TORONTO'S 200 YEARS OF BLACK HISTORY
- He was a patented inventor, horse–drawn cab driver and one of Toronto's most loved and inﬂuential politician. The frst non–white elected City Councilor in any major Canadian city, and continued to win 14 more elections.
- The Black presence in Toronto dates all the way back to 1799, when 15 Blacks were enumerated in the town of York (Toronto's original name). By 1837 there were about 50 families of refugees in Toronto, many of them engaged in trades such as shoemaking and blacksmithing.
- The frst church for Toronto's Black community opened 201 years ago.
In 1837, a family of free slaves fled to Canada from Virginia, USA. Tey settled in as farmers in the area that eventually became Toronto. Five years later (in 1842), their son, William Peyton Hubbard, was born in a small rural cabin in the area around Bloor and Brunswick. At the time, the family was part of 1,000 African Canadians in a Toronto population of 40,000. Most, like the Hubbards, had come from the US via the Underground Railway.
Hubbard became a baker and a very successful businessman. He invented and patented a new commercial baker's oven, the Hubbard Portable. But it is Hubbard's contribution to the political life of the city, in its very early years, that is so remarkable.
He was encouraged to enter politics by George Brown, founder and editor of the Globe newspaper and one of the Fathers of Confederation. As the story goes, Hubbard saved his life one night when Brown's horse drawn cart spilled into the Don River.
At the age of 52, Hubbard became the frst non–white elected to public ofce in any major Canadian city. He would win 14 more elections.
In 1898, Hubbard served on Toronto's powerful four member Board of Control – then the city's inner cabinet. He made tremendous contributions to the city. For example, he oversaw the move from cramped city hall in St. Lawrence Market to the handsome stone building at Queen and Bay, now called Old City Hall. He also was responsible for passing almost 100 civic initiatives in his years on council, pushing for improved waterworks and road upgrading in the city. Today, an ofcial oil painting of him hangs in the mayor's ofce as a tribute to the courage, spirit, determination and accomplishments of the city's frst non–white elected ofcial. Tere is Hubbard Blvd. running between Wineva Avenue and MacLean Avenue along the Boardwalk in the Beaches, and William Hubbard Park at the old Don Jail grounds and the Bridgepoint.