moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I was proud to introduce Bill , an act respecting Lincoln Alexander Day, and I am pleased to rise today to speak to this bill, which would designate January 21 of each year as Lincoln M. Alexander Day in memory of a great Canadian who inspired millions of his fellow citizens.
As the member of Parliament for a constituency that includes much of Linc's former constituency when he was a member of this House, I am greatly privileged. As a parliamentarian who had the good fortune to meet Linc, talk about politics with him, and learn from his sage advice, this is indeed a great honour.
As many in the House will know, January 21 was Lincoln Alexander's birthday. As such, the designation of this day is fitting for all that he contributed to this country.
To begin, please allow me to highlight just a few of the accomplishments of this great man. He was a very popular lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991. He was the MP for Hamilton West from 1968 to 1980. He was a trailblazer for visible minorities as the first black MP and cabinet minister. He was a champion of the Order of Canada and Order of Ontario. He was a chancellor at the University of Guelph.
He passed away in October, 2012, at the age of 90. He was so beloved that thousands visited as he lay in state at the Ontario legislature in Hamilton City Hall. His state funeral in Hamilton was attended by thousands of his fellow citizens, in addition to the of Canada, the Premier of Ontario, and a number of former prime ministers and premiers.
Many schools in Ontario have been named in his honour, as well as the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, which is a major expressway in Hamilton, and which I am on most days when I am back in the constituency.
Despite all of these accomplishments and many more, above all else Lincoln Alexander was a champion of young people. He was convinced that if a society did not take care of its youth, it would have no future. He also knew that education and awareness were essential in changing society's prejudices and sometimes flawed presuppositions about others. That is why it is so fitting that so many schools are named after him. He himself had been a young person who sought to make his place in his community so that he could contribute to his country.
As a young boy, Lincoln Alexander faced prejudice daily, but his mother encouraged him to be two or three times as good as everyone else, and indeed he was. Lincoln Alexander followed his mother's advice and worked hard to overcome poverty and prejudice. Through his hard work, he made a name for himself both professionally and politically.
At an early age, he experienced first-hand how hard work and education make a positive impact on life. After becoming the first in his family to attend university, Lincoln Alexander graduated from McMaster University in 1949. As a university graduate and war veteran, and having worked his summers at the Stelco steel mill in Hamilton, Lincoln hoped to join the company's sales team. However, this was not to be the case for a man of colour. This unjust attitude was, unfortunately, all too common back then.
Frustrated, Lincoln Alexander realized that self-employment made the most sense for a young black man with ambition. He decided that he would choose a line of work in which he thought that he would not be affected by people's unjust views. Pursuing further education, he enrolled in Osgoode Hall Law School.
While at Osgoode Hall, he heard the dean make a comparison using a racial slur while giving a lecture to his class. Lincoln Alexander was shocked. He stood up and asked the dean what he meant by using that slur. When the dean answered that it was just a saying that everyone was using, Lincoln Alexander responded by saying, “You’re in a position of authority, sir, a leader in the community. A leader has to lead and not be using such disrespectful comments without even thinking about them”.
He was public and outspoken in his fight for the rights of others, and in so doing, he became a spokesperson for all.
Lincoln Alexander's interest in young people came from his time as a young lawyer in Hamilton, when he took the bus to work every day. He loved the social interaction with different people from his community on the bus, and he often spoke to young people, children, high school students, and young adults. They gave him insight on the issues and concerns of young people. Hearing their stories and their enthusiasm for change, Lincoln Alexander became energized, and this laid the groundwork for his interest in social justice and the issues facing the youth of the day.
After being appointed as Queen's Counsel in 1965, Lincoln Alexander realized that politics was a way to raise awareness on the issues surrounding social injustice. He also knew that educating young people and creating programming for them was a way of eliminating barriers and building bridges in the community.
Encouraged by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, Lincoln Alexander ran for a seat in Parliament, and in 1968 he was elected and became the first black member of Parliament in Canada. In his first speech in the House of Commons as a member of Parliament, Lincoln Alexander reminded his colleagues that as a member of Parliament, they should be engaged in the hopes, fears, disappointments, legitimate aspirations, and despair of each and every Canadian, ever mindful that involvement demands commitment in terms of actions and deeds rather than just words.
Lincoln Alexander served as a member of Parliament for 12 years until 1980. However, it was in 1985, when he became the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, that he was truly able and determined to focus his efforts on advancing the cause of young people and fighting racism.
He was very open about the need to look both internally and externally to find the answers to the problems of the day. He frequently related the difficulties he had with racism, understanding the need to be vulnerable and open to sharing experiences in order to educate.
Lincoln Alexander loved to get to know people. These exchanges fed his desire to create a unified society in which all people were equal. He listened intently to individuals who shared their experiences, good and bad, and always with genuine interest in their lives.
After losing the 2004 election, I remember meeting Linc at an event. He actually grabbed my tie and pulled me down to his face and said, “Sweet, if you want to serve the people and win an election, you have to work hard”.
As Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Lincoln Alexander visited over 250 schools. During every visit, he spoke to students and promoted the importance of education. He stressed the need to work with young people and spread the anti-racism message. He wanted to teach young people to be proud of their heritage, reminding them that we are all equal. He instructed them to stand up for themselves and do what is right.
After his term as Lieutenant Governor, Lincoln Alexander became chancellor of the University of Guelph in 1991. He was the university's longest-serving Chancellor, serving for an unprecedented five terms, until 2007.
Lincoln Alexander carried on his natural rapport with students and made a point of speaking to each and every graduate. Robert McLaughlin, vice-president of alumni affairs at the University of Guelph, said, “When you meet him and when he looks at you and shakes your hand, you think that he has waited his whole life to meet you. You have his undivided attention”.
Lincoln Alexander prided himself on promoting education, equality, and fairness. He believed in promoting leadership and in investing in our young people, and as chancellor at the University of Guelph, he had a perfect platform to do just that.
In honour of his leadership and dedication, in 1993 the Government of Ontario established the Lincoln M. Alexander Award. This award, reflecting Lincoln Alexander's vision, recognizes young people who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in ending racial discrimination.
Through his determination and his strength in life and leadership, Lincoln Alexander paved roads and opened doors for today's young people. Using his good judgment, tolerance, compassion, and humanity, he worked tirelessly to instill these values in young people and to improve race relations throughout the country. His efforts were aimed at encouraging individuals to never give up, and he offered himself as an example of someone who never backed down.
That is why this bill is before us today. May Lincoln MacCauley Alexander's persistence and resolve in breaking down social barriers and promoting the importance of educating our young people be remembered by all Canadians through the recognition of January 21 each year as Lincoln Alexander Day.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate. I particularly enjoy the fact that it is one of the few times we get to reach across the floor and be in agreement. For all the headlines of fighting and the various things we get into around here, there are times when we are able to rise above that and do justice to this profession and the people who elected us.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for for leading off the debate and sponsoring the bill in the House. He has done great service and justice to all that Lincoln Alexander has meant to Canada and to Hamilton, so I certainly will not repeat any of the milestones, except to maybe add a few pieces to the story.
First, I love the fact that when I checked the Hamilton Spectator website this morning, in the local section there was a headline that I am sure my colleagues saw. Certainly the member for , and our colleague the member for are very supportive of the bill. I am sure it warmed their hearts, as it did mine, to see one of the headlines, on this day that we begin debating the bill, that says “The Linc” is to be extended. The “Linc” speaks to a secondary highway in Hamilton that links the west mountain and the east mountain. That is as far as I am going to go on what all of that means.
The great irony that everyone loves is that it is a perfect connection. Of course, “Linc” is his name. When I say Linc, it is not disrespectful. The first thing he would do after someone said “Hello Mr. Alexander” was to say, “No, call me Linc”. Everyone knows that, so my references from here on in will likely be to Linc. I am referring to my fellow Hamiltonian in the most respectful way that I can, and showing the camaraderie and relationship that Linc had with the city.
The great irony of having the link named “The Linc” is that Linc never had a driver's licence in his whole life and he is one of the few people who has a highway named after him. That is one more accomplishment that he did not necessarily set out to do, but managed to do anyway. There, in the Hamilton Spectator today, the spirit of Linc lives on.
I am hoping that all members will be supportive of this. As a result of the bill being passed in both of these places, Canada as a nation will forever remember Linc.
Everyone here makes the history books, but most of us are footnotes in the great historical span of Canada. It really is something to have personally known an individual who looms so large in a nation and, with a little hometown pride, it feels good when they are from one's hometown city.
This is an important day for us in the House who represent Hamiltonians, and our entire community. When Linc was appointed lieutenant governor, in 1985, that happened to be the same year I was elected to city council. After we had the big celebration, what I remember most is that I was finding it hard to believe that a position so important was going to be represented by a Hamiltonian. However, when we thought about it being Linc, it was not such a surprise.
In 1990, when I was lucky enough to be elected to Queen's Park, again, there was that burst of pride. We were sitting in the House when the throne speech was to be read, and it was Linc who came through the door. He just smiled and winked to those of us from Hamilton as he walked down.
He pulled off the impossible. He had this way about him that was so real.
My colleague who just spoke is absolutely right. If we walked up to him, there was this sense of familiarity. He would look at us as if he thought he had a new friend. There was just that sense from him. It was not only that, but he had the royal jelly. When he walked into a room, there was that presence, and that was before he became lieutenant governor.
I remember one time when we were at Hamilton Place and it was a police appreciation night. This was not long after he had retired, so he was still in robust health. I remember him walking out. He had a number of police uniforms. He was an honorary police chief of a number of police services. It must have been the Hamilton one he was wearing that day. This big, strong, strapping officer in this uniform came walking out on the stage. He walked up to the microphone. I can still remember that. One could hear a pin drop. Linc said, “Do I look good in this uniform, or what?” It was such a solemn occasion, yet there was a “Lincism” there. That is the kind of guy that he was.
If I can, there are a couple of claims to fame for my riding, our riding, because we fight over how much of our ridings we get to claim from Linc.
Ellen Fairclough, also a predecessor of ours, was the first woman in cabinet, in 1957. She was made a secretary of state. The following year she became a full minister. This riding has great history. The hon. member for and I are pleased to provide the historical footnotes that made Linc so important in our time.
However, I will go for a little more claim of him than my colleague, simply because he lived on Proctor Boulevard, which is in the heart of my riding. Not only that, I made it into his book. This is nothing but pure bragging. I make no bones about it. If it is possible to name-drop in this place, I am doing it.
Linc wrote in his book:
|| There is no bigger supporter of our men and women in blue than me. I am an honorary chief of several police services, and the honorary commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, whose headquarters in Orillia is named after me. It was in 1994 that [the member for Hamilton Centre], who was Ontario's solicitor general at the time, visited Hamilton council to announce that the new four-storey OPP headquarters in Orillia would be named after me. OPP Commissioner Thomas O'Grady also spoke at the announcement event, and they presented me with a framed artist's drawing of the headquarters.
There is a great little side story that goes with that. We were in the mayor's office. Next to the mayor's office was his assistant's office, which also acted as a green room. There was a large coffee table there. I do not think it was real marble, but it was a nice coffee table. With regard to the picture that Linc was talking about having been presented to him, the OPP Commissioner, Linc, the mayor, and I, all put our feet on this thing and held the picture. It was a nice photo op. The only problem was the entire table collapsed and broke into about six pieces. I said to the current sitting OPP commissioner that Tom O'Grady promised that table would be replaced. To the best of my knowledge, that has not yet been replaced in Hamilton City Hall. There is a debt that the Ontario office of the Solicitor General owes to Hamilton City Council.
I have one minute left, and I want to wrap up. I hope that I have done justice to Linc. I tried to show some humour in the sense of the man, the person we got to know individually, but also recognition of the respect that we have and we need to show. What is important is the statement of passing this bill from our generation now to future generations. Linc stood for the values of Canada. Therefore, when we celebrate and honour Linc, we honour Canada; we honour the values that are Canada.
I look forward to the moment when we will all rise unanimously, supporting this important bill to mark the life of this important man.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill , sponsored by Senator Don Meredith. I commend the hon. senator for this excellent initiative on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Liberal caucus in the House of Commons, and the Liberal leader, the MP for .
When the hon. Lincoln MacCauley Alexander was appointed as the 24th lieutenant governor of Ontario, he chose as his official heraldic motto the three words that he then felt—along with the huge number of Canadian men, women, and youth, of all creeds, ethnic backgrounds, and political persuasions, who had witnessed or benefited from his initiatives—to be the three pillars of his already accomplished life. Those words were “confidence, determination, and perseverance”.
With his humble background, it took confidence, determination and perseverance for him to successfully overcome racial barriers that were unjust, absurd and intolerable.
He was the first black man to become a partner in the first interracial law firm, Duncan and Alexander. He was the first black man to be elected to the House of Commons, the first to be appointed a minister of the crown, the first to chair Ontario's Workmen's Compensation Board, and the first to be appointed as a vice-regal representative. He is an outstanding example of tremendous courage and success.
Little Linc, as he calls himself in his memoirs, would go a long way from his humble beginnings in Toronto. His mother was from Jamaica and worked as a maid; his father was from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a carpenter by trade who worked as a railway porter.
Senator Meredith reminded us that young Linc's mother would say to him, “Go to school; you're a little black boy”. He would follow this advice, his mum's order, to the letter, through kindergarten, elementary school, and high school, where he excelled. He did not stop his quest for knowledge and personal achievement there. He went on to study law at Hamilton's McMaster University and Toronto's Osgoode Hall, graduating in the top 25 percent of his class.
Whether in his personal life or professional life, including as lieutenant governor of Ontario, education was always a need, a priority, and a passion, for Lincoln Alexander. No wonder so many educational facilities bear his name. The Lincoln Alexander public schools, in Ajax, Hamilton, and Markham; the Lincoln M. Alexander school, in Mississauga; and the University of Guelph's Alexander Hall, all bear testimony to this learned man's ardent lifelong promotion of education. No wonder so many institutions of higher learning have awarded him honorary degrees: the University of Toronto, McMaster University, University of Western Ontario, York University, the Royal Military College, Queen's University, and so on.
In so doing, those institutions quite rightly celebrated the hallmarks of Lincoln Alexander's life and career: the constant pursuit of knowledge, the quest for excellence and the love of education.
As a teacher myself, I wish to add my voice to the celebration of Lincoln Alexander's legacy.
Lincoln Alexander was a man of knowledge, but even more than that, he was a man of courage. He had the courage to stare down any racism, latent or overt, that he encountered over the years, and he always proudly affirmed, with modesty and dignity, his right to be different and equal.
He did so as the only black student in his kindergarten class and in the faculty of law at McMaster University. He was denied a sales job at a steel plant in Hamilton on the pretext that it would be bad for the company's image if a black man were to hold that position. He had to deal with racist comments from the dean of law, and despite his remarkable academic achievements, a number of well-established law firms refused to hire him.
Lincoln Alexander also had the courage to put justice, freedom and the common good above his own well-being. Thus, in 1942, at the age of 20, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he served until 1945, having achieved the rank of sergeant.
Lincoln Alexander's courage has been amply recognized by the Canadian Armed Forces, which awarded him the War Medal 1939-45, and the Canadian Forces Decoration, also giving his name to a Royal Canadian Air Cadet squadron, the Scarborough-based 876 Lincoln Alexander Squadron.
The Ontario Provincial Police also recognized his contributions to peace and order, naming the building that houses the OPP's headquarters in Orillia, Ontario after him.
Lincoln Alexander also used his courage and his pursuit of excellence to serve Canada, the country he loved, when he became the governor of the now-defunct Canadian Unity Council, an non-profit organization whose mission was to promote Canadian unity.
Before I close, I think it is important to mention the many honours Lincoln Alexander received for the significant contribution he made to youth, the legal profession and Ontario and Canadian society as a whole.
What an impressive list his distinctions make: member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada; Companion of the Order of Canada; Member of the Order of Ontario; Knight of the Order of St. John; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal; 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal; Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal; Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and so on.
In closing, I leave members with the very words of the Hon. Lincoln Alexander, as quoted by Senator Don Meredith in his January 2014 address to the other place at the second reading of Bill , “It is not your duty to be average. It is your duty to set a higher example for others to follow. I did. You can. You will”.
It is the duty of the House to set a higher example for all Canadians to follow by giving them the opportunity to strengthen their belief in the benefits of lifelong learning, their commitment to a fair and progressive Canada and their acceptance of diversity.
Let us follow the example set by Ontario's legislators when, in December 2013, they voted for January 21 to become Lincoln Alexander Day.
Let us follow the example set in the House by the member for when she introduced Bill , an act respecting a Lincoln Alexander day.
Let us vote unanimously to make January 21, the birth date of the Hon. Lincoln MacCauley Alexander, our national Lincoln Alexander day.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak after the members for , and . They have a done a fairly good job of addressing all the points that should be made about Mr. Alexander, the first being his history in terms of his input into this process of politics, the second his input into being a Canadian citizen and being proud of, and living that type of life, and, third, his commitment to public service.
I will not try to reiterate each and every one of the points that were made, but it should be noted that the government is in support of Bill S-213. It is my hope, as the member for mentioned, that the bill is passed unanimously, and I hope that is the case.
I would also note the comments by the member for about the opportunities we have every once in a while to work together and speak in unanimity on a specific topic.
Sometimes when folks back home ask me about the conflict or the apparent disagreements that take place in the House of Commons from a government and opposition perspective, I hearken back to the time of minority governments, from 2006 to 2008 and then 2008 to 2011, when, despite all of our differences, time and time again not only was there a requirement for at least one other party to support government legislation, but there was a need for us to work together for the betterment of our country.
I reflect on that a bit when I think about Mr. Alexander and his number of firsts, such as being the 24th lieutenant governor of Ontario from 1985 to 1991, the first black person to hold that position. He was the first person in his family to attend university, where he obtained a law degree. He was the first black member of Parliament and, under prime minister Joe Clark, Mr. Alexander became the first black cabinet minister. He also served an unprecedented five terms as chancellor of the University of Guelph, a first as well. As was mentioned, whenever it came to Lincoln Alexander, being first in a number of these categories certainly befits who he was.
I had a chance to look at his history. This was a man who achieved so many honorary degrees from universities: the University of Toronto in 1986, McMaster University in 1987, the University of Western Ontario in 1988. He skipped a year and did not receive one in 1989, but received one in 1990 from York University, in 1991 from the Royal Military College in Kingston, and in 1992 from Queen's University. Those are not honorary degrees that are bestowed upon just anyone. The fact that one would achieve those from so many different top-notch and respected universities in our country is quite something.
He was also an advocate when it came to education, and equality was one of the most highly regarded beliefs that he had. All members have spoken about his book, which is entitled Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy, and he used that inspiration to pursue higher learning and strove to influence youth to do exactly the same.
When he was lieutenant governor, he had three specific goals at the centre of his mandate: addressing youth-related issues in education; fighting racism; and advocating on behalf of seniors and veterans. He set out to meet these goals by delivering inspiring speeches throughout the country and continually challenged educators to not simply give lip service to anti-racism, but to accept that responsibility and lead.
Having served as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Mr. Alexander was an active advocate on veterans' issues. He was serving as chancellor of the University of Guelph when the devastating events of 9/11 took place. Later that year, while marking Remembrance Day at the university, he took the opportunity to salute the armed forces and delivered a message of hope. He said, “Together, we will battle against narrow perspectives, ignorance, and racism”.
It was that objective that he never lost. Whether in grade school, high school, university or in the House of Commons, whether as a lieutenant-governor in the province of Ontario, as a chancellor or as simply a member of the community in Hamilton, he never lost the vigour and fight against ignorance and racism. He noted the toll of suffering and sacrifice that veterans had endured, and urged the crowd not to forget. He also said, “Their blood and tears were the awful price for the peace, comfort, and democracy we enjoy...We should never forget”.
Yesterday in the Niagara and St. Catharines community we had one event celebrating Declaration Day, commemorating those who went before us. I do not think Lincoln Alexander actually needed June 6, June 7 or November 11 to remember those who sacrificed themselves for our country and our democracy. He used every day of the year to do that.
It was early in his law career, during a visit to Africa, when he was confronted by the boundless issues of racism, colonialism, political turmoil and poverty, that he discovered his political calling. The trip, he said, instilled in him a sense of pride and shaped his desire to promote leadership within the black community. He credited that trip to inspiring him to become the first black member of Parliament in Canada and eventually the first black cabinet minister of our country.
These achievements served as an example for both the black community and for Canada. Linc was never shy to describe his life as a cabinet minister, and never determined that it was not for him to tell people about that experience. It was that experience that he believed should be transferred to all others in our country, whether they be minority or they be black, that the opportunity to serve in the House of Commons was not something that was for just a few; it was for those who were prepared to serve.
Mr. Alexander was a symbol for democracy and he spoke for anyone who suffered from prejudice or injustice. He believed in unity and he focused on the similarities that bound and drew our country together. He once stated, “One is not elected...to be a spokesperson to any particular segment of the constituency”. It showed that his sense of justice surpassed creed, colour and any type of social standing.
Canada prides itself on its diversity. Our diversity strengthens our nation by building an inclusive society that values differences and fosters a sense of belonging. We do not have to look too far over the last number of years to see, each and every year, an average 250,000 new Canadians making that statement and understanding that the principle of belonging is a value that is instituted within them because of the institutions of our great country. Lincoln Alexander was the embodiment of those Canadian values. He stood for justice and equality and most of all he believed in service to others.
Declaring Lincoln Alexander day in Canada would formally recognize, as Canadians, a lifelong commitment to public service and multicultural understanding. It would also serve to underline Lincoln Alexander's leadership in promoting human rights, justice and the importance of education. However, at the end of the day, when we look at the naming of Lincoln Alexander day, it is not something just to commemorate and honour him. What he would have said was to use that day to justify why we needed to keep fighting in our country, whether at the political level, the personal level or within our own communities, the aspects and values of what we are as Canadians in terms of multiculturalism, acceptance and understanding that people who come here, regardless of where the country of origin was or what position they held or what their last name happened to be, that there is an opportunity for them here to become not only permanent residents or Canadian citizens, but to add value to what it is to be Canadian.
I have a feeling the bill will pass unanimously. Every time we celebrate Lincoln Alexander day it is not just to remember Linc, but also to remember who we are as a country, the values we hold as individuals, the values we bring forward, and show the rest of the world what it really is to be Canadian, what it is to lead and to understand what that leadership is.
Every once in awhile, we can look back on the work that we do as parliamentarians and say that we did something right and that we did something good. Today is a step forward in honouring Lincoln Alexander and what he stood for. I certainly look forward to seeing all of us stand in unanimity when the bill is passed.
Mr. Speaker, as the member for said earlier, it is not that often that all of the members from Hamilton are in agreement because we have a good number of NDP members, but we have other parties there. In this case, I am very pleased to stand in support of the motion of the member for .
For the record, New Democrats recognize that January 21 should be a day to mark the life of Lincoln Alexander. He was a man whose appeal crossed party lines. His life was a great example of service, perseverance, humility, and number one, humanity.
In fact, the member for put forward a similar motion last December because our thoughts are very similar on the respect that we had for Lincoln Alexander.
He was born in 1922, and as members have heard, he passed away in his 90th year. I would say of Linc that he lived a life very worthy of the respect that we see him receiving here today. He was first elected in 1968. Those of us who lived at that time should give thought to the fact that in 1968, the civil rights movement in the United States was fighting just to have black children go to university. At that time, Linc was elected Canada's first black MP. It says so much about Linc and it says a lot about our country at the time too.
He held respect. He was re-elected in 1972, 1979 and 1980 and served in the House of Commons until 1985. He went on under the Clark government to be the first black labour minister.
He received the Companion of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. After leaving office, he was a five-term chancellor of the University of Guelph. Most importantly is the book he wrote, the Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy. I do not think I have heard it referenced, but that is what his mother used to say to him every day to instill in him the need for education.
I had the good fortune to have conversations with Linc from time to time and one of the things both of us shared the view on was that with knowledge comes responsibility. I would suggest that the knowledge he gained over the years he put to good use. He lived up to what he saw his responsibilities were.
He was born in Toronto and he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War for three years. In Hamilton, I have to say, we quickly forgave Linc for having been born in Toronto, for he moved to Hamilton to court his future wife, Yvonne. He received a Bachelor of Arts at McMaster University back in 1949.
I would like to share a couple of stories because I have a few minutes left. The member for will relate to this one. Linc did not have a driver's licence, but in his later years he had a red scooter. He was notorious for going through our malls at speeds at which he might have been pulled over otherwise, but this wonderful man was received every place he went, most importantly as a friend. No matter what strata one was living in, from the top person in Hamilton to the average worker in the streets, they all loved Linc.
Shortly after 9/11, in Hamilton there was a firebombing of a Hindu samaj. In all of his life, Linc had stood up against racism. Mayor Wade in Hamilton started a group called the Strengthening Hamilton Community Initiative. That is where I first came to know Linc, who was named the honorary chairman of that group. From what we hear today about Lincoln Alexander, he may be honorary, but he was there working side-by-side with us. It was very important to have that kind of guidance.
Again, as the member for indicated, when Linc came into the room, he was a physically imposing man of about 6'2”. He also was a dynamic individual; there was a natural gravitation to him.
We had people in that room who represented the diverse community of Hamilton and business leaders as well. A man of his integrity drew people together. There were Muslims and Jewish people in the room. That organization actually wound up putting out press releases on the Middle East that were signed off by our Muslim and Jewish communities in Hamilton. That is the kind of leadership this man was capable of providing.
Another side to Linc was his personal humour. One of the things that he did to me and with me is this. When I was first elected in 2006, there was the dinner downtown at a restored CN station that had been converted by LIUNA into one of the best places to come for a meal and a social gathering. I was dressed in a brand new suit. Going in through the door, I heard a booming voice behind me say, “Wayne, get me a chair.” I grabbed Linc a chair. He said, “Put it here beside the door.” I put it there. He sat down in the chair and introduced me to every single individual coming through that door.
Linc was Progressive Conservative and I was not. However, that did not matter to Linc. That is what endeared him to everybody in our community. He was a human being, first and foremost, who loved everybody. He had kind of a gruff sound to him. He would come through that door and we knew he was there and if he was unhappy, we knew it too. However, he was always gracious, always respectful, and always ensured everybody in that room had a say in what was happening.
He was raised a black boy, in the forties, when times were so different than they are today in this country. We have not gotten over racism totally, but back in the forties, it was far more a part of Canadian life than we would like to say. He rose above that. He stood head and shoulders above it. If we look at his life history, every single thing he did, he did well. He lived up to the request of his mother and his father to put his everything into every aspect of his life.
If I am standing here with pride, I know it is shared by the other members from Hamilton. I know it is shared by this House. This was a life well lived, a life that was full of service to not only his community and his country, but to the world community. At that time, seeing the symbol of a black man, in 1968, rising in the House of Commons and shortly thereafter becoming the minister of labour in this place, in so many corners of the world they could turn to Canada and say, “This is how it should be”. Lincoln Alexander was the person who was able to turn to us and say, “Yes, we're working together”. It was never Lincoln Alexander above us; it was always Lincoln Alexander with us.
I speak for the guys and gals from Hamilton. That is how he would have said it because Linc was part of our community. As we close our portion of the debate, he was what was good in Hamilton and, in many ways, when we look at this place and the service he gave here, he represented what was good with the dignity and deportment he brought here.
As my time is coming to an end, I am standing here with the feeling I want to talk about this much more. However, I am sure after the House adjourns today, we will have a chance to gather and chat about the life of our friend, Lincoln Alexander.
Mr. Speaker, it certainly is an honour for me to be rising here today to speak on this private member's bill.
Going back in history, there has always been a great rivalry between Hamilton and northern Ontario. We do not very often agree on anything and we quite often kid ourselves, especially the MPs from Hamilton. All three of them would dearly love to be from northern Ontario. I can swear to that. However, we can really agree on this bill.
Lincoln Alexander was a great Canadian. I can remember running into him, or, I should say, he almost ran me down when, one day, we were both visiting Queen's Park. He stopped. We had a little chat and we shook hands. One knows when one is shaking a real person's hand. It was pretty easy to tell that he was really a warm, kind-hearted person. It certainly was an honour for me to meet with the great man from Hamilton, who should have been from northern Ontario.
The NDP believes that January 21 should be designated Lincoln Alexander Day in tribute to the Hon. Lincoln Alexander, a man whose political work transcended party lines and whose life was an example of dedication, perseverance, humility and humanity.
Mr. Alexander was born on January 21, 1922, and died on October 19, 2012. He was the first black MP and he was elected in 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States. It was not easy to be a man of colour at that time.
He represented the riding of Hamilton West and was re-elected in 1972, 1979 and 1980, serving in the House of Commons until 1985. He became the first black cabinet minister in Canada when he was appointed as labour minister by Joe Clark in 1979.
In 1985, he was appointed as the lieutenant governor of Ontario by Brian Mulroney, and he held that position until 1991. In 1992, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada and received the Order of Ontario. After leaving his position as lieutenant governor, Mr. Alexander became chancellor at the University of Guelph, where he served for an unprecedented five terms.
In 2006, he published a book entitled Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy. He wanted to emphasize that education is essential to breaking down racial barriers.
Born in Toronto in 1922 to West Indian parents, Mr. Alexander served with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1945 during the Second World War. He completed an undergraduate arts degree at McMaster University in 1949 and graduated from the prestigious Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 1953. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1965.
With the first anniversary of Lincoln Alexander's death rapidly approaching, his wife contacted Hamilton region MPs with a proposal to create a national day in Linc's honour. She talked to Conservative and NDP MPs, and the NDP members were the only ones who responded quickly. We hope for unanimous consent because Linc was a Conservative member and the Liberals were on board.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons stated that the Conservatives would support the initiative, but that the unanimous consent vote would have to take place while he was not in the House because he has always maintained that MPs should not use motions adopted unanimously to get around the legislative process.
I can assure the people of Hamilton—who, like my colleagues, wish they could live in northern Ontario—that we will unanimously support this bill.