As February begins, the borough of Verdun and The Round Table on Black History Month non-profit organization commemorates one-time resident Fred Christie, one of the earliest people to fight discrimination in Montreal.
“February is black history month,” said current Verdun Mayor Jean-Francois Parenteau. “I am very proud to share with you the story of Fred Christie, un grand Verdunois.”
Christie’s initially won $25 from the owner of the York Tavern for refusing to serve him in 1936, but he lost on appeal. The case took three years to get to the Supreme Court of Canada, but eventually Christie lost again.
The Supreme Court decision was rendered on December 9th, 1939 and published in 1940. It said:
“the general principle of the law of Quebec is that of complete freedom of commerce.” Specifying further, the judgment states that “any merchant is free to deal as he may choose with any individual member of the public […] the only restriction to this general principle would be the existence of a specific law, or, in the carrying out of the principle, the adoption of a rule contrary to good morals or public order.”
After losing his case, Christie left Montreal, but law professor Eric M. Adams says his efforts initiated a series of events that “contributed to the eventual adoption of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1975.”
For more information about Christie, refer to the memorial page set up in his honour.
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