History of Conferences in the Black Community of Montreal

History of Conferences in the Black Community of Montreal Between 1960 and Current Time: A chronology
BSC Research Document
The purpose here is to try to track the spirit of collective thinking in the Black Community of Montreal on issues pertinent to its development. There have been many conferences, seminars, workshops, meetings of Associations, spontaneous or flash meeting going back into the forties. It would be stupid and insulting to the indigenous Black population (Canadian born) to believe that the Black community got organized only after immigrant Blacks (including myself) came here. But the records suggest that the first National Conference involving Canadian Black leaders from across the country was organized by West Indian immigrants and students at McGill and Sir George Williams University in Montreal. It was held at Sir George Williams University in the Fall of 1968: the Conference of Black and Canadian Organizations: “Problems of Involvement in the Canadian Society with Reference to Black People.” The importance of this conference cannot be underestimated. It is the first meeting of Black leaders in the Country to address the social, economic and political future of Blacks in Canada. Moreover, it represented a clear National decision of a broad base Black leadership in Canada to set domestic priorities above the International priorities promoted by the Black Marxist left and American Black power agendas; and in particular the priorities of the “Black Writers Conference“ held at Mc Gill a week later. Simply put, there was a clash of interests and priorities. One set of Canadian Blacks (indigenous and resident immigrants) were committed to living in Canada within the federation and to engage in the debate and movement towards a multicultural society. On the other hand, another group, mostly student dominated, committed themselves to the pursuit of a much larger scale set of objectives. They advocated the transformation of world societies along Marxist and Trotskyite doctrines and analysis, sought the eradication of racism and oppression world wide; and aggressively promoted social and economic equality of Black and African peoples in Africa, the USA and the Black Diaspora. For them, the American Black power movement took center stage. The following is a list of Conferences that document the dialogue that took place between Blacks in Montreal and Canada over the period 1960 to 2000.
1. The Caribbean Conference Committee: The Conference on West Indians Affairs (McGill University Students, 1966). This meeting is very important in the sense that it can be said to have given rise to two Conference, the Conference of Black and Canadian Organizations, and the Black Writers Congress, both taking place a week apart in the Fall of 1968. The first took place at Sir George Williams University, the second at McGill University.

2. The Conference of Black and Canadian Organizations, 1968, was sponsored by the restructured Conference committee under resident Black leadership. It lead to the creation of the National Black Coalition of Canada. This resulted in a network of new organizations and leaders in the Black communities across Canada. It focused on national and regional issues and politics relating “problems of involvement in the Canadian society with reference to Black people.” These tension were effectively and dramatically set out in the 1968 issue of Expression: Two views of the Black Writer’s Conference. And again in Dave Austin’s “Fear of a Black Nation.”
3. The Black Writers Congress held at McGill University October 1968. Some activist authors as well as proponents of Black radicalism argued that the Black Writers Conference sensitized and awaken the Black communities to action. Others point to the fact that the Black communities were already active and committed to transforming Canadian society into a more socially cohesive society. Whatever one’s perspective might be, the reality is that the Black Writer`s Congress may have played only a minor role in the emergence of the Black institutions that came into being in Montreal between 1968 and1995. On the other hand, the Conference of Black and Canadian Organizations created the National Black Coalition of Canada which influenced Black political action and participation in the National and Provincial political processes across the country throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties. For a while the NBCC was the voice of the Black peoples of Canada in the National arena.

4. National Black Coalition Conferences (1969) and the NBCC Research Institute (1970).
The leadership emerging from the NBCC Research Institute extended the thinking that originated there to create the Black Studies Center as the central document center in the English Speaking Black community; and the key research institution. This was enhance by its collaborations with researchers in small business start-ups and the information technologies, JMSB, Concordia.

5. The MBBP Business Week Conference . The creation of the MABBP and its Annual Business Workshops:
MABBP initiated a program of annual summer programmes matching business men and professionals as career mentors to Black high school and college youth from the Black community. The first business week “A Toast to the Future” was held MAY 2-10, 1986; THE SECOND “In the Spirit of Enterprise and Employment Initiatives” was held May 8-16 1987

6. The Creation of the Black Community Council of Quebec with its outreach and specialists Programs (1973-4).

The BCCQ held policy conferences that seated as many as 55 representatives of member organizations. For a number of years the BCCQ Administration operated the BECUM Program teaching Black youth the technical skills necessary to start small technology businesses.

The BCCQ promoted a Pan-African approach to community building and self-autonomy. It organized and represented English speaking Blacks throughout the Island of Montreal and its surrounding areas. It created the CDN Black Community Association, the NDG Black Community Association, LaSalle Black Community Association, The South Shore and the West Island Black Community Associations, and Laval Black Community Associations.

7. The Black Community Forum: Val Morin Conference, July 1992.
This Conference was organized by the BCCQ. At this meeting 50 or more community organizations carved out mandates based on their existing missions in an attempt to develop a collective approach to community development and create a unified voice in dealing with the various levels of government. At the meeting special workshops were held on business and economic development specific to the Black Community.

8. Creation of the Table de Concertation under the Liberal and Piquiste Governments in the early nineties: This was part of a strategic initiative of the community to bring about a planned development of the community with special Provincial Government inputs. The Mathieu Da Costa project was born out of it. In fact, there were several community committees on youth education, arts and culture, community and economic development that met regularly, prepared reports and made recommendations to the Government and the Community Table.

9. The QBBE hosted the National Council of Black Educator`s Conference on Science and Technology held at the Delta, Montreal (1998). This conference engaged the Black community and professional educators from across Canada in a discussion of the teaching of science and technology in the Black community as a strategy for community and business development. The Black Studies has continued research and publication in collaboration with ICED, Concordia, on the use of communication and information technologies as an aid in determining the best community responses in complex socioeconomic situations.

10. The Creation of the Mathieu Da Costa Foundation: Its Conferences and Expos. Over the years, much criticism has been levied at the Provincial Government and the managers of this project. However, any history of collaborations between the Community and the Province on economic development of the Black communities must point to the positive aspects of the project not just the failures. For several years the Foundation made loans available to Black businesses; supported and financed conferences and workshops; and showcased businesses that they financed. The conference and workshops , Salon Economique Mathieu Da Costa, 21 Mars 1997 is a case in point. The lessons learned from the project has been very informative for the setting up of the current Black Entrepreneurship Fund (Felation) of the Provincial Government .
11. The possibilities Program. The Possibilities Program was a Community-Financial sector program negotiated by the Quebec of Black Educators with the Bank of Montreal. The objective was to educate bright high school Black youth in Banking practices and financial management by arranging internships for selected Black Youth with the Bank of Montreal. In addition to the internships with the Bank, a weekend retreat was held each summer at which workshops in business, community and social responsibility under the direction of experts in financial management and social and community development.
12. The Black Community Forum. This Forum was proposed by the Val Morin Conference, in 1992. Protocols for the Forum were developed by Dr. Leo Bertley. Today it exists as an informal structure used primarily by BCRC on several occasions to bring the Community together around a number of issues. It played a significant role in the preparation of several briefings and the preparation of a draft report representing a common position presented by Black Communities to the Black Task Force of the Tremblay Administration. This was an important influencing factor in the creation of the Yolande James Black Task Force on the fuller integration of Blacks into the Quebec economy and society . From this Black Task Force the present Provincial Government Policy for funding Black businesses was created.

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