Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the Harry Jerome Awards in Toronto
Thank you so much my friends, good evening. It is such a pleasure to be with you here tonight. Thank you all for being here, thank you for including me in this wonderful celebration. Thank you for the enthusiasm, the strength and the inspiring nature of this community.
I want to start by congratulating tonight’s 18 award recipients; your passion, your dedication and your achievements are an inspiration to us all. I’d also like to thank the Black Business and Professional Association for inviting me here tonight; thank you to Michelle Richards, to Pauline Christian - now wasn’t that an extraordinary presence on stage, ladies and gentlemen?
Pauline, your years of leadership have been extraordinary, and will continue, and we know you will continue to stand as a strong community member, continue to be involved in the black community, and in building a better Canada for us all. But I know as powerful a woman as you are, you didn’t do it alone. There’s a lot of volunteers, and her whole team that made this event a success, thank you to everyone who makes this event such a success.
As Pauline mentioned, a few years ago I had the chance to mark black history month at the BBPA Centre of Excellence. And it’s great to be back here celebrating with the BBPA. Every year, the Harry Jerome Awards give us the opportunity to recognize the achievements of African Canadians who have proudly carried the legacy of the late Harry Jerome. We remember Harry, not only for what he achieved, but for the man he was. Once the fastest man in the world, he was also a dedicated student, and a pillar of his community who extended opportunities to others. Whether he was providing black youth with the sports equipment they needed to stay active alongside their peers, or opposing the misrepresentation of African Canadians on television, Harry never stopped fighting for a better world.
Tonight we celebrate extraordinary Canadians who, like Harry, chose to be agents of change. Trailblazers, young entrepreneurs, lifetime achievers, entertainers; the recipients of this year’s Harry Jerome Awards are shaping Canada into a place we will be even prouder to call home in the coming years.
Yeah! Give them a round of applause. 2017 marks the 35th anniversary of the Harry Jerome Awards, and it also coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Which is an amazing concordance, which is wonderfully fitting since both are, at their core, a celebration of fairness, of liberty, and of justice. But as you all know, it’s been a long road to reach progress and equality in this country. We’re all here today because of the work of our predecessors, may they be Harry Jerome, Lincoln Alexander, Jean Augustine, or even my dad.
And of the choices they made in the name of progress. As Judge Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré reminded us last year, we truly stand on the shoulders of giants. And like them, tonight’s recipients have broken down barriers and faced down challenges. They are role models of this generation using their own unique experiences to leave their mark.
Take Leanne Prendergast for example; when Leanne was in school, she was bullied by her classmates, who teased her constantly and made her question her self-worth. However, it’s safe to say that the bullies didn’t break Leanne. No. Instead, putting a stop to bullying became her mission. She wrote a book based on her experience to help young girls in need. To me, that’s what courage and resilience looks like.
Tonight’s recipients are the proof that there is no requisite age for being a leader. Inspiring young people like Leanne Prendergast, Gabrielle Fletcher, and André De Grasse are blazing the trail. This is the kind of attitude that the BBPA strongly supports, as does our government. As Reverend Audley James put it; we must encourage leadership at a young age, because if communities are going to survive in this country or anywhere, they will have to do so not on the backs of the seniors who are gone, but on the new generation going to come in.
The Harry Jerome Awards give us the chance not only to recognize the achievements of incredible people, but to also build strong links across fields, generations and communities. But my friends, as we stand here tonight celebrating all the achievements, all the progress that has been made, we have to recognize and we know, that still, racism persists. Yes even in this country. That inequality lingers still despite the work done and the leadership of all in this room, and that is why we need trailblazers to team up with entertainers and young entrepreneurs to help others become agents of change, because there is still much work to do.
We need MPs like Ahmed Hussen, Emmanuel Dubourg, Frank Baylis, Greg Fergus, Celina Ceaser-Chavannes, and Hedy Fry, and indeed all leaders across governments to work with people like Dr. Gooden, Isabelle Granger and Fabienne Colas to build a more just society.
This is how we will lead by example. That is how we will continue to move forward. There is still work to be done to eliminate barriers and ensure that every Canadian has a fair and equal chance at success. That is why the government has been taking concrete measures to fight inequality and build a more inclusive Canada since the beginning of our mandate. For too long, the story of the black Canadians who have shaped our country has been silent and forgotten. That is unacceptable, and we must continue to honour and celebrate the achievements of the black community, not just in February, but all year long.
My Haitian friends, you will explain to the others what I’ve just been talking about. Last year, we announced that Viola Desmond would appear on the new ten dollar bills.
The story of Viola, a civil rights pioneer, is one of courage and determination. Just a few days ago, Minister Hussen and the President of the Treasury Board, Minister Scott Brison announced that name-blind recruitment techniques will be used by the Public Service Commission of Canada.
This pilot project will test how effective name-blind recruitment techniques are in the federal public service, to help us attract, hire, and retain the talented people we need to best serve Canadians.
This is an important step to fight the bias that still exists against people who are racialized, and ensure that applicants are selected for their qualifications, not their name.
And on that note, I do want to, once again, single out and thank my friend Ahmed Hussen who is here with us tonight for his tireless efforts as Canada’s Immigration Citizenship and Refugee Minister.
I know I don’t have to in this room of all rooms, go into Ahmed’s incredible story, and highlight just how our government is so fortunate to count on his experience as we all work together to build a better more inclusive Canada.
My friends, we really do stand on the shoulders of giants, and as I look around this room, I know that the next generation will too.
I want to once again congratulate all the recipients of this year’s Harry Jerome Awards, you are all nothing short of inspiring, and I know that each and every one of us watching you tonight will leave this room knowing that we can and must do more. We have a wonderful, beautiful country to keep building, my friends. It didn’t happen by accident, it won’t continue without effort. But as I look around this room tonight, I know that Canada is in very, very good hands with all of you.
Thank you very much, my friends. Thank you very, very much.