Surviving members of 1954 delegation to Ottawa honoured
The last two surviving members of the 29-member delegation that travelled to Ottawa in April 1954 to protest the federal government’s restrictive immigration policy that shut out Blacks and other visible minorities were honoured last Saturday.
Bromley Armstrong and 95-year-old Stanley Grizzle, who resides in a city nursing home, were recognized at the Barbados House Canada Inc. brunch to mark the 60th anniversary of the Donald Moore-led delegation. “Uncle Don” Moore died in 1994 at age 102.
The Canadian Congress of Labour, which merged with the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada in 1956 to form the Canadian Labour Congress, organized the meeting on behalf of Moore, who was the chair of the Negro Citizenship Association (NCA) which was established in 1951.
Expecting to meet with then Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, the delegation discovered when they reached the nation’s capital that Citizenship & Immigration Minister Walter Harris was selected to listen to their concerns.
Presented with plaques for their ground-breaking work, Armstrong recalled the historic trip six decades ago.
“What really moved me was the way in which Don conducted himself as leader of the delegation,” said 88-year-old Armstrong, who was last week honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the City of Pickering where he has lived for the last 33 years. “In his opening remarks which were profound, Don told the Minister that P.C. 2856 which enlarged the pool of admissible classes of European immigrants while shutting out Blacks from the British Commonwealth was discriminatory and dangerous. He also reminded him that Negroes fought in the War of 1812 and that William Hall was the first Negro to receive the Victoria Cross in October 1859 after valiantly defending a British garrison in Lucknow (India).”
One of the official reasons given for refusing West Indians entry into Canada was that people from tropical countries supposedly experienced harsh difficulty adjusting to the cold Canadian climate.
Norman Grizzle addressed that fallacy in his brief and his older brother, Stan, spoke about his experiences in the Armed Forces.
The eldest of seven children, Grizzle – who dropped out of Harbord Collegiate Institute in his third year to support his family – served in the Canadian Army in Europe during World War II.
The delegation also included Edith Holloway, whose son Humphrey Holloway died in 1944 at age 21 while fighting for Canada. Wearing the Memorial Cross awarded to the mother, widow, widower or next of kin of any member of the Canadian Armed Forces who loses his or her life in active service, she was disappointed that another son in Barbados could not join her in Canada even though his brother gave his life for this country.
One of the 10 founding NCA members, Armstrong said Moore was his friend, colleague and father.
“Don was a quiet giant and a man who was never too busy to engage young people like myself,” he said. “He was not afraid to talk to youths and guide them.”
Born in Barbados in 1891, Moore arrived in Canada in 1913 via the United States and worked as a sleeping car porter before enrolling in Dalhousie University’s dentistry program in 1918. When a lengthy bout of tuberculosis ended his hopes of becoming a dentist, Moore purchased a dry cleaning business that became the meeting place for immigrants from the Caribbean and the base for the NCA’s formation.
In the keynote address, former provincial minister, Zanana Akande, said Moore was the hero of her time.
“I used to hear constantly about Donald Moore and the work he and Harry Gairey Sr. were doing from my mother who, though she was St. Lucian, lived and taught in Barbados for years and knew Don personally,” she said. “Donald was right in thinking that we deserved citizenship because the country could profit from our being here and our children and their children would build Canada into something it never quite was without us.
“I think he knew that we all had something to contribute and that we intended to be great. So it was the confidence that he had that allowed him to be free enough to do the things that you may say are not necessarily characteristic of Barbadians. We should realize that our welcome is at best tenuous and that we are free today and only by our efforts, determination and the confidence of our purpose will we be free tomorrow.”
While it took another eight years before the introduction of a new immigration act that stated any unsponsored immigrant that had the required education, skill or other quality was able to enter Canada if suitable, irrespective of colour, race or national origin, the landmark 1954 meeting was critical in that it paved the way for the admission of domestics from the British West Indies on an experimental basis to fill labour shortages.
Barbados’ consul general Haynesley Benn thanked Armstrong and Grizzle for their pioneering work and commended Barbados House Inc. for keeping Moore’s legacy alive.
He also suggested that CARICOM diplomats in the Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa should be accommodated in one space and that that building should bear Donald Moore’s name.
Barbados House Inc., which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, presented community awards to Gloria Ramsay-Hall and Edna Reid.
The first Barbadian nurse to come to Canada to work in a hospital in 1954, Ramsay-Hall spent 14 years at Mount Sinai Hospital before returning to Barbados in 1968. She came back to Canada eight years later and worked for a few years at Riverdale Hospital before retiring in 1982.
The registered nurse is an executive member of the Donald Willard Moore Scholarship Fund committee and a member of the St. Peter’s Anglican Church choir.
Reid is also a member of the scholarship committee.
Royal Barbados Police band member, Abraham Millington, was the recipient of the Barbados House Inc. scholarship. The principal trombonist with the York University Orchestra and the York Wind Symphony, Millington graduates this year with a degree in law and society from York where he plans to return later this year to pursue a Master’s in ethnomusicology.
A Barbadian police officer since 2005, Millington plans to be a lawyer and musician.