Leonard Braithwaite was the first African Canadian in a provincial legislature when he was elected in Ontario in 1963. He served as a Liberal member of the Ontario legislature from 1963 to 1975. In his first speech to the legislature he spoke out against racial segregation in Ontario schools. Soon after, the Ontario government repealed the law that allowed school segregation.
Braithwaite was raised in the Kensington Market area of Toronto during the Depression and served in the RCAF in the Second World War. He attended the University of Toronto, where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree. He earned a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School, graduating in 1952, and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1958, followed by a career in law. He was the first Black lawyer elected as a member of the Governing Council of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Braithwaite began his political career in 1960 as a member of the Etobicoke board of education. Two years later he was elected as an alderman on the Etobicoke council and ran in the provincial election in 1963, defeating the Progressive Conservative candidate. He was re-elected in 1967 and 1971, serving as the Liberal Party Critic for Labour and Welfare. As a politician he fought for gender equality and the rights of minorities.
In 1998, Braithwaite was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada. He was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2004.
Leonard Braithwaite, CM, QC
Scroll down to page 3 of this newsletter for an article that highlights Leonard Braithwaite’s accomplishments in politics and civil rights. From the website for the Etobicoke Historical Society.
Click on the link "Read More" for a detailed profile of the distinguished lawyer, public servant, and community leader Leonard Braithwaite. From the Ontario Black History Society.
Hansard: 25 February 2009: Black History Month
Click on “Black History Month” for Members’ Statements about Black History Month and prominent members of Ontario’s Black community. From the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Hansard: 17 February 2005: Leonard Braithwaite
Click on “Black History Month” for a Member’s Statement that features a tribute to Mr. Leonard Braithwaite, whose actions in the Legislature led to the disappearance of segregated schools in Ontario. From the website for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Honouring the Black Community
This article about the creation of Canada’s first Black alumni association at the University of Toronto includes a reference to Leonard Braithwaite (BComm 1950), Ontario’s first black MPP. From the University of Toronto. From the U of T Magazine.
Black Legal History
Scroll down for the article about Black legal history in Canada. From the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada.
A brief profile of Leonard Braithwaite, the first Black elected to a Canadian provincial legislature. From the website Some Missing Pages.