|Birth||9 September 1937, St. George’s|
Jean Augustine PC CM CBE (born September 9, 1937) is a Grenadan/Canadian educational administrator, advocate for social justice, and politician. She is the first African Canadian woman to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons and the first to serve in the federal Cabinet.From 1993 to 2006, Augustine was a Liberal member of the Canadian House of Commons, representing the riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore in Ontario. She served as a member of Cabinet (2002 to 2004). Before her election, she had been a school principal. Augustine served as the Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien from 1994 to 1996; she was Minister of State for multiculturalism (and the status of women) from 2002 to 2004.
Augustine was born in 1937 in Grenada, but immigrated to Canada in 1960 under the West Indian Domestic Scheme. She studied at the University of Toronto where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Education. After university she worked as an elementary school principal with the Metropolitan Separate School Board in Toronto.
She 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.
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.
In 2007, Augustine was nominated by the Government of Ontario to become the first Fairness Commissioner, a position created to advocate for Canadians with foreign professional credentials. Augustine retired from the position of Fairness Commissioner in March 2015.
In 2007, Augustine donated her personal records to the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections at York University. “Pushing buttons, pushing stories” is a digital archive of Augustine’s personal political buttons.
In 2008, the Jean Augustine Chair in Education was established in the Faculty of Education at York University.
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.