A Guide to Women in Canadian History
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Teacher, politician, social reformer
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In 1993, Canadian politician Jean Augustine became the first Black woman elected to the Parliament of Canada. An energetic advocate of social justice, she worked as the principal of an elementary school before entering federal politics. Among her accomplishments as an MP was the introduction of a motion, passed unanimously, to have February proclaimed as Black History Month in Canada. The city of Toronto had been celebrating Black History Month, working with organizations such as the Ontario Black History Society, since 1979.
Born in St. George's, Grenada, Jean Augustine was a qualified teacher when she arrived in Canada in 1959, but had to work as a domestic and shoe clerk before earning an Ontario Teacher's Certificate. After completing a Master of Education degree, Ms. Augustine became a school principal and supported many social causes through her involvement in boards such as that of The Hospital for Sick Children. She also served as the National President of the Congress of Black Women of Canada. She holds an honourary doctorate of law from the University of Toronto.
During her years as a federal member of parliament, The Honourable Jean Augustine served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada, Chair of the National Liberal Women's Caucus, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Deputy Speaker. In March 2007 she became the first Fairness Commissioner for the province of Ontario. The mother of two daughters, Jean Augustine is the recipient of numerous awards--including the 1994 Canadian Black Achievement Award, the YWCA Woman of Distinction and the Kaye Livingstone Award for support of issues relating to Black women. Ms. Augustine has worked on many intiatives related to youth, noting that "racism is the most significant barrier to the successful integration of newcomer black youths to Canada."
The Jean Augustine Scholarship Fund, established in honour of Ms. Augustine, provides help to single mothers studying at George Brown College in Toronto.Discover more
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