Honorary doctorates for Akande from U of T, Guelph

by Ron Fanfair
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Zanana Akande

Zanana Akande, the first Black woman to be elected to the province’s legislative assembly and to serve as a cabinet minister in Ontario, received honorary degrees from the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph last month.
Akande graduated from U of T with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees.
“It is with great humility that I accept this degree from a university that has been my goal as a child, my resource as a student, my pride as an alumnus and my reference as I work and connect with various communities,” Akande said in her convocation address on June 19. “I have always taken great pride in being a Canadian and I have devoted much of my time to ensure that the rights of that privilege are available to everyone.”
The daughter of St. Lucian and Barbadian immigrant parents was a school principal before entering politics.
Akande won the St. Andrew-St. Patrick riding for the New Democratic Party in 1990 and was appointed Minister of Community & Social Services.
After serving as Bob Rae’s parliamentary secretary for two years, she quit politics, but continued to advocate for the community.
“On receiving the invitation to accept this doctorate, I reviewed my involvement and realized that, through the years, I have focused my attention on issues relevant to everyone so we could all access the benefits of our society,” said Akande who was an active member of the Federation of Women Teachers of Ontario. “Those issues are that the poor should have equal opportunities with the middle classes to excel and access education and move forward, thus changing their status and their lives.
“People of all races should have equal opportunities to grab the baton, run with it and compete with everyone. Women should swell the ranks of leadership according to their talents and their abilities and everyone should be treated with dignity and their work should be valued.”
Akande encouraged the graduates to be involved in the society they live in.
“Take a stand on issues, not only those that affect you and yours directly, buy also those that affect the learning, the inclusion, the direction and the rights of others,” she said. “Share your knowledge by discussing your point of view, not to impose, but for consideration to provoke discussion, to encourage involvement, to introduce ideas and relationships between ideas.
“Such cause and effect broaden the consideration.”
Five days earlier, the University of Guelph conferred the honour on Akande who led the creation of JobsOntario for Youth.
“Her advocacy for social justice to forge a more inclusive and equitable society has left an indelible mark on the people of Toronto, Ontario and across the country,” said Toronto Children’s Breakfast Clubs founder Rick Gosling who was the lead nominator.

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