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Black History Month: Lincoln MacCauley Alexander

The Honourable Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, the first black Canadian Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, and Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, was born on January 21st, 1922, in Toronto, Ontario. His journey from being a machinist at a factory to being an honourable Lieutenant Governor of Ontario has been truly inspiring. 

Early Life:

Lincoln Alexander was born to a family of Caribbean Immigrants, and he was the oldest son. His father was from St. Vincent and worked as a sleeping car porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway, while his mother a native of Jamaica, worked as a maid. At that time, job opportunities for Black Canadians were very limited. 

He moved to New York as a teenager with his mother when his parents separated. He returned to Toronto after the start of the Second World War in 1939 and began working as a machinist at a factory in Hamilton, making anti-aircraft guns for the war effort. 

In 1942, Alexander joined the Royal Canadian Air force but was considered ineligible due to his poor eyesight. Instead, he served as a wireless operator with British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and honorably held the rank of corporal. 

Education and Legal Career: 

Alexander received his Bachelor of Arts degree from McMaster University in 1949, and earned a Law Degree from the Osgoode Hall Law School in 1953. He also received honorary degrees from several other universities like the University of Toronto (1986), University of Western Ontario (1988), York University (1990), and Royal Military College of Canada (1991). 

His political career started in the year 1965 where he ran as a Conservative Member of Parliament, but he lost the elections by 2500 votes. In 1968, he was elected and became the first Black Canadian to sit in the House of Commons. For his notable and esteemed service, he was re-elected four times and served for further twelve years. 

Under the government of Joe Clark, Alexander was appointed as the Minister of Labour in 1979, becoming the first Black Canadian to serve in the Cabinet. After his service in the Cabinet in 1980, he was appointed as the Chairperson of the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Board and served for another five years. 

Lieutenant Governor:

Lincoln MacCauley Alexander became the first Black Canadian to be appointed as the 24th Lieutenant General of Ontario. Along with this, he was able to actively play a role in the multicultural affairs of Ontario, with his main command being to fight racism and advance the cause of youth and advocate for seniors. 

Keeping the command in order, in 2000, Alexander was appointed as Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, an organization with a motive to end racism and racial discrimination in Canada. 

Personal Life: 

In 1948, Alexander got married to Yvonne Harrison and their only son Keith was born in 1949. Yvonne passed away in 1999 due to prolonged illness. In the later years, Alexander met Marni Beal and they got married in 2011. 

Admiring His Glory: 

Lincoln Alexander passed away in October 2012. He was known for his notable works and remarkable service towards humanity. To commemorate his memory, schools were named after him in Ajax, Mississauga, and Hamilton. 

January 21 was recognized officially as the “Lincoln Alexander Day” by the Province of Ontario and in 2015, it was celebrated across Canada for the very first time. On May 6, 2021, the Faculty of Law in Ryerson University was renamed as the Lincoln Alexander School of Law to admire his legacy. 

Honours and Awards:

For his relentless and remarkable service towards his people, Hon. Alexander was endowed with several awards and recognition including the following: 

  • Canadian Volunteer Service Medal
  • War Medal 
  • Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal
  • Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal 
  • 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal 
  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal 
  • Canadian Forces Decoration 
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Association of Black Lawyers 
  • Lifetime Achievement, Harry Jerome Awards

Navneet Kaur | Contributing Writer

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