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Vancouver: Will Olympic ceremony honour Sir James Douglas?

12 February 2010 at 04:06 | 396 views

By Rachel Decoste, Ottawa,Canada.

As a young person growing up in the
suburbs of Ottawa, ON, long before then
MP Jean Augustine declared February
“Black History Month” in Canada, I often
wondered if my family was one of the first
persons of colour ever to set foot in this
country of ours – the Great White North.
These are the days before multiculturalism
was feted in various colourful festivals in
Ottawa and around the country.

Times have changed.

Yet, this month, as an coordinator for the Black Canadian Scholarship
Fund’s annual “Black Speakers’ series in Schools”, I was reminded of the
little-known Canadian hero named Sir James Douglas who is responsible
for keeping British Colombia in Canadian hands in the 1800s.
This Guyana-born Canadian brokered a peaceful living arrangement
between European settlers, blacks, aboriginals and a burgeoning
American immigrant presence during the Gold Rush. To me, this is the
foundation of Canadian values that differentiates us from our neighbours
to the south: the ability to integrate people from different cultures, and to
foster a collaborative environment where all can stake their claim on this
land, without the use of guns to settle disputes.

And Sir Douglas was black.

Notably, Sir Douglas(photo), he kept this beautiful province (and its gold) out of
American hands.
If it weren’t for those heroic efforts, where would we be hosting the
Olympics today?

So often in our educational institutions, we’ve ignored the contribution of
blacks to make this country great. I was not fortunate enough to learn of
these achievements when I was a student under the tutelage of Ottawa’s
French School Board, but I am happy to facilitate black professionals’
appearances as guest speakers in local schools as part of the BCSF’s
annual volunteer-run initiative, allowing young Canadians to learn and
appreciate the 400 years of contributions of black Canadians that made
this country the envy of the world.

Long before our lovely Governor General Michaelle Jean took her
historical seat in Canadian History, Sir Douglas was the first black provincial
Governor of Canada. He also formed an integrated police force. In1858*,
no less.

On the eve of the much-anticipated Vancouver
Olympic Games’ Opening Ceremony, I am left to
wonder if this unsung Canadian hero, a black man, will
be given any deserved tribute in the ceremony. Or will
Canada miss yet another opportunity to acknowledge
and affirm inclusive nature of our rich history to the