________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 18 . . . . May 10, 2002

cover Journey to Justice.

Roger McTair (Director). Karen King-Chigbo (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2000.
47 min. 8 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9100 077.

Subject Headings:
Black Canadians-Civil rights.
Race discrimination-Canada.
Civil rights-Canada.
Canada-Race relations.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

**** /4

Ray Lewis, Fred Christy, Stanley Grizzle, Viola Desmond, Hugh Burnett and Donald Willard Moore are not known names to many Canadians. Yet, if the same Canadians were asked about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks or Malcolm X, they would likely be able to expound on their contributions to the civil rights cause in the United States.

     Journey to Justice looks at the battle for civil rights in Canada and the role of some key players who helped remove discriminatory laws and practices. Through interviews and film footage of the time, the film shows what it meant to be Black in a Canada which was not nearly as tolerant as we would like to believe.

     Ray Lewis, a third generation Black Canadian and the first to win a medal at the 1932 Olympics, found that when he returned to Canada, despite his success, he was not allowed to be a coach and had to be satisfied working as a Pullman porter, the job he held before the Olympics. Footage of a Ku Klux Klan meeting on Hamilton Mountain shows that the only difference between the U.S. Klan and our own was the Maple Leaf on the Canadian Klansman's robe. These gatherings took place in Ray Lewis' home town.

     Fred Christy, denied service at a bar in Montreal, took his case for fairness to the Supreme Court which ruled against him. This decision made it perfectly legal to deny service to minorities in Canada.

     While Black soldiers, in segregated units, served the Canadian army with distinction in World War I, they were not allowed to enlist at the outbreak of World War II. When conscription finally opened the door, they found that they were treated with little or no respect. Stanley Grizzle, who was married just before he was to go overseas, was denied access to three hotels. The couple spent their wedding night with relatives. In Europe, he was assigned to be a batman, shining his officer's shoes, cleaning his clothes and tidying his tent. When he refused this duty, he was assigned to clean latrines for two weeks. At this point, he went on strike and took his complaint up the chain of command. He won, and, while he was able to serve with distinction, he found that little had changed upon his return to Canada.

     Viola Desmond, a very successful businesswoman, went to a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, to kill some time while her car was being repaired. When she chose to sit downstairs, the manager ordered her to sit in the balcony which was designated for Black patrons. Her refusal resulted in a call to the police and the officer and theatre manager physically dragging her from the theatre and into jail. A campaign was mounted to fight her conviction, but she lost.

     In 1945, the Pullman Porters, after years of clandestine work, managed to organize and form a union. While the union gave the workers a voice for better wages and working conditions, it also gave the Black society a voice with which to speak out against many of the abuses of the day. They honed their political skills and were able to work at challenging the colour barrier.

     Hugh Burnette returned home to Dresden, Ontario after the war. When he took two white American friends to a local restaurant, he was denied service, but the Americans were not. With some friends, he helped form the National Unity Association to fight this kind of discrimination. In 1947, they pressured the Dresden town council to enact an equality by-law. This by-law went to the voters in a referendum where the people sided with the restaurant owner. Other minorities joined in the fight and brought their case to the Ontario legislature where Premier Leslie Frost took up their cause and cared little that he did not have the support of his cabinet. Discrimination in housing and employment became illegal in Ontario in the early 1950's. However, to test the law, two Black patrons returned to the restaurant in Dresden and again were refused service. The restaurant owner was fined $50 but won it back on appeal. Two more similar tests finally brought about a change in the restaurant's policy towards minorities. While Burnette was vindicated, no one in town wanted to hire him as a carpenter and his business failed.

     Donald Willard Moore, a Black immigrant to Canada, fought for 30 years for a change in the Canadian government's policy towards accepting minorities. In 1954, he planned to challenge the Immigration minister directly and was backed by the Negro Citizenship Association, the Canadian Labour Congress, religious groups and twenty other Canadian organizations. In 1962, Ottawa finally struck down the immigration ruling which used racial origin as exclusionary, and, by that action, changed the face of Canadian society.

     Journey to Justice is a "must-see" for all Canadians. These people and others featured in the film should be celebrated for their contribution to the fight for racial equality. While Canadians might be proud that much of this action was done well before the American civil rights movement, the film makes it clear that our own history regarding the treatment of minorities has been less than noble.

Highly recommended.

Frank Loreto is the teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364