Trailblazers in Canadian Legal History: Daniel Hill

Daniel Hill was a pioneer in human rights in Canada and a prominent writer and historian in the field of Black history in Canada.  He grew up in the United States, was educated at Howard University, and served in the highly segregated US Army during World War II. According to his son, Lawrence, “It rankled him to think that he was good enough to die for his country, but not to live as a free man in the United States.” Shortly after the war ended, he came to Canada, where he obtained an MA and PhD in sociology at the University of Toronto and began a lifelong career of human rights activism and the study and celebration of Black history.

Together with his wife, Donna, who worked for the Toronto Labour Committee for Human Rights, Dr. Hill worked tirelessly against discrimination and racism in Ontario. He was the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and later the Commission’s Chairman. From 1984 to 1989, he was the Ombudsman for the Province of Ontario. He founded the Ontario Black History Society and in 1981 he published The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in early Canada. He was awarded the Order of Ontario in 1993 and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999.


2 Daniel G. Hill, The Freedom-Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada (Toronto:  Stoddart Publishing, 1981). 

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