March 19, 2007
For Immediate Release

KLEES: Ontario should join over 100 countries in honouring Martin Luther King Jr.

(Queen's Park) Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees, the PC Education and Citizenship & Immigration Critic, today tabled a private member's bill at Queen's Park that, if passed, would proclaim the third Monday in January of each year as "Martin Luther King Jr. Day" in Ontario.

Dr Rosemary Sadlier, President of the Ontario Black History Society, praised Klees' initiative and said, "Martin Luther King has come to be a symbol of freedom, social justice and equality in the world. And while we recognize him, we also recognize the efforts of countless others who have contributed to our current level of awareness of these issues."

In his opening remarks during First Reading of his bill, Klees illustrated the connection between the legacy of Martin Luther King and the anti-slavery movement in Canada and Britain that inspired King in his work.

"In 1793, Ontario's first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, opened Upper Canada's first Parliament with his own anti-slavery legislation," Klees said. "The heroic legacy of the Underground Railroad highlighted Canada as a main destination of freedom for many African-American ex-slaves and includes the inspiring courage of Harriet Tubman."

"An annual celebration of Dr King's life, witness and death would serve as a fitting time to give consideration to the many contributions of African-Canadians to Canada and their ongoing role in working to end racial discrimination and the role of our parliamentary heritage in protecting our rights and responsibilities in Ontario and Canada." (Full First Reading Statement attached).

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For further information

Frank Klees, MPP

416-325-7316

http://www.frank-klees.on.ca/CurrentIssues/PrivateMembersBills.htm


An Act to Proclaim Martin Luther King Jr. Day

19 March 2007

First Reading Statement by Frank Klees, MPP
PC Education and Citizenship & Immigration Critic

Mr. Speaker, as the preamble to my private member’s bill states, more than 100 countries around the globe honour the person and legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) in support of the movement inspired by his life and death to promote interracial harmony based on the principles of human rights, equality and freedom.

In the words of Dr Rosemary Sadlier, the President of the Ontario Black History Society, “Martin Luther King has come to be a symbol of freedom, social justice and equality in the world.  And which we recognize him, we also recognize the efforts of countless others who have contributed to our current level of awareness of these important issues.”

Dr King himself was inspired by the example of the great abolitionist and Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, who spent his political career fighting slavery and who died just one month before the anti-slavery Act of 1807 was promulgated by the British Parliament on March 25th of that year.  That act did ended the Trans-Atlantic slave trade but did not end the enslavement of Africans, however.

A contemporary of William Wilberforce who likewise took inspiration from him was Ontario’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe.  And in 1793, when this very House came into existence at Newark and at its first sitting, John Simcoe ensured that the first bills on the Order of Business to be tabled were those that attacked the pernicious institution of slavery in Upper Canada, almost 15 years before the British Act of 1807.  Simcoe’s efforts strengthened the resolve of Britain to finally end the enslavement of Africans in Canada and throughout the empire on August 1, 1834 which is also known as Emancipation Day.

The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. also highlights the heroism of the members of the Underground Railroad for whom Canada was a main destination of freedom for African-American ex-slaves, especially the inspiring courage of Harriet Tubman.  The year 2007 also marks the 45th anniversary of the first human rights code in Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that an annual celebration of Dr. King’s life, witness and martyrdom serves as a fitting time to consider the many, ongoing contributions of African-Canadians not only to the cultural landscape of Canada, but also their role in working to end racial discrimination everywhere and the role of our democratic parliamentary heritage in protecting our rights and responsibilities.

Therefore, I urge all Members of this House to lend their strong support for this private member’s Bill to declare the third Monday in January of each year as “Martin Luther King Jr. Day” in Ontario.

 

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