Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 55

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Black History Month

Harmonious Society

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to celebrate the last day of Black History Month and talk about the great historical contributions Black Canadian youth have made in our country. For a number of years now I have had the honour and privilege of working with many young Black Canadians on a variety of projects. I have watched with great admiration the contributions these young people have made in their communities and to our country. Although I recognize that Black History Month is a time where we reflect on the contributions Black Canadians have made in our country and celebrate their achievements, I think it is important to also recognize the challenges that many of them continue to face.

My daughter Farzana is a member of the country’s Black community and I have witnessed firsthand the challenges she has faced because of the colour of her skin. Throughout her childhood, she was left out and not invited to birthday parties and other events for the sole reason that she looked different from her friends. She suffered other forms of racism because she was Black. Fortunately Farzana, like many other Black Canadians, triumphed in spite of these social challenges. However, many Black Canadians have not.

Over the last few weeks as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, I have studied Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act. During this time I interacted with a movement called Blacks Behind Bars who educated me on the overrepresentation of Black Canadians in our prisons and the negative impact this bill will have on all minorities in Canada.

Honourable senators, as we celebrate Black History Month, we must remember that we, the senators, have a duty to protect all Canadian citizens, particularly minorities. This includes Black Canadians.

When I was a young girl, my father wanted me to be a politician and my mother wanted me to be a pianist. Although it may be obvious who won that battle, for a number of years I did attempt to learn how to play the piano. I remember arguing with my mother when she would force me to practise. I never really enjoyed playing the piano, and in an effort to rebel against my mother, I often used to play only on the black keys or only on the white keys. This, of course, produced a very unpleasant sound. However, it also taught me an important lesson: In life, like in music, you must not only play on the black keys or only on the white ones as this will never create harmony.

As we celebrate Black History Month, I urge all honourable senators to recognize the importance of coming together and putting aside our differences in an effort to create a society that lives in harmony — a harmonious Canada.