Born in Faith, Continued in Determination: B.A. (Rocky) Jones and the Egalitarian Practice of Law

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Burnley Allan "Rocky" Jones, Black Lawyers, Nova Scotia, Legal Biography, Indigenous Black and Mi’kmaq Program, RDS, Campbell v Derrick and Jones


Lawyers are not well loved in Canadian society. Jokes about lawyers are legion … and sometimes vicious. Public opinion polls often place lawyers among the lowest ranks of trusted professionals. Even the leaders of the legal profession itself express pointed concerns about its reputation for untrustworthiness and its ability to ensure access to justice. Whatever the accuracy or fairness of these criticisms or concerns, there is one segment of the legal community that might merit a kinder, gentler assessment: egalitarian lawyers. They devote their practice to the pursuit of social justice. They recognize the structural forces of inequality – class, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and so on – and dedicate their energies to challenging such forces through law. This chapter provides a snapshot of some of the achievements and challenges of one such egalitarian lawyer: Burnley Allan “Rocky” Jones, one of the first Black lawyers in Nova Scotia. From the 1990s to the early 2000s, Jones established himself as the most high-profile – certainly celebrated, perhaps notorious – Black lawyer in Nova Scotia. An engaging, provocative, and fearless speaker, he took the lead in identifying pervasive racism in Nova Scotia and served as counsel in several of the most significant cases of those two decades. In the first part of this chapter, I discuss three key interventions by Jones: his role in helping to establish the Indigenous Black and Mi’kmaq Program at Dalhousie Law School (as it then was); his role as counsel in the famous R.D.S. case (1997); and his role as co-defendant in a defamation suit brought by a Halifax police officer in Campbell v. Derrick and Jones (2002). The second part of the chapter briefly suggests several thematic concerns, followed by a conclusion.