Toronto names street after VOW activist Lillian Greene
ISSUE BACKGROUND An application was received from Virginia Thomson, a resident at 77 Essex St to name a public lane located in the block bounded by Shaw Street, Pendrith Street, Christie Street and Essex Street as “Lillian Greene Lane”. Mrs. Thomson provided the following background information:
Lillian Greene Lane Lillian Greene “A lifelong peace, political and community activist, Lillian Greene was a pillar of the community until her death in 2007. Lil and her late husband Sam moved into 75 Essex St. In 1952 and raised three daughters here. As a concerned parent, she was active in the Home and School Associations while having a full career as a secretary for the Steelworkers Union.
Her roots in social justice activism date back to the Great Depression when as a young stenographer working with the unemployed and the Workers’ Education League Lil was present, recording the historic encounter between the Relief Camp Workers Union, led by Arthur Evans and Canadian Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. For Bennett, the meeting was a ploy to de-rail the On to Ottawa Trek to highlight the demand for jobs and compensation for the jobless. For Evans and the trekkers held up in Regina, where the authorities had violently stopped the protest, the confrontation was a milestone that would eventually lead to an unemployment insurance system in Canada.
During the Viet Nam war, Lil, a member of the Voice of Women, was the officially recognized lifeblood behind the Knitting Project for Vietnam. The living room of 75 Essex St., was the central location for this project, where Lil received thousands of packages of garments in dark colours (camouflage from the war) knitted by city to rural women, church groups and even children’s Brownie groups. Her daughter Karen recalls that Lil acknowledged by mail, a thank you card, for every single of the 34,000 items that were sent via Lil in solidarity with the people of Vietnam.
A lifelong swimmer, Lil supported & won free use by the community to use Christie Pits pool by petitioning door to door, along with her kids, and presented this to the city councillor. Lil kept up her community activism throughout her 90 years, being the first person on the block to organize an official petition against an illegal housing addition, to spearheading action to stop people from dumping garbage in the laneways. Many people in the neighbourhood knew Lil and have a great respect for the role she played throughout her life to make our community and our country a wonderful place to live.”