By RON FANFAIR
The lone African-Canadian in the province’s 107-seat Legislative Assembly and one of the first Toronto Police Service’s Black female officers were honoured for distinguished service at the 32nd annual National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC) awards at Queen’s Park recently.
Jamaican-born Margarett Best was elected Member of the Provincial Parliament in the Scarborough-Guildwood riding in October 2007 and appointed to Cabinet as Minister of Health Promotion.
Before entering politics, Best attended Wayne State University in the United States and the University of Toronto part-time before being accepted to Osgoode Hall Law School in 1992. The mother of three was called to the Bar five years later and bestowed with an honorary doctorate by Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University last year.
“I know the important role the ethnic press plays because it has helped to connect me with communities,” said Best, who was recognized for contributions to equality and social justice. “In addition, I have always been passionate about social justice and equality long before I got into politics, so the award is fitting.”
Police Sergeant Terry James, who conceived the idea for the Toronto police’s Black History Month celebrations that was launched in 1995, migrated to Canada from Grenada at age 13 and attended Lord Lansdowne Public School and the Roman Catholic Loretto College girls’ school and worked as a sales assistant at a manufacturing company before becoming a police officer in 1980.
Promoted to Sergeant eight years ago, James is an active member of the Association of Black Law Enforcers and a recipient of the Ontario Women in Law Enforcement mentoring award.
Reporter Gerald Paul was honoured for advancing human rights and equality; Ned Blair received a Lifetime Achievement award for photo journalism and the Ethiopian community bilingual newspaper, TZTA, which is published every two weeks, won the Best Concept and Visual Presentation award. The paper’s managing editor, Woldeamanuel Tsehome, accepted the award.
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, David Onley, a former journalist, made the presentations.
“We get hundreds of invitations to attend functions every year,” he said. “Some of them are difficult to decide whether or not we should be involved, others we know we should not be involved, but this is one of the categories where, as soon as the invitation comes in, we immediately turn to the calendar to see when we could make it happen. It’s something we believe in very, very much.
“It’s vital that the media reflects competing opinions and interests so that citizens can make informed choices. The ethnic media is a very important part of the process. As the ethnic make-up of Canadians has changed over recent decades, so too has the mix of ethnic media available to them. The European language, which dominated media in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, is now joined by media in Cantonese and Punjabi to name a few…It’s also good to know that you reach your audience through satellite, the Internet and BlackBerrys while at the same time continuing your commitment to maintaining journalistic excellence. Tonight’s awards are a reflection of this commitment.”
NEPMCC president Thomas Saras chaired the proceedings.