Lincoln Alexander Day Act

An Act respecting a Lincoln Alexander Day

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Chris Charlton  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Dec. 9, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the 21st day of January in each and every year as “Lincoln Alexander Day”.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Lincoln Alexander DayPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is with pride that I stand in the House today to speak to my colleagues and the Canadian people, particularly on this day, on this bill.

I would like to thank the member for Hamilton Mountain. A year ago, the member put forward Bill C-563 which, in effect, is this bill. It is good to see that even though it has changed its title, it has come to this place to be heard for the third time. I do believe it will pass.

We all have dreams. We all have individuals in our life who we look to and say “I want to be just like that person”. Following up on the question I asked my colleague, this is an important aspect of why we should support the bill. It is why I and my colleagues support this bill moving forward, making January 21 Lincoln Alexander day in recognition of the fine work he did.

All of my colleagues who have spoken to this bill in the past have spoken to the dedication and passion of Lincoln Alexander, former Lieutenant Governor, and of the contributions he has made to our country, to Canadians and Ontarians.

I would like to highlight the contribution that he has made in terms of being a focal point, or a beacon to the black community in Canada. As I said, we all have dreams. When I was about seven years old, I saw Sidney Poitier in To Sir, with Love. In seeing that, it solidified in mind that, yes, I would be an actor but not only that, this is how I would do it. That was the beginning of my road. I had, like so many of us, individuals who helped guide me in that direction.

The importance of this bill is that it allows for the story of Lincoln Alexander to represent the same kind of beacon, the same kind of guidance, the same kind of pride to the community of communities; that is the black community in Canada.

Lincoln Alexander, indeed, overcame the barriers and walls that existed in his time to become the first on many levels. We do look at firsts in our community as being significant. There are times where in areas of the world or in certain activities, it is expected that people of African descent will participate, to excel. There are areas of the world or activities where that is not so open.

Before there were the Williams sisters, Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe in the world of tennis, which was a very closed world. Before there was Tiger Woods, there was Charlie Sifford, who became the first person of African descent to play in the PGA tour.

Like these trailblazers, Lincoln Alexander holds that very proud distinction in the world of Canadian politics. In a world where history has forgotten many of the stories that have been forged in Canadian history and in world history, recognizing the accomplishments of Lincoln Alexander on January 21 each year will give a focus to young people.

As my colleague has pointed out many times, the importance of young people to Mr. Lincoln Alexander goes unsaid. Like so many individuals who care about the future, Lincoln Alexander did what he had to do, not only because it was his time to do it, but to blaze a trail forward for those who came after him, including myself. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before, and I count myself as one who stands on the shoulders of Lincoln Alexander.

The bill is important because it sends a very clear message to those who have a vision. It sends the message that it can be done and should be done. It sends a message that underlines the continuing march towards inherent inclusion and the further distancing from the hard-fought merits of inclusion. It solidifies the history, place, life, times and works of Lincoln Alexander. Therefore, it cannot be lost in the history of our country.

It becomes a beacon, much like the beacons I have followed, for future generations. It becomes a point for young people sitting at their desk thinking they would like to be a part of change in our country, a part of contributing to our country. Lincoln Alexander is a beacon in how that can be done and the fact that it could be done.

My support, and all of our support, for this bill means that we are participating in the making of dreams; the dreams of those who are just beginning to dream as well as those who are well on the road to achieving their dreams. It allows those dreams to be attained. It allows those dreams to become a reality.

Above all else in his accomplishments, if he were with us today, I think Lincoln Alexander would be quite proud to be a beacon for those young people and their dreams.

Lincoln Alexander Day ActPrivate Members' Business

September 24th, 2014 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-213, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day. I could not be happier that the bill has finally made it to the floor of the House of Commons for debate. What a long and tortuous road it has been.

I remember when I first got the call from Lincoln Alexander's widow, Marni Beal, asking for my help to establish a national day in Linc's honour. I immediately agreed that it was a stellar idea and I was sure that it would get support across party lines. However, I did ask Marni why she was coming to me instead of one of the Hamilton area Conservative MPs, since Linc of course had been the Conservative member of Parliament for Hamilton West. Marni said she had indeed contacted them but no one had committed to moving forward with it and she was really looking for a champion to get the ball rolling.

I told her I would be honoured to play that role. Naively, I thought proclaiming a day in Linc's honour would be a piece of cake. At first, when I talked to some Ontario MPs from all political parties, including cabinet ministers, everyone was on side. The only hitch was how to go about doing it. Since everyone appeared to be in agreement, the simplest way of making it happen would be through a motion that the House would adopt unanimously. Lincoln Alexander Day could be proclaimed in minutes, as opposed to sending a bill through the drawn-out legislative process.

The government House leader, himself an Ontario MP, confided that although he was okay with that approach, he wanted to make sure that he would not be in the House when I moved that motion since he had told some of his caucus colleagues that they should not move similar motions but rather should introduce them as private member's bills.

Fair enough. I waited until he left the House and then rose to say the following:

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among the parties, and I believe if you seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion: I move that this House designate January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day.

Imagine my surprise when some Conservative members said “no”. Clearly, all of the verbal assurances that this was a matter where we could rise above partisanship and simply do the right thing as parliamentarians had meant absolutely nothing. Obviously, there was nothing left that the Conservative Party would not try to use to its own narrow partisan advantage.

I got in touch with Marni and told her what had transpired. It now looked like a bill would be the only option for moving ahead. Right after question period on December 9, I introduced Bill C-563, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day. The bill would make January 21, which was Linc's birthday, Lincoln Alexander Day.

I was still cautiously optimistic we might be able to pass the bill in time for the day to be observed this year. That hope was quickly dashed when I learned three hours later that the Conservatives tabled an almost identical bill to mine in the Senate. I say “almost identical”, because in their haste to introduce something of their own, they screwed it up. The English version proclaimed January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day, but the French version made it July 21. Would it not have been easier just to support mine? Not if one's only goal is to score political points, even if that means scoring on one's own net.

Senator Meredith did that twice. First by getting the date wrong in the French version of the bill and then by gloating on Twitter that the bill had become law after it was passed in the Senate. However, he forgot one important thing. A bill doesn't become law in Canada without being passed by the House of Commons.

After getting third reading in the Senate, it had to come here, sponsored by a member of Parliament. Of course, that MP is a member of the Conservative caucus. Mission accomplished. The Conservatives can now claim credit for enacting a national day in honour of Lincoln Alexander.

The thing is, I do not care, or ever did care, about who got the political credit. In fact, I mentioned earlier that from the very beginning I had asked Linc's widow whether she would not rather have a Conservative MP move the bill forward. I just wanted to make sure it happened. Now it finally is. My only regret is that we could not rise above partisanship to make it happen in a more timely way. We missed the opportunity to formally recognize Lincoln Alexander Day this year, and I think that speaks poorly of how we fulfill our roles in this place.

In that regard, we could all stand to learn from Linc. For him, public service was just that. It was all about serving the public and not an end in itself. Born in Toronto in 1922, the son of a maid and a railway porter, Linc embarked on an exemplary life path that involved military service for his country, a successful political career, a thriving law career and vocal advocacy on subjects ranging from anti-racism to the importance of education.

Anyone who has read his biography “Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy” will know that a remarkable series of events helped shape the charismatic and influential leader whose impact continues to be felt today. From facing down racism to challenging the postwar Ontario establishment, serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, becoming Canada's first black member of Parliament and our country's first black cabinet minister, entertaining royalty as Ontario's lieutenant-governor, and serving as chancellor of the University of Guelph, Linc's is the ultimate, uplifting Canadian success story. He was the embodiment of public service at its finest.

Others who have spoken in this debate have already listed Linc's long list of credentials and accomplishments, and I don't want to repeat them all here. For anyone unfamiliar with Linc's legacy, they need merely read the preamble of my bill. It is a very succinct expression of a man whose spirit in so many ways was too expansive to capture in words.

Sandra Martin also wrote a superb obituary that was published in The Globe and Mail. It beautifully describes and honours the life of a man who did so much to advance the cause of Canada's youth, fight racism, and advocate on behalf of seniors.

However, in what little time I have remaining in today's debate, I want to reflect on the Linc I knew personally. I first met him when I was an intern at Queen's Park from 1989 to 1990. Linc was the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario at the time, and always made time to meet with each year's new crop of interns. Our academic advisers and Linc's aide-de-camp primed us for the meeting. Our heads were spinning with protocol. From something as simple as knowing how to pronounce “lieutenant-governor” to being told when to rise and how to greet him, to what we could and should not ask, we were ready, and just a little bit nervous. This was the Queen's representative after all.

After we had all assembled in the foyer, we looked to the top of the grand staircase and down bounded this energetic giant of a man. We politely greeted him in the way that protocol demanded, and with a twinkle in his eye, he said to us what I have heard him say to hundreds of people since, “Just call me Linc”. With that, all of our shyness and awkwardness went out the window. We spent almost an hour with a man who seemed more interested in our education, dreams and goals than he was in talking about himself, yet he shared just enough of himself to leave us awed by his grace and dignity and inspired by this larger-than-life role model.

As The Globe and Mail so rightly pointed out on his passing, Linc loved being lieutenant-governor because he loved interacting with people, with royalty and commoners alike. There were no airs about Linc. He was everyone's friend. I remember him calling a heckler to order during a heritage awards ceremony at the Scottish Rite in Hamilton. In a packed hall, it could have been a moment of tension and strife, but instead Linc handled the situation in such a self-deprecating way that he left the audience laughing, the heckler silenced but smiling, and no one in doubt about who owned the stage. For me, I must confess it was the highlight of the event. His exact words still make me chuckle.

Of course, all of us in Hamilton chuckle at the fact that an expressway that bisects my riding of Hamilton Mountain is called the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. Linc never learned to drive and in truth he was afraid of traffic. However, that did not stop him from cruising up and down the main streets of Hamilton in his motorized red scooter after he retired. His body may have been starting to show its age, but there was no way it was going to keep him from getting out and about.

More often than not, it was now Linc who heckled dignitaries at public events. I remember speaking at the opening of Bay Gardens, and Linc heckled one of us there. I so desperately wanted to grab the mic and use the same line that Linc had used at the Scottish Rite. I think he would have laughed like hell if I had reminded him of the reference, but my sense of protocol did not let me do it and I still kind of regret that to this day.

Right to the end, Linc was a force larger than life. He taught us all to never give up and to always use our skills to improve the world. He was an inspiration and a role model. By proclaiming a day in his honour, future generations of Canadians will learn about him and from him. As a man who prized education above all else, that opportunity to learn is the most fitting tribute of all, so let us finally get this bill passed.

Lincoln Alexander Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill S-213, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander day, sponsored by Senator Don Meredith. I commend the hon. senator for this excellent initiative on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Liberal caucus in the House of Commons, and the Liberal leader, the MP for Papineau.

When the hon. Lincoln MacCauley Alexander was appointed as the 24th lieutenant governor of Ontario, he chose as his official heraldic motto the three words that he then felt—along with the huge number of Canadian men, women, and youth, of all creeds, ethnic backgrounds, and political persuasions, who had witnessed or benefited from his initiatives—to be the three pillars of his already accomplished life. Those words were “confidence, determination, and perseverance”.

With his humble background, it took confidence, determination and perseverance for him to successfully overcome racial barriers that were unjust, absurd and intolerable.

He was the first black man to become a partner in the first interracial law firm, Duncan and Alexander. He was the first black man to be elected to the House of Commons, the first to be appointed a minister of the Crown, the first to chair Ontario's Workmen's Compensation Board, and the first to be appointed as a vice-regal representative. He is an outstanding example of tremendous courage and success.

Little Linc, as he calls himself in his memoirs, would go a long way from his humble beginnings in Toronto. His mother was from Jamaica and worked as a maid; his father was from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a carpenter by trade who worked as a railway porter.

Senator Meredith reminded us that young Linc's mother would say to him, “Go to school; you're a little black boy”. He would follow this advice, his mum's order, to the letter, through kindergarten, elementary school, and high school, where he excelled. He did not stop his quest for knowledge and personal achievement there. He went on to study law at Hamilton's McMaster University and Toronto's Osgoode Hall, graduating in the top 25 percent of his class.

Whether in his personal life or professional life, including as lieutenant governor of Ontario, education was always a need, a priority, and a passion, for Lincoln Alexander. No wonder so many educational facilities bear his name. The Lincoln Alexander public schools, in Ajax, Hamilton, and Markham; the Lincoln M. Alexander school, in Mississauga; and the University of Guelph's Alexander Hall, all bear testimony to this learned man's ardent lifelong promotion of education. No wonder so many institutions of higher learning have awarded him honorary degrees: the University of Toronto, McMaster University, University of Western Ontario, York University, the Royal Military College, Queen's University, and so on.

In so doing, those institutions quite rightly celebrated the hallmarks of Lincoln Alexander's life and career: the constant pursuit of knowledge, the quest for excellence and the love of education.

As a teacher myself, I wish to add my voice to the celebration of Lincoln Alexander's legacy.

Lincoln Alexander was a man of knowledge, but even more than that, he was a man of courage. He had the courage to stare down any racism, latent or overt, that he encountered over the years, and he always proudly affirmed, with modesty and dignity, his right to be different and equal.

He did so as the only black student in his kindergarten class and in the faculty of law at McMaster University. He was denied a sales job at a steel plant in Hamilton on the pretext that it would be bad for the company's image if a black man were to hold that position. He had to deal with racist comments from the dean of law, and despite his remarkable academic achievements, a number of well-established law firms refused to hire him.

Lincoln Alexander also had the courage to put justice, freedom and the common good above his own well-being. Thus, in 1942, at the age of 20, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he served until 1945, having achieved the rank of sergeant.

Lincoln Alexander's courage has been amply recognized by the Canadian Armed Forces, which awarded him the War Medal 1939-45, and the Canadian Forces Decoration, also giving his name to a Royal Canadian Air Cadet squadron, the Scarborough-based 876 Lincoln Alexander Squadron.

The Ontario Provincial Police also recognized his contributions to peace and order, naming the building that houses the OPP's headquarters in Orillia, Ontario after him.

Lincoln Alexander also used his courage and his pursuit of excellence to serve Canada, the country he loved, when he became the governor of the now-defunct Canadian Unity Council, an non-profit organization whose mission was to promote Canadian unity.

Before I close, I think it is important to mention the many honours Lincoln Alexander received for the significant contribution he made to youth, the legal profession and Ontario and Canadian society as a whole.

What an impressive list his distinctions make: member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada; Companion of the Order of Canada; Member of the Order of Ontario; Knight of the Order of St. John; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal; 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal; Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal; Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and so on.

In closing, I leave members with the very words of the Hon. Lincoln Alexander, as quoted by Senator Don Meredith in his January 2014 address to the other place at the second reading of Bill S-213, “It is not your duty to be average. It is your duty to set a higher example for others to follow. I did. You can. You will”.

It is the duty of the House to set a higher example for all Canadians to follow by giving them the opportunity to strengthen their belief in the benefits of lifelong learning, their commitment to a fair and progressive Canada and their acceptance of diversity.

Let us follow the example set by Ontario's legislators when, in December 2013, they voted for January 21 to become Lincoln Alexander Day.

Let us follow the example set in the House by the member for Hamilton Mountain when she introduced Bill C-563, an act respecting a Lincoln Alexander day.

Let us vote unanimously to make January 21, the birth date of the Hon. Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, our national Lincoln Alexander day.

May 27th, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I just wanted to ask one quick question. Because Bill C-563 was presented at first reading, I guess this bill might have been inspired in part by that. I would be interested to see where the two bills might have conjoined each other.

In any event, I'm glad that the Senate has come up with this, seeing that the House of Commons didn't have a chance to debate it. What would be the impact of Bill C-563 if ever we got around to a second round?

May 27th, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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Dara Lithwick Committee Researcher

Today's bill is Bill S-213, An Act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day. It came from the Senate, so we will just look at one criterion here today: whether a similar matter has been voted on by the House in the same Parliament.

In this case, a similar matter has not been voted on by the House in the same Parliament. There were questions raised, as there is a bill at first reading, Bill C-563, An Act respecting a Lincoln Alexander Day, but this bill has not been voted on yet, so it does not pose a problem.

Lincoln Alexander Day ActRoutine Proceedings

December 9th, 2013 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-563, An Act respecting a Lincoln Alexander Day.

Mr. Speaker, Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, one of the most outstanding and accomplished Canadians of our time, was born on January 21, 1922. Rising above the prejudice of the era, he embraced the opportunity of public education. He developed his talents and reached his full potential through disciplined study and the strength of his character.

He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Home again after the war, he graduated from McMaster University and Osgoode Hall Law School and qualified as a lawyer.

Responding to the call of public service, he was elected to the House of Commons in 1968, representing Hamilton West. In 1979, he was appointed to be minister of labour, making history as the Government of Canada's first black cabinet minister. Later he served as chair of the worker's compensation board of Ontario, now known as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board; as the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the representative of Her Majesty the Queen; and as chancellor of the University of Guelph, among many other community contributions.

He passed away on October 19, 2012 at the age of 90. 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.

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute than to make January 21, the date of his birth, Lincoln Alexander Day in Canada. I am pleased to have the full support of the members for Hamilton Centre and Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, as well as our leader and the entire caucus, for this important bill. I hope we will be able to pass it today.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)