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EXHIBITIONS / Derailed / Harry Gairey


Harry Gairey

Here’s Pepperpot Trinidad-style, Toronto, Ontario. Multicultural History Society of Ontario, BLA-200541.jpg.

Gairey receives award, November 14, 1977. Courtesy of The Toronto Star. Multicultural History Society of Ontario, BLA-201504.jpg.

Jamaica-born Harry Gairey was called the “Grandfather” of the Toronto Black community. Gairey led the fight for a change to Canada immigration policy. Gairey chartered the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train in his name that took the black porters delegation to Ottawa in 1954. Like so many Black men of his time, he could only find work as a sleeping car porter. His base for work was Toronto Union Station. After the end of WWII, Gairey began to notice the large number of new immigrants from countries that had fought against Britain passing through Union Station on their way to settle in locations across the country. Because they were white, they were easily accepted as immigrants and would go on to be granted Canadian citizenship. Black British subjects however — including those who had fought for Britain and the Allies — were not allowed to immigrate to Canada or even visit, simply because of the colour of their skin. Gairey denounced this double standard.

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