05/21/2015 12:28 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT

Toronto's Newest Public Library Should Be Named After This Man


The City of Toronto inaugurated our 100th public library in Scarborough earlier this week. I am excited and this certainly is a great milestone worth celebrating. I cannot wait to go and visit this particular library this weekend. "I have more libraries in my area than I have Tim Horton's", former City Councilor Doug Ford once reflected. I wish we did but we do not. We need more libraries in every area of our city and not less.

Toronto's Chief Librarian, Vickery Bowles said in a press release: "The (new) branch is a beautiful, open space that combines the things we've come to expect from libraries -- comfortable lounge and reading spaces, a wide variety of materials, knowledgeable staff -- with a focus on flexible and collaborative spaces, as well as access to technology for all, that that will take us well into the 21st century." That is a beautiful thing.

It is heartening knowing that there are politicians and civic leaders who still understand libraries are great public institutions. This branch will house more than 42,000 reading materials in multilingual languages, in reflection of Scarborough being one of the most diverse areas of Toronto, and will also be a digital innovation hub.

The chair of the Toronto Public Library Board, Rob Carinci said in a press release: the "vision is of a library that will be an extension of this rapidly growing community's living, working and social space."

Like many public institutions named after noted Canadians, such as the Barbara Frum Branch Public Library, I hope this library is also named after a Canadian that is still respected and adored and left a powerful legacy. I have such a name that needs to be acknowleged by naming the new library after him. His name is Daniel Grafton Hill. The name -- the Daniel Grafton Hill Branch Public Library -- would be an appropriate gesture for someone that has made such a powerful impact in his adopted city until his death in 2003.

There are very few Torontonians that have made a profound impact in our lives rather quietly than Daniel Hill. Escaping racism and unrest in the then America, he came to Canada in the 1950s to complete his PHD at the University of Toronto and never left. He would became a noted social activist, scholar and advocate for better ideals all his life. A proud Canadian citizen, he wrote the much celebrated book The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada in 1980.

The one-time professor of sociology, he was also the founding director and later chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He would also serve as Ontario's Ombudsman and advisor to government institutions on multiculturalism.

He became involved with the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, the North York Social Planning Council and the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation, all in senior roles. Recognized with the Order of Ontario and with the Order of Canada, Hill operated a noted human rights consulting firm, started the Ontario Black History Society, donated resources to countless charities, at home and abroad, and became a supporter of Canadian arts.

His children -- Lawrence and Dan Hill -- would become noted authors and artists. Lawrence would go on and write the celebrated books The Book of Negroes, Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada and his upcoming, The Illegal. Dan would record chart-topping songs such as "Sometimes When We Touch" and "Can't We Try." He would also earn a Grammy for his work with Celine Dion.

In 1991, the family donated much of their personal documents to the Archives of Ontario.

I believe, it would be wonderful, if we finally celebrate and recognize the great Daniel Grafton Hill. The naming of our newest library after him is an appropriate gesture and the right thing to do.


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