Harry Gairey

Section 40, Lot 645
Prospect Cemetery

 

Harry Gairey led the fight against discrimination for more than 75 years, and was a symbol of hope for Metropolitan Toronto’s black community. Born in St. Anne’s, Jamaica, Gairey came to Toronto in 1914. While working as a porter for Canadian Pacific Railways, he began his campaign for the rights of blacks who were banned from applying for the better paying jobs on the railroad. He helped form the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters of Canada in the 1950s, was instrumental in getting the government to legislate fair hiring practices, founded the Negro Citizenship Association, and lobbied Ottawa for changes to discriminatory immigration laws. When he retired from the railroad in the 1960s, Harry Gairey established the first community centre for West Indians in Toronto, and continued his fight for racial harmony until well into his 90s. Known as the godfather of the West Indian community, Mr. Gairey at various times was awarded the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the Order of Jamaica, and the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship. Harry Gairey was in his 99th year when he died on October 23, 1993.