Black History Month: Honouring the Past, Embracing the Present, Shaping the Future.

February 2, 2024
Website Admin
Black people graphic in colours of black history month, red, black, green and yellow.

As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s important to acknowledge the significant contributions of Black Canadians to the field of social work and the broader society. Black Canadians have a rich history that spans over 400 years, with the first person of African heritage known to have arrived in what is now Canada in the 1600s.

Black History Month is not just for Black people; it is an opportunity for the world to learn about these contributions. The month’s events and discussions aim to demystify critical race theory, understand the historical call for financial restitution to Black Canadians and Americans, and explore Afrofuturism. These activities provide a platform for engaging in thoughtful discussions and reflecting on the excellence of the Black community.

Over the centuries, Black communities have been established across Canada, some as a result of war and others through the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses that helped enslaved African Americans escape to free states and Canada.

As social workers, it’s essential to recognize and honour the diverse experiences of the Black community. Racial equity and justice are at the core of our profession, and Black History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on the impact of racism on people’s social, economic, health, and environmental conditions.

In the realm of social work, Black Canadians have made significant strides. For instance, Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, a proud social worker, founded the Association of Black Social Workers in 1979. In 1990, she became a professor at the Dalhousie School of Social Work, and in 2017, she was the first African Canadian to be appointed Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Work.

Black social workers have been instrumental in advancing best practices and quality of care with culturally responsive and evidence-based approaches to empower and uplift Black communities. They have also been at the forefront of advocating for culturally appropriate education and training around Anti-Black Racism, raising awareness around social issues that impact marginalized populations. 

This month, several events are taking place that highlight the work of Black social workers. These include the “Black Voices in Social Work Series” from February 7th to May 1st, 2024, which spotlights Black innovation, leadership, and Black-centric approaches in social work. The “International Social Service Canada – Social Work beyond Borders” webinar on February 9th, 2024, emphasizes the global perspective of social work. The “SABSW/SASW Panel – Allies, Accomplices and Co-conspirators: challenges, opportunities and a way forward” on February 15th, 2024, discusses the challenges and opportunities in social work.

As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s remember the significant contributions of Black Canadians to social work and continue to learn from their experiences and insights. Their work has not only shaped the field of social work but also continues to influence the broader society in Canada. Let’s reaffirm our commitment to undoing racism and promoting racial equity in our profession. By acknowledging the past, celebrating the present, and working towards a more just and inclusive future, we honour the legacy of Black individuals and contribute to a more equitable society.


BC Black History Awareness Society. (n.d.). Black History Month.

Canadian Association of Social Workers. (2022, February 24). Celebrating Pioneers of African Descent in Social Work: Passing the Torch.

Canadian Association of Social Workers. (2024, January 12). Le service social international, au-delà des frontières.

Canadian Association of Social Workers. (n.d.). Black Voices in Social Work.

Canadian Association of Social Workers. (n.d.). International Social Service Canada – Social work beyond borders.

Canadian Heritage. (2024, January 30). February is Black History Month.

Canadian Heritage. (n.d.). Historic Black communities.

City of Toronto. (n.d.). Black History Month.

Connect2Canada. (n.d.). Advancing Diversity and Inclusion: Black History Month.

Government of Canada. (n.d.). Social determinants and inequities in health for Black Canadians: A Snapshot.

Historica Canada. (n.d.). Black History in Canada.

McMaster University. (n.d.). Pioneers of Black Mental Health.

National Association of Social Workers. (n.d.). [Document Title].

National Union of Public and General Employees. (2024). NUPGE celebrates Black Canadians in the labour movement.

Ontario Association of Social Workers. (n.d.). Black Voices in Social Work.

Statistics Canada. (n.d.). Black History Month: Celebrating heritage and diversity.

Statistics Canada. (n.d.). Black History Month: Honouring and celebrating Black people in Canada.

Schefft, Melanie. “Why We Still Need Black History Month.” UC News, Melanie Schefft, 26 Jan. 2023,

Tandfonline. (2016). [Article Title].

The Canadian Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Black Canadians.

The Canadian Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Black History Until 1900.

CBC Docs POV. (n.d.). 5 Black Canadian leaders who inspired a generation.

CBC Kids. (n.d.). Famous Black communities across Canada.

Western Financial Group. (n.d.). What Do You Know About Canada’s Black Communities?

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Black Canadians.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Black History Month.