Lillie Johnson was born the third of nine children and the first daughter to her parents. In 1960, she emigrated from her homeland of Jamaica to Canada. Upon moving to Canada, she made herself a promise to return to her homeland someday with the plan to provide health care services to those who could not afford it. At her time of arrival to Toronto Lillie, already a trained nurse, midwife and teacher with working experience from England, Scotland and Jamaica went on to serve as the first Black Director of Public Health in Ontario.
Lillie taught a post-diploma certificate course in Child and Maternal Health at Humber College. She was also a consultant for the Ministry of Health and then became Director of Nursing Services at Leeds Granville and Lanark Health unit (Eastern Ontario).
In 1981 she founded the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario, along with a group of other professionals. Lillie remains an active member and was instrumental in advocating for the inclusion of Sickle Cell Disease to newborn screening in Ontario in 2006.
Lillie is the recipient of several awards including the Bloomberg Award from the Bloomberg School of Nursing at U. of T., the 2009 Toronto Public Health Champion Award and the province of Ontario’s highest honour, the Order of Ontario in 2010. In 1989 she fulfilled her promise and returned back to Jamaica to volunteer for CUSO International.
In September 2014 Lillie was presented with the Legacy Award for her lifelong, extraordinary commitment to advancing the health and well-being of the Black community at the Inaugural Black Health Alliance Awards.
The year 2015 was an action packed one for Lillie who fulfilled another one of her lifelong dreams of having her first book published. Her memoir, “My Dream” was published in the year she celebrated her 93rd birthday. This same year, Lillie was a torch bearer for the Pan Am Games held in Toronto and she also received the Viola Desmond Award from Ryerson University.
In 2016 Lillie was the recipient of the Long-Term Care Lifetime Achievement Award and then received in 2017 the Ontario Senior Achievement Award along with fourteen other volunteers from our Ontario community for their tireless work.
Lillie remains one of the most passionate, committed health advocates and humanitarians.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
- 2017 – Ontario Senior Achievement Award
- 2016 – Long-Term Care Lifetime Achievement Award – Ontario Long Term Care Association
- 2015 – Torch Bearer for the Pan-Am Games
- 2015 – Ryerson University Viola Desmond Award
- 2014 – Black Health Alliance Legacy Award
- 2010 – Recipient of the Order of Ontario
- 2009 – Toronto Public Health Champion Award
- Toronto Public Health Champion Award Recipients
- BLACK IN TORONTO: Honouring Lillie Johnson this Mother’s Day for her advocacy of Sickle Cell Anaemia education – InsideToronto.com
- Community Stalwart, Lillie Johnson, Launches Her Memoir – PrideNews
- Cuso International Volunteer – Lillie Johnson
- Sickle Cell Disease Activist Honoured by Ontario – CTV News