Nerene Virgin

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Nerene Virgin is a Canadian journalist,[1] actress,[2] and television host,[3] best known for her role on the children's television series Today's Special.


Virgin is a great-granddaughter of escaped slave Thomas John (Howard) Holland, and great-niece of pastor John Christie Holland.[4][5] She was born Nerene Grizzle, daughter of Stanley G. Grizzle. After growing up in Toronto, Ontario, she attended Toronto Teacher's College. Virgin was also certified as a Special Education teacher at Brock University focussing on intellectually gifted children and holds special qualifications in teaching Integrated Arts. Virgin began her career as a teacher, working for the Toronto Board of Education. She later moved into children's programming with Ontario's public broadcaster TV Ontario, playing "Jodie" on Today's Special. This internationally acclaimed series was in production for seven years. Virgin also had recurring roles on other television programs, including The Littlest Hobo, Night Heat and Ramona. She appeared in numerous film roles such as Gotti, The Undergrads, Murder in Space, and Right of the People.

Virgin worked as the weather and community reporter for CBOT, the local CBC Television station in Ottawa, in the late 1980s. She then worked at CTV station CFTO in Toronto as the host of Eye on Toronto, co-host for the entertainment show Showbuz, and a host on CTV's annual Miracle Network Telethon for the Hospital for Sick Children.

In 1996, Virgin became the host for the daily national current affairs show Coast to Coast for CBC Newsworld in Calgary, Alberta. She returned to Toronto as the anchor to launch the national weekend newscast Saturday Report for CBC Television. She then moved to the anchor chair at Newsworld International until it was dismantled and taken over by Al Gore's Current TV in July 2005. Virgin then chose to leave CBC to complete further studies, gaining certification in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) and taught students in Linhe, Inner Mongolia, China. She later taught French in Stoney Creek.

She currently serves on the board of directors for Phoenix Place, a second stage home for women and children who have survived domestic violence.[6] She is also a member of the council for the College of Early Childhood Educators, the first such college in North America.[7] Virgin serves as a member of Hamilton's Committee Against Racism for the 2010-2014 Term of Council.[8][9]

Political career[edit]

Virgin first sought political office in 2007 in the federal riding of Hamilton Mountain but she later withdrew from the race.[10] She then decided to seek political office in Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, even though she resides outside the riding boundaries.[10]

On July 31, 2007, after using a three member panel interview process, the Ontario Liberal Party announced that Virgin had been acclaimed as the candidate in Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for the 2007 provincial election. The panel consisted of incumbent MPP Jennifer Mossop (who did not seek reelection), a party organizer, and the riding president.[11] The decision to appoint Virgin upset some local Liberal party members but Virgin expressed optimism in being able to reach out to the grassroots.[12][13] Mossop, the Stoney Creek incumbent MPP at the time, is also a former television journalist.[14]

In the aftermath of Virgin's acclamation as a candidate, she was racially slurred and allegedly misrepresented in the media, with the Hamilton Community News, a weekly newspaper in Hamilton, referring to her as a "tar baby".[15] While the paper issued an apology for its use of the pejorative term,[16] Virgin indicated that the paper should do more than just apologize, suggesting setting up a scholarship, or a program designed to address racism and discrimination.[12]

On election day, Virgin finished second to New Democrat candidate Paul Miller.[17]

Electoral record[edit]

Riding: Hamilton East—Stoney Creek (provincial electoral district)

Ontario general election, 2007
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
New Democratic Paul Miller 16,256 37.6
Liberal Nerene Virgin 15,171 35.1
Progressive Conservative Tara Crugnale 9,195 21.3
Green Raymond Dartsch 2,122 4.9
Family Coalition Robert Innes 451 1.0


  1. ^ "Leader Once More". 2006-03-07. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  2. ^ "Today's Special Intro". 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  3. ^ "Eye on Toronto Nerene Virgin 1990". 2009-03-01. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  4. ^ "African Canadian Online: Aspects of African-Canadian Culture". York University. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Adach, Kate (12 July 2012). "Descendants of fugitive slave reunite in Hamilton". CBC. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Board Members". Retrieved 2010-02-10. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Public Appointed Councillors" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  8. ^ "City of Hamilton - Committees - 2010 - 2014 Term of Council". City of Hamilton, Ontario. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  9. ^ "Audit, Finance & Administration Committee Report 11-002" (PDF). City of Hamilton, Ontario. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Andrew Dreschel (2007-08-08). "Virgin is crowned but not enthroned". Retrieved 2010-02-10. [dead link]
  11. ^ Joan Walters (2007-07-31). "Nerene Virgin to run in Mossop's riding". Retrieved 2010-02-10. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b Evelyn Myrie (2007-08-30). "An apology is great, but it's not enough". Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  13. ^ Daniel Nolan (2007-08-04). "Damage Control". Retrieved 2010-02-10. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Former TV news anchor joins local election race". CHML. July 31, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  15. ^ Nicole Macintyre (2007-08-18). "Racial slur rocks Liberal candidate". Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  16. ^ "Global News Briefs" (PDF). Diversity in the Workplace. October 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  17. ^ "39th General Election - October 10, 2007, HAMILTON EAST--STONEY CREEK". Elections Ontario. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 

External links[edit]