The late Dr. Clovis John Brooks lived all of his 45 years since coming to Canada in the Regal Heights neighbourhood. This area was the only home the Jamaican-born Brooks knew until his death two years ago at age 83.
Last week, the community’s residents association named the Clovis John Brooks Lane near the family’s Glenholme Avenue home in his honour.
The City of Toronto endorsed the name change last December.
“When we learned that the City of Toronto had made a decision that laneways in older sections of the city should be named we, as an association, started to think about what we should do with our major laneways,” said Regal Heights Residents’ Association past president, David Raymont. “There was a bit of discussion and we thought about the different people that live in our area and the contributions they have made.
“Of course, the obvious name came to us and that was John Brooks. We thought that would be the most fitting name for this particular laneway, given the Brooks’ family lives only a few doors down from it.”
Brooks’ five children and grandchildren, including Geoff Stines, were raised in the St. Clair Ave. W. and Oakwood Ave. community.
“I was born and raised in this neighbourhood, so this laneway means a lot to me,” said 26-year-old Stines. “I rode my bike up and down it and played soccer and ball hockey. We had lots of fun here, so it’s really special to have it now named after my grandfather who was a wonderful human being.”
Brooks’ daughter, Donna Stines, said he always maintained he wanted to leave his mark on Canada.
“He felt you could leave your imprint on anything you did,” she said. “We are grateful that the Regal Heights Residents’ Association thought of honouring him in this way. My dad truly deserves this recognition for all the work he did in this country.”
Shortly after coming to Canada, Brooks and a few investors established the first Caribbean-oriented social club – The Latin Quarter – which also served as a drop-in centre for newly-arrived immigrants. He also organized sports activities between police and local area youths, raised funds for famine relief in Africa, supported the Jamaican bobsled program, founded the popular National Dominoes League and helped to start the Regal Road Public School Daycare project.
“John moved into this neighbourhood when it was essentially a White community,” said historian and curator Dr. Sheldon Taylor. “The fact that the residents association feels so strongly that the laneway should be named after him moves beyond symbolism and tells you the extent to which he helped transform this community.
“The naming of roads and institutions do not come easily. He came to Canada with a mission to do well and he accomplished that with flying colours.”
Community service and a burning desire to see young people succeed academically defined Brooks’ rich life. The recipient of the Order of Canada and Jamaica’s Order of Distinction established the John Brooks Community Foundation and Scholarship Fund 29 years ago.
The organization has presented thousands of dollars in academic awards to over 800 students ranging from Grades Seven to 12.
“It was because of John Brooks and the scholarships that he offered that I was able to go to McMaster University, graduate with honours and now prepare to enter the University of Ottawa next semester to pursue Law,” said Taisha Lewis. “The least I could do to say thanks was to show up here this evening to celebrate this momentous occasion with his family.”
The Pope John Paul II Catholic Secondary School graduate was the beneficiary of John Brooks’ scholarships for four straight years up until 2006.
Regal Heights was also home to Jamaican-born five-time Canadian Olympian Charmaine Crooks who now lives in British Columbia and Marilyn Bell, the first swimmer to conquer Lake Ontario.