Black History Month Spotlight: Donald H. Oliver

Donald H. Oliver

Donald Oliver was involved as a senior official in the Progressive Conservative Party since 1972. In 1990, he became the second Black Canadian and the first Black Canadian man to be appointed to the Senate of Canada. Oliver was born on November 16th, 1938 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Oliver served as a senator until 2013, and is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia.

Oliver was called to the Bar of Nova Scotia in 1965. Over the years, he became active in the professional community. He served on the boards of several legal committees in a career that spanned 36 years. Oliver maintained distinguished tenures both as a civil litigator and as an educator. He taught law at the Technical University of Nova Scotia, Saint Mary’s University and Dalhousie. Oliver’s community involvement led to a career in politics. He was particularly interested in promoting equality for Black Canadians, Indigenous peoples and other racialized communities in Canada.

On September 7th 1990, Donald Oliver was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn. Oliver was the second Black Canadian appointed to the Senate, after Anne Cools in 1984, and the first Black Canadian man in the Senate. After his appointment, Oliver served as a member of standing Senate committees on banking, trade and commerce; agriculture and forestry; and was the chairman of the standing committee on transport and communications, as well as other Senate-House of Commons committees.
Donald Oliver continued to be active in community service throughout his career. He served as president and chairman of the Halifax Children’s Aid Society; as chairman, president and director of the Neptune Theatre Foundation; as director of the Halifax-Dartmouth Welfare Council; as founding director of the Black United Front; and as founding president and first chairman of the Society for the Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia.
In March 2010, Oliver was nominated Speaker pro tempore, or deputy speaker, of the Senate. He retired from the Senate in November 2013, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Donald H. Oliver. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2021, July 28).