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."
leaves on the trees
is the life of man."
"Sit by a
Find peace and meaning
In the rhythm of
the lifeblood of the Earth."
Whoever knows how to speak
to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can
learn the truth. They do not preach learning and
they preach, undeterred by particulars,
law of life."
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...
"We have for a long time being
breaking little laws,
and the big laws are beginning to catch up with us."
"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
I wonder if he knows
How beautiful he sings
The last song.
"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
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 (1974)
by A.H. Richardson
"I went to the woods
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. "
The Sun shines not on us but
in us. The Rivers flow not past,
But through us…
What is the use of a
house if you don't have
a decent planet to put it on?
Henry David Thoreau
ribbons that tie us to the spirit of the land."
When we try to pick
out anything by itself,
we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
wildness is the preservation of the world..."
Henry David Thoreau
A man doesn’t plant a tree
He plants it for posterity.
nature everything is connected with one another and there is
random in it."
Champion of the Rouge and
Canadian Environmental Hero
Lois James was a
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."
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:
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
flora and fauna, watershed and wetlands. She
inspired others to become involved in preserving
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
protecting the planet, one corner at a time."
Office of the Governor
General of Canada, 2003
Photo Credit: Dominik
Lois James and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
passed away peacefully in her home on April 23, 2019
next to the place she loved most - Rouge
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.
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
The characteristic response of Lois
James, Co-Founder of Save the Rouge Valley System was the turning
point when she said:
be up to us to make the politicians and
government agencies change
their vision and widen
the greenbelt corridor beyond the flood
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
In 1995, Rouge Park was created and then transferred to Parks Canada
(2017) becoming Canada's first national and largest urban
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
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 - 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
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.
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"
The League was given a grant to fill in all chapters of the
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
Valley area in
Toronto with her
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
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.
of his time", he was also the first professor of Sociology at the
University of Alberta and at the University of Toronto
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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
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
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."
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.
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
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
a clear message from its elected leaders in keeping with the
required for reduction of garbage… We are all in this garbage
together… I, for my part, do not want to be ashamed of my
leadership falling behind in doing all that must be done toward
reduction… We have allotted extra money to garbage collection,
let us not use it for unsorted waste. Let’s use it for
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."
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
Social planning council seeks
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.
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
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."
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
* * *
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
want something done about it."
Lois James as
quoted in Hydro Line called "obscene"
Star – January 17, 1989, E2 by Stan Josey
* * *
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."
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
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".
- 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.
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."
as quoted in The Band of Rebels who saved the Rouge
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:
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."
as quoted in No need seen to conserve it all
- 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
when most Metro residents thought
Rouge was women’s
swing next Monday?
The Toronto Star – November 15, 1988, E1 by
* * *
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,
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.
developers in Toronto like Joe Lebovic noted Crombie’s report and
publicly responded Crombie "should mind his own business."
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
degradation of the park."
Lois James as quoted
Stay out of the Rouge,
developer tells Crombie
The Toronto Star – September 14,
1989 – E2 by Daniel Girard
* * *
Developer (Lebovic) was
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
In January of 1990, a
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
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
Rouge Valley building - Globe and Mail
January 16, 1990, A17 by
* * *
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.
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
Authority okays plan to protect
The Toronto Star – February 24, 1990, A4 by
* * *
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 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:
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
Lois James as quoted
The Band of
Rebels who saved the Rouge
The Toronto Star – March 31,
1990 – D5 by Lisa Wright
* * *
Steeles Ave. Extension
was far from over. Demands for environmental safeguards grew as
work was about to commence along Steeles Ave. E.
Park - especially a guarantee that the increased traffic to the area would not damage the sensitive ecological balance of
Canada’s largest urban park.
resident Lois James wants the corridor declared
scenic heritage park road. That would ensure the
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
the minds of motorists who travel the corridor
Rouge Park supporters seeking road safeguards
Star – July 30, 1995 – SC1 by Sterling Taylor
* * *
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:
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.
‘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
The Band of Rebels who
saved the Rouge
The Toronto Star – March 31, 1990 – D5 by
* * *
Creation of Rouge Park
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
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...
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."
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".
mistake was to think someone was in charge…
government to be aware, but after a few months
we realized it isn’t and that the job was ours to do.
thing that makes you irritable is that the government
resources and volunteer groups have nothing."
Lois James as
quoted in Making a Difference
Spring/Summer, 1994 p.33
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
"She’s kept a watchful eye on
environmental and social planning issues… and calls her
tangles with governments ‘a great adventure’."
a cause – Council Watchdogs keep a close eye on local
governments across the GTA
Toronto Star – August
1, 1996 – Tracy Hanes
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
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
"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."
Difference – Lois James
Active Magazine, Spring/Summer, 1994
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
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
altering their lifestyles."
- Take a hike, plant trees on Earth Day
Toronto Star – April 11, 1991 – Phinjo Gombu
* * *
on April 22 each year was an important day to Lois. She passed away
after Earth Day, 2019.
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
It’s not Garbage
Transportation Plan Review Group
Ontario Committee for World
People or Planes (POP)
Ride For The Rouge Rouge Park
Rouge Park Alliance
Rouge Valley Foundation
Rouge Valley System
Scarborough Citizen’s Task Force on the
Scarborough Environment Alliance
Scarborough Environmental Committee
Social Planning Council of Scarborough
Toronto Field Naturalists
Toronto Pedestrian Committee
United Nations Citizen Member
Association, Toronto Branch
United Way East
University Women’s Club
407 Action Group
Lois James was also a founding member of the
Foundation, Save the Rouge Valley System and the
Scarborough Environment Alliance.
Lois James was recognized with the
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
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."
Park Nature preserve backers pleased land set aside
The Toronto Star – August 1, 1996 - OS1 by Stan Josey
* * *
(left) and Joyce
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
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
"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."
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
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
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.
was author of the Ganaraska Watershed
Report (1944) and the
the R.D.H.P. Conservation Report (1956).
was appointed the first Chairman
of The Metropolitan Toronto and Region
The R.D.H.P. Conservation
Report planted the first seeds in the Rouge Valley
as a large-scale natural park and
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
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
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
24, 2009, Resolution #A112/09
* * *
to Lois James, the
conservation report was a wonderful thing because "there was no other model to follow" and it provided
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
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
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.”
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
Toronto Star File Photo
View atop man-made Beare
(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.
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
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
that is as natural and lasting as the park she helped to
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."
Difference – Lois James
Active Magazine, Spring/Summer,
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
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
(rev. June, 2019)
from Richardson's Lookout area, Ganaraska
"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."
September 14, 2003
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...”
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 inspires river’s protectors to keep fighting: Toronto
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
as quoted in
September 14, 2003
no big victories, but day to day little ones that build to
"When you see things that are terribly important
to the world, you get active and you bring some
others with you..."
Lois James, 2003
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."
"To do things
that need doing, that nobody else
"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…."
President of the Rouge Valley Foundation, 2002
"Lois is the one that got things
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
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."
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."
Johnston, President of the Rouge Valley Foundation, September 14,
politicians are propelled into front ranks
of environmental protection ill-prepared."
"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
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"…
James - Making a Difference
"The fervour was
the whole planet, but we had our corner to defend."
President of the Rouge Valley Foundation,
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