Kingston as “New Canaan” or Place of Repression?

Street Address : 110 Union Street

Canada was known as a destination where slavery did not exist, often called the “New Canaan” by blacks seeking freedom here. However, Canada was not free of racism or discrimination against its black immigrants. Due to Kingston’s small size, the black community was integrated, a prime example being the lack of segregated schools. Another sign of the extent of black integration into the community is the positive press that many black businessmen received in the local newspapers. However, there is also evidence of the presence of both overt and systemic racism in the community, as demonstrated by the unfair treatment of black students enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine at Queen’s University in 1918, and the outcry that arose over the nomination of George Mink for Alderman.

Blacks have also faced discrimination from the Canadian government. It was not until 1962 that racial discrimination was eliminated from Canadian immigration laws when the government implemented a point system based on merit, thus allowing more blacks to immigrate. Finally in the 1960s, the federal government adopted an official policy of multiculturalism. While racism is still an unfortunate presence, today community groups like the Kingston Area Race Relations Association exist in order to educate and combat racism.

As seen on our tour, the black community has a long history here in Kingston. The city’s black population continues to grow and evolve from these origins. The last major wave of black immigration to Kingston occurred in the 1960s after the Canadian government implemented the point system of immigration, a merit based immigration system that did not discriminate against non-Europeans. This change in immigration was seen across the country as the majority of black immigrants coming to Canada in this decade were from the Caribbean.

Historically, Joseph George, William Johnson, George Mink, George and Maria Elder, Robert Sutherland and many other black citizens — despite often coming from disadvantaged backgrounds — have given greatly to the community especially in the areas of business, education and community leadership. It is important to recognize their significant contributions to the development of our city and their continued presence today.

Return to Black History Map