Just months after a street in Scarborough was named after him, a new school bearing Alvin Curling’s name will open next week.
However, Alvin Curling Public School will be temporarily located at an alternative school site at 85 Keeler Blvd. until January, when construction of the new facility is completed in Rougeville. It’s the community’s first elementary school.
Several factors, including labour actions by several construction groups, poor weather conditions at a critical time in the project and a larger area of unsuitable soil conditions contributed to the delay in completion of the project at 50 Rouge Park. Dr. in the Meadowvale Rd. & Sheppard Ave. E. area.
A former Liberal Member of Parliament, legislative assembly of Ontario speaker and Canadian envoy to the Dominican Republic, Curling says he is honoured by the recognition.
“Education has always been important to me, so to have a school with my name is quite fulfilling,” said the ex-president of World Literacy Canada, who also served as Seneca College student services director for 14 years. “Scarborough was very White and Anglo-Saxon when I came here in 1967 and to see how the face of this city has changed over the years is quite amazing. We have people who have come from all parts of the world and have made this their home. To have immigrants like me being recognized with our names attached to institutions that are going to be here long after I am gone is testimony to the lasting impact people who were not born here have made.”
Curling promised he will be very engaged in the school.
“I will attend graduations, I will be there to read to the kids just as I did on Fridays in Scarborough-Agincourt when I was an MPP and I have already suggested to the principal the possibility of the school twinning with a school in the Caribbean so that students from both institutions can learn of the cultures and history other than food, drink and dance,” he said. “I am going to also work to entice businesses in the area to have a close relationship with the school.”
Curling joins Barbadian-born Harold Brathwaite as the only Canadians of Caribbean descent with schools in the Greater Toronto Area bearing their names. Harold Brathwaite Secondary School was opened in Brampton in 2003. Brathwaite was Canada’s first Black director of education.
Alvin Curling Cres., which is located in the Alton Towers Circle and Goldhawk Trail community, will be officially opened later this year.
Since retiring from politics, Curling teamed up with former Ontario chief justice and attorney general, Roy McMurtry, to author a youth violence report and last year he was appointed strategic adviser on youth opportunities to the province’s Minister of Children & Youth Services. That assignment concludes in the next two months.
He has also used his extensive political knowledge to help Jamaican-born Mary Anne Chambers, Margarett Best and Mitzie Hunter win provincial elections in Scarborough-Guildwood.
“I would credit Zanana Akande for opening the door for Black women to make their mark in politics,” said Curling, who managed Best’s second campaign. “She was very confident and assertive which are qualities that Chambers, Best and Hunter possess.”
Curling said he was a bit surprised that Hunter was victorious in last month’s by-election.
“She’s a political neophyte and you have to understand the politics and the community,” he said. “She however kept her focus and was very principled while the other contenders were too focused on policies. I am proud of Mitzie who I have known since she was in high school.”
Curling has thrown his support behind another Jamaican-born, Diana Burke, who is the Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre.
“Putting your name forward is one of the most admirable things you can do,” he said. “Diana is the type of person we desperately need in Canadian politics. She’s an immigrant, a female role model and proof that hard work and education are key to the Canadian dream. She also understands Toronto Centre, having lived there for 25 years.
“I have been proud to look on as she has advocated for employment fairness for our friends and neighbours with disabilities, childhood education for those without resources and community engagement all while leading a successful career as a senior executive at Canada’s largest financial institution. We need to send a strong representative to parliament to help Justin Trudeau and someone from our community who will stand up for Toronto Centre’s values of fairness, responsibility and compassion.”
Curling entered politics in 1984, losing the nomination for York-Scarborough in the federal elections by just five votes to former Toronto Mayor June Rowlands, the personal choice of then Liberal leader, John Turner. She lost the election.
Despite being a political neophyte, Curling displayed extraordinary savvy and gained the trust of Scarborough’s provincial Liberals and those in other areas by publicly supporting the candidate who had defeated him in the federal riding nomination.
The support paid dividends with Curling securing a landslide win in May 1985 in what was then Canada’s largest riding. He received 31,842 votes, which was some 8,000 more than the Progressive Conservative party candidate, Carole Noble. The victory was significant in that it ended a 22-year Conservative reign in the riding.
As a member of the provincial Liberal government between 1985 and 1990, Curling served as Minister of Housing and Minister of Skills Development with special responsibility for literacy, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and parliamentary assistant to Premier David Peterson.
In opposition, he served in various critic roles and was an active voice in the Liberal caucus.
In 1995, Curling engaged in a much-publicized 18-hour filibuster-like protest against the Mike Harris government’s Omnibus Bill 26, claiming a lack of public consultation. A group of fellow Liberals and New Democratic Party opposition members formed a cordon around him to prevent his removal after he was ordered expelled from the legislature for using what was judged to be “un-parliamentary language”.
The Bill, which sought to change 47 existing pieces of legislation at the same time that would have affected a wide variety of government departments and ministries, was eventually passed on January 30, 1996 following amendments that the government had not planned to make.
By RON FANFAIR