Hugh Burnett: Shaping civil rights in Canada

As the George Zimmerman case raises race and civil rights issues in America again, The Current brings you a Canadian civil rights tale. This is the story of a man whose fight against racial segregation in Canada in the 50s centred on the small Southern Ontario town of Dresden....
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As the George Zimmerman case raises race and civil rights issues in America again, The Current brings you a Canadian civil rights tale. This is the story of a man whose fight against racial segregation in Canada in the 50s centred on the small Southern Ontario town of Dresden.



The story of Hugh Burnett and civil rights in Canada

You're about to hear a tale that some believe should be a vital part of Canadian lore -- and about a man many say is a Canadian hero.

The area that eventually became Dresden, Ontario was once a magnet for escaped U.S. slaves -- a final stop of the underground railroad that offered freedom in Canada. But even a hundred years later, descendants of those men and women still couldn't get a meal in a Dresden restaurant, play billiards in a Dresden pool hall, or get a haircut at a Dresden barbershop. Even many of Dresden's churches were closed to people with dark skin.

In the 1940s and 50s, Dresden was like many places in Canada - segregated. But a local carpenter named Hugh Burnett helped transform Dresden, and helped shape the civil rights movement in Canada.

Hugh Burnett's struggle is part of our project Line in the Sand: Dilemmas That Define Us. The documentary, To Serve, was produced by freelance journalist Kevin Philipupillai. The work of Hugh Burnett and the National Unity Association in Ontario paved the way for further human rights legislation in the Province and across Canada.


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