To celebrate his historic accomplishment as Toronto’s first black police chief, Mark Saunders will be honoured with a Trailblazer Award at the 34th annual Harry Jerome Awards on April 23 at the Metro Convention Centre.
Saunders replaced Bill Blair last April as the city’s 11th top cop.
The Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) administers the Harry Jerome Awards that honour community excellence.
“The BPPA is an organization that I have supported for quite some time and I am honoured to be selected as a recipient of this distinguished honour,” said Saunders. “There are some amazing people who have been bestowed with a Harry Jerome Award. To be placed in that stratosphere is incredibly complimentary and I am going to strive to do my best to live up to that legacy.”
The awards honour the memory of Jerome, who set seven world records in track and field and helped create Canada’s sports ministry.
“I followed Harry Jerome from a black history perspective,” said Saunders, whose older sister, Yvonne Saunders-Mondesire, represented Canada, Jamaica and England in track and field and is a member of Athletics Ontario Hall of Fame. “He was one of those pioneers who broke barriers. It’s so easy to talk about it now, but the fears, challenges and the consequences back in those days compared to now were so much greater. I hope history never lets us forget individuals like Harry Jerome who truly blazed a trail and were truly leaders.”
This year’s awards theme is “Generation of Greatness.”
BBPA president Pauline Christian said Saunders represents the greatness that lies across the city.
“He has excelled in law enforcement, rising to the top of Canada’s largest municipal police service,” she said. “That’s an achievement that should be celebrated.”