SEEN UP NORTH: Bajan pioneer praised
The sight of a photograph of “Uncle Don” stirs the nostalgic longings of tens of thousands of elderly foreign-born Blacks who consider Canada their home.
“Donald Moore was truly an outstanding person who made a substantial difference in the lives of immigrants in Canada,” said Evelyn Greaves, until recently Barbados’ top diplomat in Ottawa. “The Barbadian certainly fought long and hard and succeeded in getting Canada to open its immigration doors” to Commonwealth Blacks.
The former High Commissioner in Ottawa for six years who recently returned to Barbados after voluntarily giving up his diplomatic responsibilities knew what he was talking about. For Moore, a Barbadian who died 20 years ago in Ontario at 102 years, was, according to Dr Cecil Foster, one of Canada’s leading authors and national newspaper and magazine analysts on national and international affairs, “a civil rights pioneer” who raised the profile of Blacks in Canada at a time when they were routinely ignored.
“Donald Moore was one of the acknowledged community leaders of Canada and the importance of his work can be seen in the presence of black people in almost every aspect of Canadian life,” added Foster, a Bajan who is acting chairman of the Department of Transnational studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “He led the battle to change Canada’s immigration laws so that black Commonwealth citizens would be given the same right of access to Canada as whites.”
So, whether they know it or not, scores of Bajan-Canadians who attended last week’s diaspora “collaborative” in Barbados owe Moore a debt of gratitude. What a pity many of them don’t much about him.
On two occasions in recent months, blacks in Toronto organised functions to focus public attention on Moore’s civil and human rights track record so that, as Eureta Bynoe, a Bajan explained, “his deeds that have made life better for so many us of aren’t forgotten.”
Bynoe, an Ontario resident since 1967 when she left Barbados for Canada played a key role in organising a Church service at St Peter’s Anglican Church in Scarborough where the Rt Rev. Peter Fenty, a Barbadian and the first Black Anglican prelate in Canada preached the sermon and hailed Moore’s work.
A few weeks later, the Donald Moore Scholarship Committee, which awards a CAN$1 000 scholarship to a second year student at Canada’s George Brown College, and Barbados House, a community organisation, sponsored a fundraising luncheon that highlighted Moore’s successes in the civil rights trenches and that observed the 60th anniversary of the now famous trek to Ottawa that pressed the case for reforms to Canada’s immigration laws with the government; and honoured two of the surviving members of the delegation, Bromley Armstrong and Stanley Grizzle.
“The delegation, led by Moore argued for changes in laws so that blacks were given equal access to Canada’s shores as enjoyed by Whites from England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other parts of the Commonwealth where Whites were in the majority,” said Basil Blackman, an official of Barbados House. “Back then in 1954 when the delegation travelled to Ottawa blacks from the same Commonwealth was treated differently from whites. Moore and his delegation helped to change that.”
But immigration reform wasn’t the only item on Moore’s agenda after he landed in Canada in 1913, ostensibly to be trained as a dentist but gave up that quest when illness forced a change in plans.
For instance, he established a branch of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Canada; launched the West Indian Trading Company, a joint stock venture that encouraged black entrepreneurship; and linked arms with other blacks to establish a hostel in Toronto that aided newly arrived Caribbean immigrants in Toronto.
“For more than 70 years, Mr Moore strove valiantly for human rights in Ontario,” explained a biographical dictionary.
Little wonder, then, that Moore was awarded the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honours; the City of Toronto’s Order of Merit; Ontario’s Bicentennial Medal, the Barbados Service Medal, and the Harry Jerome Award.
“Because of his efforts in Canada laws were changed that improved black people’s lives; opportunities were created in business and education for Blacks; and immigration reform was undertaken that didn’t simply benefit Blacks but immigrants from around the world,” said Bynoe.
“The delegation to Ottawa in 1954 was very important but he did much more. Still, Blacks don’t know enough about him. We must remember that change just doesn’t just happen. We need the work of people like Donald Moore. That’s a message we are trying to send.”