School named in honour of Joyce Fairbairn

Canada’s literacy senator, Joyce Fairbairn, will have a middle school named after her in her home town of Lethbridge (New public middle school named after Senator Joyce Fairbairn). Given Senator Fairbairn’s dedication to literacy, this is certainly a wonderful tribute to her and her work.

As you may recall, Joyce first raised the issue of literacy in the Senate over 30 years ago and in 1993 became Minister with Special Responsibility for Literacy. I had the pleasure of travelling with the Senator, always dressed in red, as she made countless speeches about literacy across the country. As she would say, literacy was the cause of her life. Joyce retired from the Senate in 2013 when faced with the onset of Alzheimer’s.

The leader of the Liberals in the Senate made the following statement last week about the naming of the school and the contribution that Joyce made to literacy and to Canada. I know many of you will join me in congratulating the Lethbridge School District for honouring Joyce Fairbairn.

Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable colleagues, as we welcome new senators to this chamber, I would like to bring to your attention an honour paid to one of our former colleagues.

Last week it was announced that the newest school in Lethbridge, Alberta, would be named after our dear friend and former colleague the Honourable Joyce Fairbairn. Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School, which will serve students in Grades 6 to 8, will open its doors this fall. How incredibly fitting that is.

Anyone who knows Joyce will not be surprised by this honour. She has always been a remarkable woman, displaying unparalleled enthusiasm and commitment to her fellow Albertans and to all Canadians over nearly three decades of service in this chamber.

I am told that when she was first asked to join the Senate, she declined. Fortunately for everyone, she was later otherwise convinced.

She came to this place in 1984, and while she was here she served on 18 different committees. She was Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agricultural and Forestry and championed its comprehensive report on rural poverty in Canada. She was Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Bill C-36, which was the first anti-terrorism legislation drafted after 9/11, and I was pleased to serve with her on that particular committee. She was a founding member of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and the first woman ever to be named Leader of the Government in the Senate.

But it is literacy that we most associate with Joyce. While Leader of the Government here, she was also Minister with Special Responsibility for Literacy. In 1985 she and the Special Committee on Youth proposed a national campaign to improve the opportunity and results in literacy for young people. She started fighting on behalf of those who needed help with their literacy skills and never abated with her passion and desire to make sure that all Canadians have the necessary basic and fundamental skills to succeed and to prosper.

Though she has not been in this chamber for almost five years now, when senators in this place speak about literacy they still acknowledge the work that our Joyce did before. That is the legacy she has left us.

Joyce was always proud of her roots in Lethbridge. She is well known and well loved there, and the Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School will help ensure that her name lives on for decades to come.

About Brigid Hayes

Brigid Hayes has developed an expertise in learning that spans over 30 years as a senior government policy advisor and program manager and partnership developer; director of labour for a national business/labour skills centre and as an independent consultant. Her knowledge of and experience in workplace literacy and learning has contributed to her recognition as an expert in this field, and she has undertaken significant activities to both help promote and enhance literacy and lifelong learning. Brigid works as an independent consultant and expert advisor on learning, literacy, and work. She has successfully developed a strategic planning and policy development practice involving workplace literacy, essential skills, partnership development, research, and evaluation.
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4 Responses to School named in honour of Joyce Fairbairn

  1. Barbara Macnutt says:

    A well deserved honor for Senator Fairbairn, who tirelessly spread the value of high level literacy skills for
    the entire country. She is
    remembered fondly for coming to
    PEI , in September 1996, to join in
    the celebration of the launch of our
    first adult literacy and learning

  2. David Lewis says:

    Very well deserved!

  3. We should all take a leaf from her book and bece “fighting on behalf of those who [need] help with their literacy skills and never [abate with our] passion and desire to make sure that all Canadians have the necessary basic and fundamental skills to succeed and to prosper.” Thank you for this tribute.

  4. Christine Featherstone says:

    Wonderful way to honour the work of a great lady. I can see her, in her red suit, with a big smile on her face. So glad that you shared this news with us.

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