Lincoln Alexander Day Act

An Act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day

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


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment designates the twenty-first day of January in each and every year as “Lincoln Alexander Day”.


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.


  • Dec. 3, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

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


Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise to speak to the designation of January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day in memory of his myriad contributions to Canada: as a young man who fought for his country, as a lawyer, as Canada's first black member of Parliament and first black cabinet minister, as Her Majesty's representative in Ontario, as chancellor of the University of Guelph, as a husband, and as a father.

It is barely two years since the incomparable Linc, as he was known, passed away, though his legacy lives on as strong as ever.

I thank the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale for sponsoring here the bill of his colleague from the other place, to provide a national day to remember his life and legacy.

I also wish to thank my colleague from Hamilton Mountain for introducing a similar bill, and to all of our colleagues in the last parliament in Ontario, who voted unanimously to recognize January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day in the province of Ontario.

When I first heard of Lincoln Alexander's passing, I thought of the words of another great statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, who said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.

For all of the adversity he faced throughout his life, he was never dissuaded from serving his community. Undeterred by discrimination and other obstacles, Lincoln Alexander gave so very much, and his legacy as a great Canadian continues to give to this very day.

Canada in 1922, when Linc was born, was not always a terribly friendly place for black Canadians. He recounted in his memoirs that there were very few other black families and that he was always one of the only black students in his grade when going to school.

From that very early age, Linc faced discrimination, but he made it clear he would not let the blind hatred of others define him. He would be the master of his own destiny. He would not be deterred. So he walked tall and did whatever it took to earn the respect of those around him. That drive and determination would stay with him throughout his life and would become one of his defining features.

Too young to enlist as the Second World War began, Linc took a job helping the Canadian effort as a machinist, helping to assemble anti-aircraft guns in Hamilton, Ontario, until he was old enough to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. During that time, he distinguished himself as a wireless radio operator until his discharge at the end of the war in 1945.

From an early age, his mother instilled in Linc an appreciation for how important an education can be, something that stayed with him throughout his life. Using the resources available to him as a veteran, Linc went back to school and graduated from McMaster in 1949.

Confronted with racism and discrimination when he tried to enter the workforce, Linc went back to law school, determined to blaze his own path if others were more content to prejudge him on the colour of his skin instead of his qualifications as a veteran and top-tier university graduate.

He plowed ahead, graduated, and practised law in Hamilton until first trying his hand in politics. While he was not elected his first time in 1965, he managed to be elected as the Progressive Conservative member of Parliament for Hamilton West in 1968. With that, he became the first black Canadian member of Parliament, a clear message to all Canadians that race would not be allowed to impede the call to service. In fact, he said at that time:

...I accept the responsibility of speaking for...all others in this great nation who feel that they are the subjects of discrimination because of race, creed or colour.

Before retiring from the House of Commons after 12 years as an MP, Linc went on to be the first black Canadian cabinet minister, serving as labour minister under then prime minister Joe Clark.

Though he retired from politics in 1980, he was not nearly done with firsts. In 1985, on the advice of then prime minister Brian Mulroney, Linc was appointed the 24th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the first black Canadian to hold a vice-regal post in Canada.

Over the course of his six years in this post, he demonstrated to all Ontarians his determination and work ethic.

In its obituary of the legendary man, the Toronto Star highlighted that as lieutenant governor, Alexander visited 672 communities, visited 230 schools, received 75,000 guests at 675 receptions, and more, and shook nearly 240,000 hands.

Serving the people of Ontario and Canada drove him. He left an imprint wherever he went and on whomever he met. He always made people feel unique, important and in the moment that one shared with him, that person was the centre of his world. There was such depth of character and integrity there.

When he left Queen's Park and the lieutenant governor's office in 1991, Linc was invested as chancellor of the University of Guelph, where his contributions over an astounding 5 term, 15-year tenure led him to be named chancellor emeritus when he retired in 2007. The appreciation for education his mother had given him as a young boy in Toronto and a young man finding his way in Hamilton held strong and was fundamental to how he approached his position as chancellor. He made an indelible impression on our community in Guelph in that time.

As recent as a couple of years ago, I can recall speaking to Linc at the rededication of the new Lincoln Alexander Hall at the University of Guelph. As always, he was warm and disarmingly charming. At the opening of the hall which now bears his name, I said this:

“The key to the university's engagement in our community as a collaborator and innovator was in part due to the vision and perseverance of the University of Guelph's longest standing chancellor, Chancellor Emeritus Lincoln Alexander”.

I continued:

“We live in Canada's safest community and enjoy one of the highest rates of volunteerism across our country. Regularly, we are ranked as Canada's most compassionate community and one of the best Canadian cities in which to live - a ranking, due in no small part to the leadership generated by the University of Guelph. A new generation of leaders is being created here in Guelph at this university; a generation that will lead Canada and the world for years to come - a generation that will indeed change lives and improve life - with no better a mentor and role model than that found in Chancellor Emeritus Lincoln Alexander”.

I believe it is wholly fitting that his time in Guelph served as a bookend to his time in public life and as a leader. He had come so far from a time when he fought continually for the respect he deserved. He beat a path for generations of young men and women, black or otherwise, to reach their fullest potentials.

Alastair Summerlee, who just recently ended his tenure as president of the University of Guelph, saw Linc's impact on the community very similarly. He stated:

“Linc was an inspiration to thousands of students, alumni, staff and faculty at the University of Guelph. He had a special word for everybody he met. In an instant, as he talked to you, he made you feel that you were special - a talent that no-one I've ever met can match so elegantly”.

Bill Winegard, a predecessor of mine, put it this way when I asked him to share his thoughts on Linc. He said:

“I knew Lincoln Alexander for many years. I remember joking around with him when he was the minister of labour in the Clark government and when I became a minister, he said, “We both made it, Bill”. He did many great things, which I'm sure many other people took credit for. He was a lovely citizen and I am glad to have called him a friend”.

He broke barriers that, while broken, still exist. His life is a reminder that we must each continue the effort to eliminate prejudice and discrimination whatever the source may be. A dedication of a day in his memory will present us an opportunity to remind ourselves that we must continue his efforts on that day and every day of the year.

He was a friend, a leader, a teacher, a trailblazer, a public servant, and a great man. His loss remains significant, but so long as we live well and foster the values of determination, excellence and inclusivity, we will honour his legacy and he will live on.

It is only fitting that we honour that legacy by commemorating it through Lincoln Alexander Day each January 21.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

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


Chris Charlton 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 Act
Private Members' Business

September 24th, 2014 / 7:15 p.m.
See context


Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be making my comments in English, which is unusual for me, but I want my message to be properly understood and for people to see that what I am about to say comes from the heart.

I am sure many members in the House will actually wonder what a little guy from Rimouski can say about Lincoln Alexander.

They have to understand that after finishing graduate school in Montreal, I had a chance to work at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in Toronto in 2001. I was working as a media relations officer on the French side. At the time, the chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation was Lincoln Alexander, so I had the chance to actually work with him. I worked more closely with him in a couple of instances when we had annual general meetings, where I served as his personal press attaché. I had a chance to know him and meet with him, although not to the extent that some members of this House did. I had a chance to have personal contact with him.

Members will know that I was obviously coming from Quebec, and my first year in Toronto working for this organization was with him.

Given my height, I do not have to raise my eyes too often to look at people's eyes, but in this case I had to. Notwithstanding his personal and physical height, even if he had been 5'6” or 5'7”, I would still have had to raise my eyes to meet his gaze. Such was his stature and such was his gravitas.

I was not intimidated: he was somebody who was able to put people at ease very easily. Even though he commanded respect, he was somebody who was able to make people feel that he was genuinely, truly interested in what they had to say.

I remember conversations I had with him in which he wondered about my experience as a Quebecker working in Ontario. We did not really talk about politics, but he was interested in knowing about my previous life in the student movement.

I remember working with him. I was his press attaché, so I was doing media relations with him, and I remember how demanding he was of me and of my colleague, who was also doing media relations on the English side. I did the work with pleasure, because I also had the pleasure of seeing, in those instances, how demanding he was of himself.

We have to remember that I spoke of 2001. I was hired to work at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation shortly after 9/11, and tensions were very high at the time. Race relations was an issue that was at the forefront. It was a very sensitive issue.

His past experience and his knowledge of communities made it so that even though those were very difficult times, very sensitive times, he was able to work toward bridging race relations at a time when such relations were in jeopardy. That speaks a lot to his ability to unite people, to create a consensus around him, to speak from a higher authority, his own authority as somebody who had to live through a time when race relations were really not what they are today.

We heard from many hon. members about the difficulties he had in his youth and the efforts he had to make to build his place in this world and make his mark, not only as a member of Parliament and the first black member of Parliament but as the first black member of cabinet as well.

He was able to bring a golden touch to everything he touched, everything he put his mind to, in the sense that he was very successful in bringing the attention of the people around him to those issues with the level of attention that those issues required.

I feel fortunate to have been able to stand side by side with this great human being, this great member of the Canadian community, even if for a short amount of time. In that sense, I want to bring this personal touch to the debate. I believe I might be the only speaker on this issue who is not from Ontario, so I am glad to have been able to bring that broader perspective to it. I have been personally touched by his humanity and his ability to create a consensus around him.

At the time I started working with him, I did not know much about Lincoln Alexander, because when I had been growing up in Quebec I had been too young when he was a member of Parliament, and even a member of cabinet. But I had a chance to learn about his past when I was working for him.

I am grateful and appreciate the opportunity to read about his life and his accomplishments. In that sense, I hope that the House will unanimously support this bill to make January 21 Lincoln Alexander day, which I believe will be the case. It is an homage we are paying to this great man, which is probably not sufficient when compared to his contributions to politics, to race relations, and to society as a whole, but it is the least we can do. Therefore, I appreciate the effort on all sides of the House, including the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale and our member for Hamilton Mountain, to bring this forth and make it a reality.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

September 24th, 2014 / 7:25 p.m.
See context


David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a heartfelt thanks to all of the members who spoke so warmly about Linc from their memories of him, from working with him, and from his reputation.

It is an honour for me to close the second hour of debate at second reading of Bill S-213, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander day.

I was blessed to know Lincoln Alexander in his later years, in particular because the riding he represented when he was a member of Parliament back in the late 1960s and 1970s, the constituency of Hamilton West, included some of the same neighbourhoods that are in the constituency I currently represent. But more than that, everyone in the Hamilton area has stories of their encounters with Lincoln Alexander. He was approachable. He was a man of the people and the people loved him for it.

I will note that it is appropriate that we are having this discussion today, since we watched the swearing in of another Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario yesterday, when Elizabeth Dowdeswell became the 29th Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. It is the perfect context for our discussion today of Ontario's 24th Lieutenant-Governor, Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, and one of our most beloved.

Most people knew him better as “Linc”. It is a signature of his character that he preferred the familiar name rather than more formal names that someone of his accomplishment, credentials, and stature could rightly demand.

This legislation seeks to designate January 21 of each year as Lincoln M. Alexander day, and here is why. It is to honour the memory of this great Canadian, great Ontarian, and great Hamiltonian; to recognize his commitment to building a better future through our young people and to use this day to further Linc's life-long passion of investing in our young people and building up tomorrow's leaders; and to also honour his many contributions, both personal and political, toward equality and fairness, more specifically, to ending racial discrimination. This was equally a lifelong passion of Linc's.

His very presence in public life opened doors and broke down barriers.

As is the hallmark of a great man, many people have many good things to say about him. So I apologize up front if I am repeating a few highlights of Linc's distinguished career that have already been mentioned by members opposite and members on this side of the House during the course of this discussion.

Long before Linc was Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, a post that allowed him to grow his mission exponentially to help youth in our society, he was a scrappy, outspoken member of Parliament from Hamilton. There are more than a few members who will agree that MPs from Hamilton can have that kind of reputation. Perhaps it is the grit of a hard-working city and region, but one thing is for sure: Linc exemplified that day-in and day-out.

I will never forget attending Linc's funeral service in October 2012 at the Hamilton Place auditorium in downtown Hamilton. It was a fitting final tribute to a great man who had laid in state at the Ontario legislature in the days leading up to his funeral.

For a man who came from humble beginnings, who worked hard to make a difference in law and politics despite all the barriers put in his way, how amazing it was that prime ministers, premiers, mayors, cabinet ministers, MPs, and MPPs dropped all their plans on that Friday in October to pay tribute to Linc, along with thousands of his fellow citizens, his fellow Hamiltonians. I dare say it was the latter group, his fellow citizens, who had a larger place in Linc's heart.

Lincoln M. Alexander distinguished himself in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. He believed in our youth. He was a relentless champion for equality and fairness. He was a trailblazer in the fight to end racial discrimination. He was an eloquent ambassador for Ontario and Canada as Lieutenant-Governor. He was an inspiration to so many Canadians. The very least we can do is name January 21 in his honour. Let his birthday and the values he stood for live on forever in the hearts of Canadians.

I ask all members of the House for their support of the bill at second reading so that we may advance it to committee and eventually to the law of the land. I can think of no better tribute.

God bless the memory of Lincoln M. Alexander.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
See context


David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

moved that Bill S-213, An Act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I was proud to introduce Bill S-213, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day, and I am pleased to rise today to speak to this bill, which would designate January 21 of each year as Lincoln M. Alexander Day in memory of a great Canadian who inspired millions of his fellow citizens.

As the member of Parliament for a constituency that includes much of Linc's former constituency when he was a member of this House, I am greatly privileged. As a parliamentarian who had the good fortune to meet Linc, talk about politics with him, and learn from his sage advice, this is indeed a great honour.

As many in the House will know, January 21 was Lincoln Alexander's birthday. As such, the designation of this day is fitting for all that he contributed to this country.

To begin, please allow me to highlight just a few of the accomplishments of this great man. He was a very popular lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991. He was the MP for Hamilton West from 1968 to 1980. He was a trailblazer for visible minorities as the first black MP and cabinet minister. He was a champion of the Order of Canada and Order of Ontario. He was a chancellor at the University of Guelph.

He passed away in October, 2012, at the age of 90. He was so beloved that thousands visited as he lay in state at the Ontario legislature in Hamilton City Hall. His state funeral in Hamilton was attended by thousands of his fellow citizens, in addition to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Ontario, and a number of former prime ministers and premiers.

Many schools in Ontario have been named in his honour, as well as the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, which is a major expressway in Hamilton, and which I am on most days when I am back in the constituency.

Despite all of these accomplishments and many more, above all else Lincoln Alexander was a champion of young people. He was convinced that if a society did not take care of its youth, it would have no future. He also knew that education and awareness were essential in changing society's prejudices and sometimes flawed presuppositions about others. That is why it is so fitting that so many schools are named after him. He himself had been a young person who sought to make his place in his community so that he could contribute to his country.

As a young boy, Lincoln Alexander faced prejudice daily, but his mother encouraged him to be two or three times as good as everyone else, and indeed he was. Lincoln Alexander followed his mother's advice and worked hard to overcome poverty and prejudice. Through his hard work, he made a name for himself both professionally and politically.

At an early age, he experienced first-hand how hard work and education make a positive impact on life. After becoming the first in his family to attend university, Lincoln Alexander graduated from McMaster University in 1949. As a university graduate and war veteran, and having worked his summers at the Stelco steel mill in Hamilton, Lincoln hoped to join the company's sales team. However, this was not to be the case for a man of colour. This unjust attitude was, unfortunately, all too common back then.

Frustrated, Lincoln Alexander realized that self-employment made the most sense for a young black man with ambition. He decided that he would choose a line of work in which he thought that he would not be affected by people's unjust views. Pursuing further education, he enrolled in Osgoode Hall Law School.

While at Osgoode Hall, he heard the dean make a comparison using a racial slur while giving a lecture to his class. Lincoln Alexander was shocked. He stood up and asked the dean what he meant by using that slur. When the dean answered that it was just a saying that everyone was using, Lincoln Alexander responded by saying, “You’re in a position of authority, sir, a leader in the community. A leader has to lead and not be using such disrespectful comments without even thinking about them”.

He was public and outspoken in his fight for the rights of others, and in so doing, he became a spokesperson for all.

Lincoln Alexander's interest in young people came from his time as a young lawyer in Hamilton, when he took the bus to work every day. He loved the social interaction with different people from his community on the bus, and he often spoke to young people, children, high school students, and young adults. They gave him insight on the issues and concerns of young people. Hearing their stories and their enthusiasm for change, Lincoln Alexander became energized, and this laid the groundwork for his interest in social justice and the issues facing the youth of the day.

After being appointed as Queen's Counsel in 1965, Lincoln Alexander realized that politics was a way to raise awareness on the issues surrounding social injustice. He also knew that educating young people and creating programming for them was a way of eliminating barriers and building bridges in the community.

Encouraged by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, Lincoln Alexander ran for a seat in Parliament, and in 1968 he was elected and became the first black member of Parliament in Canada. In his first speech in the House of Commons as a member of Parliament, Lincoln Alexander reminded his colleagues that as a member of Parliament, they should be engaged in the hopes, fears, disappointments, legitimate aspirations, and despair of each and every Canadian, ever mindful that involvement demands commitment in terms of actions and deeds rather than just words.

Lincoln Alexander served as a member of Parliament for 12 years until 1980. However, it was in 1985, when he became the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, that he was truly able and determined to focus his efforts on advancing the cause of young people and fighting racism.

He was very open about the need to look both internally and externally to find the answers to the problems of the day. He frequently related the difficulties he had with racism, understanding the need to be vulnerable and open to sharing experiences in order to educate.

Lincoln Alexander loved to get to know people. These exchanges fed his desire to create a unified society in which all people were equal. He listened intently to individuals who shared their experiences, good and bad, and always with genuine interest in their lives.

After losing the 2004 election, I remember meeting Linc at an event. He actually grabbed my tie and pulled me down to his face and said, “Sweet, if you want to serve the people and win an election, you have to work hard”.

As Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Lincoln Alexander visited over 250 schools. During every visit, he spoke to students and promoted the importance of education. He stressed the need to work with young people and spread the anti-racism message. He wanted to teach young people to be proud of their heritage, reminding them that we are all equal. He instructed them to stand up for themselves and do what is right.

After his term as Lieutenant Governor, Lincoln Alexander became chancellor of the University of Guelph in 1991. He was the university's longest-serving Chancellor, serving for an unprecedented five terms, until 2007.

Lincoln Alexander carried on his natural rapport with students and made a point of speaking to each and every graduate. Robert McLaughlin, vice-president of alumni affairs at the University of Guelph, said, “When you meet him and when he looks at you and shakes your hand, you think that he has waited his whole life to meet you. You have his undivided attention”.

Lincoln Alexander prided himself on promoting education, equality, and fairness. He believed in promoting leadership and in investing in our young people, and as chancellor at the University of Guelph, he had a perfect platform to do just that.

In honour of his leadership and dedication, in 1993 the Government of Ontario established the Lincoln M. Alexander Award. This award, reflecting Lincoln Alexander's vision, recognizes young people who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in ending racial discrimination.

Through his determination and his strength in life and leadership, Lincoln Alexander paved roads and opened doors for today's young people. Using his good judgment, tolerance, compassion, and humanity, he worked tirelessly to instill these values in young people and to improve race relations throughout the country. His efforts were aimed at encouraging individuals to never give up, and he offered himself as an example of someone who never backed down.

That is why this bill is before us today. May Lincoln MacCauley Alexander's persistence and resolve in breaking down social barriers and promoting the importance of educating our young people be remembered by all Canadians through the recognition of January 21 each year as Lincoln Alexander Day.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:10 a.m.
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David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my fellow Hamiltonian, the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale.

Of course, we know in Hamilton why this honour should be bestowed upon Linc, as we all know him. Perhaps I could give the hon. member an opportunity—given that there are millions of Canadians who are born, raised, and die, but only a limited number of calendar days—to explain why the pride of Hamilton should be registered as a federally recognized day. Perhaps the member could give a short summary of why he believes this is important not just for us Hamiltonians but for all Canadians.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:10 a.m.
See context


David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague from Hamilton Centre, whom I see often in Hamilton. When we ran into Linc, I witnessed many exchanges that he had with Lincoln Alexander as well.

Linc passed away at 90 years of age. He was still involved in events at that age. The member asked me for further evidence above and beyond what I spoke about, so that might be the best testimony I can give to Lincoln Alexander on top of all of the things he had already done: Linc continued to be a part of the community. We saw him racing around in his red motorized scooter at events. He never stopped being part of the community.

For him, it was about the people of Canada. It was about breaking down barriers. It was about being real and authentic and being part of the community, and he never stopped, right up until the time his physical body was unfortunately unable to continue. Marni, his widow, supported him all the way through.

One of the greatest testaments to Linc's popularity was at his funeral. The member for Hamilton Centre joined me at the funeral. Hamilton Place was filled with people. There was so much sentiment from so many people, people whose lives he had touched.

Linc touched many lives, and not only youth. I emphasized youth, but he touched many adults from all walks of life. As the person from the University of Guelph mentioned, when Linc shook people's hands and looked into their faces, they knew he was there with them. He was not looking past them. He did not have some other agenda. He just wanted to know people and he wanted to encourage them to be the best Canadians they could possibly be.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member's last point in terms of being the best Canadian one can be.

It is fair to say that Lincoln Alexander's impact went far beyond a defined community, whether it was in the prairies, the Atlantic region, or any region of Canada. Individuals would draw inspiration from Linc in the things that he accomplished in the time that he accomplished them.

I am wondering if the member would expand on that particular point in terms of the number of Canadians who drew inspiration from the attitude and the manner in which Mr. Alexander carried himself.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Lincoln Alexander's dad was a carpenter by trade, but he was not able to get a carpenter's job. He was a porter on a train. It was the only job available to a man of colour at that time. His mother was a maid. Despite all of that, Lincoln Alexander made a life commitment to be an extraordinary Canadian because of the encouragement of his mom and dad. As my colleague mentioned, Linc's commitment went far beyond Hamilton, far beyond Ontario. It really was nationwide.

In fact, on the Elections Canada website there is a good story about Lincoln Alexander. A friend came to him after he was elected with a cut-out from a newspaper in the United Kingdom about how big his election was as the first black man in Parliament, so Linc was a spectacular influence not only on the entire country but globally as well, because he had the courage and the tenacity and the work ethic to make sure that he changed the status quo. As the Elections Canada website indicates, he came to Parliament, which was really a white man's domain; he was joined by one other woman at that time, and really changed the complexion of Canadian politics.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate. I particularly enjoy the fact that it is one of the few times we get to reach across the floor and be in agreement. For all the headlines of fighting and the various things we get into around here, there are times when we are able to rise above that and do justice to this profession and the people who elected us.

I want to thank my colleague, the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale for leading off the debate and sponsoring the bill in the House. He has done great service and justice to all that Lincoln Alexander has meant to Canada and to Hamilton, so I certainly will not repeat any of the milestones, except to maybe add a few pieces to the story.

First, I love the fact that when I checked the Hamilton Spectator website this morning, in the local section there was a headline that I am sure my colleagues saw. Certainly the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, and our colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain are very supportive of the bill. I am sure it warmed their hearts, as it did mine, to see one of the headlines, on this day that we begin debating the bill, that says “The Linc” is to be extended. The “Linc” speaks to a secondary highway in Hamilton that links the west mountain and the east mountain. That is as far as I am going to go on what all of that means.

The great irony that everyone loves is that it is a perfect connection. Of course, “Linc” is his name. When I say Linc, it is not disrespectful. The first thing he would do after someone said “Hello Mr. Alexander” was to say, “No, call me Linc”. Everyone knows that, so my references from here on in will likely be to Linc. I am referring to my fellow Hamiltonian in the most respectful way that I can, and showing the camaraderie and relationship that Linc had with the city.

The great irony of having the link named “The Linc” is that Linc never had a driver's licence in his whole life and he is one of the few people who has a highway named after him. That is one more accomplishment that he did not necessarily set out to do, but managed to do anyway. There, in the Hamilton Spectator today, the spirit of Linc lives on.

I am hoping that all members will be supportive of this. As a result of the bill being passed in both of these places, Canada as a nation will forever remember Linc.

Everyone here makes the history books, but most of us are footnotes in the great historical span of Canada. It really is something to have personally known an individual who looms so large in a nation and, with a little hometown pride, it feels good when they are from one's hometown city.

This is an important day for us in the House who represent Hamiltonians, and our entire community. When Linc was appointed lieutenant governor, in 1985, that happened to be the same year I was elected to city council. After we had the big celebration, what I remember most is that I was finding it hard to believe that a position so important was going to be represented by a Hamiltonian. However, when we thought about it being Linc, it was not such a surprise.

In 1990, when I was lucky enough to be elected to Queen's Park, again, there was that burst of pride. We were sitting in the House when the throne speech was to be read, and it was Linc who came through the door. He just smiled and winked to those of us from Hamilton as he walked down.

He pulled off the impossible. He had this way about him that was so real.

My colleague who just spoke is absolutely right. If we walked up to him, there was this sense of familiarity. He would look at us as if he thought he had a new friend. There was just that sense from him. It was not only that, but he had the royal jelly. When he walked into a room, there was that presence, and that was before he became lieutenant governor.

I remember one time when we were at Hamilton Place and it was a police appreciation night. This was not long after he had retired, so he was still in robust health. I remember him walking out. He had a number of police uniforms. He was an honorary police chief of a number of police services. It must have been the Hamilton one he was wearing that day. This big, strong, strapping officer in this uniform came walking out on the stage. He walked up to the microphone. I can still remember that. One could hear a pin drop. Linc said, “Do I look good in this uniform, or what?” It was such a solemn occasion, yet there was a “Lincism” there. That is the kind of guy that he was.

If I can, there are a couple of claims to fame for my riding, our riding, because we fight over how much of our ridings we get to claim from Linc.

Ellen Fairclough, also a predecessor of ours, was the first woman in cabinet, in 1957. She was made a secretary of state. The following year she became a full minister. This riding has great history. The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale and I are pleased to provide the historical footnotes that made Linc so important in our time.

However, I will go for a little more claim of him than my colleague, simply because he lived on Proctor Boulevard, which is in the heart of my riding. Not only that, I made it into his book. This is nothing but pure bragging. I make no bones about it. If it is possible to name-drop in this place, I am doing it.

Linc wrote in his book:

There is no bigger supporter of our men and women in blue than me. I am an honorary chief of several police services, and the honorary commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, whose headquarters in Orillia is named after me. It was in 1994 that [the member for Hamilton Centre], who was Ontario's solicitor general at the time, visited Hamilton council to announce that the new four-storey OPP headquarters in Orillia would be named after me. OPP Commissioner Thomas O'Grady also spoke at the announcement event, and they presented me with a framed artist's drawing of the headquarters.

There is a great little side story that goes with that. We were in the mayor's office. Next to the mayor's office was his assistant's office, which also acted as a green room. There was a large coffee table there. I do not think it was real marble, but it was a nice coffee table. With regard to the picture that Linc was talking about having been presented to him, the OPP Commissioner, Linc, the mayor, and I, all put our feet on this thing and held the picture. It was a nice photo op. The only problem was the entire table collapsed and broke into about six pieces. I said to the current sitting OPP commissioner that Tom O'Grady promised that table would be replaced. To the best of my knowledge, that has not yet been replaced in Hamilton City Hall. There is a debt that the Ontario office of the Solicitor General owes to Hamilton City Council.

I have one minute left, and I want to wrap up. I hope that I have done justice to Linc. I tried to show some humour in the sense of the man, the person we got to know individually, but also recognition of the respect that we have and we need to show. What is important is the statement of passing this bill from our generation now to future generations. Linc stood for the values of Canada. Therefore, when we celebrate and honour Linc, we honour Canada; we honour the values that are Canada.

I look forward to the moment when we will all rise unanimously, supporting this important bill to mark the life of this important man.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

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

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:35 a.m.
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St. Catharines


Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak after the members for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Hamilton Centre and Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale. They have a done a fairly good job of addressing all the points that should be made about Mr. Alexander, the first being his history in terms of his input into this process of politics, the second his input into being a Canadian citizen and being proud of, and living that type of life, and, third, his commitment to public service.

I will not try to reiterate each and every one of the points that were made, but it should be noted that the government is in support of Bill S-213. It is my hope, as the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville mentioned, that the bill is passed unanimously, and I hope that is the case.

I would also note the comments by the member for Hamilton Centre about the opportunities we have every once in a while to work together and speak in unanimity on a specific topic.

Sometimes when folks back home ask me about the conflict or the apparent disagreements that take place in the House of Commons from a government and opposition perspective, I hearken back to the time of minority governments, from 2006 to 2008 and then 2008 to 2011, when, despite all of our differences, time and time again not only was there a requirement for at least one other party to support government legislation, but there was a need for us to work together for the betterment of our country.

I reflect on that a bit when I think about Mr. Alexander and his number of firsts, such as being the 24th lieutenant governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991, the first black person to hold that position. He was the first person in his family to attend university, where he obtained a law degree. He was the first black member of Parliament and, under prime minister Joe Clark, Mr. Alexander became the first black cabinet minister. He also served an unprecedented five terms as chancellor of the University of Guelph, a first as well. As was mentioned, whenever it came to Lincoln Alexander, being first in a number of these categories certainly befits who he was.

I had a chance to look at his history. This was a man who achieved so many honorary degrees from universities: the University of Toronto in 1986, McMaster University in 1987, the University of Western Ontario in 1988. He skipped a year and did not receive one in 1989, but received one in 1990 from York University, in 1991 from the Royal Military College in Kingston, and in 1992 from Queen's University. Those are not honorary degrees that are bestowed upon just anyone. The fact that one would achieve those from so many different top-notch and respected universities in our country is quite something.

He was also an advocate when it came to education, and equality was one of the most highly regarded beliefs that he had. All members have spoken about his book, which is entitled Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy, and he used that inspiration to pursue higher learning and strove to influence youth to do exactly the same.

When he was lieutenant governor, he had three specific goals at the centre of his mandate: addressing youth-related issues in education; fighting racism; and advocating on behalf of seniors and veterans. He set out to meet these goals by delivering inspiring speeches throughout the country and continually challenged educators to not simply give lip service to anti-racism, but to accept that responsibility and lead.

Having served as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Mr. Alexander was an active advocate on veterans' issues. He was serving as chancellor of the University of Guelph when the devastating events of 9/11 took place. Later that year, while marking Remembrance Day at the university, he took the opportunity to salute the armed forces and delivered a message of hope. He said, “Together, we will battle against narrow perspectives, ignorance, and racism”.

It was that objective that he never lost. Whether in grade school, high school, university or in the House of Commons, whether as a lieutenant-governor in the province of Ontario, as a chancellor or as simply a member of the community in Hamilton, he never lost the vigour and fight against ignorance and racism. He noted the toll of suffering and sacrifice that veterans had endured, and urged the crowd not to forget. He also said, “Their blood and tears were the awful price for the peace, comfort, and democracy we enjoy...We should never forget”.

Yesterday in the Niagara and St. Catharines community we had one event celebrating Declaration Day, commemorating those who went before us. I do not think Lincoln Alexander actually needed June 6, June 7 or November 11 to remember those who sacrificed themselves for our country and our democracy. He used every day of the year to do that.

It was early in his law career, during a visit to Africa, when he was confronted by the boundless issues of racism, colonialism, political turmoil and poverty, that he discovered his political calling. The trip, he said, instilled in him a sense of pride and shaped his desire to promote leadership within the black community. He credited that trip to inspiring him to become the first black member of Parliament in Canada and eventually the first black cabinet minister of our country.

These achievements served as an example for both the black community and for Canada. Linc was never shy to describe his life as a cabinet minister, and never determined that it was not for him to tell people about that experience. It was that experience that he believed should be transferred to all others in our country, whether they be minority or they be black, that the opportunity to serve in the House of Commons was not something that was for just a few; it was for those who were prepared to serve.

Mr. Alexander was a symbol for democracy and he spoke for anyone who suffered from prejudice or injustice. He believed in unity and he focused on the similarities that bound and drew our country together. He once stated, “One is not be a spokesperson to any particular segment of the constituency”. It showed that his sense of justice surpassed creed, colour and any type of social standing.

Canada prides itself on its diversity. Our diversity strengthens our nation by building an inclusive society that values differences and fosters a sense of belonging. We do not have to look too far over the last number of years to see, each and every year, an average 250,000 new Canadians making that statement and understanding that the principle of belonging is a value that is instituted within them because of the institutions of our great country. Lincoln Alexander was the embodiment of those Canadian values. He stood for justice and equality and most of all he believed in service to others.

Declaring Lincoln Alexander day in Canada would formally recognize, as Canadians, a lifelong commitment to public service and multicultural understanding. It would also serve to underline Lincoln Alexander's leadership in promoting human rights, justice and the importance of education. However, at the end of the day, when we look at the naming of Lincoln Alexander day, it is not something just to commemorate and honour him. What he would have said was to use that day to justify why we needed to keep fighting in our country, whether at the political level, the personal level or within our own communities, the aspects and values of what we are as Canadians in terms of multiculturalism, acceptance and understanding that people who come here, regardless of where the country of origin was or what position they held or what their last name happened to be, that there is an opportunity for them here to become not only permanent residents or Canadian citizens, but to add value to what it is to be Canadian.

I have a feeling the bill will pass unanimously. Every time we celebrate Lincoln Alexander day it is not just to remember Linc, but also to remember who we are as a country, the values we hold as individuals, the values we bring forward, and show the rest of the world what it really is to be Canadian, what it is to lead and to understand what that leadership is.

Every once in awhile, we can look back on the work that we do as parliamentarians and say that we did something right and that we did something good. Today is a step forward in honouring Lincoln Alexander and what he stood for. I certainly look forward to seeing all of us stand in unanimity when the bill is passed.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:45 a.m.
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Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Hamilton Centre said earlier, it is not that often that all of the members from Hamilton are in agreement because we have a good number of NDP members, but we have other parties there. In this case, I am very pleased to stand in support of the motion of the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale.

For the record, New Democrats recognize that January 21 should be a day to mark the life of Lincoln Alexander. He was a man whose appeal crossed party lines. His life was a great example of service, perseverance, humility, and number one, humanity.

In fact, the member for Hamilton Mountain put forward a similar motion last December because our thoughts are very similar on the respect that we had for Lincoln Alexander.

He was born in 1922, and as members have heard, he passed away in his 90th year. I would say of Linc that he lived a life very worthy of the respect that we see him receiving here today. He was first elected in 1968. Those of us who lived at that time should give thought to the fact that in 1968, the civil rights movement in the United States was fighting just to have black children go to university. At that time, Linc was elected Canada's first black MP. It says so much about Linc and it says a lot about our country at the time too.

He held respect. He was re-elected in 1972, 1979 and 1980 and served in the House of Commons until 1985. He went on under the Clark government to be the first black labour minister.

He received the Companion of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. After leaving office, he was a five-term chancellor of the University of Guelph. Most importantly is the book he wrote, the Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy. I do not think I have heard it referenced, but that is what his mother used to say to him every day to instill in him the need for education.

I had the good fortune to have conversations with Linc from time to time and one of the things both of us shared the view on was that with knowledge comes responsibility. I would suggest that the knowledge he gained over the years he put to good use. He lived up to what he saw his responsibilities were.

He was born in Toronto and he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War for three years. In Hamilton, I have to say, we quickly forgave Linc for having been born in Toronto for he moved to Hamilton to court his future wife, Yvonne. He received a Bachelor of Arts at McMaster University back in 1949.

I would like to share a couple of stories because I have a few minutes left. The member for Hamilton Centre will relate to this one. Linc did not have a driver's licence, but in his later years he had a red scooter. He was notorious for going through our malls at speeds at which he might have been pulled over otherwise. But this wonderful man was received every place he went, most importantly as a friend. No matter what strata one was living in, from the top person in Hamilton to the average worker in the streets, they all loved Linc.

Shortly after 9/11, in Hamilton there was a firebombing of a Hindu Samaj. In all of his life, Linc had stood up against racism. Mayor Wade in Hamilton started a group called the Strengthening Hamilton Community Initiative. That is where I first came to know Linc, who was named the honorary chairman of that group. From what we hear today about Lincoln Alexander, he may be honorary, but he was there working side-by-side with us. It was very important to have that kind of guidance.

Again, as the member for Hamilton Centre indicated, when Linc came into the room he was a physically imposing man of about 6'2”. He also was a dynamic individual; there was a natural gravitation to him.

We had people in that room who represented the diverse community of Hamilton and business leaders as well. A man of his integrity drew people together. There were Muslims and Jewish people in the room. That organization actually wound up putting out press releases on the Middle East that were signed off by our Muslim and Jewish communities in Hamilton. That is the kind of leadership this man was capable of providing.

Another side to Linc was his personal humour. One of the things that he did to me and with me is this. When I was first elected in 2006, there was the dinner downtown at a restored CN station that had been converted by LIUNA into one of the best places to come for a meal and a social gathering. I was dressed in a brand new suit. Going in through the door, I heard a booming voice behind me say, “Wayne, get me a chair”. I grabbed Linc a chair. He said, “Put it here beside the door”. I put it there. He sat down in the chair and introduced me to every single individual coming through that door.

Linc was Progressive-Conservative and I was not. However, that did not matter to Linc. That is what endeared him to everybody in our community. He was a human being, first and foremost, who loved everybody. He had kind of a gruff sound to him. He would come through that door and we knew he was there and if he was unhappy, we knew it too. However, he was always gracious, always respectful, and always ensured everybody in that room had a say in what was happening.

He was raised a black boy, in the forties, when times were so different than they are today in this country. We have not gotten over racism totally, but back in the forties, it was far more a part of Canadian life than we would like to say. He rose above that. He stood head and shoulders above it. If we look at his life history, every single thing he did, he did well. He lived up to the request of his mother and his father to put his everything into every aspect of his life.

If I am standing here with pride, I know it is shared by the other members from Hamilton. I know it is shared by this House. This was a life well lived, a life that was full of service to not only his community and his country, but to the world community. At that time, seeing the symbol of a black man, in 1968, rising in the House of Commons and shortly thereafter becoming the minister of labour in this place, in so many corners of the world they could turn to Canada and say, “This is how it should be”. Lincoln Alexander was the person who was able to turn to us and say, “Yes, we're working together”. It was never Lincoln Alexander above us; it was always Lincoln Alexander with us.

I speak for the guys and gals from Hamilton. That is how he would have said it because Linc was part of our community. As we close our portion of the debate, he was what was good in Hamilton and, in many ways, when we look at this place and the service he gave here, he represented what was good with the dignity and deportment he brought here.

As my time is coming to an end, I am standing here with the feeling I want to talk about this much more. However, I am sure after the House adjourns today, we will have a chance to gather and chat about the life of our friend, Lincoln Alexander.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 2nd, 2014 / 11:55 a.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is an honour for me to be rising here today to speak on this private member's bill.

Going back in history, there has always been a great rivalry between Hamilton and northern Ontario. We do not very often agree on anything and we quite often kid ourselves, especially the MPs from Hamilton. All three of them would dearly love to be from northern Ontario. I can swear to that. However, we can really agree on this bill.

Lincoln Alexander was a great Canadian. I can remember running into him, or, I should say, he almost ran me down when, one day, we were both visiting Queen's Park. He stopped. We had a little chat and we shook hands. One knows when one is shaking a real person's hand. It was pretty easy to tell that he was really a warm, kind-hearted person. It certainly was an honour for me to meet with the great man from Hamilton, who should have been from northern Ontario.

The NDP believes that January 21 should be designated Lincoln Alexander Day in tribute to the Hon. Lincoln Alexander, a man whose political work transcended party lines and whose life was an example of dedication, perseverance, humility and humanity.

Mr. Alexander was born on January 21, 1922, and died on October 19, 2012. He was the first black MP and he was elected in 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States. It was not easy to be a man of colour at that time.

He represented the riding of Hamilton West and was re-elected in 1972, 1979 and 1980, serving in the House of Commons until 1985. He become the first black cabinet minister in Canada when he was appointed as labour minister by Joe Clark in 1979.

In 1985, he was appointed as the lieutenant governor of Ontario by Brian Mulroney, and he held that position until 1991. In 1992, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada and received the Order of Ontario. After leaving his position as lieutenant governor, Mr. Alexander became chancellor at the University of Guelph, where he served for an unprecedented five terms.

In 2006, he published a book entitled Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy. He wanted to emphasize that education is essential to breaking down racial barriers.

Born in Toronto in 1922 to West Indian parents, Mr. Alexander served with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1945 during the Second World War. He completed an undergraduate arts degree at McMaster University in 1949 and graduated from the prestigious Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 1953. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1965.

With the first anniversary of Lincoln Alexander's death rapidly approaching, his wife contacted Hamilton region MPs with a proposal to create a national day in Linc's honour. She talked to Conservative and NDP MPs, and the NDP members were the only ones who responded quickly. We hope for unanimous consent because Linc was a Conservative member and the Liberals were on board.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons stated that the Conservatives would support the initiative, but that the unanimous consent vote would have to take place while he was not in the House because he has always maintained that MPs should not use motions adopted unanimously to get around the legislative process.

I can assure the people of Hamilton—who, like my colleagues, wish they could live in northern Ontario—that we will unanimously support this bill.

Lincoln Alexander Day Act
Routine Proceedings

May 13th, 2014 / 10:05 a.m.
See context


David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill S-213, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to introduce Bill S-213, an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day, also passed by the Senate as Bill S-213. The bill would establish a day to pay tribute to a truly great Canadian.

As a friend and the member of Parliament for a good part of what was Linc's constituency when he was a member of the House of Commons, it is a great privilege for me to introduce this legislation.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)