Trailblazer on Many Fronts, Pioneer of Multiple Firsts…
In 1983, Professor Thornhill conceptualized, developed, and taught the first ever university-accredited course on Black Women’s Studies offered in Canada, “Black Women: The Missing Pages from Canadian Women’s Studies” (ISdB, Concordia U, 1983, 1988), along with “Confrontation and Collaboration: Issues in Canadian Women’s Studies” (1988) .
In 1981 she was the first woman of colour appointed to the Quebec Council on the Status of Women.
She was the first scholar recruited to inaugurate Dalhousie University’s James Robinson Johnston Endowed Chair in Black Canadian Studies,1996 -2002
She has authored ground-breaking writings which for many years have been employed as core course readings in academic institutions across Canada, notably: Black Women’s Studies in Teaching Related to Women: Help or Hindrance to Universal Sisterhood? 6 Fireweed (1983), The Issue is -Ism (1984, 1989); Focus on Black Women 1:1 Revue femmes et droit
In 1996, she became the the first African Canadian woman to hold a Tenured Full Professorship of Law in Canada
She respectively co-edited and edited unprecedented thematic publications on ‘Race’— Racism …Talking Out (1995) and Blacks in Canada: Retrospects, Introspects Prospects (2008)
She spearheaded Research-Action to Eliminate Racism in School textbooks e.g. La lecture sous toutes ses formes – She has articulated the problematic of racism in school textbooks in essays, public lectures, public presentations, and radio-diffused interviews even as she organized conferences and spearheaded meetings with the publisher, Centre Educatif et Culturel, and with the then Ministre de l’Education, Dr. Camille Laurin
In 1989, she appeared as an invited expert witness before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Prosecution of Donald Marshall Jr. where she gave evidence on the “material reality” of racism, and tabled a recommendation that Canada’s Criminal Code be amended so as to take into consideration, at sentencing, the factor of ‘Race’ as either a mitigating or an aggravating factor.
In 1990, she successfully defended an Afrocentric M.A. Thesis in Spanish Language and Literature: El resplandor de lasombra: Acercamiento a la presencia del personaje negro en el teatro clásico español del Siglo de Oro (Université de Montréal).
She is responsible for the initiative to bring the annual institutional commemoration of February Black History Month to the Quebec public space.
In the discipline areas of Law and Arts and Social Sciences she has developed and actively instituted groundbreaking Afrocentric Anti-racist Curriculum, notably:
Critical Race and Legal Theory: ‘Race’ Racism and Law in Canada, 1998 (co-developed and co-taught).
Critical Race and Legal Theory I: A Survey of ‘Race’ and Law in Canada, 2002.
International Human Rights Law: Facing ‘Race’ As A Factor, 1997.
Human Rights Law and Protection in Canada, 2002.
Introduction to Law MODULE: The Implications of ‘Race’ and Culture for Legal Education and the Legal Profession
Pre-Law MODULE: Pre-Law Introduction to Property: A Critical Approach
She was invited by the Department of Russian Studies to help conceptualize, develop and teach Black Identity in Pushkin, an unprecedented Afrocentric course on the Father of Russian Literature, Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin.
For the course, Dostoevsky and Western Literature, she co-developed and co-taught a MODULE on Dostoevsky and Richard Wright.
Invited by the Department of Canadian Studies, she conceptualized, developed and taught the MODULE: Canadian Identity: Exposing a Negative, Completing the Picture.
She conceptualized and convened in 2001 the unprecedented provincial public forum, An Open Hearing on Racism to Confirm Voices of Experience
In 2001 she conceptualized and convened in Halifax the unprecedented African Nova Scotian provincial public forum, An Open Hearing on Racism to Invoke Memory and Confirm Voices of Experience.
In 1998, she penned an Open Letter of Protest to denounce publicly the non-appointment and exclusion of Judge Corrine Sparks from the new unified Family Court of Nova Scotia, despite this Black Woman Judge being at that time the only Nova Scotia Family Court Judge who was not White, her being the most senior sitting female judge in the province and her being the first Black female judge to be appointed in Canada.
A founding member of the Congress of Black Women of Canada, as National Secretary, from 1976-1980 she shouldered sole responsibi-lity for the National Secretariat which was mandated to structure the national organization, establish a network of communications, draft a Constitution and convene the fourth national gathering of Black Women from across Canada.