Excellence in Community Service: Erma Collins

Irma Collins -- Community ServiceEvery strong community is driven by the education of its people. It is no surprise then, that the Canadian Black community should find within its ranks, Erma Collins.

Retired from George Brown College at the end of 1998, after 32 years of service, Collins spent 27 years as a professor of English and 5 years as Chairperson of the English and Liberal Studies Dept. at the St. James Campus—the first Black person appointed to that position.

She is the author of Brush up Your English, a book designed to help college students improve their writing skills. Professor Collins holds a Teachers’ Diploma from St. Joseph’s Teachers’ College in Jamaica; a B.A. in English from the University of Manitoba; and an M.Ed. in Adult Education from the University of Toronto.

Throughout her extensive career, Collins has been a stalwart community service agent within the Black community. Volunteering in church, clubs and her workplace, was an integral part of Collins’ life before immigrating to Canada in 1965.

Since joining the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) in 1969, the tireless education advocate has volunteered continuously in several capacities. A staple of the JCA, the gems of her service are not limited there; some other groups receiving her rare gifts have been: the Black Education Project of the 70’s; the Library of Black People’s Literature of the 70’s; the Jamaica Bellevue Mental Hospital Project and the African Famine Relief Committee of the 80’s. Following those were: Women for P.A.C.E.; the Harry Jerome Awards Selection Committee; the Black Educators’ Work Group; Advisory Committee on English as a Second Dialect Training; Community Advisory Group, Taking Action Against Hate Project, B’nai Brith Canada; the National Council of Jamaicans and Supportive Organizations in Canada; a Scarborough North and a Scarborough Agincourt Provincial Riding Association; and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

In addition to spearheading a litany of special projects at the JCA when requested, Collins has served as: Chair of the Education Committee; Executive Secretary; 1st Vice-president; Chair of the Capital Fundraising Committee, which championed the inauguration of the Annual Boonoonoonos Brunch and the Annual Golf Tournament; and Board Liaison for the Golf Committee.

In the broader public service arena, Collins sat as a Commissioner on Ontario’s College and Education Relations Commission from 2004-2006.  Between 2005 and 2009, she was a public member on the Council for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

A lifelong commitment to community building and education has motivated her to contribute generously to the JCA Building Fund, and to be a sponsor of two annual scholarships for youths: a BBPA Harry Jerome Scholarship, beginning in 2001 and transferred to the Markham African Caribbean Association in 2010; and a JCA scholarship, beginning in 2003.

For her dedication, dependability, thoroughness, proficiency, and overall professionalism, several awards of excellence or appreciation have been bestowed upon Erma Collins.

These include, but are not limited to: Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada; City of Scarborough Bicentennial Civic Award of Merit; Urban Alliance on Race Relations Award; Harry Jerome President’s Award; and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.

Featured in various articles and publications—Jamaican Canadians: A Commitment to Excellence; Some Black Women: Profiles of Black Women in Canada; and Who Is Who In Black Canada; Jamaicans In Canada: When Ackee Meets Codfish (to name a few)—Collins continues to be an example of excellence in community service.