A longtime activist and retired city administrator has replaced Adam Vaughan as the municipal councillor for Trinity-Spadina.
At last Monday’s city council poll, Ceta Ramkhalawansingh received 22 votes on the second ballot to finish ahead of former Peel and Edmonton police chief, Robert Lunney, who garnered 18 votes.
“I am relieved after a long morning of balloting and listening to everybody’s speeches,” said Ramkhalawansingh, who was among 29 contenders for the job of interim councillor in Ward 20.
The seat became vacant when Adam Vaughan resigned to successfully run in last month’s Trinity-Spadina federal by-election.
With the support of community leaders and the Harbord Village Residents Association (HVRA), Ramkhalawansingh applied for the position, which expires after the October 27 city election.
“I was asked by the people that I worked with for the last 20 or 30 years and the residents group,” she said. “I talked to a lot of them and agreed to do it.”
Former HVRA chair Rory “Gus” Sinclair said Ramkhalawansingh will be the perfect caretaker.
“She worked closely with Adam, so she’s up-to-date on all the files,” he said. “In addition, she’s very energetic and we know she will honour his legacy.”
Ramkhalawansingh said she didn’t expect to get involved in the politics surrounding Toronto’s controversial mayor Rob Ford.
“I think there will be other people who have a lot to say about the mayor,” she said. “I intend to focus on issues in my ward. As long as the mayor supports the issues in Ward 20, I’ll be satisfied with that.”
Migrating from Trinidad & Tobago with four other family members in 1967, Ramkhalawansingh spent a year in high school before entering the University of Toronto (U of T) where she became involved in various activities, including student government and course union programs at a time when there was a movement to change the university’s curriculum to an integrated inter-departmental approach.
As an undergraduate student, the then 19-year-old was at the forefront of a movement that successfully lobbied for the establishment of the U of T’s women’s studies program, where she taught for seven years.
In her third year in university, Ramkhalawansingh’s leadership was evident again when bulldozers threatened to raze the Grange, where she has resided for the past 43 years. She successfully negotiated with the developers to protect residential housing in the downtown community. She has fiercely fought over the years to safeguard the community’s residential quality from the Art Gallery of Ontario’s continuing expansion.
Impressed by the leadership she exhibited, local residents appointed her the Grange Community Association’s honorary president six years ago.
While in university, Ramkhalawansingh was also a writer/researcher for the Women’s Press and she worked for nearly 18 months with city school board trustees who were engaged in rewriting school board curriculum and programs to address issues and the barriers immigrant families faced.
Ramkhalawansingh is the national chair of the Word on the Street Canada, president of the LEARNXS Foundation and board member of the Toronto Community Foundation and the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care. In addition, she’s a U of T Principal’s Appointee and a member of George Brown College’s community worker program’s advisory committee and Scadding Court’s Investing in Diversity Scholarship program’s advisory panel.
Over the years, she has been recognized with several honours, including the New Pioneer, Constance Hamilton, Arbor and the City of Toronto Book Awards.
By RON FANFAIR