Heather Keith

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Heather Keith
President of the Townshippers' Association
In office
Preceded by Della Goodsell
Succeeded by Mary Mitchell (interim), then Myrna MacAulay
In office
Preceded by Gary Richards
Succeeded by Peter Quilliams
Potton Councillor
South Stukely Councillor

Heather Keith, formerly known as Heather Keith-Ryan, is an anglophone rights activist from the Eastern Townships region of the Canadian province of Quebec. She has served two terms as president of the Townshippers' Association and in this capacity has opposed provincial restrictions on the use of the English language. Keith herself is fluent in English and French.

Private life and career[edit]

Keith moved to Quebec's Eastern Townships in 1967.[1] She has owned a bed-and-breakfast in Mansonville, been a town councillor, served as vice-president of a local Chamber of Commerce, and worked as a realtor and teacher.[2] In the 1990s, she co-authored a book for anglophone tourists entitled, Quebec: Bonjour Eh.[3] The book was later re-issued as Quebec: Bonjour — Visitor's Visa to French-Speaking Canada.[4]

In the 2000s, Keith received Bachelor's degree in social work at McGill University.[5] She later started a Master's degree in gerontology at the Université de Sherbrooke.[6]

Community activism and political activity[edit]

Keith was elected to the municipal council of South Stukely in the 1970 municipal election and appears to have served for a single term.[7] She was a founding director of the Townshippers' Association in 1979, and in 1987 she encouraged municipalities in the Townships to oppose provincial restrictions on English-language signs and billboards.[8] She was elected to her first term as Townshippers' Association president in September 1987.[9]

Keith testified before the Senate of Canada in 1988, opposing the proposed Meech Lake Accord on the grounds that its recognition of Quebec as a distinct society would threaten the rights of anglophones in the province.[10] In the same year, she argued that Township anglophones were discriminated against in the federal civil service and expressed concern that the English population of the area was rapidly declining.[11] In September 1988, she said it was a "crime" that there were no senior citizens' homes in the Townships to serve the needs of anglophones.[12]

For the 1989 provincial election, Keith resigned as Townshippers' Association president to run as an independent candidate against Liberal cabinet minister Pierre Paradis in Brome—Missisquoi.[13] She argued that anglophones should break their historical link to the provincial Liberal Party on the grounds that it had failed their community on language issues.[14] Forty-nine years old at the time, Keith said that she supported laws to protect the French language in Quebec but that requirements for unilingual French were unjustifiable.[15] She received 1,936 votes (7.77%), finishing fourth against Paradis.[16] She later effected a political reconciliation with Paradis, saying in 1994, "he's honest, he's never hidden that he's a federalist, and he's been very present for his riding."[17]

Keith was elected to the Potton municipal council in the 1989 municipal election and appears to have served another term in office.[18] She was also vice-president of the Liberal Party of Canada's riding association in Brome—Missisquoi during the early 1990s. She wanted to seek the party's nomination for the 1993 Canadian federal election, but withdrew after being dissuaded by party officials.[19] She subsequently sought the party's nomination for a 1995 by-election, but lost to Denis Paradis, Pierre's brother.[20]

Keith remained active on language issues throughout the 1990s, often representing the anglophone community in francophone media forums.[21] She was elected to a second term as Townshippers' Association president in 2000 and in the same year coordinated her group's presentation to the Estates-General on the Situation and Future of the French Language in Quebec. Speaking before the commission, Keith criticized the absence of English-language health services and said that efforts to introduce bilingual signs to Sherbrooke hospitals had been frustrated by the Office de la Langue Francaise.[22] Despite general anglophone scepticism about the commission, she later said that it had been useful in building connections between Quebec's linguistic communities.[23] She nevertheless expressed disappointment about some aspects of the final report, including what she described as "unclear recommendations" regarding health and social services.[24]

Keith stood down as Townshippers' president in 2001 and became chair of the association's health and social services committee.[25] She sought re-election to the Potton municipal council in the 2001 municipal election, but was unsuccessful. In December 2001, she commended the provincial government for appointing of anglophone candidates to the Estrie and Montérégie health boards.[26] She later criticized a proposed merger of the Université de Sherbrooke Geriatric Institute with the CLSC of Sherbrooke in 2004, arguing that the institute's historical links to the region's anglophone community could be threatened.[27]

In 2008, Keith was appointed to a municipal subcommittee in Sherbrooke charged with designing a new urban zoning plan.[28] She ran for a seat on the city's Lennoxville borough council in 2009, but was again defeated.[29]

International work[edit]

In 2001, Keith began working with other grandmothers in the Sherbrooke region to support the efforts of South African grandmothers raising children who were orphaned by AIDS. Working through the Canadian Federation of University Women, Keith and her associates crafted Christmas ornaments that were sold to benefit the Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.[30] In 2010, Keith was one of forty-two Canadian grandmothers to attend the African Grandmothers' Gathering in Swaziland.[31]

Electoral record[edit]

Quebec general election, 1989: Brome-Missisquoi
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Pierre Paradis 13,502 54.18 -14.65
Parti Québécois Daniel Lavoie 6,238 25.03 -1.90
Unity Graham Neil 2,756 11.06
Independent Heather Keith-Ryan 1,936 7.77
Parti 51 Jean-Guy Péloquin 269 1.08
Independent Robin Lawrance 137 0.55
Commonwealth of Canada Maurice Boisclair 84 0.34
Total valid votes 24,922 98.01
Total rejected ballots 507 1.99
Turnout 25,429 75.92
Eligible Voters 33,496
Source: Official Results, Le Directeur général des élections du Québec.
2009 Sherbrooke municipal election, Lennoxville Borough Councillor Twoedit
Candidate Total votes  % of total votes Notes
Mark McLaughlin 298 37.48
Alan L. Ansell 149 18.74
Heather Keith 118 14.84
Norman Green 95 11.95
Mohamed Adjel 69 8.68
Bernard Rodrigue 66 8.30
Total valid votes 795 100.00
  • See the 2009 election page for details on the other candidates.

Source: Résultants 2009, Élections municipales 2009, Le Directeur général des élections du Québec.

2001 Potton municipal election, Councillor, Seat Threeedit
Candidate Total votes  % of total votes Notes
Louis Veillon 526 59.57
Heather Keith-Ryan 357 40.43
Total Valid Votes 883 100

Source: "Election 2001 Sherbrooke & Townships," Sherbrooke Record, 6 November 2001, p. 5.


  1. ^ Caroline Kehne, "Day in the sun for BM volunteers," Sherbrooke Record, 13 December 2001, p. 4.
  2. ^ Nancy Wood, "Language law is still in force Bacon reminds Townshippers," Montreal Gazette, 11 March 1987, A4; Robert McKenzie, "Quebec group wants 'corridor' to unite Canada," Toronto Star, 7 December 1990, A11.
  3. ^ Paul Waters, "Getting to know Quebec: Regional tourist offices can help," Montreal Gazette, 25 May 1996, I4; Heather Keith-Ryan, "Reflections on the year that was," Sherbrooke Record, 4 January 2000, p. 6.
  4. ^ "New books highlight Townships treasures," Sherbrooke Record, 17 September 2004, p. 4.
  5. ^ "University Women award nine scholarships," Sherbrooke Record, 25 July 2005, p. 3.
  6. ^ Three Outstanding Townshippers, Townshippers' Association, 18 May 2010, accessed 4 February 2011.
  7. ^ "An evening of youthful initiatives, leadership, fond farewells and ongoing growth," Sherbrooke Record, 8 June 2010, p. 2.
  8. ^ "An evening of youthful initiatives, leadership, fond farewells and ongoing growth," Sherbrooke Record, 8 June 2010, p. 2; "Townships councils back right to bilingual signs," Montreal Gazette, 21 April 1987, A5.
  9. ^ Jack Branswell, "Townshippers flock to annual get-together," 21 September 1987, A4.
  10. ^ Lynn Moore, "Townshippers voice fears over Meech accord," Montreal Gazette, 5 March 1988, A5.
  11. ^ Jennifer Robinson, "Anglophones in Townships served poorly, MPs told," Montreal Gazette, 12 May 1988, B4.
  12. ^ Peggy Curran and Jennifer Robinson, "Anglos getting their fair share Bouchard says," Montreal Gazette, 20 September 1988, A3.
  13. ^ Alexander Craig, "Quebec Anglos weigh future," Ottawa Citizen, 25 May 1989, A9.
  14. ^ Don Macpherson, "Anglos can't afford Bunker's laughter," Montreal Gazette, 3 June 1989, B3.
  15. ^ Lewis Harris, "Anglos in Townships don't know where to turn," Montreal Gazette, 23 September 1989, A6.
  16. ^ Official Results, Le Directeur général des élections du Québec.
  17. ^ Mark Abley, "Liberal minister Paradis looks solid in Brome-Missisquoi," Montreal Gazette, 18 August 1994, A9.
  18. ^ Caroline Kehne, "Day in the sun for BM volunteers," Sherbrooke Record, 13 December 2001, p. 4.
  19. ^ Susan Delacourt, "Ignored Liberals decry parachuting," Globe and Mail, 22 July 1993, A6.
  20. ^ Aaron Derfel, "Robillard promises hard fight Boost for No forces," Montreal Gazette, 29 December 1994, A1; "Federal Liberals choose candidate for Brome-Missisquoi byelection," Canadian Press, 8 January 1995.
  21. ^ Sharon McCully, "Good neighbour policy cemented in St-Felix," Sherbrooke Record, 18 September 2000, p. 6.
  22. ^ Maurice Crossfield, "Heather Keith-Ryan to return as Townshippers' prez," Sherbrooke Record, 15 September 2000, p. 1; Heather Keith, "Sharing views with language commission," Sherbrooke Record, 10 October 2000, p. 6; Elizabeth Thompson, "Lobby wants end to anglos' health access," Montreal Gazette, 7 November 2000, A7; Heather Keith-Ryan, "Townshippers' misunderstood: An open letter to the estates general," Sherbrooke Record, 13 November 2000, p. 6.
  23. ^ Rita Legault, "Commission recognizes evolution of anglo community," Sherbrooke Record, 22 March 2001, p. 7; Rita Legault, "Anglos had impact on commission: Keith-Ryan," Sherbrooke Record, 7 June 2001, p. 1.
  24. ^ Peter Quilliams and Heather Keith-Ryan, "T'shipper's prez was misquoted," Sherbrooke Record, 24 August 2001, p. 6.
  25. ^ Rita Legault, "Anglos brace for access battle," Sherbrooke Record, 5 December 2001, p. 1.
  26. ^ Rita Legault, "Role on health board more than an Anglo issue," Sherbrooke Record, 28 December 2001, p. 3.
  27. ^ Peter Quilliams and Heather Keith, "Save 'our' Geriatric Institute," Sherbrooke Record, 8 April 2004, p. 6.
  28. ^ "Keith appointed," Sherbrooke Record, 15 April 2008, p. 5.
  29. ^ "Claude Laplume new Mayor of Potton," Sherbrooke Record, 5 November 2001, p. 8; Doug McCooeye, "The Race Is On," Sherbrooke Record, 5 October 2009, p. 2.
  30. ^ Rita Legault, "Crafty grannies: AIDS Angels are made with cork," Sherbrooke Record, 7 December 2006, p. 1.
  31. ^ "Local grandmother to attend historic African gathering," Sherbrooke Record, 5 February 2010, p. 12; Corrinna Pole, "African women bring AIDS reality to Sherbrooke," Sherbrooke Record, 15 September 2010, p. 3.