a bacteriologist who was working to treat shock patients with blood transfusions. It was during this time that Drew formed his interest in transfusion medicine. During his time at Montreal General, 1933-1935, Drew experienced a hospital fire, with many casualties. At the time, if someone needed a transfusion, they needed to find a donor on short notice, as there was no way to preserve blood for more than a few days. Therefore, a lot of the patients, during this fire, died without access to transfusions. This experience would later influence his research on blood preservation and blood banks.


Drew later decided to move back to the United States to teach medicine. With limited spaces available for Black men he was restricted to a position at Howard University. Drew would later push against these boundaries by continuing to rise in academia, as well as working to create a more tolerant environment for Black medical students. During Drew’s surgical residency at Columbia University, where he was the first Black man to do so, he specialized in research on fluid chemistry, alongside Dr. John Scudder. The focus of his research centered on how to “bank” blood, or preserve it. Drew and Scudder set up their research in Presbyterian Hospital, in 1939, where they set up an experimental blood bank. During this experiment, Drew and Scudder researched the best variables and conditions that would allow the blood to last longer. They eventually found, along with other researchers, that when blood plasma is separated from the blood it lasts longer and is more easily preserved. This discovery came in handy during the course of World War II, especially in Britain, which had been hit hard by the Germans.


During World War II, the American Red Cross Association and the National Research Council (NRC) got together to create a relief program for Britain, called “Blood for Britain”. Drew and Scudder joined the NRC’s Committee on Transfusions. Drew was later asked by the Blood Transfusion Betterment Association (BTBA) to take a more active role and lead the initiative for Britain, as the medical supervisor. Drew was credited with creating a standardized system for quality transfusion preservation methods. It was through his leadership that the program became a success. However, Drew eventually gave up his position due to the Red Cross’s segregated blood transfusion policy. Instead, he went on to become the Chair for the Department of Surgery for Howard University and train young Black surgeons to propel them to excellence.


Therefore, Dr. Charles Drew leaves a lasting legacy on the world. He revolutionized the system of blood transfusions, trained more than half of America’s Black surgeons between 1941 and 1950, and had an impact on the preservation of lives during the Second World War. Many people are alive today due to discoveries that were made by Dr. Charles Drew, and it is thanks to him that we have a large-scale blood bank system today.



The Charles R. Drew Papers. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from


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