Founder of Canadian Multicultural Inventors Museum recognized with City award

By Lincoln DePradine

Biochemist Francis Jeffers, who has been fully engaged for the past three decades promoting and highlighting a community-focused, Afro-centric view of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – has been recognized for his efforts; he received an award named after William Peyton Hubbard, Toronto’s first Black elected councilor. Hubbard also was acting mayor of Toronto on several occasions.

Francis Jeffers

Commenting on receiving the award, Jeffers said “it’s extremely special’’ not just because Hubbard, who was Black, held elected political office.

“The special part of this for me was that William Hubbard was not simply a politician but he was also an inventor,’’ Jeffers said in an interview with The Caribbean Camera.

Hubbard is part of a long tradition of people who have been “inventing and innovating in Canada, a history which is not well-written about’’, Jeffers added.

Prior to entering politics, Hubbard was a baker, who invented and manufactured his own “Hubbard Oven’’. It was a portable oven, much smaller than standard brick ovens, and advertised as “practically fire-proof”.

Hubbard was first elected to council in 1894. Altogether, he served 15 terms in office.

Ausma Malik

He was involved in major aspects of city life, including contributing to the establishment of the Toronto Hydro-Electric System, which now is Hydro One.

In addition, Hubbard advocated for continued municipal control of the city’s water supply and transportation systems, and for providing assistance to people living in poverty. He died April 30, 1935 at 93.

According to Toronto officials, the awards celebratethe achievements of people and organizations who work, often without recognition, to “challenge racism and support a more harmonious city’’, and are “working to eliminate barriers to equality’’.

Jeffers – founder, curator and executive director of the travelling Canadian Multicultural Inventors Museum – was one of seven Toronto residents and groups honoured December 7 at city hall at this year’s Access, Equity & Human Rights Awards’ ceremony.

Joyce Carpenter and Shannon Simpson were recognized for their advocacy for Indigenous people with the receipt of “Mino Bimaadiziwin Awards’’.

Two presentations also were made in the “Constance E. Hamilton Award for Women’s Equality’’ category. The city also presented one “Disability Access Award’’ and a “Pride Award’’.

“Today, we are celebrating the people in our city who are breaking down barriers to equality, advancing reconciliation, and improving the lives of our Toronto neighbours; all our neighbours,’’ councilor Ausma Malik, Toronto’s deputy mayor, said at last week’s awards’ ceremony.

“Let’s recommit ourselves to building a society free of hate; that’s committed to advancing justice and reconciliation; and, work even harder to eliminate racism and discrimination in any form – and that is collective work.’’

Jeffers founded “Vision of Science’’ to promote STEM, with special emphasis on showing young people that the fields of science and technology are viable career options. He led the organization for 20 years, retiring in 2014.

“We need to have succession planning’’, Jeffers told The Caribbean Camera, explaining his relinquishing of the leadership of Vision of Science, whose budget is said to be close to $1Million.

Jeffers, a biology degree graduate of the University of Toronto, a consultant in science education promotion, diversity and equity issues, and curator at the International Aboriginal and Indigenous Peoples Inventors and Innovators Museum, has stressed the need for students finding opportunities in the community to world in the STEM field.

“I was nominated by my peers. I was nominated by Akwatu Khenti and with support letters from Robert Small and Rosemary Sadlier,’’ said Jeffers, who also commented on Toronto’s population diversity.

“We live in the greatest city in the world and diversity is our strength; it’s not our weakness,’’ he said.