William Loren Katz on page 70 of his book, “Black Pioneers” wrote this:
On January 1, 1850, in Windsor, Ontario, Henry Bibb who reached Canada as a fugitive using the underground railroad, published the first issue of his newspaper called, Voice of the Fugitive. About a year later, Bibb published QUOTE “a clarion call for African Americans to leave for Canada ‘where all men are free’.”
Some of us were born in Canada. Some chose to travel great distances to claim this country as their home. Some were forced here under harsh conditions. Some have been pushed aside to make room for others considered more valuable.
Some grew into the Canadian way of life. Some brought their way of life here and have found ways to hold onto their former traditions while embracing new ones. Some lost their way of life during their forced transition here. Many who were born here suffered cultural genocide as their way of life was dismantled and their lands taken from them.
Henry Bibb called Canada a land where all men are free. The lyrics of our national anthem ask God to keep our land glorious and free. But when we sing, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee, what are we referring to?
For one thing, we need to be referring to The Canadian Bill of Rights, An Act for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that was passed on August 8, 1960.
We need to be guarding what the Parliament of Canada affirmed, specifically: that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge:
the supremacy of God;
the dignity and worth of the human person;
the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions;
that freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values, and the rule of law.
We need to be guarding the fact that it is recognized, and declared, that in Canada there has existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, these human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,
the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;
the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;
freedom of religion; speech; assembly and association; and
freedom of the press.
If it should happen that we don’t wish to stand on guard for the Canadian Bill of Rights, perhaps we will agree to guard the supremacy of God; God who is love; God who filled the Bible with moral and spiritual guidance; God who doesn’t discriminate; God who gave us the freedom to choose to guard the dignity and worth of every human person.
And let’s guard this principle: that in Canada, there will never be another person who suffers discrimination because of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex.
Let Henry Bibb be right: Canada, where all men are free!
May it be so.
The photo is of a Henry Bibb book at Leddy Library's Archives and Special Collections at the University of Windsor. For more information about Henry and Mary Bibb, read Irene Moore Davis' (2020) article at: https://collections.uwindsor.ca/omeka-s/nwoc/page/bibb