In 1948, before Ontario’s Human Rights Code came to life, Hugh Burnett launched the National Unity Association in Dresden – the home of Uncle Tom’s cabin. Racial discrimination was commonplace during that era, with restaurants refusing to serve Black clients. Activists – people like Burnett, Donna Hill, Ruth Lor Malloy and Bromley Armstrong – led efforts to create anti-discrimination laws and advance human rights in our province.
These leaders had a vision that we at the Ontario Human Rights Commission have worked to follow for the past half century. From the beginning, members of the Black community in Ontario were key players at the Commission including our first director Dr. Daniel G. Hill and Bromley Armstrong himself, an OHRC Commissioner in the 1970s.
Despite some positive developments since then, racism and racial discrimination are not a thing of the past – sadly, this part of history continues. As we celebrate Black History Month and commemorate the stories, contributions and legacy of Black Canadians, let’s remember our shared responsibility to eliminate systemic barriers and racism. Let’s work together to make everyone an equal partner in the community, and create real opportunities for all Ontarians.
Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon)
Ontario Human Rights Commission