Late civil rights activist Burnley (Rocky) Jones was recognized posthumously with a human rights award at an International Human Rights Day celebration in Nova Scotia recently.
During the event, it was also announced that the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s individual award to mark Human Rights Day will be renamed after Jones who died last July at age 71.
Partners for Human Rights, a network of nearly 20 organizations dedicated to working towards a respectful and inclusive community, made the recommendation for the award to bear Jones’ name.
“The purpose of that is to recognize the work that he has done over the years,” said Partner for Human Rights co-chair, Ann Divine. “Every member in our group didn’t know him personally, but they had heard of him or were friends of his and appreciated the work that he did over the years to raise awareness about the social equity issues both the African-Nova Scotian community and the Aboriginal community were facing.”
Jones, who suffered heart attacks in 1998 and 2006, was an active participant in a demonstration outside the United States consulate in Toronto in 1965 to support the Selma March organized by the Friends of the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee at the University of Toronto. He also played a key role in bringing the Black Panther Party to Canada and later established the Black Historical and Educational Research Organization project, which is a pioneering oral history initiative on Black culture and ran unsuccessfully for the New Democratic Party in a Nova Scotia by-election for Halifax Needham in 1980.
A 1992 Dalhousie University law graduate, Jones worked closely with the Aboriginal community on land claims, justice and education issues and five years later successfully argued the ground-breaking case R. vs. R.D.S Supreme Court decision on establishing the rules for determining reasonable apprehension of bias in the court system by judges, and establishing limits to the application of social context in judging.
An Order of Nova Scotia recipient, Jones was bestowed an honorary doctor of laws degree by the University of Guelph in 2004.