By Lincoln DePradine
For Canadians who knew the late George E. Carter, he was a legal luminary who also contributed to numerous community organizations including the National Black Coalition of Canada and the Ontario Black History Society.
His daughter, Linda V. Carter, when asked about her father, who died in June 2018 at 96, says what she most vividly remembers are “his energy, his wit and his mind’’. “He was like a living encyclopedia,’’ Carter said in an interview Monday at A Different Booklist in Toronto. “Of this Black Canadian society, he was our griot. He knew everything about Toronto and its history. His mind was amazing.’’
Carter was at the Bathurst Street bookstore and cultural centre, which host a weekly Monday event for a gathering of people calling themselves the “Shakers’’.
The highlights of last Monday’s program were the screening of a documentary on the life of George E. Carter and a live presentation by Ghanaian-born journalist Jojo Chintoh.
Chintoh, who arrived in Canada in 1969, recalled his struggles, including incidents of racism, as an immigrant and a Black man. Al Peabody, pointed to a time that Chintoh, now 76, was the victim of police profiling and stopped by the cops.
Over his career, which spanned print and electronic media, Chintoh was editor of the now defunct Black community newspaper, Contrast. When he joined Citytv in 1978, he became the first Black reporter at the station.
Despite his achievements, Chintoh said Monday, “there are much more accomplished people in my family than me’’.
Chintoh said his career as journalist afforded him an opportunity to befriend many people including George E. Carter and the late Ontario Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander.
Alexander, who died in October 2012 at 90, left instructions that he wished Chintoh to be a pallbearer at his funeral.
“For me, that was a big honour,’’ said Chintoh, adding that he and Alexander shared “a wonderful friendship’’.
Chintoh wrote part of the script for the Carter documentary, titled “The Making Of A Judge’’, which was shown Monday. “He (Carter) was a good man,’’ Chintoh said. “He struggled more than I did.’’
Carter, who was born in Toronto 1921, worked as a porter on trains because it was the only job available for most Black men at the time. His dream of becoming a lawyer was interrupted when he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry Corps to serve in World War II. In 1948, he obtained his law degree from Osgoode Hall with financial assistance from the department of veterans’ affairs.
Carter persevered, despite bigotry and discrimination, establishing his own law firm and later was appointed an Ontario provincial court judge and also served with the Ontario Court of Justice. He’s the first ever Canadian-born Black judge.
Carter, who as child met and heard Marcus Garvey speak when Garvey visited the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Toronto, said he was inspired by him.
In the documentary, which is directed by Carter’s daughter Linda, he said Booker T. Washington – the African-American educator, author and orator – also had “a tremendous influence’’ on him. This happened after he read Washington’s autobiography, “Up From Slavery’’.
“The Making Of A Judge”, first released in 2010, includes an educational guide for teaching students and has been translated into Portuguese and Spanish, said Carter, who is a fashion model, narrator, and an actor and image consultant. “I just came back from an audition for a commercial,’’ Carter disclosed.
“The Making Of A Judge”, wherever it has been shown, has caused some people “really think about their family’’, said Carter. As well, she said, it’s “made them think about education; and think about a lot of history, particularly Black Canadian history, they didn’t know about’’.