Saint Firmin Monestime was born in Cap Haitien, Haiti and went on to become Canada’s first black mayor in 1963, following a distinguished career as a doctor in Haiti and in the city of Mattawa, Canada. After serving two terms in that office, Monestime died in 1977, survived by his wife Zena and their four children, and another set of kids from a previous marriage to Nelly Bonhomme.
Vala Monestime Belter, his daughter, had a chat with Kreyolicious.com regarding her late father.
How do you remember your father?
I remember a man who laughed, was generous, kind, loved learning and worked long hours. He loved to danced. He loved his family. Thirty five years after his death, people still talk about him and remember him as their doctor, their mayor and their friend. They say good things. I realize how blessed I am to be his daughter. Not everyone gets affirmative “hugs” about their dad throughout their life.
What do you think his legacy is?
He left behind a nursing home for the frail and elderly which has also been the economic powerhouse for our small community. He gave this town pride in that a white Canadian community elected a black mayor in the days that their southern neighbor was still persecuting their fellow man, just because he was black!
Did he ever return to Haiti?
He had purchased a plane ticket to return to Haiti just before his son died—February 19, 1976. He never returned.
What are some of the memories he shared with you about Haiti?
He said it was the most beautiful country on earth. He played the songs of Guy Durosier…En Haiti, ahhhh comme il fait doux…[In Haiti, how sweet it is] wow, I love those words.
You can order Where Rivers Meet, the biography of Saint Firmin Monestime by Doug Mackey by clicking here!