Lillie Johnson of Scarborough and Wilma Morrison of Niagara Falls are among the latest appointments to the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest award.
Lillie Johnson, 88, trained as a health care professional in her native Jamaica and Scotland and was a public health nurse in Ontario where she has lived for the past 51 years. She arrived in Canada in 1960 to work for the Canadian Red Cross. She worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children where she studied for her Ontario Registered Nurse accreditation. She also took courses at the University of Toronto School of Nursing.
She was the first Black director of public health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Districts. In 2005 she was instrumental in having sickle cell disease included in the list of 28 genetic diseases for universal newborn screening. She also founded the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario and has dedicated most of her life as an advocate of the disease, educating patients and families, government policy makers and health practitioners about the symptoms of the hereditary disease.
Mary Anne Chambers, former provincial minister who nominated Johnson said, “Lillie was a trailblazer in her own right as a Black woman but more importantly as a nurse who applied the world wide view in her approach to her work. Ontario’s families and the field of public health are beneficiaries of Miss Johnson’s dedication, knowledge, professionalism and fearlessness”
Wilma Morrison, 82, who was born in London, Ontario is a historian/curator who co-founded the Brock/Niagara African Renaissance Group comprised of Brock University faculty staff, students and community members. The University conferred an honorary doctorate on her in June 2010. Morrison played a significant role in the rescue of the BME Nathaniel Dett Memorial Chapel, which was built in 1836. The Chapel was named for the renowned musical composer and educator who was born in Drummondville – now known as Niagara Falls. Dett played such venues as Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, Philadelphia Academy of Music and the Library of Congress. Morrison also created the Norval Johnson Heritage Library, which currently contains almost 1600 volumes related to Black History. The Library is also a research centre for educators, students and anyone interested in African-Canadian history.
A lifelong champion of Black Canadian history, Morrison also founded the Niagara Black History Association and was a founding member of Central Ontario Network for Black History.