Rosemary Brown (politician)

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Rosemary Brown

Rosemary Brown Canada.jpg
MLA for Vancouver-Burrard
In office
Serving with Norman Levi
Preceded byHarold James Merilees
Bert Price
Succeeded byriding dissolved
MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds
In office
Preceded byRaymond Loewen
Succeeded byDavid Mercier
Personal details
Rosemary Wedderburn

(1930-06-17)June 17, 1930
Kingston, Jamaica
DiedApril 26, 2003(2003-04-26) (aged 72)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Political partyNew Democratic
EducationMcGill University (BA)
University of British Columbia (MA)

Rosemary Brown PC OC OBC (née Wedderburn; June 17, 1930 – April 26, 2003) was a Canadian politician.[1]

Early years[edit]

Rosemary Brown was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1930, and moved to Canada in 1951 to study social work at McGill University in Montreal. She proceeded to earn a Master of Social Work at the University of British Columbia.[2] She also helped to found the British Columbia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (BCAACP) in 1956 to help advocate for housing, employment and human rights legislation.[3]

Political history[edit]

She served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the British Columbia legislature as a part of the New Democratic Party from 1972 to 1986, making her the first Black Canadian woman to be elected to a Canadian provincial legislature.[2]

During that time, she advocated for Canadian minorities and changed legislature to uphold equality. She worked on improving "services for the elderly, the disadvantaged, immigrants and people with disabilities" [4] as well as prohibiting racist and sexist legislatures [5].

In 1975, she became the first black woman to run for the leadership of a Canadian federal party (and only the second woman, after Mary Walker-Sawka), finishing a strong second (with 40.1% of the votes on the fourth and final ballot) to Ed Broadbent in that year's New Democratic Party leadership election.[6]

After departing politics, she became a professor of women's studies at Simon Fraser University. In 1993, she was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and served until 1996. In 1995, she was awarded the Order of British Columbia and in 1996 was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.[2]

Brown was sworn to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada as a member of the federal Security Intelligence Review Committee, responsible for overseeing the actions of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, a role which she held from 1993 to 1998. She also served on the Order of Canada Advisory Committee from 1999 until her death in 2003.[2]

Honours and awards[edit]

  • National Black Coalition Award, 1972[3]
  • United Nations Human Rights Fellowship, 1973[3]
  • YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, 1989[3]
  • Order of British Columbia, 1995 [7]
  • Order of Canada, 1996 [2]
  • Government of Jamaica Commander of the Order of Distinction, 2001[3]
  • Canadian Labour Congress Award for Outstanding Service to Humanity, 2002[3]
  • 15 honorary doctorate degrees from Canadian Universities [2] including UBC, 1995 [8]


She died of a heart attack aged 72, in Vancouver, British Columbia.[9]


Canada Post featured Brown on a Canadian postage stamp released on February 2, 2009.[10]

On June 17, 2005, a park in Brown's former provincial riding of Vancouver-Burrard was dedicated to and named for her.[11]


  • Brown, Rosemary. Being Brown: A Very Public Life. Toronto: Random House, 1989.


  1. ^ Lorraine Snyder, "Rosemary Brown". The Canadian Encyclopedia, January 27, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Rosemary Brown". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Rosemary Brown". Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  4. ^ "100 Years of Women and the Vote". Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Rosemary Brown". Gail Arlene Ito. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  6. ^ Morton, Desmond (1986). The new democrats, 1961–1986: the politics of change. Toronto, Ontario: Copp Clark Pitman. ISBN 0-7730-4618-6.
  7. ^ "1995 Recipient: Rosemary Brown – Vancouver". Retrieved 7 Mar 2019.
  8. ^ "The Title and Degree of Doctor of Laws, (honoris causa) Conferred at Congregation, June 2, 1995". UBC. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Rosemary Brown 1930-2003 Legislator, social activist, feminist". Contemporary Black Biography. 2005. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  10. ^ "Abraham Doras Shadd & Rosemary Brown". Canada Post. Canada Post. February 2, 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  11. ^ "Rosemary Brown Park". City of Vancouver: Park Finder. Retrieved 14 May 2017. On June 17th, 2005, this park was dedicated and named for Rosemary Brown, a former Member of the Legislative Assembly who served the Vancouver-Burrard riding from 1972–1979. Ms. Brown died in 2003 and the park was officially opened on the anniversary of her birth.