When you have a school named after you, it is a tangible public acknowledgement of achievement. Alvin Curling describes the eponymous public school as “quite an honour really. It’s in a beautiful area by the Rouge Valley and a beautiful modern school.” Alvin Curling Public School is just one of many recognitions, including the Order of Ontario, the long time resident of Scarborough has received after a lifetime dedicated to the people, especially the young people, of Scarborough and Canada.
Dr. Curling immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in 1967 with his English fiancée.
“Canada was a place of choice. We chose a country that was neutral, ambitious and progressive.”
Having been involved with the YMCA and Boys’ Club in Jamaica, he found a natural fit as the director of student services at Seneca College. After 14 years, politics beckoned. “I thought I’d like to do something more” he recalls. “I got into it because I got engaged with the people in Scarborough and my work with young people.” In the first campaign, in what was then the largest riding in Canada, the demographics were much different than they are today.
“When I ran, a new immigrant black from the West Indies had no chance. And yet knocking on doors, people were engaging and impressed I was involved.”
He won the riding by over 8,000 votes.
Dr. Curling served 21 years in the Ontario Legislature, twice appointed to cabinet (as Minister of Housing and Skills Development) and as Speaker of the House – the first person of colour to hold those appointments. Through it all, he maintained his focus on young people and his community.
“Scarborough was a new place and grew very fast,” he says. “I think the media did not do it justice. Some remarkable people have come out of Scarborough. We have the better part of the GTA, with the Rouge Valley, the Bluffs and the Zoo. Diversity is a rich contribution to it all. Schools and colleges are doing well. Policing has improved but more attention is needed to the health and hospital system to serve the growing needs of the community.”
Dr. Curling maintains his optimism about youth and Canada. “When I see the individuals serving on boards and commissions I see a sensitive and positive contribution,” he says.
“I have great respect for young people who want to be involved in the country they are so passionate about. They are still committed to succeed even when the challenges they have run into are quite awesome.”