If you thought "Black History" was history, the last year should have made you think differently. Or just read Cathal Kelly's recent tribute to Hank Aaron in the Globe and Mail. Or know something about Bromley Armstrong.
I didn’t know Bromley but I met him a few times at the Ontario Labour Relations Board where he was an adjudicator on the Labour Board in the early 1990s. Bromley was someone with a union-side background who sat on 3-person adjudication panels. He had been with the UAW for a number of years coming out of a Massey-Ferguson plant where his hourly starting wage of 62 cents was 13 cents less than that of co-worker and Irish immigrant, Dennis McDermott.
Labour activist, though, does not begin to describe Bromley's work and contribution. He was a lifelong (and he lived a long life) fighter for justice and equality. In the 1950s, he sat at a lunch counter to desegregate a restaurant and a community. That was in 1954, and it wasn’t in the American South. It was in Ontario, in Dresden Ontario, near Chatham. Look it up. Then, in the 1960s, he along with Chinese-Canadian Ruth Lor Malloy engaged in "rent-ins". They would respond to rental ads as a couple, be told that the place was taken, and then a white couple working with them would go and be offered the place. That was in Toronto. Bromley did a ton more. He was part of a delegation that went to Ottawa to challenge the federal government’s restrictive immigration policy that shut out Blacks and other persons of colour. He helped found a stunning number of organizations -- the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Toronto Black Business and Professional Association, the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, to name a few. In the 1970s, Bromley was a Commissioner at the Ontario Human Rights Commission AND published a community newspaper, ‘The Islander’. Over the years, he was on the Mayor’s Committee on Community and Race Relations, the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism, the Board of Governors of the Canadian Centre for Police-Race Relations -- and he and his wife had 8 children!
Check him out. You can learn more about Bromley Armstrong here and from his memoir, Bromley, Tireless Champion for Just Causes: Memoirs of Bromley L. Armstrong (Vitabu Publications: 2000).
Special thanks to Sean FitzPatrick for his assistance in preparing this feature.
About this feature: The Cavalluzzo LLP features series, Reflections: Labour, Human and Civil Rights, highlights some of the leaders, events, and milestones that are historical underpinnings to the current landscape of Canadian human rights and labour rights. Reflections may reference abhorrent historical realities: as we bear witness to those, we also recognize with gratitude the courage and commitment of the changemakers who continue to inspire strides in social justice. Each instalment in this series has been authored or contributed to by Cavalluzzo LLP staff, articling students or lawyers.