Braithwaite, Leonard

Leonard Braithwaite was born in interwar Toronto, growing up in the downtown neighbourhood of Kensington Market. As the Great Depression took hold, the young Leonard went to school and helped his family out by selling newspapers. When World War Two came along, Leonard decided to enlist, only to be put off by a series of recruiting officers unwilling to take African-Canadians into the Canadian Forces. Undeterred, Leonard continued to try, eventually earning his place as an RCAF mechanic. After training in various parts of Canada, he was stationed overseas in England near the end of the war. On his return Leonard continued his schooling and earned a law degree – he still runs his practice in Etobicoke. Along the way he also served in Ontario’s provincial parliament and even became the first African-Canadian cabinet minister in Ontario. Leonard has received both the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada.

He was interviewed for this project by Crestwood students Matt Petrei, Cathy Kim, Andrew Spanton, and Ashley Audette.