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Lincoln Alexander Day

Canadians celebrate Lincoln Alexander Day on January 21st of every year.

When Lincoln Alexander entered the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite for the first time in 1985, he might have paused for just a moment. He was, after all, about to enter not just a new and imposing office, but also an important phase of his own life, and in Ontario’s history. He was a man accustomed to breaking new ground: he became the first black person installed as the Queen’s representative in Ontario.

Born in 1922 in Toronto, Lincoln Alexander was the son of West Indian immigrants — his father a railway porter and his mother a maid. Alexander served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Alexander was educated at McMaster University, and later went on to study law at Osgoode Hall. Elected as an MP for Hamilton West in 1968, he was the first black person elected to Canada’s House of Commons. He remained there for 12 years. He made history again in his final year in Parliament, when he became Canada’s first black cabinet minister, having been appointed Minister of Labour.

As Lieutenant Governor — a post he held for more than six years — Alexander continued his pioneering ways. The first person of colour to be named to Ontario’s viceregal role, he focused on youth and education as a key part of his mandate. An awards program for young people who demonstrate leadership in combating discrimination and racism within their school or community was established in his name.

Photo of Lincoln Alexander walking past a military lineup in his honour.