According to the Canadian census, roughly 2% of Canada’s 34 million people identify as black (of partial or full indigenous African descent).
The majority of Canada’s black population prefer the term “black” to identify themselves racially; however, the mainstream media prefers to use the term African-Canadian.
Roughly 98 percent of Canada’s black population live in urban or metropolitan areas: Toronto, Montreal, Windsor, Halifax, etc.
1. Caribbean/West Indian Blacks
2. African blacks
3. African-Canadian blacks
Caribbean/West Indian blacks –70% of Canada’s Blacks
What they prefer to call themselves: Black, Caribbean/West Indian, or Trini, Bajan, Haitian, etc
The Caribbean/West Indian group is by far the largest group. Blacks from the Caribbean account for roughly 70% of all blacks in Canada. Furthermore, Jamaicans account for roughly 70% of all Caribbean blacks. It’s unclear why this is the case; however, it may be tied to the Farm Labour Program between Canada and Jamaica that bring many Jamaicans into the country to work as farm hands. Many apply for legal status after their work period is over. The majority of Jamaican-Canadians (and Caribbean blacks in general) came to the country after 1969 (this is the period immediately after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the U.S., which was instrumental in immigration from non-European countries in the U.S., but also Canada and Britain). Jamaican- Canadians mostly live in the province of Ontario (85%) with the others to be found in Quebec (5%), Alberta and B.C. (4 and 3% respectively).
Roughly 20% of Caribbean blacks have college and university degrees, with the females edging out the males.
Most notable Black Caribbean-Canadians
Michaelle Jean (Haitian-Canadian), former Governor General of Canada, and first black person to hold the post. Prior to her post as GG of Canada, she was an award-winning journalist and TV host of cultural heritage programs for the CBC. Jean’s most infamous moments are a) eating seal meat in Nunavut to protest the EU ban on the product, and b) crying uncontrollably during a publicized tour of earthquake damaged Haiti, her native country.
Donovan Bailey (Jamaican-Canadian). Bailey is a Jamaican-born Canadian. He’s a former track and field sprinter. He made history when he won the 100 meter sprint race in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Bailey won a third world title in 1997 with the Canadian relay team, while finishing second in the 100m behind Maurice Greene. Donovan Bailey still holds the indoor world record in the 50 meters (5.56, in Reno, Nevada, in 1996), and the Olympic, Commonwealth and Canadian records for the 100 meters.
Michael Lee-Chin is a Jamaican-Canadian investor. He was born 1951 to a Chinese-Jamaican father and a black Jamaican mother. He is the founder and Chairman of Portland Holdings Inc., a privately held investment company which owns a collection of diversified operating companies in sectors that include media, tourism, health care telecommunications and financial services. Amongst other positions, he is currently Executive Chairman of AIC Limited (a Canadian mutual fund), and the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica. In the latest Forbes Billionaires List, he was placed at number 701, with assets worth around $1.0 billion.
What they call themselves: black, African, or: Ghanaian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalis, etc
Africans are the youngest black group in Canada. Like Caribbean blacks, they live in four provinces: Ontario (59%), Quebec (17%), British Columbia (8%) and Alberta (5%). They are, however, slightly more dispersed than Caribbean blacks. Roughly 41% of these blacks live in Toronto, with the others living in Metropolitan areas, such as Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax. The percentage of Africans with college degrees is 38%, which is higher than the national average, but African men are slightly better educated than African women by 6 percent. This contrasts the Caribbean scenario. Africans also have more post-graduate degrees than the rest of the Canadian population, 7.3 to 4.9, respectively.
Notable Africans in Canada
K’naan is a Somali-Canadian musician, poet and activist. He is best known for his song Wavin’ Flag, which is arguably one of the most played songs of 2010. The song was recorded by young Canadian artists, including K’naan, in March 2010 as an anthem for earthquake damaged Haiti, and went on the spend weeks at number one in Canada. A second version served as the unofficial anthem of the World Cup 2010. K’naan’s songs are politically and socially conscious. He writes mostly about the African continent, and his troubled young adult life in Rexdale (Toronto neighborhood), which includes drug dealing and guns that landed him in and out of prison.
What they prefer to be called: African Canadian
African Canadians represent the oldest, most established Canadian black group in Canada. Most African Canadians came to Canada from the U.S. during the slave days. Many came to Canada during the War of 1812 with the promise of freedom upon arrival. Many more came via the Underground Railroad, made historic by Harriet Tubman who ran away from a plantation in 1849. Few others simply migrated to Canada in the post-slavery days, the turbulent sixties, etc. The largest settlements for African Canadians are: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Southern Ontario (Toronto and Windsor), and Quebec (Montreal). The oldest known settlement of African Canadians is Africville, Nova Scotia, which made headlines when it was bulldozed by the Canadian government in the 1960s, so it could build a dump site. It has since been declared an historical landmark.
Prominent African Canadians
1. Elijah McCoy (a.k.a. “the real McCoy”): Elijah was an inventor born in Ontario whose invention, a lubricant cup for machines, was so popular it spawned cheap and lesser imitations, which caused customers to start demanding “the real McCoy” when purchasing the product. The expression has become synonymous for genuine article and not imitation.
2. Viola Desmond (a.k.a the Canadian Rosa Parks) was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Roughly 10 years prior to Rosa Parks brave refusal to sit at the back of the bus, Viola caused a stir in Canada (c.1946). Viola chose to sit in the main area of a theater, instead of the balcony, the designated black area. Viola was removed by the police, and charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia of the difference in the tax between a ground floor and a balcony seat, and though she paid the fine, she later filed a lawsuit of discrimination that would set off a chain reaction of civil rights battles, of which she was a major part.
3. Josiah Henson (a.k.a Uncle Tom). Josiah is the first black man to be featured on a Canadian stamp. He was born in the U.S.in 1789. Josiah and his family escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad in 1830, and came to settle in Southern Ontario. Josiah’s story is what inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852, anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Speaking of the cabin, the cabin purchased by Josiah in 1841 as a refuge house for runaway slaves is now an historic landmark, located in the village of Dresden, Ontario.
HOW THESE BLACK GROUPS INTERACT WITH ONE ANOTHER
Perfectly fine. However, there is mutual indifference between them. That is, African blacks generally stick to social groups consisting of people from their ethno-national heritage. E.G. Ethiopians generally hang with Ethiopians, Nigerians with Nigerians. Caribbean blacks stick with one another, and there is usually cross-national friendships, relationships. For example, my friends are Trini, Guyanese, Bajan, etc. African Canadians generally stick to themselves, too, but they also seem to embrace Caribbean blacks. Hence, I know a few people who are of Caribbean and African Canadian descent. However, many Africans and African Canadians feel alienated during Caribana, which is understandable. But, there is no conflict between the three groups, no battle for recognition, for example.