Black History in Canada

13 Sleeping car porters One job that many Black men could get upon arrival in Canada was as a sleeping car porter on Canada’s railway system. Major railway hubs were in cities such as Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto. Although the railways provided steady work, sleeping car porters encountered poor working conditions and anti-Black racism from passengers and management alike. In 1917, Black porters in Winnipeg established the Order of Sleeping Car Porters (OSCP) which helped secure contracts for the porters. In 1939, Black Canadian porters joined the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters labour union (BSCP, established in the United States in 1925), where they worked together for fair and equitable treatment for Black Canadians on the railways, and fought against racism and other challenges they faced on the job. At a time when Black people were fighting for their basic human rights, the BSCP was a much-needed group that helped to fight for the rights of Black men in the workplace and had far-reaching consequences for the development of human and civil rights legislation in Canada. Learn more about the sleeping car porters on TCE. After the Second World War there was an increased demand for domestic labour, and in 1955 the West Indian Domestic Scheme (1955–1967) was put into place. The scheme encouraged women from the Caribbean to migrate to Canada, where they would become domestic workers. After working for one year, they would be granted permanent residency and would have the opportunity to bring other family members to join them in Canada. The rate of Caribbean migration in the country further increased a few years later after the passing of the 1962 Immigration Act. The Act allowed approximately 64,000 Black Caribbean people into the country between 1962 and 1971, fundamentally altering the balance of Black groups in Canada. The 20th century also saw a rise in immigration from Haiti. The Haitian diaspora in Quebec began in the 1930s, though the first major wave occurred in the 1960s as a result of political changes in Haiti, followed by a second wave in the 1970s. While the first wave of political exiles was well-received and integrated quickly, the second wave was met with discriminatory backlash. Nevertheless, the Haitian community, one of the largest Black communities in Canada, has strengthened and grown over time and has made significant contributions to life in Quebec and Canada as a whole. Listen to the Haitian Diaspora episode of the Strong and Free podcast to learn more. After the country’s immigration policies became less restrictive in the late 1960s, the number of African immigrants to Canada also began to steadily increase. As immigration ramped up, people arrived from a wide range of countries including Cameroon, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda, among others. Many Continental Africans settled in large cities to join existing Black communities and to pursue better opportunities related to employment, housing, education, and overall quality of life. 1. Listen to the Strong and Free podcast episode on the West Indian Domestic Scheme. 2. Read the West Indian Domestic Scheme article on TCE and research how the scheme extended the limited employment opportunities available to Black women in Canada. 3. With a partner, discuss how the program limited immigration into Canada from the Caribbean (then known as the West Indies) while also creating opportunities for female workers. What impact did women who immigrated through the Domestic Scheme have on their local communities? What impact did they have on their communities in Canada? How did their arrival affect Canadian women in the labour force? Think about how neighbourhoods looked, diversity in the cultural scene, food, the labour market, etc. 4. With your partner, research an aspect of a Caribbean culture present in Canada today as a legacy of these women and share with the class in a short presentation. Your presentation should address the questions you considered above. Racism combined with gender and class inequities created difficult circumstances for Black women. From the time of enslavement until the 1950s and ‘60s, many Black women in Canada worked as domestics, one of the limited roles available to them. ACTIVITY 5.1 West Indian Domestic Scheme Podcast Shirley Jackson, Pete Stevens, Harry Gairey, Jimmy Downs (Library and Archives Canada/PA-212572) Did you know? Born in Nova Scotia in 1911, Portia White was the first African-Canadian concert singer to win international acclaim. She is one of many Black Canadians who have made strong contributions to the history of arts and culture in Canada. Watch her video here. Many events and groups of thought in this era were inspired by, or built as an extension of, those in the international sphere, particularly from the United States. Examples include Garveyism and the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, which was a leading international force for Black nationalism, pan-African identity, and self-reliance in the early 1900s and inspired several satellite organizations in Canada. Still from Portia White: The AfricanCanadian contralto singer who won international acclaim (Historica Canada)