"The wrongs done to trees, wrongs of every sort, are done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, for when
the light comes, the heart of the people is always right."

John Muir



















"As the leaves on the trees
is the life of man."















"Sit by a river.
Find peace and meaning
In the rhythm of
the lifeblood of the Earth."

Author Unknown















"Trees are sanctuaries.
Whoever knows how to speak
to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts,
they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient
law of life."

Hermann Hesse














To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified...

Theodore Roosevelt















"We have for a long time being breaking little laws, and the big laws are beginning to catch up with us."

A.F. Coventry















"The river itself has no beginning or end.  In its beginning, it is not yet the River; in its end, it is no longer the River.  What we call the headwaters is only a selection from among the innumerable sources which flow together to compose it..."

T. S. Eliot














Singing and singing
For a mate
But there are no mates
to be found
The last of his kind
But he keeps on singing
I wonder if he knows
How beautiful he sings
The last song.

Mark Elsis













"It has been said that we are passing through the present into the future so quickly  that we tend to forget the past… The work of conservation will never end. Perhaps most  conservationists are men of whom the prophet Joel wrote  ‘Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions."

Dr. G. Ross Lord as quoted in
Conservation by the People (
by A.H. Richardson


















 "I went to the woods because
I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and  see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Henry David Thoreau




















"In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes;
so with present time. "

Leonardo da Vinci















The Sun shines not on us but in us. The Rivers flow not past,
But through us…

John Muir











What is the use of a house if you don't have
a decent planet to put it on?

Henry David Thoreau













"Rivers are ribbons that tie us to the spirit of the land."   
Jeff Rennicke

















When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

John Muir





















"In wildness is the preservation of the world..."

Henry David Thoreau






























A man doesn’t plant a tree
for himself.
He plants it for posterity.

Alexander Smith,
Scottish Poet

















"In nature everything is connected with one another and there is nothing
random in it."

Mikhail Prishvin






























































































































































Lois James ...

Champion of the Rouge and
Canadian Environmental Hero

 Lois James
Toronto, Ontario

Lois James was a great champion and longtime defender of the Rouge Valley - now known as the Rouge National Urban Park (2015).

Canada's largest urban park extends from Lake Ontario and Toronto's eastern boundary to the Oak Ridges Moraine and is almost 20,000 acres in size.

"Once fully established, Rouge National Urban Park will be 79.1 km2 in size, making it the largest urban park in North America."

Parks Canada

It was a great privilege not only to have known her as a friend - but also to have  nominated her for Canada's highest honour. On August 5, 2003, Lois James received the Order of Canada with the following acclamation:

"Lois James is a champion of the environment and a nemesis to those who seek to destroy it. She rallied and sustained public and political support in order to safeguard the Rouge Valley's flora and fauna, watershed and wetlands. She inspired others to become involved in preserving the delicate habitat and natural beauty that is home to many endangered and rare species of plant and animal life. For over 50 years, this mild-mannered Canadian homemaker has been protecting the planet, one corner at a time."

Office of the Governor General of Canada, 2003

Photo Credit: Dominik Kurek

Lois James and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Lois passed away peacefully in her home on April 23, 2019 next to the place she loved most - Rouge National Urban Park. At 95 years of age, she had given all she could - and took nothing in return.

Lois was actively involved in the preservation of  the only viable wilderness watershed remaining in the Toronto Area.  Her tireless efforts for half a century have helped perpetuate the urban wilderness experience for millions of people for generations to come.

In 1988, the public agency that should have been fighting for protection of the Rouge Valley (The Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority), took the position that the plan to preserve a large tract of tableland beside the Rouge River Valley was “not technically necessary, practical or affordable as an environmental protection measure.”

The characteristic response of Lois James, Co-Founder of Save the Rouge Valley System was the turning point when she said:  

“It will be up to us to make the politicians and
government agencies change their vision and widen
the greenbelt corridor beyond the flood area.”

Lois James as quoted in No need seen to conserve it all
Toronto Star  July 19, 1988, E2 - Sterling Taylor

* * *

There were many volunteers - but no one else worked as hard to save the Rouge Valley. In 1995, Rouge Park was created and then transferred to Parks Canada (2017) becoming Canada's first national and largest urban park.

With a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work over many years, Lois wrote extensively, lobbied all levels of government and educated the politicians about the environment at a time when most did not give it much thought.

Her work in the environment, community planning, waste reduction, pollution, foodland, soil and water conservation, transportation and other environmental issues showed great breadth of view that were years ahead of her time.

A celebration of the life of Lois James was held on June 10, 2019 at Heritage United Church where her beautiful voice once heard in the church choir is still remembered.

Lois_James copy.JPG (67490 bytes)

Lois James - Making a Difference
The Globe and Mail – December 21, 1999

* * *


Lois James was born October 11, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was the second daughter of Owen and Mildred Fowler and of British and Welsh ancestry.

Her father was a chiropodist and keenly interested in politics as a political delegate. He loved the great outdoors, or as Lois described "Papa’s love of wilderness and country."  Her Grandfather was a congregational Minister.

During World War II, she enlisted with the U.S. Navy as an Aerologist (1944-1945) and was placed at Lakehurst, New Jersey in the singing platoon (bootcamp). She was then sent to the torpedo bomber base at Opaloca, Florida for further training in aerology, flight plans and weather maps.


Lois James graduated from Alma College, Michigan in 1944 with Honours - Bachelor of Arts degree including three majors in Music, Biology and French.

Under the G.I. Bill, Lois James received her Master’s Degree (1948) in Music at Wayne State University, Michigan. While studying at this university, she fell in love with Robert James who would become her lifelong partner and husband.

Lois Fowler and Robert (Bob) James were married on September 3, 1948.  For over half a century, Bob would be her "rock and support" who according to Lois, provided her "a car, food, shelter, encouragement and ideas" for her many causes. They would later adopt four children, Katherine, John, Delores and Michael.

Professor Robert James
(1924 - 2000)

In 1949, Lois James joined the United Nations Globe of Citizens and it provided the foundation of what was to come - the right vocabulary and understanding of citizenship, the world, and the role of citizens in all levels of government.

Lois James worked as a Research Assistant for various Professors at the University of Oregon where her husband was studying (Bob James graduated in 1950 with a PhD in Sociology under a Carnegie Fellowship). It was here Lois was introduced to his fields, namely Sociology, Economics and History and found "she had a mind that seemed to go for science and research."

In 1950, Lois James and her family moved to Reno Nevada, where she became very interested in the democratic process, women’s rights, and non-partisan issues at all levels (international, national and local).

From 1951 to 1956, Lois James joined the League of Women Voters which was her initial foray into the world of public activism - "That was my crash education really" she said. The League was given a grant to fill in all chapters of the west.

Lois also entertained Eleanor Roosevelt at the University of Nevada, who she described as "a great lady – a pioneer with the United Nations in her work for human rights."

Move to Canada

Lois James moved to the Rouge Valley area in Toronto with her family in 1965 and recalled: "God put Bob and I here accidentally. We didn’t know where we were, or why we were here… but we soon found it." 

Several years earlier, the James family had first moved to Alberta in 1956, prompted by a rise of "McCarthyism" in United States:

"The rise of McCarthyism in the 1950’s prompted
the move to Canada…  People were asking people
to sign their loyalty everywhere, and for
social scientists this was not tolerable..."

Robert James, 75 fought for the Rouge
Sociology Pioneer set up university departments
The Toronto Star, March 15, 2000 

Robert James accepted a post with The University of Alberta - where Lois provided a great deal of help and support as he established the field of sociology in Canada. Considered "ahead of his time", he was also the first professor of Sociology at the University of Alberta and at the University of Toronto (Scarborough).

Her natural talent and great love of music was recognized from the time she was 4-1/2 years of age.  (See Education above - Major and Master Degrees in Music).

In Edmonton, Lois James worked as a music teacher (choir and vocal) from 1956 to 1964. In 1958, she sang with Robert Shaw in the Brahm’s Requiem in San Diego and opera in Edmonton. In Toronto, Lois sang with the Mendelsson Choir and joined its European tour in the early 1970’s. She also sang with the Orpheus Choir. Her beautiful voice was also often heard in the United Church near her home.  She also published an Outreach Newsletter for the United Church on international and social issues.

The James family would soon move to Meadowvale Road by the Rouge Valley in Toronto where Lois and Bob would live for the rest of their lives. 

By the time Rouge Park was created in 1995, Lois James was regarded as the Mother of Rouge Park.

"When Lois James settled in Scarborough in the mid-1960s, the Detroit native had never heard of the park that surrounded her family's new home. Today, almost four decades later, the 79-year-old dynamo is credited as being the Mother of Rouge Park, which many say would never have come into existence had it not been for her efforts to preserve the local watershed."

Susan O'Neill, The Mother of Rouge Park
Metroland Media Toronto,
September 14, 2003

* * *

Once moved to their new home in 1965, Lois and her family had hoped to live a quiet life in a rural setting - but the timing of their arrival turned out to be amidst some of the region's top environmental controversies.

"They hoped to live a quiet life in what was then farm country, but almost immediately, the area became ground zero of some of the region’s top environmental controversies."

Making a Difference – Activist ‘couldn’t avoid’ role in
 defence of Rouge honoured for her 30-year fight against
 the valley’s development… The Globe and Mail
by Wallace Immen– December 21, 1999

* * *

Given her background, Lois James was well suited for the path she would follow:

"I was trained to keep my eye on government…
I grew up in the United States and was trained as
a citizen in the League of Women Voters which operates at
a local, state and municipal level. When I moved to Canada,
there was no league, no movement of that nature."

Lois James as quoted in Rebels with a cause – Council Watchdogs
keep a close eye on local governments across the GTA

The Toronto Star – August 1, 1996 – NY1 by Tracy Hanes

* * *

Her campaigns over the next four decades in the environment would be many. Even though she never intended to be an activist, she showed perseverance and selfless voluntarism.

"I never intended to be an activist. I couldn’t avoid it.
Especially since I lived in the middle of it."

Lois James - Making a Difference
 The Globe and Mail – December 21, 1999

* * *

For over 30 years, Lois James and her groups would be shunned while plans were developed for highways, subdivisions and a garbage dump in the last untouched greenspace in the Toronto area.

"We’re the last river system in the Metro area that isn’t a sewer.
It isn’t the amount of development but the fallout from it
that will lead to the degradation of the park."

Lois James quoted in Stay out of the Rouge,
developer tells Crombie,
The Toronto Star
September 14, 1989 – E2 by Daniel Girard

* * *

The garbage crisis had always been a serious issue for Lois James. In the 1960’s, she joined Pollution Probe and started questioning the throwaway society in a time when it was unpopular, because few could see the need.


Los James by the Rouge River

In the early 1970’s, Lois James saw the need to put together an advocacy group to protect the Rouge Valley saying: "We can’t keep getting killed like this one community at a time. We need a watershed association."

A full-time group was formed in 1975 named Save the Rouge Valley System Inc. (SRVS) with a mandate "to preserve and enhance the Rouge watershed". Lois and Robert James were two of the founders but Lois was the inspiration behind SRVS.  They united a lot of good people (3,000 members) to preserve and enhance the Rouge watershed - one of those people was Fran Sainsbury who later became the Mayor of Whitchurch/Stouffville.

Garbage Dump (s)

A big campaign to save the Rouge was triggered in 1967 when Lois and her husband saw a dump (Beare Road) built in a gravel pit next to the Rouge River . She helped organize protests against the plan to dump garbage at the edge of the Rouge Valley. The dump was finally closed around 1984 and was replaced by a methane plant generating electricity.

Another fight came with the dumping of radioactive soil at the Reesor Rd. dump and gravel pit in the 1970’s. Lois and her community helped to raise $100,000 (a huge amount in those days) to hire David Estrin as Legal Counsel (co-author of Ontario Environmental Law book entitled "Environment on Trial"). This trial resulted in the longest court case at the time by a coalition of groups. The radioactive soil was never brought to the site.

During the garbage crisis in 1989, Lois raised the specter on Rouge Valley lands being considered and studied for a garbage dump site:

"To save these lands, Scarborough must set the highest standards
for garbage reduction among its own people.  Society must receive
a clear message from its elected leaders in keeping with the changes
required for reduction of garbage… We are all in this garbage crisis
together… I, for my part, do not want to be ashamed of my city’s 
leadership falling behind in doing all that must be done toward
reduction… We have allotted extra money to garbage collection, but
let us not use it for unsorted waste. Let’s use it for setting up
composting sites for residents… for educational materials on
how to reduce waste. Let us give a clear indication
we know what this garbage crisis is all about."

Lois James as quoted in Councillors shunned recycling program  Toronto Star – April 4, 1989, E4

* * *

Shortly thereafter, the proposal for a new garbage dump in the Rouge area was scrapped.

When Scarborough’s Social Planning Council held a panel in November of 1989 to discuss ways to reduce garbage in Metro before it reached a crisis point, speakers included representatives from the Ministry of Environment, Scarborough Works Dept., Solid Waste Environmental Assessment Plan and Lois James as Secretary of the City’s Social Planning Council who said:

"People must change their habits to conserve in order to control
the trash crisis… The first and last line of defense in the war
against garbage is reduction."

Lois James as quoted in Social planning council seeks garbage solution
The Toronto Star – November 23, 1989 – E9 by Lisa Wright

* * *

In the summer of 1988, nearly a thousand people filed into the Scarborough City Hall to ensure council’s unanimous vote to zone 5,100 acres of Rouge land for natural and rural uses only. The concept of a natural heritage park started to snowball after this victory.

Toronto Zoo

Soon after, Lois James began challenging the loss of good farmland by the Rouge Valley for a big new zoo. With development of the Toronto Zoo, the contour of the entire landscape was changed as many trees were cut down and heritage homes destroyed.

"The citizen protestors won some environmental concessions
to safeguard the Rouge River, which ran through the site. But
 the zoo eventually went ahead bringing the traffic with it."

Making a Difference – Activist ‘couldn’t avoid’ role
in defence of Rouge honoured for her 30-year fight
against the valley’s development… Wallace Immen,
Globe and Mail, December 21, 1999

* * *

Hydro Line

When Ontario Hydro proposed its power line to be strung across the Rouge River Valley in 1989 to serve Metro Zoo, Lois James called it:

"A callous disregard of the environment – a three-wire line on heavy poles… a blight on the Rouge Valley. It’s absolutely obscene and
we want something done about it."

Lois James as quoted in Hydro Line called "obscene"
The Toronto Star – January 17, 1989, E2 by Stan Josey

* * *

Pickering Airport

An even bigger challenge came in 1972 when the Federal Government began expropriating massive amounts of land for the proposed Pickering Airport located by the Rouge Valley. Lois James recalls the time as one that "nearly killed the community."

Some of the expropriated land was near the James’s house. The Province gave the James the choice to sell immediately, or to hang on with an uncertain future.

Lois James did not want to see another Mirabel… "Imagine what it would have been like with an airport here. It would have been a mess." She chose to fight the proposed airport and became an officer of the citizen group "People or Planes".

In 1975, the airport plan was shelved. (In 2001, the federal government announced its intention of giving much of the expropriated land to Rouge Park).

Loss of Farmland

What would soon follow was no better. Suburban developments and industrial areas were beginning "to take the guts right out of the best farmland" recalled Lois.

The alumni of "People or Planes" formed the "Green Door Alliance" to try save disappearing farmland in the Greater Toronto area.

Highway 407

With the threat of yet another major highway across the park, Lois James was instrumental in the  establishment of the "407 Action Group" to try and stop an extension of Highway 407 across the Rouge Valley:

"Roads are so macho; they do more damage
than almost anything".

Lois James - Making a Difference – Activist ‘couldn’t avoid’ role in defence of Rouge honoured for her 30-year fight..."
Globe and Mail – December 21, 1999 by Wallace Immen

* * *

Lois James was vocal at countless federal, provincial, municipal, planning and other meetings. She was a lead council watchdog at the municipal level. It was a thankless job with countless unpaid hours making presentations, slogging through council minutes and consultant’s reports.

In her fight for the Rouge, Lois and her group began to lean heavily on the Ministry of Environment and The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority when she discovered nobody was in charge.

"It was like a swinging door going in and out of that
Ministry of Environment office, every environment
minister had to learn his job. They knew nothing."

Lois James as quoted in The Band of Rebels who saved the Rouge
The Toronto Star – March 3l, 1990 –  by Lisa Wright

* * *

In 1988, the public agency that should have been fighting for protection of the Rouge Valley (The Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority), took the position that the plan to preserve a large tract of tableland beside the Rouge River Valley was "not technically necessary, practical or affordable as an environmental protection measure." 

The characteristic response of Lois James, Co-Founder of Save the Rouge Valley System was:

"It will be up to us to make the politicians and government
agencies (such as the Authority) change their vision and
widen the greenbelt corridor beyond the flood area."

Lois James as quoted in No need seen to conserve it all
Toronto Star - July 19, 1988, E2 - Sterling Taylor

* * *

When Lois James ran for the Green Party of the riding of Scarborough-Rouge River in 1988, she was considered to be the "emotional choice" in her riding:

"James was fighting to preserve the Rouge Valley…
when most Metro residents thought
Rouge was women’s face coloring."

Will city swing next Monday?
The Toronto Star – November 15, 1988, E1 by Stan Josey

* * *

Raymond Cho (NDP) and Derek Lee (Liberal) who were then her running opponents, would later become her staunch supporters in her cause to preserve the Rouge Valley.

In the fall of 1988, the Rouge Valley appeared to be saved when Ottawa offered the provincial government $10 million to help create the park. Queen’s Park dragged its feet but Scarborough Councillor Ron Moeser recognized:

"Anybody who’s walked there has seen this is a unique area… the Rouge area could be as important to Toronto as Central Park is to New York, or Hyde Park is to London."

Stay out of the Rouge, developer tells Crombie
The Toronto Star – September 14, 1989
by Daniel Girard

* * *

In September, 1989, the report of Commissioner David Crombie recommended the Rouge Wilderness area be protected as a natural heritage park and attacked the province’s plan to build an eight-lane expressway and garbage dump.

Prominent developers in Toronto like Joe Lebovic noted Crombie’s report and publicly responded Crombie "should mind his own business."  

Lois James was emphatic in her response:

"Development of a garbage dump, an expressway and housing would destroy the entire area, which is home to white-tailed deer, bald eagles, red foxes and rare plant species… we’re the last river system in the Metro area that isn’t a sewer. It isn’t the amount of  development but the fallout from it that will lead to the degradation of the park."

Lois James as quoted in Stay out of the Rouge, developer tells Crombie
The Toronto Star – September 14, 1989 – E2 by Daniel Girard

* * *

However, the Developer (Lebovic) was "bloody unhappy" with the proposal to create Rouge Park because it would interfere with his plans for executive housing in the Rouge Valley. He threatened to erect a huge sign along Highway 401 (Canada’s busiest highway) with bold letter words which said:

"If it wasn’t for the white tail deer,
you would be home by now."

Celebrating Rouge Park Nature preserve backers
pleased land set aside, The Toronto Star,
August 1, 1996 by Stan Josey

* * *

(Fortunately, Lebovic never carried through on his threat and eventually his land in the Rouge area was bought by the government.)

In January of 1990, a 250 unit condominium development was approved by Scarborough City Council at the entrance to the Rouge Valley along Twyn Rivers Dr. (formerly known as the "Glen Eagles" site). It was the first highrise development in an environmentally sensitive area which Lois and her group (SVRS) tried to get set aside:

"This is one of a long list of degrading developments on
the edge of the Rouge. We’ve never been able to save
 a piece of that rim no matter how spectacular it was."

Lois James quoted in Scarborough approves
Rouge Valley building -
Globe and Mail
January 16, 1990, A17 by Larry Till

* * *

Several years later, with pressure from Lois, her group, politicians and the public, this important parcel of land with a panoramic view over the Rouge Valley was saved for future generations with funds received ($6 Million) from all levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal. Today, this important site is part of Rouge Park.

In February 1990, The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority adopted the Rouge River Watershed Master Plan. For the first time, recognition was given by the Authority to protection of the Rouge Valley on a watershed basis, rather than piecemeal basis, and to expand enforcement programs to ensure developers complied with regulations.

"It’s a start. (The Plan) purports to have policies and  technical standards and it is on a broad watershed basis.
Up to now, it has been just piecemeal fashion…
speedy action on the plan is needed to protect the area,
 now under growing pressure from developers."

Lois James as quoted in Authority okays plan to protect the Rouge
The Toronto Star – February 24, 1990, A4 by Bruce DeMara

* * *

Golf Course

A month later, another threat north of the Zoo followed as Rouge tableland areas were considered as the site for another public golf course. Lois James as spokesperson for SRVS was emphatic in the need for environmental protection of the Rouge stating "the Group does not want a Golf Course"  (Golf Rouge Tablelands eyed as site for another public course - The Globe and Mail – March 28, 1990 – Lorne Rubenstein). The golf course proposal never proceeded.

Through many obstacles over years of being ignored, booed at public meetings, etc., the vision of Lois James and Save the Rouge Valley System (SRVS) was simple and it was consistent:

"Future generations must be able to walk in a centuries-old forest, catch a glimpse of white-tailed deer and swim in an unpolluted river within Canada’s most populous region."

Lois James as quoted in The Band of Rebels who saved the Rouge
The Toronto Star – March 31, 1990 – D5 by Lisa Wright

* * *

Steeles Ave. Extension

The fight was far from over. Demands for environmental safeguards grew as work was about to commence along Steeles Ave. E. across Rouge Park - especially a guarantee that the increased traffic to the area would not damage the sensitive ecological balance of Canada’s largest urban park.

"Area resident Lois James wants the corridor declared 
a scenic heritage park road. That would ensure the section of
Steeles would follow the contours of the land and not be just
another arrow-straight highway…  It might not prevent the
pollution, but it might instill a consciousness of the environment
in the minds of motorists who travel the corridor regularly."

Rouge Park supporters seeking road safeguards
Toronto Star – July 30, 1995 – SC1 by Sterling Taylor

* * *

With the destruction of mature maples for widening the road along Steeles Ave. in September of 1995, there was heightened concerns for the ecological future of Rouge Park:

"It doesn’t give us much confidence" says environmentalist Lois James, whose devotion to preserving the wilderness sanctuary was a driving force behind the creation of Canada’s largest urban Park… Now we’re more afraid for the future of the park than ever."

Felling of maples raises concerns for Rouge Park
future as trees cut down to widen road
Toronto Star – September 8, 1995 – Sterling Taylor

* * *

The "band of rebels" (SRVS) would live up to its name - the writing on the wall was starting to be read.

"In the ‘70’s, people would make fun of you for your ideas. It was a terribly painful time… We lost a lot of battles in the first 10 years because the level of public awareness and political understanding just wasn’t there…for instance, many ponds in the Rouge were destroyed over that decade (with) industrial and residential development… much of the wildlife habitat disappeared. The writing was on the wall."

Lois James as quoted in The Band of Rebels who saved the Rouge
The Toronto Star – March 31, 1990 – D5 by Lisa Wright

* * *

Creation of Rouge Park (1995)

Finally in March, 1990 as a result of the public pressure generated by the SRVS group to keep developers out of the last wilderness area in Toronto, Premier David Peterson (Liberal) promised to save 10,500 acres of the Rouge River Valley as Canada’s biggest urban park.

Rouge Park was officially opened on April 5, 1995 under the former Premier Bob Rae (NDP Government) who called the newly opened park:

"A symbol for the future...
a place where nature takes priority…

For the first time in Ontario, governments, agencies, groups,
the local community and volunteers have come together
to protect and rehabilitate a valuable natural resource."

New Rouge Park hailed as "Symbol for the Future
The Toronto Star, April 6, 1995, A6 by Sterling Taylor

* * *

For decades, Lois James had persistently kept a vigilant eye on the local governments and unhesitantly did battle whenever there was an issue that needed challenging - but never in a confrontational manner. Lois always stressed the "educational approach".

"The first mistake was to think someone was in charge…
We expected government to be aware, but after a few months
we realized it isn’t and that the job was ours to do.
The thing that makes you irritable is that the government
has the resources and volunteer groups have nothing."

Lois James as quoted in Making a Difference
 Active Magazine, Spring/Summer, 1994 p.33

She has attended countless meetings at Metropolitan Toronto and City Councils to alert her interested groups to developments in urban politics, observe the effects of adopted policies, and comment on the decision-making process.

"She’s kept a watchful eye on environmental and social planning issues… and calls her tangles with governments ‘a great adventure’."

Rebels with a cause – Council Watchdogs keep a close eye on local governments across the GTA
Toronto Star – August 1, 1996 – Tracy Hanes

Lois James has assisted dozens of groups in setting up own community and environmental groups. She recognized long ago the smaller groups that join networks and alliances, allowed the small group to gain the support of the larger ones. (SRVS for example was a member of several groups, including the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Canadian Environmental Network etc.)

One of the greatest assets of Lois James is the strength and "inspiring faith" she has given to others. She has amassed a large constituency of like minded people devoted to her aims. She has been a mentor and a role model to numerous environmentalists.

"For nearly three decades, her candid views and unstinting approach have been  powerful weapons in her battle to preserve the Rouge River  watershed… she has seen a lot of volunteers come and go, but James… is as committed as ever."

Making a Difference – Lois James
Active Magazine, Spring/Summer, 1994 p.33

With a view to the "big picture", James took strong positions on major issues affecting the community, environment and Rouge Park and her achievements were achieved not by fighting City Hall, but by working with the system. She never got derailed with minor details.

People like Lois James "came not to bury City Hall, but to appraise it," to paraphrase a former president of the Association of Women Electors. With her sheer force of personality, she was considered "an institution" at Scarborough and Metro Councils.

"She (James) is an institution at Scarborough and Metro Councils, a member of numerous coalitions who is known for her articulate presentations and her makeshift "briefcases" – the plastic shopping bags she uses to carry her papers."

Rebels with a cause – Council Watchdogs keep a close eye
on local governments across the GTA The Toronto Star
 August 1, 1996 – NY1 by Tracy Hanes

Earth Day

Lois James was the organizer of Canada’s second Earth Day Celebrations in Scarborough (1991) and continued to help out in varying capacities at its annual events. (Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 by Americans but would not arrive in Canada until 1990 when it went global).

Earth Day celebrations promote the need for environmental awareness and the dangers that threaten it - through ecology walks, plays, as well as a series of other activities across Toronto.

"The goal of Earth Day Canada is to develop programs to enable people across the country to reduce their personal environmental impact… We are building a grassroots network across the country that can provide individuals with the kinds of help they require to reduce their impact without radically altering their lifestyles."

Lois James - Take a hike, plant trees on Earth Day
Toronto Star – April 11, 1991 – Phinjo Gombu

* * *

Earth Day on April 22 each year was an important day to Lois. She passed away the day after Earth Day, 2019.

Groups & Organizations

With her priorities on the environment, in human welfare and citizen participation in community planning, Lois James had been committed to numerous organizations:

Association of Women Electors (AWE)
Cedar Grove Community Club
Coalition to preserve Foodland in Southern Ontario
Conservation Council of Ontario
Earth Week Scarborough
Federation of Ontario Naturalists
Green Door Alliance
Green Party of Ontario
Hillside Community Association
It’s not Garbage
Metropolitan Toronto Transportation Plan Review Group
Ontario Committee for World Food Day
People or Planes (POP)

Pollution Probe

Ride For The Rouge Rouge Park Advisory Committee
Rouge Park Alliance
Rouge Valley Foundation
Save the Rouge Valley System
Scarborough Citizen’s Task Force on the Zoo
Scarborough Environment Alliance
Scarborough Environmental Committee
Scarborough Pollution Probe
Social Planning Council of Scarborough
Toronto Field Naturalists
Toronto Pedestrian Committee
United Church
United Nations Citizen Member
United Nations Association, Toronto Branch
United Way East
University Women’s Club
Waste not Wanted
407 Action Group

Lois James was also a founding member of the Rouge Valley Foundation, Save the Rouge Valley System and the Scarborough Environment Alliance.

Other Recognition

In 1995, Lois James was recognized with the Global Citizen’s Challenge Award by the United Nations.

Politicians from all levels of government have recognized the work of Lois James including Joyce Trimmer, the former Mayor of Scarborough, in 1996 who said:

"A lot of naysayers said it couldn’t be done, Trimmer recalled as residents gathered last week to celebrate the creation of the giant Rouge Park… Dedicated volunteers like Lois James helped form the Save the Rouge Valley Group… just coming off the successful fight to block a proposed new international airport in Pickering in the mid 1970’s."

Celebrating Rouge Park Nature preserve backers pleased land set aside
The Toronto Star – August 1, 1996 - OS1 by Stan Josey

* * *

Lois James (left) and Joyce Trimmer,
former Mayor of Scarborough

* * *

The dedication of Lois James to environmental protection was recognized in 1999 when she was awarded the Rouge Park Award for outstanding contribution, dedication and extraordinary achievements. On the occasion of the award presentation:

"This award is presented to those who have contributed to protecting, restoring and enhancing the Rouge Park, and you are an exemplary example of such an individual. Your tenacity and vision since the early 1970’s has been a driving force  behind the establishment and growth of the Rouge Park."

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
letter dated November 17, 1999

On June 15, 2001, Lois James was honoured with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award by the Rotary Club of North Scarborough even though she was not a Rotarian member. (The last non-Rotarian to be given this honour at the time was the highly esteemed former Mayor Frank Faubert (dec'd.)

The respect Lois James commanded among the politicians she so carefully scrutinized was testament to the effectiveness of her candid diplomatic approach and non-partisan philosophy. 

Highlights of what public officials from all levels of government have written  in support of her Nomination for the Order of Canada (2003) include the following (names of contributors shown below):

"Lois James has never given up her dream of sustainable development in Pickering that respects the natural beauty of its natural world; particularly in the sensitive Rouge River Valley. Her devotion and dedication to ecology and the environment in this area goes back a half-century and is unmatched." 

"She was articulate and passionate in her advocacy for the (Rouge Park) project and doubtless caused many to pause and begin to believe that just maybe this could be accomplished, even if unprecedented in size and scope… Lois was not alone in this endeavour, but she was distinguished by her persistence, her subscription to rational ecological principles and her own personal way of presenting a challenge from which there was no escape. There is a recognition here that our progress in dealing responsibly with urban development, protecting green space and educating our community would not have advanced so well and so far without two decades of dedicated commitment from Lois James."

"I have always been impressed with her tireless commitment to the preservation of our natural heritage. Through her work with Save the Rouge Valley System and a myriad of other environmental action groups… she has worked, tirelessly, to educate decision makers and the general population of the need to protect our dwindling supply of natural resources, particularly in the greater Toronto area".

"I have been privileged to work with and observe Lois in many activities for over thirty years and have been inspired by her competence, capacity, enthusiasm and sensitivity and I feel that her work, particularly on behalf of the environment, has had province wide implications."

"Lois James is a woman of vision, a great orator, a writer, a founding member of Save the Rouge Valley, a teacher, a defender and tireless advocate for the preservation of the environment in a great variety of ways, and an inspiration to all Canadians."

"Her enthusiasm and passion for the environment have swayed governments, inspired other volunteers and most importantly, have resulted in real and intangible protective action. Lois James is someone who truly epitomizes the Order’s motto of a desire for a better country."

"I don’t think there is anyone who is more committed to environmental protection… I along with many others have learned by examples set out by Ms. James, as to how everyone can become more involved in protecting our environment, both for our generation and those that follow us."

"In an age where an engaged citizenship is too frequently the only defense against the constant erosion of our natural areas, Lois stands tall as an example of environmental citizenship in Canada… Lois James is an ordinary citizen who challenges us to achieve the extraordinary."

"Lois has left an imprint upon the environmental community that will never be erased. Arousing a deep understanding of the conservation ethic... she has steadfastly conveyed the need to preserve the beauty and the value of our natural and cultural heritage, for our time and for the generations to come. As a dedicated community volunteer, her indefatigable, selfless efforts have attained the quality of folklore…"

2002/2003 letters of support from:

Derek Lee, M.P. Scarborough East
Dan McTeague, M.P. Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge
Steve Gilchrist, M.P.P. Scarborough East
Gerry Phillips, M.P.P. Scarborough-Agincourt

Raymond Cho, Councillor, Scarborough-Rouge River
Bas Balkissoon, Councillor, Scarborough-Rouge River
Ron Moeser, City Councillor, Scarborough East
  Chris Winter, President Conservation Council of Ontario
Murray Johnston, President of the Rouge Valley Foundation

R.D.H.P. Conservation Report 1956
   (Rouge, Duffin, Highland, Petticoat)

The R.D.H.P. Conservation Authority (Rouge, Duffin, Highland and Petticoat) was established on April 1, 1954 under Dr. A.H. Richardson.

Following the Ganaraska report by over a decade, the massive R.D.H.P. Conservation Report  (published 1956 by the R.D.H.P. Conservation Authority) was one of the most significant studies ever published to protect the Rouge  Valley and adjacent watersheds.

A.H. Richardson was author of the Ganaraska Watershed Report (1944) and the the R.D.H.P. Conservation Report (1956).  In 1957, he was appointed the first Chairman  of The Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

The R.D.H.P. Conservation Report planted the first seeds in the Rouge Valley as a large-scale natural park and wilderness area

“This conservation area (Rouge) offers the best possibility of any of the valley lands immediately adjacent to Metropolitan Toronto for the development of a large-scale wilderness parkland and nature preserve (and) may well provide the last opportunity for the residents of the Toronto Region to acquire a stretch of fine forestland…”

R.D.H.P. Conservation Report (1956) - Ontario Department of Planning and Development, Conservation Branch headed by A. H. Richardson - Chief Conservation Engineer

* * *

The R.D.H.P. conservation authority (now known as the Toronto Region Conservation Authority) set aside the first lands for public ownership.

 “From TRCA's perspective, the Rouge Park began with the formation of the Rouge, Duffin, Highland and Petticoat (RDHP) Conservation Authority on April 1, 1954, in Markham. In the conservation report undertaken by the Department of Lands and Forests in 1956, on behalf of the Province of Ontario, to direct the early work of the conservation authority, a number of significant land parcels and heritage features were identified for public acquisition throughout the Rouge watershed.”  

Toronto Region Conservation Authority Meeting #6/09
 July 24, 2009, Resolution #A112/09

 * * *

According to Lois James, the conservation report was a wonderful thing because "there was no other model to follow" and it provided a direction for her citizens group.

In 1995, one of the largest urban wilderness parks in the world named Rouge Park was created.

By May, 2012, Rouge Park was officially known as the as Rouge National Urban Park – the first national urban park in Canada.

Today, the largest protected and connected greenspace system in an urban environment is found in Southern Ontario - Ganaraska Forest (1947), Rouge Park (2005), Ontario's Greenbelt (2005), etc. - an unsurpassed conservation achievement.

A Fitting Memorial

Lois James deserves a memorial especially meaningful -  no one did more to save the Rouge Valley.  Without Lois, Rouge Park would probably not exist today.

In the Ganaraska region, a very fitting memorial with a panoramic view is found in honour of A. H. Richardson (d. 1971) from Toronto - named Richardson's Lookout.

Richardson's Lookout north of Port Hope -
(Entrance from Ganaraska Rd.. west of Garden Hill)

Comparatively, a simple park bench (s) in Rouge Park is not seen as a fitting tribute to Lois James - or permanent. Park benches are nice as an accessory but an inferior memorial to someone who has given 50 years of her life to preserving the Rouge Valley.

It is also not appropriate that a scenic view named after Lois James is proposed atop a former garbage dump - even if she helped close it. Her legacy is much greater – as one of the greatest Toronto environmentalists of her time.

“James fought the City of Toronto's Beare Road Landfill,
which operated next to what is now the park until 1983...
Friends of the Rouge Watershed now proposes naming
the view from atop the hill after James as a tribute.”

Lois James, Scarborough's 'mother' of the Rouge Watershed,
dies at 95 Order of Canada winner
Mike Adler, Toronto Star, April 25 2019

* * *

The former Beare Road Landfill site (1967-1983) operated by Metropolitan Toronto for 16 years (now known as the Beare Hill Park) is NOT part of Rouge National Park which Lois worked to preserve. The tribute proposed is even more troublesome if one looks to see what's really under the green cover over 80 acres.

Toronto Star File Photo

View atop  man-made Beare Landfill mound
 (now Beare Hill Park) - est. 9 MILLION TONNES garbage


By 1977, the landfill was operating for 10 years and took enough garbage to fill an area of a football field to the depth of three times the height of the CN tower.

When the site closed in September, 1982,  there was over 9 million tonnes of garbage placed in a 60 metre hill.  After the landfill had been allowed to settle a cap of clay around 1.5 metres thick was installed over the top to seal and vegetation has taken over.    

During the 1990’s, a private company installed a series of gas wells and pipes throughout the site to collect the methane gas being produced by the rotting garbage to this day.

 In 1998, the Friends of the Rouge Watershed was formed and began a partnership with with the City of Toronto to restore the scarred earth west of the railway tracks. Trees were planted with limited success.

Lois James made a huge difference.

The naming of an outstanding natural feature within the park, not outside it, like a scenic lookout or walking trail would be more appropriate.

If she is to be remembered, it should be by something that is as natural and lasting as the park she helped to create. 

 Her greatest asset has been her way of giving strength to others devoted to similar causes, of which there were many.

The selfless volunteerism, dedication and vision of Lois over many years has had enormous impact on matters of the environment and the community.

In her diplomatic way, she has educated politicians from all levels of government on the importance of a healthy environment.

Beginning with her work in 1949 as a citizen member with the United Nations, and throughout her life, she has demonstrated perseverance, strength and stamina, while living simply and humbly.

"What you leave your children and grandchildren
is the result of your dedication. It’s going to take
your life, nothing less. I don’t know any shortcuts."

Making a Difference – Lois James
Active Magazine, Spring/Summer, 1994 p.33

At 89 years of age when this page was first written, Lois  remained active with various community organizations and maintains the optimism necessary to inspire others for societal and environmental change.

She continued to "walk the talk of the long term vision" giving all any one person can possibly give to the environment, to the community, and especially, to young people as an inspiration, who frequently lean on her for advice and support.

Rouge National Urban Park should not forget Lois James - nor should we.  She deserves more than a park bench, or a view from the top of a closed garbage dump. We can do better.

 May she rest in peace.

Photo credit: Scarborough Mirror

Lois James remembered
1923 - 2019

"For as long as I can remember, my mother has been a Don Quixote figure, tilting at the windmills of unrestrained urban sprawl in defense of the environment… fortunately for all of us, she has been much more successful than old Don… I believe that my Mom’s genius is her ability to hold what are usually two polar positions, the idealism of youth and the practical exercise of real politic at the same time, without an ounce of logical incongruity."

Michael James, 1999


Published by: Marian Martin
from Richardson's Lookout area, Ganaraska

(rev. June, 2019)




"I thinks she's one of those lightning rods that comes every now and then to a community and does so much, selflessly too," said Murray Johnston, president of the Rouge Valley Foundation."

Susan O'Neill, 
The Mother of Rouge Park

Metroland Media Toronto,
September 14, 2003
















"We are not finished  fighting.  No way."

Lois James, 2003













"And so the battle for the Rouge — and its lands — rages on. But no matter the outcome, Robb says the Rouge conservation movement is forever indebted to James. “Lois became an amazing mentor to me, but it wasn’t just me, there’s literally hundreds of people...”

Jim Robb,
General Manager,
Friends of the Rouge

Activist Lois James inspires river’s protectors to keep fighting: Toronto Star
August 25 2013














“It’s just hard to come into a place that you suddenly know has to be saved and find nobody prepared to work on it."

 Lois James

Activist Lois James inspires river’s protectors to keep fighting: Toronto Star
August 25 2013













"I've never seen any one person so concerned about the environment... I hope she'll be with us another 50 years... She is to me, and to a lot of people, the mother of the Rouge Park"

Councillor Raymond Cho
(Scarborough-Rouge River)
as quoted in

 The Mother of Rouge Park, Susan O'Neill,
Metroland Media Toronto,
September 14, 2003













"There are no big victories, but day to day little ones that build to something significant."

Lois James













"When you see things that are terribly important to the world, you get active and you bring some others with you..."

Lois James, 2003














"The best volunteers find us themselves… it’s our job to be visible and o be available for someone who might say, ‘Hey, I’d like to do that."

Lois James - Making a Difference Active Magazine Spring/Summer, 1994 p.33













"We haven't just inherited the earth from our forefathers, our society continues to borrow its endowments from our children."

Lois James













"To do things that need doing, that nobody else
will do..."

Lois James












"I don’t go to all the meetings – and we do have a lot of them. But I go where I can. I always want to be there when it gets to the moment of truth".

(Lois James as quoted in Making a Difference – Lois James - Active Magazine, Spring/Summer, 1994 p.33)
















"I don’t think anyone could replace Lois James for what she does because her vision is so broad, and doesn’t limit her scope… she is involved in so many issues…."

Murray Johnston, President of the Rouge Valley Foundation, 2002

















"Lois is the one that got things going."

Richard Schoffield,
Chief Archivist of the Scarborough Historical Society













"We need the Loises of the world. We can count on her to show up at meetings and make the right points". "She was always there and the one who got things wrapped up in the community."

Sue Russell, former
Co-ordinator of Rouge Park, 2002

















"Councillors, I find, all over the world with issues can’t become an expert on any one. Citizens have to to it. It’s hard work but very rewarding. There are no big victories, but day to day  little ones that build to something significant.
You don’t win many battles, but the educational process makes it worth the fight."

Lois James  in Rebels with a cause - Council Watchdogs keep a close eye on local governments across the GTA  Toronto Star – August 1, 1996 –  Tracy Hanes









"I thinks she's one of those lightning rods that comes every now and then to a community and does so much, selflessly too... She's untiring."

Murray Johnston, President of the Rouge Valley Foundation, September 14, 2003















"Municipal politicians are propelled into front ranks
of environmental protection ill-prepared."

Lois James















"Marian Martin, who nominated James for the national honour, said James is one of the most remarkable people she's ever met. "It's my opinion that without Lois James, there wouldn't be a Rouge Park," she said. "Years ago I was in India and I met Mother Teresa," Martin said. "Lois reminds me of her. She gives and gives so much without any compensation." She added, "Lois, we can't get into sainthood, but we got her the Order of Canada."

Susan O'Neill, 
The Mother of Rouge Park

Metroland Media Toronto,
September 14, 2003




























"I have learned the compromise is not the way to protect the environment…as soon as you begin to compromise, it is degraded"…

Lois James - Making a Difference
Active Magazine, Spring/Summer, 1994

















"The fervour was for the whole planet, but we had our corner to defend."

Lois James













"She gave all
   she could."

Murray Johnston,
President of the Rouge Valley Foundation, 2003





























































Trees were important to Lois James, even one large tree:

One large tree

can lift up to 100

gallons of water out

of the ground and

discharge it into the

air in one day


One large tree

can provide a day’s

oxygen for up to

four people