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March 6, 2013

Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice to be renamed

Alexa McDonough surprise partyFormer politician and activist Alexa McDonough has dedicated much of her life to ensuring Nova Scotia Labour is given proper recognition. Recently, during an intimate and surprise ceremony, it was announced that the Mount’s Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice would be hereafter named the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice. The renaming was the result of a collective of Labour union representatives who joined forces to raise funds in an effort to ensure Alexa’s contributions were recognized in a permanent way. 

The Institute, a representation of the values Alexa spent her career fighting for, will be housed as part of the new Margaret Norrie McCain Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research. The building, expected to open in December 2014, is the only academic building in Canada dedicated entirely to honouring women

Alexa McDonough’s legacy is one to be remembered. Her commitment to activism began in her early teens when she led her youth group to fight the deplorable conditions in Africville. She later led the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party for 14 years, and led the federal party from 1995 to 2003 – the longest of any federal leader in Canada. She was an active member of parliament until her retirement in 2008, and remains the only woman in Canada to have served as leader of both a provincial and federal party. Alexa is also a cherished member of the Mount community, receiving an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters in 2009, and was the interim president from 2009 to 2010. 

“Alexa was one who was never afraid to give voice to those disadvantaged in society,”

recalled Les Holloway, Director of the Atlantic region’s Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). “Alexa is a courageous voice for justice and equality; she’s been an advocate for strengthening public education and health care; advancing pay equity, workers’ rights, worker health and safety; protecting human rights; eliminating nuclear arms; and is a still a prominent leader in the global peace movement.”   

Within the Labour movement, Alexa gave voice to workers’ rights, the advancement of social democratic principles for fair wages and benefits, and for safe working conditions. Labour workers and Unions trusted Alexa as a genuine advocate, because so much of what she achieved did not affect her directly, and because she saw equality as something that benefited everyone. 

“Today, Labour has a seat at the table,” explained Holloway. “This was not always true; Alexa was the one who took the initiative to make it possible.”

Ramona Lumpkin Alexa McDonoughToday, Alexa remains known for her tireless enthusiasm and willingness to make a difference. Her story and remarkable achievements came as the inspiration for this group of Labour union representatives to unite in an effort to honour Alexa in a permament way. Their generosity will ensure Alexa’s spirit will continue to be felt within the walls of the new McCain Centre as the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice. 

The sponsors include:

  • CAW/Marine Workers Local 1
  • Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades
  • National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers of Union of Canada
  • Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
  • Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union
  • Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Canada
  • United Food and Commercial Workers, Eastern Provinces Council
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees
  • CAW Manitoba Joint Council
  • Communications, Energy and Paperwork Union of Canada
  • Public Service Alliance of Canada
  • Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists
  • Elizabeth Church; E. Margaret Fulton, OC; Brian Jessop; Ramona Lumpkin; Justin & Travis McDonough; Robbie & Jean Shaw