Dr. Leo Bertley – In Memoriam

Author / Journalist / Educator / Professor, Dept. of History, Vanier College, St. Laurent, QC. Born: Trinidad & Tobago.

Dr. Leo Bertley, or as he was affectionately known by his students as The Bertz, was a career educator who taught at Vanier College, in Quebec for over 30 years; retiring in 2006. He also taught and lectured in schools and universities across Canada, in the Caribbean, the US and the UK.

As the youngest of four children in a mechanical engineer’s family, Leo was a brilliant student who was educated at private schools, including St. Benedict’s Prep School and Presentation College, where he played soccer and was captain of the cricket team.

In 1953, he came to Canada as an Island Scholar to study at McGill University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Latin and Social Studies (1957). He continued his education at Sir George Williams University and received his Bachelor of Science degree (1960). He studied pedagogy at the UniversitĂ© de Montreal, and earned a Master’s degree in education from the University of Ottawa (1963). He later received his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in History at Concordia, then his a Class A teaching diploma from the Quebec government (1970).

“My parents ingrained my history in me, taught me its worth and its importance. It is inbred and I won’t forget it,” he once told a reporter. “You need a sense of who you are and where you came from to understand where you stand. Once you know that, regardless of what colour you are, there’s no need to look down on anyone else.”

Career: Adjunct Professor, History, St. Lawrence University, NY (1986); Sessional Lecturer, Canadian History, McGill University (1977); Sessional Lecturer in Black History, University of Vermont; Researcher, Quebec Institute. of French-Canadian Studies; first Principal and Founding Member, Da Costa-Hall Education Project; Principal, St. Michael’s High School, thus becoming the first person of African descent to head a public high school in Quebec (1960); Master, Presentation College, Trinidad. In 1975, he wrote briefing documents on Canada’s Black population for the Department of External Affairs; these were sent to 55 Canadian Consular Offices, High Commissions and embassies around the world. He also wrote, at the request of the Ministry of Education of Quebec, Anglophone Blacks in Quebec for distribution to the province’s teachers.

Community: Extensive, particularly in the area of education, Black history and culture; member, UNIA; Founding Member, Garvey Institute; Canadian Historical Association.

Other: Officer in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve.

Honours: Several including, inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada 2 (2006); 30-year service award, Vanier College (2003); Presentation College Golden Anniversary Award (1998); testimonial dinner, Black Community Council of Quebec (1995); Trinidad & Tobago Montreal Award (1995); West Island Black Community Association Award (1995); Pan African Movement of Barbados Award (1995); Centre for International Development Programs, Southern University, Louisiana (1995); Quebec Board Black Educators (1990); Community Service Award, MABBP (1988); Marcus Garvey Centennial Award (1987); National Award, Canadian Council of Multicultural and International Education (1984); Multiculturalism Award, Government Canada; Explorations Award, Canada Council; Pan African Movement of Barbados Award.

Works: Articles in Canadian & international newspapers & magazines including Montreal Star; Montreal Gazette; Times of Zambia; Trinidad Express; Evening Standard; Contrast; Afro-Can; The Afro-Canadian. Books: This Noble and Apostolic Work: The Presentation Brothers in the Caribbean (1998); Canada and Its People of African Descent (1977); Montreal’s Oldest Black Congregation (1976); Black Tiles in the Mosaic (1974, 1975). Editor: Look for Me in the Whirlwind (1981); To My Someday Child (1977).

Reviewed in: Local, national & international publications including, A Legacy to Share (1996); calendar by City of Montreal for Black History Month); Millennium Minds (2000); Some Black Men (1999); Montreal Star; Barbados Advocate; Montreal Gazette; Trinidad Express; Evening Standard; Times of Zambia.

Education: 7 academic degrees including, PhD, History, Concordia University (1980); Master of Arts, History (1970); Bachelor of Arts/Honours (1965); Bachelor of Science, SGWU (1960); Master of Education, Ottawa University (1963); Bachelor of Pedagogy, Université de Montreal (1962); Bachelor of Arts, McGill University (1957); Teaching Diploma, QC (1961).