William Peyton Hubbard

William Peyton HubbardHe was a famous black politician who was elected to Toronto City Council back in the late 1800s. He was a strong advocate for the expansion and ownership of public utilities, electricity, water, and infrastructure.

Hubbard was born in a small cabin in the outskirts of Toronto in an area that is now known as Bathurst and Bloor Street West. His parents escaped from slavery in Virginia through the Underground Railroad and settled in Canada.

He grew up to be a baker and founded his own bakery in the city. Then his life changed in one winter during the 1870s when Hubbard witnessed a horse and carriage accident that had its occupant about to fall into the cold, icy waters of the Don River. Hubbard got off his horse and saved the man from drowning. The man he saved was George Brown, the Toronto abolitionist, newspaper editor and father of confederation. Over time they became good friends and over the years Brown encouraged Hubbard to enter politics.

Hubbard began his political career in 1894 at the age of 52 when he won an election on Toronto’s City Council. He represented the neighbourhood around University Avenue, which used to be one of the wealthiest areas of the city. He was re-elected 15 times for 24 consecutive years in office. He was one of the first black or first visible minority citizens to be elected to public office at either the local, provincial or federal level in Canada.

He fought for public ownership of Toronto’s utilities, including water and hydro-electricity and he opposed the privatization of the city’s water supply. Hubbard worked with Sir Adam Beck to fight for a publicly owned hydro-electricity utility system in Ontario and led efforts to create the Toronto Hydro-Electric Commission. He also advocated for road construction and local infrastructure improvement laws.

He is a famous African-Canadian who, despite the racist attitudes many white Canadians held towards the black community at the time, was able to become a prominent official at the turn of the century. During Black History month we should remember the important role African-Canadians have played in building our country.

 

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