For more than 30 years, Mary Ann Davis has been a tireless advocate for Verdun residents. She’s fought for the homeless, anglophone families and she’s helped give a voice to the LGBTQ community in the area. She’s lost track of how many demonstrations and news conferences she’s taken part in. Now, Davis says it’s time for a short break.
The activist for social justice is dealing with health problems. The 52-year-old suffers from a severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s affected her memory and she deals with occasional flashbacks of trauma.
« I started going downhill about three years ago. Sometimes the PTSD is good and other times it’s not so good. Let’s just call it a low period. I’m taking some time off, » says Davis.
Last month, Davis left her full-time position at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). She retired after working 15 years as a chef at the Montreal General Hospital.
Davis says she will stay on as commissioner at the Lester B. Pearson School Board, a position she has held since 2014. She oversees eight schools in the territory of Verdun-LaSalle East.
« It’s part-time, so I can still do it. I will miss a meeting every so often, » she says.
Verdun city councilor Sterling Downey credits Davis for saving Riverview Elementary. A few years ago, when the school was slated for closure, Davis led a campaign to keep it open.
« Trust me, if she wasn’t the local commissioner, that school would be history. She’s a tireless advocate for young people and the education sector. She gives 150%. She’s always been a fighter but now she needs to take some time for herself, » he says.
Though she’s reducing her workload significantly, Davis says she will find time for an initiative she co-founded a few years ago: the LGBTQ Rainbow Umbrella. It provides services and « safe spaces » in schools for students who are questioning their identity. The program has been a success at Beurling Academy, a high school in Verdun.
« Once a week, our facilitators go there and they initiate discussions with young people who need to talk. It’s a space that is free of bullying or any judgement. We basically help them along, » says Davis.
The not-for-profit organization also puts together presentations in schools across Montreal.
The possibility is slim but Davis may even decide to take another stab at municipal politics one day. In 2013, while running for the Projet-Montréal party, she lost the Verdun borough mayor’s race by a small margin – a little over 500 votes.
Downey says don’t count this warrior out for too long.
« She’s cut from the right cloth to do it. She’s the type of person you hope gets elected some day. There’s nothing that woman is not capable of, » Downey says.
He adds helping others is in Mary Ann’s blood.