Where Rivers Meet
The Story of Dr. S. F. Monestime Canada's
First Black Mayor
When two diverse and distinct cultures meet in Mattawa in the 1950s it makes
for an improbable story. Read about a remarkable Black doctor from the Caribbean
nation of Haiti and an attractive Russian woman from wartorn Europe and their
struggle to find their place in a multicultural Canada. Will integrity and hard
work be enough to overcome the odds and make for a meaningful life? Read this
powerful and moving story that unfolds where the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers meet.
This book is a chronological history of the Monestime family from their
places of birth to the present day. In the case of Dr. Monestime, it covers his
life from his Haitian birth on December 16, 1909 through 100 years including his
children and grandchildren, to the present day.
This book is the story of a man, who was a doctor for forty
years, including successful careers in Haiti and Canada, two long periods of
medical training, thousands of operations as a surgeon, and many births as a
doctor; he could be remembered for this alone.
But the story is much more than that, when you add his
widely recognized remarkable political career as Canada’s, if not North
America’s, first Black mayor. The legacy of his achievements for the people of
Mattawa and beyond has made him something of a legend.
PRESS RELEASE February 2010-Small
Ontario town celebrates
Black mayor in 1963
PRESS RELEASE February 2009-Comment in
Obama inauguration address evokes comparison to
the story of the election of Canada’s first Black mayor in 1963
View article and photographs in EBONY MAGAZINE from
October 1965 called DOCTOR GETS CALL-TO MAYOR'S
View Article in the BALTIMORE AFRO-AMERICAN newspaper from Dec 28, 1963 called
HAITI NATIVE ELECTED MAYOR IN CANADA.
Excerpt from Chapter One: Mattawa
In the summer of 1951 Dr. Monestime, a recently Canadian
certified MD and his colleague Dr. G. Lamontagne heard about openings for
doctors in Timmins and decided to drive there from Ottawa to look the situation
over. At noon on the trip, as they approached the beautiful town of Mattawa,
they looked for a place to stop for lunch. As they entered Main Street, the Chez
Francois restaurant caught their eye and they stopped. “I didn’t intend to come
here,“ Dr. Monestime recalled years later….
In 1951 Dr. J.A. Bergeron, one of Mattawa’s two doctors, died after 27 years of
service. The records show that at least three doctors visited briefly as a
possible replacement—none stayed.
The story of what happened next when our two doctors driving from Ottawa entered
the Chez Francois restaurant on Mattawa’s Main Street is local legend. Dr. Saint
Firmin Monestime, a Black doctor from the Caribbean nation of Haiti, later
recalled: “When I sat down I saw the manager look at me in surprise and I
thought he didn’t want me in his restaurant. This part of the country wasn’t too
familiar with negroes.”
Dr. Monestime’s experiences with prejudice in his home country of Haiti and in
the U.S. had made him unsure of what reception he would receive in Northern
8.5X11, 80 pages, over 180 photographs and Maps.
Table of Contents
Chapter 2: Haiti to Canada
Appendix 1: Haitian History
The Book is beautifully illustrated and written in an interesting and easy to
read style that would make a perfect resource for students interested in
Haitian, Russian and local history... Those who remember him will have a great
keepsake and those who do not will be introduced to a man who was not judged by
the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.
Gerry Therrien in The Mattawa
Where Rivers Meet recounts the life of
Dr. Saint Firmin Monestime, a Haitian immigrant who overcame all odds to
become first a doctor then mayor of Mattawa, Ontario. Although not a
children’s book, it is reviewed here because of its relevance to Black
History and usefulness in school libraries, especially at the secondary
Abundant with photos, the book’s format is
accessible to young people, but its description of the politics of Canada
and of Haiti is obviously written with an adult audience in mind.
Monestime’s humanity, his love for people, and his almost wilful ignorance
of the pervading racism of the time are depicted very clearly, and he is
presented as the prototype Canadian for a multicultural age.
From a review in
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profiles of interest to teachers, librarians, parents and kids.
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