Born in Toronto the eldest of 14 children, George E. Carter went on to create history. His parents, immigrants from Barbados, successfully managed their large family during the depression, keen to encourage education and self-discipline.
His mother took care of the children and his father worked in an iron foundry. “I think back to the wonderful good fortune I had in having two great parents,” he said.
“They were just ordinary folks…at home, that’s where the real lessons were learned,” added Carter.
Though life was economically difficult during this time, Carter excelled at school. He attended Harbord Collegiate Institute from 1936-1941 and was in the top portion of his class and went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto.
In 1944, the B.A recipient, from Trinity College, University of Toronto, served active duty with the Canadian Infantry Corps before returning to pursue his dream of a legal career in civilian life. He articled in 1945 with B. J. Spencer Pitt, the only Black lawyer practicing in Ontario at the time.
In 1947, he went to work for Sydney M. Harris, a Jewish Canadian. At the time, no other law firms would accept Black law students for training. This made Pitt, Harris and Carter pioneers in opening doors for Black students of Law.
Carter graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1948. After being called to the Bar in 1949, Carter opened his own firm on Bay Street in 1952. “I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to have my own practice and that I did, for 31 years,” he said.
Thinking back Carter says, “It was a great journey.” There was the challenge of solving problems and he was thrilled with the idea of getting up in court and presenting a case and argument. He also remembers the many fine people he met. “…and the rascals too,” he said.
Carter was appointed a Judge in the Ontario Provincial Court in 1979 and later, appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice, where he served for 16 years. “It was a great experience. I loved listening to people and their stories and all their problems,” he reminesced.
In addition to his distinguished legal career, Carter has an outstanding record of community involvement and service. He was a founding member of the Toronto Negro Veterans; a member of The Committee for the Adoption of Coloured Youngsters – a group that studied and promoted the adoption of black children; a founding member of The National Black Coalition of Canada; a founding member and past President of Toronto Negro Business and Professional Association; and a Board member of the Ontario Black History Society. Carter was also instrumental in the implementation of Legal Aid in Ontario.
Among Judge Carter’s awards are: the Harry Jerome Lifetime Achievement Award; Osgoode Hall Law School of York University Award For Excellence; and Honorary Life Membership to The Ontario Judges Association. He was honoured by the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), and is a recipient of Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Canada’s first native-born Black judge, Justice Carter is a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, whose love for life and respect for people are the hallmarks of his many accomplishments.
His life has been immortalized in the documentary, The Making of a Judge. The film was written, directed and hosted by his daughter, Linda V. Carter, and can be seen on television and at Film festivals.