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Celebrating Black Canadians from North York

Black History Month is an important time to honour the contributions our Black neighbours and all Black Canadians have made to our communities. We partnered with the North York Historical Society to celebrate the achievements of Black North Yorkers.


"North Yorker Herb Carnegie was a trailblazer, the first black hockey star, in the 1940s into the early 1950s. Yet, he never made it into the National Hockey League because of his skin colour.

“Herbie” started playing hockey on North York’s frozen ponds at eight. At 18 he joined the junior Toronto Young Rangers as a centre, the only black player.

In 1948 the NHL’s New York Rangers invited him to join. This was significant because the hockey, football and basketball leagues excluded black athletes, and baseball had until 1945 when Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Carnegie rejected the offer because it was $400 less than the $5,100 he was making, and because he would first have to go to the farm team, unlike the white players.

No other NHL team contacted Carnegie. He retired in 1954, then became a successful businessperson and philanthropist, establishing the North York-based Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation in 1987 to “inspire and assist youth and adults to become the best they can be as responsible, respectful, peaceful, confident and caring citizens.” Thousands of young people have learned the creed.

Carnegie received the Order of Ontario in 1996 and Order of Canada in 2003. His name lives on with the former North York Centennial Arena renamed in his honour in 2008. He died in 2012. His youngest daughter Rochelle carries on his work."

Biography written by NYHS very own Susan Goldenberg


Beverley Salmon was Toronto’s first Black female city councillor and is remembered for her advocacy for more inclusive policies and practices within municipal government.

She trained in nursing at Wellesley Hospital in the 1950s and received her public health nurse certification in 1954 from the University of Toronto. She became involved in the civil rights movement while working in Detroit and then returned to Toronto in the 1960s.

Salmon was the founding chair of the Toronto Board of Education's Black Liaison Committee, where she worked to institute anti-racism training for teachers and increase coverage of Black history in the curriculum.

In 1985, Salmon was elected city councillor, representing North York until her retirement in 1997. She also founded the non-profit charitable organization, Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

Salmon was awarded the Order of Ontario in 2016, and the Order of Canada in 2017.

She passed away on July 6 2023 at 92 years old.


Paul Anthony Smith, OMM, MSM, CD, naval officer was born in 1967 in Jamaica.

He emigrated to Canada when he was six years old and grew up in North York, Ontario. He attended York Mills Collegiate.

“He enrolled in the Naval Reserve in 1986, rose to the rank of petty officer second class and was commissioned in 1999. In 2014, Smith took command of HMCS Kingston, becoming the first Black officer to command a ship in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). On 2 October 2021, he became the first Black commanding officer of HMCS York, the largest naval reserve division in Canada.”

- Canadian Encyclopedia


You probably know him best from over 300 installments of Body Break - a 90 second segment promoting active living! Hal was born in the United States and grew up in North York.

The captain of his high school's hockey, baseball, basketball and football teams, Johnson went on to be an all-star first baseman, representing Canada at the World Baseball Championship.

After his athletic career, Johnson was hired at TSN as a sports reporter. Network executives rescinded that offer the same day it was made, stating that they didn't want a second Black reporter. As an extra in a commercial, during the 1980s, Johnson was moved so that he wouldn't be sitting next to a white woman. These experiences of racism, helped push Johnson to create BodyBreak. Johnson has commented that "the media has not only a tremendous responsibility, but a tremendous power to influence public perception and acceptance."

We’re so grateful for the incredible contributions Black Canadians have made right here in North York that enrich all of our lives! Learn more about the North York Historical Society HERE!

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