In 1951, a small group of Black women in Toronto founded the Canadian Negro Women's Association (CANEWA). The first president of the group was Kay Livingstone, whose family had come from Cayuga and settled in the Chatham/London area during the early nineteenth century.
Between 1951 and 1976, spurred on by the rising tide of Black consciousness, CANEWA emerged from being primarily a social organization to a social activist one, serving the needs of the growing Black population particularly in Ontario. Pioneering programs in culture and education, CANEWA’s growing achievements came in 1973, when it convened in Toronto the first National Congress of Black Women. This initial gathering gave birth in 1980, to the Congress of Black Women of Canada. Black Women across Canada gathered at the Westbury Hotel, in what was to be the first of a series of national conferences. Subsequent congresses were held in Montreal (1974), Halifax (1976) and Windsor (1977).
Finally, at the 1980 congress in Winnipeg, Kay Livingstone’s vision of an organization uniting black women was born when delegates formally launched the Congress of Black women of Canada.
In recent decades, Oshawa and Whitby residents have witnessed exponential growth in their population. Alongside this growth, there has been a significant reshaping of the area’s ethno-racial demographic. Recognizing these changes, the then Congress’ Ontario Regional Representative, Ettie Rutherford, set out to address the need for a wider range of social support systems and resources. For the often marginalized community of Black women, Ettie knew that the answer was the establishment of an Oshawa/Whitby Chapter.
On the 17th day of March in the year 2007 at the city of Oshawa, the Oshawa/Whitby Chapter of the Congress was formed when a group of like-minded women came together in show of their commitment to affect positive change for black women in their community. Additionally, on this date, an executive was officially elected.
Chapter meetings are held monthly at: Iroquois Sports Complex, 500 Victoria St W, Whitby, Ontario, where we will hear and subsequently address issues of concern or interest to Black women through the planning and implementation of a variety of seminars, workshops, and activities.
The Oshawa/Whitby Chapter, alongside the Ontario Region’s other eleven chapters, will focus on Kay Livingstone’s vision which is to assist Black women and their families in the following areas:
Human Rights: The Congress believes that everyone should be guaranteed the right to equality of opportunity without regard to race, sex, age, nationality, etc and the right to safety and security of person.
Housing: The Congress believes that decent and affordable housing should be attainable to everyone. This includes co-operative, nonprofit, and government housing programs. The Congress recognizes the promotion of Consumer action for better community development.
Health: The Congress believes that all people should be aware of available health care and should have the best medical care in the community. Through a public education program, health problems and concerns can be discussed, including the relationship between members of the medical profession and black women.
Child Development: The Congress believes that Black parents should explore the issue of complete child development-language development, readiness for school, and the role of the cultural activities in positive self concept. It recognizes the importance of quality daycare facilities, family daycare and after school programs.
Education: The Congress believes that black women should be able to pursue adult education and training and receive information about alternate careers and counselling, so that they can train to develop necessary skills.
Pensions: The Congress recognizes that Black women should be provided a program of education about pensions in the areas of eligibility, portability (carrying pensions from one job to another), retirement, as well as separation and divorce situations.