By Lethbridge Herald on March 12, 2018.
The new middle school on the city’s westside has been named for a homegrown political trailblazer.
On Monday, Lethbridge School District No. 51 announced the school will be named after former Senator Joyce Fairbairn.
Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School will serve students in Grades 6 to 8 and is set to open in the fall.
Fairbairn was an influential political figure in her time who went on to become the first female leader of the Government in the Senate.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am pleased to celebrate and honour the lifelong contributions of a great Canadian with the naming of Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School,” said Clark Bosch, chair of the district’s board of trustees, in a news release. “Senator Fairbairn’s dedication to making our country a better place for all Canadians, through her tireless work on myriad causes, is truly remarkable.”
Fairbairn graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Alberta in 1960 and received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa in 1961.
Her journalism career began as a student in 1961 while working summers at The Lethbridge Herald. After university, she joined The Ottawa Journal in 1961.
The following year, she joined the bureau of United Press International in the parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa and, in 1964, joined the Parliamentary Bureau of F.P. Publications.
She spent six years writing for The Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Albertan, Lethbridge Herald, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times and Ottawa Journal.
In 1990, she was inducted into the Kainai Chieftainship of the Blood Reserve and given the name “Morning Bird Woman.”
She also served on the senate of the University of Lethbridge and was an honorary lieutenant-colonel of the 18th Air Defence Regiment, RCA.
She was hired as a legislative assistant to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1970. In 1981, she became communications co-ordinator in the Prime Minister’s Office.
On June 29, 1984, just prior to leaving office, Trudeau recommended her for appointment as a Liberal senator for Alberta. From 1984–91, Fairbairn was vice-chair of the National Liberal Caucus and vice-chair of the Western and Northern Liberal Caucus.
In June 1991, Fairbairn was appointed co-chair of the National Campaign committee of the Liberal Party of Canada.
In 1993, Fairbairn was appointed to the Privy Council, and was the first woman to be named leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister with Special Responsibility for Literacy.
Fairbairn was an active advocate for the cause of literacy, initiating national debate in the Senate on literacy in Canada in March 1987. Fairbairn’s passion for literacy extended to Lethbridge, as she was in attendance for the first One School One Book project in Canada, held over a decade ago at Dr. Probe Elementary School.
Fairbairn went on indefinite sick leave in 2012 due to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. She officially resigned in January 2013 and continues to cope with the disease. She was named to the Order of Canada in 2015.
Local resident Glenn Miller worked with Fairbairn for a number of years and said he looked forward to students being inspired by her legacy.
“It’s important for the students to know what kind of trailblazer she is,” he said. “She can go on to inspire kids at that school to go on and do great things in the future.”
Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School is located at 301 Rocky Mountain Blvd. W., just southwest of Dr. Probe Elementary School.
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