Black history should be taught year-round in Quebec schools: spokesperson

Myrna Lashley

The English-language spokesperson for Black History Month in Quebec says black history is an integral part of Quebec history, and needs to be taught in Quebec schools.

Myrna Lashley, a McGill University psychiatry professor, says it's not enough that schoolchildren are exposed to black history for one month every year.

"If you just trot it out once a year, it sounds as though we're an adjunct, rather than being an integral part of society," Lashley says. "Black history is nothing more than Quebec history, nothing more than Montreal history, nothing more than Canadian history, and as such, it should be incorporated, like all people's histories, into the curriculum."

Lashley argues that black history goes far beyond Martin Luther King and slavery.

"Black history did not start with Martin Luther King, it did not start with slavery. Black have been in Canada since the beginning. They've been in Quebec ever since Mathieu da Costa [an African man whose talent with languages is credited with helping the early French explorers communicate with the Indigenous peoples they encountered] came down the St. Lawrence with Samuel de Champlain."

Lashley suggests Canadian history is based largely on what she calls "Eurocentric norms", and as a result, the histories of peoples who aren't British or French in this country tend to be overlooked.

"Where are the First Nations in that? Where are the black people? Where are the Irish?" she said. "Where are all these other people who have contributed to the well-being and the prosperity of this country and province and city?"

She says she understands that history teachers don't always have the time to devote to teaching the separate histories of different peoples in Canada. "But you can certainly bring it in as you're going along. You can say, 'in this year, these things happened with these people, and these are the contributions.'"

Lashley points out that black history, or any other peoples' history, should take any kind of precedence over European history. Teaching black history, she says, helps give black youth a sense that they belong here, and informs everyone else about their accomplishments.