Three people stand for a photo at the East York Historical Society.

East York Historical Society honours judge who broke colour barrier

A renamed laneway, plaque and official condolence are among the honours for Stanley G. Grizzle

The East York Historical Society’s Celebration of Black History meeting focused on the life and career of late East York judge and human-rights advocate Stanley G. Grizzle.

Grizzle’s son, Stan E. Grizzle, and granddaughter, Mosadi Brown, talked about the impact he had on the community of East York.

“My father was a fundamental part of the development of East York accepting people of colour,” Stan E. Grizzle said in an interview after the Jan. 30 presentation. (The society celebrated Black history at this meeting, because it doesn’t meet in February.)

City councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches-East York) thanked Grizzle and Brown for their presentation and announced an additional honour for Stanley G. Grizzle that will happen beside the park already named after him near Main Street and Danforth Avenue.

“The East York Historical Society and I have canvassed the neighbourhood and we’re bringing forward a naming of the laneway beside the park after Stanley G. Grizzle,” she said.

There will also be an historical plaque placed in Stanley G. Grizzle Park. As well, an official condolence is going to be passed through city council and sent to the family, Davis said.

The East York Historical Society’s president, Pat Barnett, said the laneway naming is part of the reason they brought Grizzle’s family in to talk about him.

“We chose to honour him because the councillor and I were working on naming the laneway and, after looking at his contributions, we decided it would be great to honour him,” Barnett said.

Stanley G. Grizzle was a fixture in East York, helping to break the colour barriers that existed in the 1940s and 1950s. The younger Grizzle talked about this, including his father’s 1959  political run, which made him the first Black  man to run in Ontario politics.

In 1978, Grizzle was named a citizenship judge. He was honoured with the Order of Ontario in 1990 and the Order of Canada. He died in 2016 at the age of 97.

Grizzle also served in the Second World War. Without conscription, his son said, there was no way Grizzle would have served.

“Why would you fight for a country that wouldn’t fight for you?” he said.

As a result of his father breaking colour barriers, Grizzle’s talk focused on how his father helped others, and on how we can break the barriers that still exist.

“As we educate each other, the walls of exclusion dissolve,” Grizzle said.

The opening act for the meeting was Sistema, a program that uses “ensemble-based music education” to help at-risk kids. The group holds classes 10 hours a week, and works on drumming, singing, and instrumental playing.