All three political parties are behind a private members bill to proclaim January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day in Ontario.
Wellington-Halton Hills Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Ted Arnott tabled the proposal at Queen’s Park last weekend.
He said the idea of establishing a Lincoln Alexander Day came to him while he was at an event at the University of Guelph last month.
“I was thinking of his time as chancellor of Guelph and it struck me that there should be some kind of official recognition to honour him,” said Arnott. “His life was an example of service, determination and humility. Always fighting for equal rights for all races in our society, and doing so without malice, he changed attitudes and contributed greatly to the inclusiveness and tolerance of Canada today.”
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek New Democratic Party MPP Paul Miller and Scarborough-Rouge River Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon are co-sponsoring the bill.
“In most instances, the opposition blocks private members bills because they are looking for something in return or what we call a ‘trade-in’,” said Balkissoon. “With the three parties supporting this one, I expect it to go through before Alexander’s next birthday which would be January 21. “I worked with Lincoln a few years ago and he left a lasting impression on me.”
Six years ago, then-Stoney Creek Liberal MPP Jennifer Mossop proposed a similar bill that was not passed into law.
Alexander, Canada’s first Black Member of Parliament, federal minister and Ontario’s first Black Lieutenant Governor, passed away last October at age 90.
The second of three children and the son of a railway porter father and mother who migrated from St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Jamaica respectively, and who separated during his early years, Alexander – who was born on Simcoe St. in Toronto – attended Earl Grey Public School, Riverdale Collegiate and Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York where he was one of the very few Black kids on his block that attended school.
Alexander went to live in Hamilton with his mother when they came back from the United States. He served with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1945, rising to the rank of corporal and was a wireless operator during World War II. After leaving the military, he enrolled in McMaster University in 1949 to study law and later attended Osgoode Hall Law School.
A partner in the law firm of Millar, Alexander, Tokiwa and Isaacs after being appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1965, Alexander – he was encouraged by former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to run for political office – was elected to the House of Commons in June 1968 after losing three years earlier.
The Order of Ontario and Order of Canada recipient and Hamilton-Wentworth, York Regional and Toronto Police honorary chief was the longest serving chancellor of the University of Guelph where he held the position for an unprecedented five terms, a record among Canadian universities. Six years ago, he was named chancellor emeritus in recognition of his lengthy and distinguished service to the university.
Three University of Guelph awards bear Alexander’s name. They are the Lincoln Alexander Outstanding Leadership Award, the Lincoln Alexander Medal of Distinguished Service and the Lincoln Alexander Chancellor’s Scholarship. On campus, a refurbished teaching and research building called Lincoln Alexander Hall honours his commitment to the university.