Firmin Monestime: The Haitian Doctor Who Became Canada’s First Black Mayor

Written by kreyolicious with Leave A Comment

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In the history of Canada, one man will always be remembered for a major accomplishment: becoming one of the first known mayors of a Canadian city. The man being referred to? A physician born in Cap Haitien, Haiti in 1909 and immigrated to Canada in the 1950s: Saint Firmin Monestime.

According to Doug Mackey, Monestime’s biographer, Monestime immigrated to Quebec initially before settling in Mattawa. Mackey notes that prior to his arrival in Canada, Monestime had had an illustrious career as a doctor in Haiti, having been on the team that treated some of the victims of the 1937 massacre on the Dominican border. Monestime, Mackey further notes, had also penned books on rural medicine in Haiti in the 1940s. One such one was published in 1941, entitled Conférences de médecine rurale (Rural Medicine Conferences).

The book The History of Blacks in Canada by George H. Junne explains that Monestime was the fourth known black in the history of Canada to hold public office (the other individuals held such positions as provincial assembly representative, councilman) and his election was a milestone for Canada’s black community.

Monestime died in 1977, after serving two terms as Mayor of Mattawa. Mackey contends that in addition to being the doctor in the city of Mattawa, and councilman and mayor, Monestime was a champion of public health and housing. Monestime founded the Algonquin Nursing Home that his daughter Vala Monestime Belter still operates in Mattawa, Ontario.

In his biography of Monestime entitled Where Rivers Meet, Mackey writes that the 1977 death of Monestime’s son Fedia devastated the doctor-mayor. Fedia was shot by a gunman near a hotel after he (Fedia) tried to call the police in response to a disturbance. The shooter was acquitted in the death of Monestime’s 21-year-old son and prompted Monestime’s health problems and eventual departure from public office.

Where Rivers Meet cover

Today, Monestime is fondly remembered for his contribution to the early history of the city of Mattawa. There is a museum exhibit at the Mattawa Museum in Canada in his honor. The Canada-based newspaper Bay Today reported that in 2010 the Mattawa Council Chambers were named in his honor.

You can order Where Rivers Meet, the biography of Saint-Firmin Monestime by Doug Mackey by clicking here! | Be sure to visit the website of the Algonquin Nursing Home in Mattawa, Canada that Dr. Saint Firmin Monestime founded by clicking here!

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