Agnes Macphail Award ceremony draws large crowd

East Yorker Muhammad Masood Alam honoured for civic activism

It was standing room only as people gathered at the East York Civic Centre on Tuesday for the 22nd Agnes Macphail Award ceremony. The award honours someone who lives in the former Borough of East York who contributes outstandingly to the community.This year, it was awarded to Muhammad Masood Alam.

Alam said he’s “honoured” to receive the award and “inspired” by Macphail.

“Wherever I find some social injustice, I am always trying to help,” Alam said.

Alam volunteers with Toronto Police Service in 53 Division to increase neighbourhood safety and with the Canadian Association of Pakistani Origin to assist with their community development initiatives, as well as to fundraise for natural disaster relief in Pakistan. Alam previously sat on the school councils for Thorncliffe Park Public School and Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute.

The ceremony has been MC’ed for the last 15 years by Bob Lister, who won the award, along with his wife, Elisabeth Lister, in 1998. Lister enjoys being part of the Agnes Macphail Recognition Committee to highlight people who have a positive impact in the community.

“It is a great way of promoting good people doing good things which is wonderful for the health of our society,” Lister said.

Councillor Janet Davis also spoke at the ceremony. Davis said she admires Macphail as someone who was not afraid to stand up for what she believed in at a time when men overwhelmingly dominated the political landscape.

“She was a feisty politician. She spoke her mind, she stood up in a world [that] at the time was extremely biased, patriarchal,” Davis said in an interview. “She was a true inspiration for women who wanted to entered politics. As an elected representative, I feel she was one of our trailblazers.”

Others in attendance included former Beaches- East York MPP Michael Prue, who delivered the keynote address. Prue said this event keeps Macphail’s memory alive. He talked about some of Macphail’s memorable speeches as a politician and called her a “absolutely remarkable” woman.

Macphail was the first elected women to the House of Commons in 1921 and to the Ontario Legislature in 1943. As MPP, she represented the riding of York East. Macphail championed for human rights, peace, social justice, pension and prison reform. Macphail represented Canada in 1929 at the League of Nations.

If Macphail was alive today, Davis thinks she would say to “carry on and never apologize.”

Macpahil died on Feb. 13, 1954 at the age of 63.