Keith Gray is the Honorary Life Governor of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
Now retired, he held down a successful career as a banking executive, starting off at the bottom rung as a bank messenger/junior clerk and steadily moving up the career ladder.
During his time working for a bank, he was known to get things done and was famous for being one of the main characters in a book called ‘Banking on America’.
But from an early age he hit the ‘rough’ and can still clearly remember getting the strap and being called stupid for not being able to read or remember things in class as a school boy in rural Canada. Although this happened over 70 years ago, for Keith Gray these memories have largely not been forgotten. In fact, very much what he experienced then still happens in Canada daily. The legacy of the past has clearly not changed and children with dyslexia are not afforded the opportunity or chance to excel in school, due to a lack of proper understanding of dyslexia in Canada.
Keith believes that unlike most modern economies, the Canadian government is failing to recognise dyslexia, failing to give teachers the tools to teach children with dyslexia, and failing to change the education curriculum. This is ultimately sentencing 10-15% of the population to a future life of misery. Because dyslexia can be inherited, this can also mean generations of families growing up in a culture of failing, accepting this as the norm.
According to Keith, when the rest of the world decided to change and to adopt new thinking in how best to support children with dyslexia, Canada resolutely stood still. It continues to maintain that it cannot afford to recognise dyslexia and will not recognise the word ‘dyslexia’. Compared with other developed nations this may seem a draconian and short-sighted approach to take, as failing to support children with dyslexia in education would ultimately increase education costs. Keith was told by the Deputy Minister of Education for Ontario, the largest province in Canada that the reason why they don’t and won’t officially recognise or use the word ‘dyslexia’ is because of ‘money’. That is why 4 years ago, Keith got together with a number of support networks across Canada to establish Dyslexia Canada. Because of this, no child in Canada with dyslexia will be denied the support he was denied at a similar age.
When Keith’s career started off in the banking industry, they saw potential in him. Even though he was a school drop-out and failed at high school, the bank stood by him and decided to send him to Harvard Business School, for which they paid. At that time, Keith knew that he was having difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling. So, a doctor friend suggested he get tested for dyslexia. At 35 years old not only did Keith learn for very first time that he was dyslexic, but he didn’t even know what the word meant. The doctor friend said to try and keep up with everyone else at university, but Keith asked whether he should tell his employer. In those days, something like this would have been recorded on your employment record and would have been ‘taboo’, so the doctor friend suggested that as Keith was doing well, he should carry on as he was and not tell anyone. But although Keith was fortunate to rise above his challenges from an early age and to carve out what ended up being a successful career in banking, he still finds dyslexia a challenge today.
In setting up Dyslexia Canada, Keith is challenging the Canadian authorities to acknowledge the importance of recognising and supporting children with dyslexia, in line with other forward-thinking nations, for sake of the Canadian nation and, more importantly, for future generations.