By TOM GODFREY
Two family members of the late Lincoln Alexander made a trip to Ottawa last week to observe a Bill recognizing the late political and race relations champion receive Royal Assent in the Senate.
A National Day of Recognition for Lincoln Alexander, or Bill S213, will be marked on January 21, which is also his birthday.
Seated in the gallery of the Senate to witness the historic event were Alexander’s daughter-in-law, Joyce, and granddaughter, Erica. The beaming women posed for photos with Senator Don Meredith, who introduced the Bill about a year ago.
“His family members are delighted and very proud to have a national day to remember his many deeds,” said Meredith. “This is a first day of its kind in Canada to recognize a Black Canadian.”
He said Canadians from coast-to-coast can mark the day by giving back to the community through volunteering or by helping others.
“Canadians can pause and reflect on Alexander’s record of public service,” said Meredith. “He dedicated his life to public service and political engagement.”
Meredith, who was born in Jamaica, said he is proud to have helped establish a day to honour Alexander, whose mother was born in Jamaica and father in St. Vincent.
He said Alexander didn’t have it easy growing up and was once refused a job by Hamilton’s then-largest steel company because it was felt that White customers may not like a Black salesman.
When he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942, that branch of the armed forces formally restricted non-Whites from entering service. Alexander served as a corporal until 1945.
Using services available to veterans, he was able to put himself through McMaster University and Osgoode Hall Law School. He practiced law and was eventually appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1965.
Alexander became the first Black to sit in the House of Commons in 1968 after winning a seat for Hamilton West. He was re-elected four times, serving a total of 12 years. In 1979, he was named Minister of Labour, a portfolio he held until 1980.
That year, he resigned his seat in the House after he was appointed chairman of the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Board, where he worked for five years.
In September 1985, Alexander was sworn in as Ontario’s 24th lieutenant-governor and became the first Black Canadian to be appointed to that position in Canada. In 1991, when his term of office was up, Alexander accepted a post as chancellor of the University of Guelph.
Alexander was also vested with a prestigious Companion to the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.
The Ontario government honoured Alexander with a similar day in 2013, a year after he died at the age of 90.