Lincoln Alexander would have celebrated his 98th birthday this week.
He was a Canadian lawyer who became the first black Member of Parliament in 1968, the first black federal cabinet minister in 1979, the first black Chair of the Worker’s Compensation Board in 1980, and the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991.
Lincoln’s parents emigrated from the Caribbean to Toronto where his father worked as a railway porter and his mother was a maid.
He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War as a corporal and wireless operator.
Following the war, he became the first member of his family to attend university, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from McMaster University. Lincoln then went on to Osgood Hall Law School and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1953.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says that Alexander was a trailblazer in Canada.
“Alexander paved the way for racialized people to courageously fight discrimination in the workplace,” said Thomas.
OPSEU First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says the significant contributions that Lincoln Alexander has made to Canadian society lives on even to this day.
“He was a great Canadian and someone everyone can draw inspiration from,” said Almeida.
Lincoln never shied away from speaking out against racism. His experiences as a black man helped to shape Canada’s legislative policies around hate speech.
During his maiden speech in the House of Commons on September 20, 1968, he said the following:
“I am not the spokesman for the Negro; that honour has not been given to me. Do not let me ever give anyone that impression. However, I want the record to show that I accept the responsibility of speaking for him and all others in this great nation who feel that they are the subjects of discrimination because of race, creed or colour. “
“Lincoln Alexander’s life serves as a great example of what is possible when we speak out on injustices and work to move our communities forward together,” said Peter Thompson, Chair of OPSEU’s Coalition of Racialized Workers.