Thu | Nov 30, 2023

He’s a Jolly good fellow - Jamaican black-rights lobbyist inducted into Order of Canada

Published:Monday | November 30, 2020 | 12:12 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
B. Denham Jolly
B. Denham Jolly


One year after a Toronto street was named after him, Jamaica-born Canadian B. Denham Jolly has again created history by being appointed Member of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.

Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognises outstanding achievement, dedication to the community, and service to the nation.

Jolly’s contribution to the promotion of equity and opportunity within the Greater Toronto Area’s black community prompted the conferment by Governor General Julie Payette.

Jolly, a Cornwall College alumnus, and 113 other recipients join more than 7,000 Canadians from all sectors of the society inducted into the order.

“Those who bear the order’s iconic snowflake insignia have changed our nation’s measure of success, and, through the sum of their accomplishments, have helped us build a better Canada,” said a statement from the governor general.

Jolly said he was humbled to receive one of the highest honours of a G7 nation, “where I have lived for over 60 years and honoured to be regarded as a contributor to such a great country”.

Jolly’s sister, Barbara Smith, former principal of Montego Bay High School, said he remains very supportive and involved with his family in Jamaica.

“W are extremely proud of him. Over the years, he has excelled beyond expectations,” she told The Gleaner.

Jolly’s niece, Karen Smith, praised him for being a source of stability after her father died when she was two years old. He supported her studies through to Concordia University in Montreal, she said.

“He is truly dedicated to our family and has always encouraged me with my singing. We are bursting with pride at this well-deserved honour,” Karen said.

Born in Industry Cove, Hanover, Jolly migrated to Canada in 1955 after being accepted at the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.

The teacher, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civil rights leader, who began his business career by purchasing and operating rooming houses and nursing homes, became the first black owner of a newspaper and radio station in Toronto.

In 2019, Toronto Mayor John Tory unveiled the street Jolly Way, located in a new subdivision, in honour of the trailblazer, who noted then that blacks had contributed tremendously to the development of Toronto.

Jolly’s memoir about growing up black in Toronto In the Black won the Toronto Book Award in 2017. The book documents the overt racism and discrimination he endured while establishing his business in the 1950s.