Half of the new name of the former Queen Victoria Public School in Parkdale, respected local librarian Rita Cox says the new name is a combination that perfectly sums up what makes the neighborhood so great.
“I think it’s an apt description of that community,” Cox previously told CBC Radios Metro morningfrom the collective name for a school in the west-end neighborhood known as a cultural melting pot.
“I was honored that they considered my work and my time in the community worthy of this great tribute. I feel like I know that community, I love that community.”
Now the school, which was established in 1887, is known as Dr. Rita Cox – Kina Minogok Public School, in tribute to Cox and the black community, as well as the indigenous community.
Henry Pitawanakwat, who works as a translator for the Federal Government Translation Office, was consulted as part of the change. He told CBC News that Kina Minogok translates to “everything is growing well.”
He said the phrase stands as a metaphor for children as seeds, growing in a well-tended garden.
“If you take care of the garden and take care of your garden and put your heart into it, you will get a good harvest,” he said.
Being part of the new name is important, he said, with indigenous communities striving to revive languages pushed aside by colonialism.
“It’s a very small step, but it’s progress…our language was forcibly taken from us through residential schools. Our [grandparents and parents] were not allowed to use the language. They were punished for using the language. So it came very close to extinction,” he said.
“Our children have lost their identity, so it’s very important to bring back the language.”
Pushing back against colonialism was one of the drivers behind the name change, say members of the local Black Student Success Committee, which helped advocate a switch.
LISTENING | Rita Cox says she is honored by the name change:
Metro morning7:47From Royalty to Community Queen: Queen Victoria Public School Renamed After Local Librarian
Thoughts of trying for a change first took root in 2020, said committee co-founder and co-chair Tania Daly. At that time, a lot was happening on a global scale when it came to dismantling colonialism, she said.
This was also the same year that the Toronto District School Board apologized for not doing more to address what it said was “clearly an incident of anti-black racism” at the school.
“I thought, ‘You know what? We have to reclaim this space,'” Daly said. “We’ve been through so much, and the kids can’t be if they can’t see it. So why not consider renaming the school?” she said.
In Cox, the school is now partially named after someone with deep roots in the community. She spent 40 years as a librarian, launching literacy programs and other initiatives that promoted multiculturalism in Toronto, including the Parkdale Intercultural Association and the Parkdale Preschool Program.
Cox said she considers herself a storyteller above all else — noting that a library is about more than just books, it’s also about the community and people.
“I’m glad to be a part of that community. I still believe it’s one of the biggest communities we have in the city,” she said.