Any Black person with more than one skill to rub together seems most attractive to the world between Martin Luther King Day and the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

During this “high season” for Black history, Canadians turn their attention to the descendents of African slaves and their accomplishments. Sadly, in most cases, the people being examined are African Americans.

During Black History Month, much of the struggle for acceptance and equality for Canadian Blacks is subsumed beneath the annual obsession with Martin, Malcolm and Mandela. It’s a sad state of affairs, especially when one considers the rich history of contributions to this country made by Black Canadians.

Ever since the first African set foot on the soil of New France in the 17th century, African Canadians have played a major part in shaping Canadian identity: Loyalists, former slaves who arrived though the Underground Railroad, refugees, domestic servants of the mid-1900s, recent immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean — they now make up a community of over 600,000 Canadians.

Our failure to properly address Canadian Black history creates several problems. For instance, not recognizing Canadaâe(TM)s racist past perpetuates the myth that Canada has been, and continues to be, a nation free of discrimination.

Canadians often look back at the Underground Railroad as a glorious moment in the Black struggle for freedom, glazing over the difficulties Blacks have had to face while living in Canada.

A cursory examination of our history shows that we were a slave nation in the earliest years of our country’s development. The Canadian government later systematically disenfranchised Black people after they had come from the Thirteen Colonies out of loyalty to the British Crown during the American War of Independence.

The earliest documented exploits of an African slave in the Americas were in Montreal. Enslaved domestic servant Marie-Joseph Angélique is said to have burnt much of Montreal to the ground in 1734.

A group of disenchanted Black settlers led by Thomas Peters elected to leave Nova Scotia and go back to Africa in 1792, bitter at their treatment by the Crown. They eventually became key in the founding of Sierra Leone.

Many people don’t know about John Ware, who settled in Alberta near the turn of the 20th century. He was a legendary cowboy who had originally been born into slavery in the Carolinas.

Up until 1962, Canadian immigration law was overtly racist until the offending clauses were removed. These changes led to an influx of Caribbean immigration, which over the years brought us great Canadians like politician Rosemary Brown, writer Austin Clarke, athlete Donovan Bailey and many others.

The list goes on.

Citizens of all colours should be proud of the contributions Black Canadians have made to this country.

It’s vital that we educate Canadians about the place of these achievements in our history. Not only because I think it encourages non-Blacks to acknowledge contemporary incidences of discrimination, but also because Black Canadians deserve to know the historic injustices inflicted upon them and how their forebears overcame prejudice to achieve success. A better knowledge of Black Canadian history can also help to address the social exclusion faced by many Black Canadians.

Though Canada remains a country plagued by discrimination, there is reason for optimism — as long as we begin to be more inclusive of the experiences of African Canadians in the mainstream Canadian narrative. There has been some progress in this regard, but there’s still a long way to go.

One positive step, as Iâe(TM)ve mentioned, would be to Canadian-ize Black History Month.

Then, we need to change society by rewriting our history books so that Black history is celebrated year-round. The final step is to eliminate the Month altogether.

For now, I have to get on to the next Black History Month task. February is so busy. Didn’t the papers do a gigantic write-up on Coretta Scott King earlier this month?

Martin, Malcolm and Mandela strike againâe¦