Jean Augustine opened the door for Black Canadians entering politics and was fundamental in the recognition of Black History Month in Canada.
She was the first Black woman elected to the House of Commons in 1993 as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. She served until 2006.
In 1995, Augustine introduced a motion in the House of Commons to officially recognize February as Black History Month in Canada. The motion was carried unanimously.
She was appointed Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women and became the first Black woman appointed to Cabinet on May 26, 2002.
Augustine was born in St. George’s Grenada in 1937. She emigrated to Canada in 1960 and attended Toronto Teachers’ College.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Education degrees from the University of Toronto, and worked as a teacher, principal, and Supervisory Officer with the Metropolitan Separate School Board in Toronto.
Augustine was active in Toronto’s Caribbean communities and served on the committee that organized the first Caribana festival in 1967.
In 1973, she founded the Toronto chapter of the Congress of Black Women of Canada, and later served as their National President.
Since leaving politics, Augustine has received numerous honours.
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”.
In 2014, she was appointed Commander of the British Empire for her contributions to education and politics, and in 2020 she was appointed to the Order of Ontario.
Augustine has received Honourary Doctorate degrees from many Canadian universities including Toronto, McGill, and York.
She is a Senior Fellow at Massey College and a Fellow of Centennial College.
SOURCES: THECANADIANENCYCLOPEDIA.CA, JEANAUGUSTINE.CA