A postage stamp issued by Canada Post for this year’s Black History month has become the source of controversy.
Earlier this week, Summerland mayor Toni Boot, who is black, went public with concerns surrounding the stamp.
The stamp features a group of black hockey players with the words “Colored Hockey Championship.” This league existed in the Maritimes from 1895 until the 1930s and the American spelling of “Colored” was used by the league.
Boot has questioned the choice of this image for the stamp and has said it conveys a colonial tone.
Many members of the public expressed their outrage over the stamp, and suggested it to be a result of racism.
It would be easy to suggest racism is behind the choice of this stamp for Black History Month, but such a conclusion is an oversimplification and is not necessarily accurate.
Instead, the stamp represents an inadequate understanding, or ignorance, of Canada’s past.
This country has not always behaved well in its treatments of blacks and other visible minorities.
Slavery was once practiced in what is now Canada, and court documents from the late 18th century refer to the existance of slaves and slave owners. In fact, slavery was not banned until 1833.
While Canada did not become a country until 1867, pre-Confederation history cannot be ignored.
Even since Confederation, Canada’s record with members of minority groups has not always been stellar.
Today, activists are continuing to call for a better level of treatment of blacks and other visible minorities.
The image of the hockey players on the stamp shows one aspect of the experience of black Canadians. But it does not tell the entire story.
Furthermore, a stamp by itself cannot enlighten Canadians on the uncomfortable parts of this country’s history.
But perhaps the stamp and the controversy surrounding it will encourage a greater understanding of our history, including the parts that are difficult to own.
We cannot move forward until we first acknowledge our history.
— Black Press
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