New Parkdale school name celebrates beloved local librarian, Indigenous phrase

·3 min read
Order of Canada recipient and former head of the Toronto Public Library Rita Cox shares part of the new name for the former Queen Victoria Public School, which is now called Dr. Rita Cox - Kina Minogok Public School. (CBC - image credit)
Order of Canada recipient and former head of the Toronto Public Library Rita Cox shares part of the new name for the former Queen Victoria Public School, which is now called Dr. Rita Cox - Kina Minogok Public School. (CBC - image credit)

As one half of the new name of the former Queen Victoria Public School in Parkdale, revered local librarian Rita Cox says the new moniker is a combination that perfectly sums up what makes the neighbourhood so great.

"I think it's a fitting description of that community," Cox previously told CBC Radio's Metro Morning, of the joint name for a school in the west-end neighbourhood that is well known as a cultural melting pot.

"I was honoured that they considered my work and my time in the community worthy of this great tribute. I feel that I know that community, I love that community."

Now the school, which was founded in 1887, is known as Dr. Rita Cox - Kina Minogok Public School, standing as a tribute to Cox and the Black community, as well as the Indigenous community.

Henry Pitawanakwat, who works as a translator for the Translation Bureau of the federal government, was consulted as part of the change. He told CBC News that Kina Minogok translates to "all is growing well."

He said the phrase stands as a metaphor for children as seeds, growing in a well-tended garden.

"If you nurture the garden and you take care of your garden and you put your heart into it, you're going to get a good crop," he said.

Toronto District School Board
Toronto District School Board

Being part of the new name is important, he said, with Indigenous communities striving to revive languages that have been pushed to the side through 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 part of the impetus behind the name change, say members of the local Black Student Success Committee, which helped advocate for a switch.

LISTEN | Rita Cox says she is honoured by name change:

Thoughts of trying for a change first took root back in 2020, said committee co-founder and co-chair Tania Daly. At the time, lots was happening on a global scale when it came to dismantling colonialism, she said.

This was also the same year 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 need to reclaim this space,'" Daly said. "We had gone through so much, and the kids cannot be it if they cannot see it. So why not consider renaming the school?" she said.

In Cox, the school is now named in part after someone with deep roots in the community. She spent 40 years as a librarian, and launched 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 — and notes that a library is about more than just books, it's also about community and people.

"I am happy to be considered part of that community. I still believe it is one of the greatest communities we have in the city," she said.

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