Lincoln Alexander Becomes first Black Member of Parliament


In 1965, Alexander ran in the Canadian federal election as the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the Hamilton West electoral district but was defeated.[6] He ran again in the 1968 federal election and on June 25, 1968, he won the seat, becoming Canada’s first black Member of Parliament.[6]

On September 20, 1968 he made his maiden speech in the House of Commons saying:

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.[3]

In 1970, Alexander voted in favour of the War Measures Act invoked by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau but later felt he had erred in this decision, saying: “[T]he issue of limiting rights has far more serious implications than I thought at the time. You become vulnerable, grasped by the tentacles of Government power.”[8] In 1976, he voted to abolish capital punishment in a free vote introduced by the governing Liberal party.[3]

Alexander wrote in his memoir that he did not shy away from voting with the Liberal government if an issue warranted his support. As an example, he threatened to break ranks with his own party to vote in favour of anti-hate legislation, saying “screw you” to his party’s argument that it would curtail freedom of speech. “Are you saying that you can call my son or daughter a nigger and that is free speech?” he asked during debate on the bill. Heath MacQuarrie, then a Tory MP from Prince Edward Island, stood up and said, “I’m not going to let Linc stand alone on this.” Together they led 17 members of their caucus in support of the government’s legislation.[8]

It was Alexander and Newfoundland MP John Lundrigan who provoked Trudeau into mouthing an obscenity in the House of Commons during a discussion of training programs for the unemployed in February 1971. This quickly became known as the “fuddle duddle” incident.[8]

Alexander was an observer to the United Nations in 1976 and 1978 and served briefly as Minister of Labour in the Progressive Conservative Party’s minority government headed by Joe Clark from 1979 to 1980.[citation needed]

He held the seat through four successive elections until resigning his seat on May 27, 1980, when he was asked by then Premier of Ontario Bill Davis to serve as chairman of the Ontario Worker’s Compensation Board.[4][6] He misunderstood Davis’s request and recalled: “I said [to the Premier], ‘do you think this is going to give you the black vote around here, the vote of the visible minority …?’ I will never forget his look; he was extremely angry. I shouldn’t have said that.”[7]

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SOURCE:  Wikipedia