Eva Smith was a veteran organizer around issues of equity, discrimination, women and youth rights and educational access. She was instrumental in organizing workshops, seminars,conferences and parent meetings aimed at promoting the importance of parental involvement and advocacy in education, combating racism in the school system and fighting the high drop-out rate in our community.
Eva Smith worked tirelessly with African Canadian parents to facilitate their understanding of how the Canadian school system operates. She has been consistent in highlighting the beneficial impact on our community's economic, social and political development. She stressed the need for collective vigilance in the education of our children. On December 30, 1993, Toronto lost a dedicated and committed Community worker.
Eva Smith, who battled cancer for many months, has left her mark on the lives of many. Eva arrived in Canada in 1956, on a domestic contract. Previously, in her native Jamaica she worked as a Postal Clerk and then a Dental Technician which she trained for in the USA. However, in 1956, although a trained Dental Technician, it was difficult for visible minorities to come to Canada. Hence Eva saw her opportunity to migrate from Jamaica to Canada through a domestic contract. It was back then that Eva’s career, as we know it, began.
In her free time Eva volunteered at Mt Sinai hospital and at her Church. She also became involved in human rights issues, especially those concerning domestic workers. In 1958 Eva married Edward Smith, a native of Bermuda. They had two daughters, whom now have children of their own. During the years that Eva was raising her children she continued to volunteer in the community. As a matter of fact, she encouraged her children to do the same.
She believed in giving to others; this was one of the many values she taught her children. Her motto was ‘do onto others as you’d have them do to you’.
Eva was a mother who was involved in her daughters schooling. She took part in school activities and supported her children in their school endeavors. Eva saw to it that her children were exposed to experiences that would help prepare them for life. Eva was a mentor in her extended family, which she valued. She lived her life as a Christian and left her family with fond memories and values. While Eva was raising her children she worked, for the most part, on the night shift at Scarborough General Hospital. She also continued to prepare for her community service career by attending Ryerson Polytechnic Institute on a part time basis. She studied in the social services and community development areas.
Eva later worked with the Jamaican Canadian Association, North York Board Of Education, Jane Finch area, LEAP, Ujjama, Domestic Workers, and PACE, just to name a few of the many large and small, formal and informal organizations that she was affiliated with.
Eva was dedicated to helping others and empowering them to stand up for their rights. She had a special place in her heart for young people, whom she believed to be the future. In 1985,
The Eva Smith Bursary was established. Funds from this bursary are allocated each year to young people, as an encouragement to furthering their education. Another honor is Eva’s Place Youth Shelter which opened in June 1994. For many years, Eva recognized the need for a shelter for homeless youth in North York, and fortunately before her death she was able to visit the unfinished, yet standing structure of what was to be Eva’s Place. Last, but not least, Eva Smith participated in a film by the National Film Board, documenting black women and their contribution to the community.
We should all be proud of ‘Older, Stronger, and Wiser’. The physical Eva Smith has departed, but the spiritual being will live within us always. Those who knew Eva will always remember her for her patience, willingness, love and selflessness. Let us all learn from this example. Let us make the most of this life while we have the privilege.
Christine A Gonsalves, Eva Smith's daughter – December 1993
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