Blacks in Canadian Human Rights and Equity History

Before human rights legislation, Canadian courts supported the right of businesses to refuse service to whomever they chose. Canadian laws did not protect individuals from discrimination.

The efforts of Black Canadians and allies from many communities led to anti-discrimination legislation in Ontario, which laid the foundation for human rights legislation in Ontario and across Canada. Today, these laws protect the rights of all Canadians, based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and a number of other grounds.;xNLx;;xNLx;The courage and struggle of Black Canadians for human rights led to revolutionary change in the course of Canadian law and Canadian history, which is now embedded in the Canadian Constitution through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Their pursuit of fair non-discriminatory policies has changed the face of Canada.;xNLx;;xNLx;Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

1850-06-01 00:00:00

Schools legally segregated in Canada West (Ontario)

In the 1800s, many parents and leaders in White communities advocate for separate schools for Black students. The superintendent of schools for Canada West, Egerton Ryerson, responds by adding a provision to the Common School Act of 1850.

1852-07-01 00:00:00

Hill v Camden

In 1852, Dennis Hill sues the school board when his son is not allowed to attend the local public school.

1854-07-01 00:00:00

Washington v Trustees of Charlotteville

A Mr. George Washington accuses Charlotteville school board officials of changing school district boundaries to exclude Black children from the local public school while refusing to open a separate school for them.

1865-06-01 00:00:00

Schools legally segregated in Nova Scotia

Legislation to allow local officials to create separate schools for Black children is passed in Nova Scotia.

1934-07-01 00:00:00

The Free Lance: Afro-Canadian Weekly (Montréal, 1934-1941)

Published by E.H. Packwood and William Trott, The Free Lance reaches a peak circulation of 5,000 copies.

1939-06-01 00:00:00

Black Canadians join Canada's military in World War II

Black Canadians are now accepted into the Canadian military.

1940-06-01 00:00:00

Christie v York Corporation [1940] 1 D.L.R. 81 (S.C.C.)

On July 11, 1936, Fred Christie and some friends visited the Montréal Forum's tavern after a Canadiens hockey game. Christie, a Black man, was refused service because of his race.

1942-06-01 00:00:00

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was a labour union organized in the United States by African American employees of the Pullman Company in 1925. It was led by A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster.

1942-06-01 00:00:00

Carrie Best (1903-2001)

Poet. Author. Journalist. Activist.

1943-07-01 00:00:00

Hugh Burnett (1918-1991)

World War II veteran. Carpenter. Activist.

1944-06-01 00:00:00

Ontario Racial Discrimination Act

This landmark legislation prohibits the publication or display of any notice, sign, symbol or emblem indicating ethnic, racial or religious discrimination.

1944-06-01 00:00:00

Black Canadian Nurses

Until 1944, Black women were barred from attending nursing schools in Canada. In the United States, Black women had been admitted to nursing schools since the 1890s.

1945-07-01 00:00:00

The Carty Brothers

Five brothers from the Carty family serve in the Canadian military during the Second World War.

1946-06-01 00:00:00

Viola Davis Desmond (1914-1965)

Entrepreneur. Activist.

1946-06-01 00:00:00

The Clarion (Nova Scotia, 1946-1956)

The Clarion is Nova Scotia's first Black-owned and published newspaper.

1947-06-01 00:00:00

King v Desmond [1947], 20 M.P.R. 297 (N.S.S.C.)

Viola Desmond is tried and convicted for tax evasion for sitting on the main floor "Whites only" section of the Roseland Theatre.

1947-06-01 00:00:00

Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act

Saskatchewan enacts Canada's first general law prohibiting discrimination.

1948-06-01 00:00:00

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is ratified by the United Nations. This is the first international document recognizing human rights as the foundation of peace, justice and freedom.

1948-06-01 00:00:00

Bromley Armstrong (1926-)

Factory worker. Union activist. Human rights activist.

1948-12-11 01:50:33

Charles Roach (1933-2012)

Lawyer. Activist.

1949-06-01 00:00:00

The Town of Dresden votes on discrimination

In 1949, Dresden, Ontario put the question of whether local businesses can discriminate to a vote.

1951-06-01 00:00:00

Ontario Fair Employment Practices Act

Premier Leslie Frost's government passes the country's first Fair Employment Practices legislation. By the 1960s most jurisdictions in Canada had passed some form of fair practices legislation.

1953-06-01 00:00:00

Canada Fair Employment Practices Act

This legislation protects workers against discrimination in employment and in trade union membership on the grounds of race, colour, national origin, and religion.

1953-07-01 00:00:00

The Canadian Negro (Toronto, 1953-1956)

This newspaper reports on the news and issues within Toronto's Black community.

1954-06-01 00:00:00

Testers challenge government to uphold anti-discrimination laws

After the Fair Accommodation Practices Act is passed which prohibits discrimination in services, many Blacks and other people of colour find that they still are being denied service in restaurants, including Kay's Café in Dresden.

1954-06-01 00:00:00

Ontario Fair Accommodation Practices Act

Ontario Premier Leslie Frost brings in the Fair Accommodation Practices Act which prohibits discrimination in services, facilities, and accommodations in public spaces.

1954-06-01 00:00:00

Legal segregation ends in Nova Scotia

Legal segregation of schools in Nova Scotia is ended.

1954-06-01 00:00:00

Delegation travels to Ottawa to advocate for fair immigration policies

Donald Moore leads a delegation to Ottawa to protest the country's racist immigration policy.

1954-06-01 00:00:00

Donald Willard Moore (1891-1994)

Tailor. Activist.

1955-06-01 00:00:00

West Indian Domestic Workers Scheme

Canada introduces the West Indian Domestic Workers Scheme that allows women from the Caribbean to come to Canada as live-in domestic servants. They are permitted to apply for landed immigrant status after one year.

1956-06-01 00:00:00

Regina v McKay [1955] 113 C.C.C. 56 (Ont. Co. Ct.)

Owner of Kay's Café in Dresden, Ontario is taken to court for refusing to serve Black customers. This is the first successful prosecution under the Fair Accommodation Practices Act.

1960-06-01 00:00:00

Canadian Bill of Rights

Under the government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, Canada enacts a Bill of Rights. Because it is not part of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights proves to have limited effectiveness.

1960-07-01 00:00:00

Stanley Grizzle (1918- )

World War II veteran. Sleeping car porter. Civil servant. Union activist. Citizenship court judge.

1962-06-01 00:00:00

Ontario Human Rights Code

Ontario introduces the first Human Rights Code in Canada which prohibits discrimination in employment, services and housing. The Code replaces previous legislation and provides protections based on more grounds. It also puts mechanisms in place to redress and remedy the human rights violation.

1962-06-01 00:00:00

Canada abolishes its racist immigration policy

Under Prime Minister Diefenbaker, Canada begins to reform its immigration policy to replace the "White Canada" immigration policy that was designed to accept mainly European immigrants.

1962-06-01 00:00:00

Dr. Daniel G. Hill (1923-2003)

Sociologist. Historian. Civil servant. Human rights champion.

1962-06-01 00:00:00

Rev. Dr. William Pearly Oliver (1912-1989)

Minister. Educator. Activist.

1962-07-01 00:00:00

Jamaican Canadian Association

The Jamaican Canadian Association is founded by a group of Jamaicans living in Toronto.

1963-06-01 00:00:00

Leonard Austin Braithwaite (1923-2012)

World War II veteran. Lawyer. Politician.

1964-06-01 00:00:00

Legal segregation ends in Ontario

The Separate Schools Act is amended to remove the provision that allows for the segregation of Black students. The last segregated school in Ontario is closed in 1965 following lobbying by African Canadians.

1964-06-01 00:00:00

Africville Demolished

Encouraged by media attention to Africville's "American-style ghetto," the Halifax City Planning Commission expropriates the land from Black residents.

1965-06-01 00:00:00

Ontario's last segregated school closes

The last segregated Black school in Ontario, in Essex County, closes.

1965-06-01 00:00:00

KKK in Amherstburg, Ontario

In Amherstburg, Ontario, a cross is burned in the town centre. In addition, threatening phone calls are made to Black residents and the Black Baptist Church is defaced. The town welcome sign is spray-painted "Amherstburg Home of the KKK."

1967-06-01 00:00:00

Immigration points system introduced

The points system is introduced by Prime Minister Pearson to assess immigrants based on education, employment opportunities, age, and fluency in English or French.

1967-06-01 00:00:00

Caribana festival established

In 1967 ten Torontonians with a common Caribbean heritage found the Caribana cultural festival to display their rich cultural heritage and celebrate the country's centennial.

1968-07-01 00:00:00

Congress of Black Writers

The Congress of Black Writers is held over four days at McGill University in 1968.

1969-06-01 00:00:00

Sir George Williams University student riot

Black students at Sir George Williams University riot over racism at the university.

1969-07-01 00:00:00

Contrast (Toronto, 1969-1985)

Published by Al Hamilton, the newspaper reports on the issues of concern to Toronto's Black community.

1970-07-01 00:00:00

RCMP infultrates "Toronto's Black radicals"

The RCMP infiltrates Black organizations with a provocateur.

1971-06-01 00:00:00

Canadian Multicultural Policy

The federal government under Prime Minister Trudeau introduces the Multicultural Policy that recognizes the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.

Blacks in Canadian Human Rights and Equity History

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