Burnley (Rocky) Jones dies in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Burnley Allan Jones picked up the nickname Rocky, in his fight for civil rights.  He became known as Canada’s Stokely Carmichael.  He was a 5th generation Canadian and his grandfather, Jeremiah Jones was a hero in the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War.

Jones became a voice for black people in Nova Scotia, the east-coast province some people referred to, as the “Mississippi of the North”.

As a student in the 1960’s, Jones was viewed as a radical, for speaking out against the racism and mistreatment the black community endured.

Halifax was the scene of a bitter conflict at this time when the old and neglected community known as Africville. The community began as a settlement back in the 1830’s with the arrival of blacks escaping slavery in the United States. In 1963 Africville was demolished to make way for the construction of a bridge.  The residents were evicted and never compensated for their losses.

The mayor of Halifax apologized for the treatment of the black residents in 2009, and a replica of the community church has since been built, but many people are waiting for more than an apology.

Seaview African United Baptist Church, a replica of the original in Africville, Nova Scotia

It was against this backdrop that Rocky Jones worked for the community.  He was monitored by Canadian police and by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He became a target for those who opposed his fight for racial equality.  “Someone took kerosene oil and poured it all over the back of the house where the children slept and set it on fire,” he explained in an interview.  Fortunately someone else spotted the fire from the nearby legion and saved his family.

Rocky Jones was connected with the Black Panther Party, and was a founding member of the Black United Front in Nova Scotia.

In 1992 he became a lawyer, receiving his degree from Dalhousie University, where he was instrumental in creating an indigenous program for black and Mi’kmaq students at Dalhousie’s Law School.

He continued his work on human rights cases and took on criminal and prisoners’ rights, and labour law.

Rocky Jones was a member of the Order of Nova Scotia, among several honors.  He suffered from heart disease, and died Monday after a series of heart attacks. He was 71.

Categories: Economy, Politics, Society

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