Friday, August 17, 2012

Senator Anne C. Cools

By FrancineBuchner

 “What a terrible age to move a child. A very difficult age, but I didn’t know it then. I only came to understand that, years later.” – Senator Anne C. Cools.

Photo: C. Ferguson
Anne Clare Cools was born in Barbados in 1943, a time when the country was walking away from the enslavement era and into Independence, which it gained on November 30, 1966. Cools left Barbados before it happened, in 1956-57 at the impressionable age of thirteen. “Growing up Black in the British West Indies, in Barbados was an entirely different experience from growing up black in North America and also completely different for being black and young in the sixties in North America,” said Cools.

By the time she was the age of six, movements such as The Constitution of Barbados (Amendment) were underfoot and the names and stories of De Moine, Bustamante, Manley and Grantley Adams were already well known to her, “you have to understand the names I was hearing at a young age,” said Cools. “I remember my mother going out, and my father, to vote in that very first election of Universal Suffrage.”

Cools attended Montessori school and then the rigorous academic training at King’s College, all-girl school. She learned about the history of the country, the plantation history of the country, the political status of the country and their commitment towards the future. At the age of nine Cools was reading John Wesley, Shaftsbury, Wilberforce and Charles Dickens,’ A Tale of Two Cities, John Buchan’s, The Thirty-Nine Steps and Greenmantle, Charles Kingsley’s, Water Babies. “These books drew magic to me,” said Cools and to her they represented the names of great humans to which she should aspire.

Her father was a Roman Catholic and mother a Methodist. Her grandfather was an elected vestryman and looked after civic matters, like ensuring an education was given to the less fortunate. ‘Barbados was very different from many other smaller islands. They had a local white Barbadian group because when Barbados was settled, they wanted to replicate England in Barbados. The influences in my life – by virtue of the fact that they adopted Barbados as their own, even called it, “Little England.” They defended it militarily. The entire island is a Fort,” explained Cools.

When Grantley Adams was organizing in Barbados, her family was a part of that Barbados Labour Party (BLP) movement. Adams won and became the first Premier of the Island. ‘When I was a little child, my head didn’t dance with basketball stars, my head danced with these people,” said Cools.

This would all shape the woman she would become.

“When I decided to run 30 years ago, there were many people who wanted to know if I was qualified and could I speak . . . well, I set that one to rest pretty quickly. People go through this,” said Cools.
Cool came to Canada in 1956 with her family and had a pretty strong foundation of who she was, as much as one could be at age thirteen. “All that went into upheaval. Along comes the sixties and that disrupted everything. Everything was turned on its head,” said Cools. She attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1961 and pursued her degree in social work.

The British slavery story vs. the American slavery story

“In terms of the Caribbean experience and the Canadian experience it was William Wilberforce and the British abolitionist, much more so than the American one,’ said Cools, who has a habit, to this day, whenever speaking at events for Black History Month to mention his name. “Young people today, know nothing about the name Wilberforce. As the American’s tend to dominate everything after the sixties, let’s be quite frank – the entire Black world became very preoccupied with things American and not preoccupied with things British.” She is referring to the American Civil Rights and Black Movement. “It shook the world at a rate that a lot of white people never understood. So you have to understand all, of the dance that was going on in my head,” said Cools.

She became involved in campus politics and in 1969 was  part of a 10 day sit in at Sir George Williams University (known today as Concordia University) protesting racism at the school, as a result Cools along with others was sentenced to four months imprisonment. “It’s much more important that you understand my inners because the sixties unformed me and then reformed me,” said Cools. “It’s very common knowledge that when anybody wanted to pick on me politically they would always raise, St. George . . .prison . . .such and such. They know it will hurt me. And I paid, and paid and paid…again and again,” said Cools.

In 1984 Cools was summoned to the Canadian Senate by then Governor General, Edward Schreyer, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. She served on the Senate in the House of Commons’ Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access and in December of 1998 issued a report called, For the Sake of Children. The recommendation of the report was that following a relationship breakup, shared parenting should be presumed to be the best interest of the child. Cools’ extensive hard work on the Committee and thorough research and investigations saw her become an advocate on the rights of fathers, divorce and family values.

On June 8, 2004 Cools announced that she was crossing the floor to join the Conservative Party of Canada, a result of her being critical of the Liberal government of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin and of same-sex marriage.

On June 25, 2007 Cools was removed from the Conservative caucus for speaking out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and for voting against the 2007 budget. Cools, currently sits as an Independent.

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