Dr. Inez Elliston ‘was a trailblazer and stalwart in the field of education

Dr. Inez Elliston ‘was a trailblazer and stalwart in the field of education

February 19, 2017

For Dr. Inez Elliston, education was the key to success in life.

Starting in her native Jamaica as a probationary teacher while completing teacher training part-time at Mico College, she made noteworthy contributions as a trainer, researcher, consultant, writer, community development educator and volunteer.

Elliston, who came to Ontario in 1969, passed away last week after a lengthy illness. 

She was 84.

A graduate of the University College of the West Indies (now the University of the West Indies) in 1961, Elliston completed her Master’s in Education from Boston University and the University of Toronto (U of T) in 1972 and her PhD from the U of T four years later.

As the former Scarborough Board of Education (SBE) first multiculturalism and race relations co-ordinator, she was responsible for implementing 14 major policy recommendations, including multicultural training for staff and improved assessment of immigrant children in the school system.

She chaired the Black Heritage program advisory committee set up during the 1981/82 school year to field test 215 students and was the vice-president of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/U of T alumni association executive, an adviser to the Minister of Training, Colleges & Universities in the review of post-secondary education in the province, a member of the U of T governing council’s and a Canadian Race Relations Foundation director and board representative.

Elliston was also a member of the Safe Schools Action Team that was re-engaged in February 2008 to review the issues of gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour in schools. The team also looked at barriers to students reporting these types of behaviours and reporting requirements for school staff, and participated in a review of local police/school board protocols.

Former Ontario education commissioner Dr. Avis Glaze said Elliston’s community contributions are significant and her legacy is well entrenched.

“Inez did pioneering work in the field of race relations in the SBE and at the Ministry of Education, conducting many studies and was always a strong advocate for the education of children in general and children from diverse communities in particular,” said Glaze who met Elliston when she enrolled in the U of T in 1974. “She fought valiantly to provide educational opportunities for Black children and for increased involvement for parents and immigrants. As you can well imagine, she fought herculean battles as many were not ready to hear what she had to say or to implement what she thought would be best for these children at the time. Nonetheless, she never wavered. She fought a good fight every step of the way.”

The Adult Day School & Multicultural Centre co-ordinator and Ministry of Education & Training education officer, Elliston also played pivotal roles with the Canadian Council of Multicultural & Intercultural Education, the Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Key Women Educators and the Canadian Federation of University Women.

She was recognized with several significant accolades, including the U of T Arbor Award for Volunteerism, Harry Jerome, African-Canadian Achievement, Church of Scientology Canada Lifetime and Jamaican Canadian Association Outstanding Achievement Awards and the Order of Ontario in 2005.

Former Ontario cabinet Minister Mary Anne Chambers nominated Elliston for the province’s highest honour.

“I have always been proud that my nomination some years ago was successful,” said Chambers. “Dr. Elliston was a trailblazer and true stalwart in the field of education. My respect for her wisdom and experience and her unfailing passion and commitment set her apart from many others and led to my appointment of her to the Reaching Higher Task Force on post-secondary education led by former Premier Bob Rae while I was Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“The recommendations of that task force and their implementation were widely embraced by stakeholders in the sector. She was also a very generous mentor and I never heard her complain. Instead, she was always ready to share her wealth of experience in her support for early childhood education in Jamaica.”

Elliston was a patron of the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada’s Adopt-A-School program which supports over 300 basic schools from St. Mary in the north to Clarendon in the south and Portland in the east to Hanover in the west.

“She provided a bursary for early childhood education and also supported a school in Jamaica,” added PACE president Sandra Whiting. “I hope others will follow her lead and continue to support the school. As an educator, she was someone we used as a valued resource. She will be missed.”

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