Queen’s student writes award-winning essay honouring trustee

Pind’s essay on Ernie Checkeris recognized by Government of Canada

Ernie Checkeris.
Credit: 
Supplied by Jackson Pind

Following his submission of an essay on the late Ernie Checkeris, Queen’s Curriculum Studies PhD student Jackson Pind won a Government of Canada History Award and a $2,000 cash prize.

After spending 55 years as a member on the Rainbow District School Board, Checkeris was the longest serving school trustee member in Canadian history. He was the Chairman of Ontario’s first Advisory Committee on Multiculturalism and the first Chairman of the Native Task Force in Ontario. Throughout his career, he advocated for equal access to education and for Indigenous history to be introduced into school curriculums across Canada. 

In October of 2014, at age 89, Checkeris passed away. A new Sudbury elementary school and a theatre at Thorneloe University are named after him.  

In an email to The Journal, Pind wrote that he began his research for the essay in the fall of 2016 while at Laurentian University. Pind’s Master’s thesis was also on Ernie Checkeris after his supervisor Sara Burke introduced him to the topic. He completed his undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Laurentian. 

“I then dove into the local archives and found more information about his life and the large impact he had made in northern Ontario’s education system,” Pind wrote. “In addition, I travelled to the provincial archives in Toronto to gather more information about his life as he constantly participated in a number of important provincial committees.”

His research also included oral interviews with colleagues and family members of the late Checkeris, including former Ontario Premier Mike Harris. 

“One surprising find was a time capsule that he had buried in the 1980s with a collection of papers from other educators about the future of Canadian society,” Pind revealed. He added that the capsule wouldn’t be opened without the blessing of Checkeris’s family.

Pind’s inspiration to write about Checkeris came from the legacy the trustee member created for himself: being an advocate for Indigenous people and the educational system reform as early as 1968. 

“His comments still echo true today, nearly fifty years after he began his work for equal schooling in northern Ontario,” Pind added. 

For Pind, one of Checkeris’s most significant contributions was his involvement in the Hall-Dennis Report. Officially titled “Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario,” the 1965 report recommended important reforms to Ontario’s education system. 

Upon entering his essay into the 2017 Government of Canada History contest at the graduate level, Pind — and 191 other recipients — received a cash prize, a certificate and the opportunity to appear in a CanadaHistory.ca publication. 

Pind intends to use the prize to travel to New York City to present an expanded paper at the Society for the Study of Curriculum History. 

“This has been a great experience for my first year at Queen’s PhD program in education and will motivate me to continue my work here researching the history of Indigenous day schools in the province,” he wrote. “Moving forward I hope to uncover more stories about Ontario’s educational history which can inspire future students into following the vision of equal opportunities for all.”

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