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Dudley Laws (1934-2011) 

Dudley Laws

Dudley Laws was born in Jamaica and migrated to Canada in 1965 after living in England. He worked as a welder until the early 1970s, moving onto run a printing company.

Dudley Laws began his activism in the Caribbean community in England, and upon migration to Toronto continued his activist work. Soon after settling in Toronto, he joined the Jamaican Canadian Association and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the Garveyite organization which subsequently changed its name to the Universal African Improvement Association (UAIA). He later became its president of UAIA.

He became an outspoken critic of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force after a number of African Canadians were shot and killed by police during the 1970s and 1980s. Dudley along with Charlie Roach, Akua Benjamin, Lennox Farrell, Numvoyo and Brian Hyman, Akilah and Dari Meade, and others founded the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC).  BADC organized demonstrations in the late 1980s and 1990s to call attention to police shootings and advocate for independent investigation of police shootings. Dudley Laws and BADC are credited with the creation of Ontario's Special Investigations Unit in the 1990s and the creation of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System.

Despite claims that Dudley did not speak for all African Canadians, his activism brought attention of many to inequity and racism in policing, immigration, and the prison system.  He was instrumental in creating the Black Youth Community Action Project (BYCAP) and worked with the Black Inmates and Friends Assembly (BIFA), which frequently visited and counselled Black prison inmates.

His outspokenness against police activities brought him close scrutiny leading to harassment by police. This resulted in being fined for having beer and wine at social events, personal reminders from police of outstanding parking tickets, and even an arrest and conviction for immigration violations, charges which were later dismissed.

In the 1980s and 1990s Dudley worked as an immigration consultant on behalf of immigrants and refugees and in doing so supported newcomers from the Caribbean, sometimes going to the airport in the middle of the night to assist them.