Inspirational People

Charles Roach

September 18, 1933 – October 2, 2012
Toronto lawyer, human rights advocate, and civil rights leader.

Mr. Roach was a highly-respected  Toronto lawyer who dedicated his career to human rights advocacy and civil rights advocacy.

Born in Belmont, Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Roach came to Canada in 1955 to study at the University of Saskatchewan. Impacted greatly by the Civil Rights movement, he went on to study law at the University of Toronto. He was called to the bar in 1963 and began his career as a staff lawyer for the City of Toronto. He opened his own practice in 1968 and at the time of his death, his firm Roach, Schwartz & Associates continues to be a well-respected and committed to the defence of human rights and the self-determination of peoples.

Importantly, Mr. Roach will be remembered for the way in which he inspired the Black community. Following two high-profile killings of Black men by police in Toronto in 1978 and 1979, Mr. Roach established the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC) and the Albert Johnson Defense Committee to advocate against racist police practices. He continued this advocacy with him to this day and represented the family of Michael Eligon Jr., who was shot by police in February 2012. Additionally, Mr. Roach advocated to remove the allegiance to the Queen from the Oath of Citizenship. Due to his stance against its inclusion, Mr. Roach never obtained Canadian citizenship. This prevented him from being able to take an appointment as a Provincial Court justice. He continued the fight against the Oath at the time of his death.

In addition to his incredible legal career, Mr. Roach was one of the founders of Caribana. He was a prolific artist, musician and activist and he loved the city of Toronto.

Leonard Braithwaite

April 20, 2012 – Canada’s first black parliamentarian, dead at 88. 

Leonard Braithwaite was raised in the Kensington Market area of Toronto during the Depression and served in the RCAF in the Second World War. He attended the University of Toronto, where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree. He earned a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School, graduating in 1952, and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1958, followed by a career in law. He was the first Black lawyer elected as a member of the Governing Council of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Braithwaite was the first Black Canadian in a provincial legislature when he was elected in Ontario in 1963. He served as a Liberal member of the Ontario legislature from 1963 to 1975. In his first speech to the legislature he spoke out against racial segregation in Ontario schools. Soon after, the Ontario government repealed the law that allowed school segregation.

In 1998, Braithwaite was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada. He was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2004.

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