The Order Celebrates Black History Month
Every year in February, we celebrate the contributions of black Canadians to the rich linguistic, ethnic and cultural heritage of our country. Within the Order of Canada there are a number of black Canadians who have enriched our society through the arts, athletics, journalism, politics, science and more. Here are a few of their stories:
Arnold Boldt, O.C.
Arnold Boldt is a model of excellence in sport. After a farm accident cost him his leg, he embarked on a career as a track and field athlete that saw him win gold medals at five successive Paralympic Games and set world records as a one-legged high jumper and long jumper. An iconic figure to paralympians, he returned to the games in 2012, as a member of Canada’s para-cycling team. His story of achievement also extends to his professional career, where he serves as acting provost and vice-president of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology
Yvette Bonny, C.M., C.Q.
A woman of influence, Yvette Bonny has demonstrated great humanism, extraordinary dedication and unwavering determination throughout her life. When she came to Canada from Haiti in the 1960s to continue her studies, this pediatrician-hematologist and professor at the Université de Montréal began her career at a time when it was rare to see a woman from a visible minority group become established as a doctor. She became known, among other things, for performing the first bone marrow transplant on a child in Quebec. But more than that, she is a role model within the Haitian community and for young Black women in Quebec. Always pursuing her dream that her actions have a dynamic ripple effect, she volunteers to fight against poverty and encourage young Haitian immigrants to stay in school.
Eleanor Collins, C.M.
Eleanor Collins is a supremely talented vocalist who changed the face of race relations in mid-20th century Vancouver. In 1948, she was ostracized upon moving into one of the city’s predominantly white neighbourhoods. She responded by fostering the values of equality and acceptance within her community—and consequently became a civic leader and pioneer in the development of British Columbia’s music industry. Celebrated for her extensive career as a jazz singer with CBC Radio and Television, she became the first Black artist in North America to host a nationally broadcast television series.
Rita Shelton Deverell, C.M.
Rita Deverell's career in journalism has been one of pioneering innovation and creativity. With an unceasing drive for social justice, she is one of the first Black women in Canada to be a television host and a network executive. Since the 1970s at CBC Regina, she has focused on telling the stories of those whose voices are not often heard. A founder of Vision TV, the world's first multi-faith and multicultural network, she held several senior positions there as well as the network anchor job. Until recently head of news and current affairs at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, she is currently a senior advisor. An inspiring mentor and teacher, she serves as a role model for young journalists and audiences alike.
Julius Isaac, O.C.
Julius Isaac is a respected jurist and an esteemed role model within the African-Canadian community. He was appointed principal legal adviser to the Attorney General of Canada before becoming a judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario and chief justice of the Federal Court of Canada. In 2001, he was also appointed chairman of the West Kingston Commission of Inquiry in Jamaica. As a student, he actively advocated for the liberalization of immigration laws. Former president of the Grenada Association of Toronto, he co-chaired the Endowment Committee for Dalhousie University's Chair for Black Canadian Studies. In recognition of his lasting influence, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers established in 2003 a scholarship in his name at the University of Windsor to assist black students who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in education and to the community.
Samuel Pierre, C.M., C.Q.
Scientist, teacher and volunteer, Samuel Pierre is a role model in his community. A professor in the École Polytechnique de Montréal's department of computer and software engineering, he is considered a specialist in cable and wireless communication networks. In addition to his successful academic career, he is a leader within Quebec's Haitian community, notably founding organizations that encourage youth education.