Today is the International Day for People of African Descent

August 31, 2023

On the International Day for People of African Descent, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour pays tribute to the remarkable contributions made by individuals of African descent.

Today, we honour the achievements of African descent role models who have played an instrumental role in shaping our history and continue to enrich our society with their ongoing contributions. Their resilience, talent, and dedication have propelled us towards a more diverse, prosperous, and compassionate country. The history of individuals of African descent in Nova Scotia is rich and significant. These individuals have made invaluable contributions to the province and have played a crucial role in shaping its history and culture.

One notable figure is Mathieu Da Costa, who arrived in Nova Scotia in the early 1600s as a navigator and interpreter. Da Costa, who was of African heritage, was multilingual and provided a crucial link between the French explorers and the indigenous Mi’kmaq people.

Another prominent figure is Viola Desmond, whose courageous act of defiance against racial segregation in 1946 catalyzed change. Desmond, a Black businesswoman, was arrested for sitting in the Whites Only section of a theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Her fight against her conviction sparked a movement and brought attention to the struggle against racial discrimination.

The Black community of Africville, located in Halifax, is also an important part of the province’s history. Africville was a vibrant and close-knit community that faced years of neglect and, ultimately, demolition in the 1960s. Despite the destruction of their community, the spirit and resilience of the people of Africville continue to inspire and shape the narrative of Black history in Nova Scotia.

Additionally, Black Canadians’ military presence has a long and proud tradition in Nova Scotia. The province is home to the largest Black military unit in Canadian history, originating from the No. 2 Construction Battalion during World War I.

Recognizing and celebrating the contributions of individuals of African descent in Nova Scotia is important. Their stories and achievements have played a vital role in shaping the province’s heritage and identity. We can foster greater understanding, appreciation, and inclusion in our communities by acknowledging and learning from this history.

As united voices, we are committed to building a fairer society free from hate and discrimination. Our unions firmly support equal economic, social, cultural, and political opportunities. We actively endorse initiatives celebrating heritage, knowledge sharing, and investments in vibrant Black communities. Our unions have diligently worked to address the deeply rooted anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that persist in our society and the criminal justice system. We strive to ensure equal treatment for all individuals before and under the law.

We warmly invite all union members and members of our communities to delve into the rich history of people of African descent. By learning about their invaluable contributions, we can foster greater understanding, appreciation, and solidarity from coast to coast to coast. Today and every day, let us reaffirm our commitment to equality and justice for all. Together, we can create a truly inclusive society that recognizes and celebrates the diverse tapestry of our nation.

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