It's official: Jan. 21 is Lincoln Alexander Day

Ontario MPPs have proclaimed Jan. 21 Lincoln Alexander Day across Ontario.
Lincoln Alexander (left) was Canada’s first black Member of Parliament, representing Hamilton West from 1968-1980. Here he is with Queen Elizabeth. (Courtesy Marni Alexander)

Ontario MPPs have unanimously voted to proclaim a Lincoln Alexander Day across Ontario at Queen’s Park on Thursday afternoon.

Bill 125, co-sponsored by MPP Ted Arnott and Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller, will proclaim every Jan. 21 as Lincoln Alexander day across the province. It will exist as a day of recognition, not a holiday.

"He was a very celebrated individual," Miller told CBC Hamilton after the vote. It was a tri-party bill, which means every party at Queen's Park supported it. That's "a rare thing, but a good thing," he said.

Alexander's widow Marni Alexander called the day a wonderful platform for students and teachers to start discussions on what is means to be Canadian.

"So many children need a role model, someone who came from a disadvantaged background to make strides towards a successful career and personal life," she said.

Alexander – who was affectionately dubbed Linc — was born on Jan. 21 back in 1922. He was Canada’s first black Member of Parliament, representing Hamilton West from 1968-1980.

He was Ontario’s first black Lieutenant Governor, serving from 1985-1991, as well as the first black Chancellor of the University of Guelph and the first black Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust.

Alexander died in October of last year. Thousands mourned his death and celebrated his life around Hamilton, capped off with a packed memorial service at Copps Coliseum.

MPPs voted at Queen's Park on Thursday.

Hamilton Mountain MP Chris Charlton also praised the move. 

“He was loved by everyone who knew him — right across party lines,” she said. “I can’t think of a more fitting tribute for a man whose whole life reflected the highest ideals of service to our country.”

Charlton tried to introduce a similar motion by unanimous consent on Thursday to have Jan. 21 commemorated nationwide. But a handful of Conservative MPs turned it down.

Charlton says she'll try again, and would like to see it passed by Christmas. She'll talk to some Conservative MPs from Ontario about "what we need to do to make it happen."

"I don't really care who moves it," she told CBC Hamilton. "I don't really care who gets the political credit for it. I just want it done. It's the right thing to do."


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