Jean Augustine is a person of eminence amongst all Canadians. Born in St. George’s Grenada in the Caribbean on Sept. 9, 1937 she has just celebrated her 80th birthday.
Jean immigrated to Canada in 1960 through the West Indian Domestic Scheme. She had become a qualify teacher in Grenada but needed Canadian qualification. While she was obtaining this, she worked as a domestic and a shoe store clerk. Receiving her B.A and Master of Education at U of T she began her life as a teacher and principal at Toronto’s Catholic Board of Education. The story of Jean’s work for social justice in Canada and how she became Canada’s first African-Canadian woman member of parliament is told further along in this article as an insert from Wikipedia
In May of this year Hon. Dr. Jean Augustine was the guest speaker at the Jane/Finch Church Coalition’s annual tribute to our community’s teachers for the contribution they make to our children and to the community at large.
Jean Augustine’s message to the gathered teachers at Northminister Baptist Church, right next to Yorkwoods Library touched on many aspects of teaching. She asked them that while teaching to the whole class remember the personal needs of the individual student; that while working hard on your preparations do not forget to innovate. She told them to hold fast to the values of fairness, sharing and rewards will come to you in your own career. Above all, challenge your students to do their very best!
The political story of the Hon. Dr. Jean Augustine is recorded here in Wikipedia
In the 1993 federal election, Augustine became the first African-Canadian woman elected to the Parliament of Canada; she served three terms as Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus. In February 2002, Augustine was elected Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. While in office, Jean Augustine was solely responsible for championing legislation to recognize February as Black History Month in Canada with a unanimous vote of 305-0. This bold statement allowed Canadians to honour their black history during the same time that their American cousins previously have been doing for generations before.
She also was the first African-Canadian woman appointed to the federal cabinet. On May 26, 2002, Augustine was appointed Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women). In December 2003, she was re-appointed to the new Cabinet as Minister of State (Multiculturalism and Status of Women). In 2004, she was appointed to the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole, making her the first African Canadian to occupy the Speaker’s Chair in the Canadian House of Commons.
Augustine was the founding chair of the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population & Development, chair of the National Sugar Caucus, chair of the Micro-credit Summit Council of Canadian Parliamentarians, chair of the Canada-Slovenia Parliamentary Group, and chair of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Group.
On November 28, 2005, Augustine announced her intention to retire from the House, saying that she would not be a candidate in the 2006 Canadian election. She endorsed Liberal Michael Ignatieff to succeed her.
Jean Augustine has become engaged in numerous organizations for education and social justice, serving with the National Black Coalition of Canada, the Board of Governors of York University, the Board of Trustees for The Hospital for Sick Children, the Board of Directors of the Donwood Institute, the Board of Harbourfront, and Chair of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority. She was also named National President of the Congress of Black Women of Canada in 1987
Honours and Awards
- Augustine was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws from her alma mater, University of Toronto. In 2009, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws from McGill University.
- She has received the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, the Kaye Livingstone Award, the Ontario Volunteer Award, the Pride Newspaper Achievement Award, the Rubena Willis Special Recognition Award, and the Toronto Lions’ Club Onyx Award.
- In 2009, she was made a Member of the Order of Canada “for her distinguished career as an educator, politician and advocate for social justice in Canada”.
- She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to education and politics.
- The Jean Augustine Scholarship Fund was named for her, which she helps support with fundraising. It assists single mothers to undertake post-secondary study at George Brown College.
- Jean Augustine Secondary School will open in Brampton in 2016.
- Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Girls’ Leadership Academy.