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My Memorable Interview With Stephen Harper on Black History

01/23/2014 08:27 EST | Updated 03/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Since the Honorable Stephen Harper became Canada's 22nd Prime Minister in 2006, I have only met him once. It was at the Black Business and Professional Associations Harry Jerome Awards in 2010. As he was about to leave the auditorium after giving his keynote speech, I approached his table to shake his hand and introduce myself. As his personal security was about to push me away, I was saved by his personal assistant, whom I knew from Carleton University. I chatted with the Prime Minister for few memorable minutes and I asked him if I could interview him.

He offered me contacts for his press secretary and he promised he would make sure the interview would happen. And it did over e-mail in February 2011. As I become a candidate for the Presidency of the Black Business and Professional Association I cannot help but reflect on the interview I did with the Prime Minister. If I am successful in my pursuit of the position, political engagement would be a big part of my term for Canada's premier black organization. As we approach Black History Month in February, the interview with the Prime Minister is still the highlight of my journalism experience.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is an occasion to honor the stories of everyday heroes of African descent across our country and an opportunity to celebrate the values of perseverance and dignity that have defined the black community in Canada for generations. Their stories characterize the pride, strength and dignity that have driven black Canadians to realize their ambitions in all fields of endeavor.

Who is the one African Canadian of the past or present that you admire?

Naming just one Canadian of African origin that inspires me is like asking me to name only one great Canadian -- there are too many to count. This Black History Month, we recognize four individuals in particular from the past and present -- John Ware, Carrie Best; Ferguson Jenkins and Jerome Iginla, who was the first black captain in the National Hockey League.

He is a role model for aspiring young black hockey players across Canada. All of these great Canadians have helped break down barriers and defy stereotypes making the black community and Canada as a whole, a stronger country.

Looking back on your experience as Prime Minister, what surprised you most about Canada's diversity and what are some of the challenges. How would your government address some of these challenges?

Canada is a country of immigrants -- our identities are bound up in the stories of our ancestors from hundreds of different lands. This makes Canada's situation unique in the world. Nowhere else will you find such diversity coupled with understanding of the crucial role it plays in shaping our country.

Over the past five years I have seen that the concerns of individual communities are the concerns of all Canadians. We all want peace, security, a strong economy and opportunity. Of course New Canadians face extra challenges in trying to contribute to Canada, which is why we've invested $50 million, and continue to invest, in supporting foreign credential recognition for many professions and occupations right across Canada.

Moving forward as a country also means facing up to our past. Since 2006 our Government has apologized on behalf of all Canadians, for the Chinese Head tax and other racially-based immigration restrictions, and brought in a redress package to commemorate wartime immigration restrictions.

We are so fortunate to live in Canada and all want to see our country succeed; we're steering the country in the right direction to fully recover from the global economic recession and I know that Canadians of all backgrounds are also working hard to succeed. Inspired by the stories of our past, especially the stories we hear during Black History Month and all year long, we will continue moving forward with diversity as one of our greatest strengths.

Memorable Stephen Harper Pictures