StatsCan Plus

Black History Month

February 1, 2022, 2:00 p.m. (EST)
Side profile of a man wearing a bright yellow jacket.

February is Black History Month, a time for Canadians to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous nation it is today.

The first person of African heritage known to have come to what is now Canada arrived over 400 years ago.

In 1604, Mathieu Da Costa settled in Canada with the French explorers Pierre Du Gua De Monts and Samuel de Champlain. Da Costa, a multilingual interpreter who spoke English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Pidgin Basque, provided an invaluable link with the Mik’maq people in their dealings with the Europeans.

Since Da Costa’s arrival, Black people and their communities have been a part of shaping Canada’s heritage and identity. Black History Month is about honouring the enormous contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make, in all sectors of society.

Canadians are not always aware of the fact that Black people were once enslaved in the territory that is now Canada or how those who fought enslavement helped to lay the foundation of a diverse and inclusive Canadian society.

In 1628, Olivier LeJeune was recorded as the first enslaved African to live in Canada. People of African descent were enslaved in Canada from 1628 until slavery was abolished in Upper Canada in 1793 and throughout the entire British Empire in 1833.

Into the 20th Century, Canada’s Black communities and organizations continued to increase as immigration policies that had discriminated against Black people, amongst others, were abolished or reformed.

Black people in Canada have diverse backgrounds and experiences—while some can trace their roots in Canada for many generations, others have immigrated in recent decades. Overall, more than 20 ethnic or cultural origins were reported by Canada’s Black population in 2016.

At the time of the 2016 Census of Population, the Black population accounted for 3.5% of Canada’s total population and 15.6% of the population defined as a visible minority. Of this population, more than 4 in 10 Black people were born in Canada and 623,195 Black people were immigrants, which included landed immigrants/permanent residents and Canadian citizens by naturalization.

In 20 years, the Black population doubled in size, from 573,860 persons in 1996 to 1,198,540 persons in 2016. According to population projections, the Black population will continue to increase and could represent between 5.0% and 5.6% of Canada’s population by 2036.

Over the course of the last four centuries, Black people have shaped their own identities in Canada, while making important contributions to Canadian society. February is about celebrating resilience, innovation, and determination to work towards a more inclusive and diverse Canada—a nation in which everyone has every opportunity to flourish.

Given the challenges faced by many Black Canadians, examining the socioeconomic outcomes of this population is important.

Statistics Canada continues to work with its federal, provincial and territorial counterparts to develop ways to paint a more complete and integrated picture of population groups and their experiences. Advances in data disaggregation included in the 2021 Census is one part of Statistics Canada’s action plan to review its data programs to ensure that they remain relevant to the evolving interests of all Canadians.

Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free or Media Relations (