Gloria Small was born in Trinidad and Tobago, where she completed her nursing studies and raised two daughters. While in Trinidad and Tobago, she worked as a mental health nurse at the St. James Medical Complex.
When her daughters were seven and eight, Gloria started looking ahead to their futures and decided that moving to Canada was in her family’s best interest.
“I wanted my daughters to have the best education possible, but that wasn’t affordable in Trinidad and Tobago. At that time, it would have cost me $300,000 to send them to school there, which would have meant selling my house and not giving my family a complete life.”
Gloria moved to Canada in 1989 and she’s been making an impact ever since. She’s been a mental health nurse at Toronto East General for the past 20 years, but that only scratches the surface of what she’s accomplished.
From her early days in Trinidad and Tobago, Gloria has been a fierce supporter of the Labour movement and a strong advocate for worker’s rights. She is currently a steward in her workplace and a supporter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Gloria’s labour activism paved the way for her role as a social justice advocate in other areas.
As a resident of Durham region, she’s been very active in her community, advocating for African-Canadian youth who are often at a disadvantage.
“So many young Black-Canadians are being unjustly suspended and expelled from school, which is the wrong approach. We need to keep our children in school because it’s their best chance at finding jobs, which is also a challenge for them. Black youth in Canada face a lot of obstacles and we need to give them hope that they can be whatever they want to be and have bright futures.”
Gloria is a former chair and current board member of the African-Canadian Legal Clinic and is currently the vice-chair of the Durham Action Committee. In these positions, she’s able to work towards finding solutions to the obstacles that Black-Canadian youth face.
In recognition of her work, Gloria was recently selected as one of the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women for 2018.
“It’s an honour to be recognized, but I still have so much more to accomplish. I feel a lot of sadness and pain that I can’t do more, which is my motivation to keep going and continue making a difference.”
Black History Month is important to Gloria and a time for her to reflect on where she’s come from, where she is now, and where she’s going.
“When I came to Canada, I brought my culture and my faith with me and have blended it with my Canadian experience over the years. As a Black-Canadian woman, I want to be a role model for the younger generation and give them hope for the future. A lot of my speaking out is for the people who are unable to speak for themselves. I want to be a voice for the people who don’t have one, the ears for the deaf and the vision for those who can’t see. As individuals, we can all do something to make the world better.”