Honouring Fred Christie

December 14, 2019

One-time Verdun resident Fred Christie took on racial injustice in Canada in 1936. The crusader is in the news again this week thanks to Jonathan Montpetit, from the CBC. Montpetit’s article features the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) campaign for wider recognition for Christie.

He chose to take the owner of the York Tavern to court after he refused to serve him.

Christie initially won $25, but he lost on appeal. The case took three years to get to the Supreme Court of Canada. There, Christie lost again.

The Supreme Court decision was rendered on December 9th, 1939 and published in 1940. It said in part:

the general principle of the law of Quebec is that of complete freedom of commerce.” Specifying further, the judgment states that “any merchant is free to deal as he may choose with any individual member of the public […] the only restriction to this general principle would be the existence of a specific law, or, in the carrying out of the principle, the adoption of a rule contrary to good morals or public order.”

After losing his case, Christie left Montreal.

His efforts initiated a series of events that eventually led to the 1975 Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.


Notes

According to Kristian Gravenor in Coolopolis, Christie lived at 716 Galt.

For more information about Christie, refer to Eric Adam’s article in the Canadian Encyclopedia or the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal page.

Rachel Décoste wrote about Christie in the Huffington Post in 2014.

The NFB included Christie in their Journey to Justice film. (The Christie segment begins at minute 9.46.)

On February 4, 2016, the borough of Verdun and the official committee for Black History Month in Montreal paid hommage to Mr. Christie and set up a page in his honour. That page has since been removed. The borough’s overview about that evening and an article in the Suburban both mention that event.

*Please note: a previous version of this post included a photo of activist Hugh Burnett instead of Christie. Apologies for this error.

Tracey Arial

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Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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