Ottawa/Queen's Park




Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker delivered yesterday the following Statement in the provincial Legislature in recognition of Black History Month.

"I rise to recognize Black History Month on behalf of my constituents in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. Black citizens have been part of Grey county since the first non-native settlers arrived in the northern Queen's Bush. Some of these early pioneers were born in Canada, while others had only recently escaped slavery in the upper south. As a northernmost refuge for the slaves fleeing the southern states, Owen Sound and the village of Sydenham were the last terminal of the railroad where many of them escaped, eventually settling down to work and raise families.

After a long and difficult journey to freedom, escaped slaves experienced continuing challenges. Insecurity and uncertainty in border cities often propelled people to move further north into Ontario, or what later would become Ontario. John Hall, one of Grey county's most prominent early black citizens, was born in Amherstburg, Ontario, sometime in the late 1700s and was captured as a young man during the War of 1812. Ultimately, Hall passed into slavery. After 13 years as a slave, he escaped by the Underground Railroad to southern Ontario, later making his way to the Durham and Rocky Saugeen area in the 1840s. He then moved to Owen Sound, living a long life there, where he was well known as the town crier. Hall died in 1900.

Robert Sutherland, Canada's first black lawyer as well as the first-known university student and graduate of colour in Canada, was called to the bar in 1855. He practised law at Walkerton in Bruce county for over two decades. A graduate of Queen's University, at his death in 1878 he left his estate to the university, which remains thankful to Sutherland as a benefactor at an important time in their early history.

My riding has been commemorating black history with the Emancipation Festival, the longest-running emancipation celebration in North America, established pre-Confederation and pre-Ontario in 1862. I invite the members to join us in the Owen Sound area and Grey Roots Museum and Archives on August 5, when we will mark the 155th annual event."





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