Jean Augustine is Grenadian/Canadian educational administrator, advocate for social justice, and politician. She was the first African-Canadian woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons, and first to serve in the federal Cabinet (2002-2004). She initially came to Canada as a nanny. After a year of work as a nanny, she was granted landed immigrant status and studied to become a teacher. She eventually became a school principal. She served as Parliamentary secretary to Jean Chrétien (1994-1996), and was Minister of State for multiculturalism (and the status of women) (2002-2004). She served in numerous organizations for education and social justice, such as the National Black Coalition of Canada, Board of Governors of York U, Board of Trustees for The Hospital for Sick Children, the Board of Directors of the Donwood Institute, Chair of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority, National President of the Congress of Black Women of Canada. She championed the law that established February as Black History Month in Canada. Augustine is a member of the Order of Canada, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and has received several other awards and honorary degrees. She has a school and a scholarship named after her.
Thakore Visiting Scholar Award
Jean was selected as the Thakore Visiting Scholar for her commitment to non-violent efforts for social change and her many similar achievements. She spent time studying the theories of non-violence actions at the Dr. Martin Luther King Center and chaired the largest conference in Canada on social change and non-violence. A key event at the conference was Gandhi and King: Dialogue on Non-Violence that brought members of both Black and East Indian communities together.
Amongst her notable achievements was legislation to protect low-income individuals including single mothers. Jean used skillful negotiation to garner unanimous support to pass a historic motion designating February as Black History Month in Canada.
In 2007, the Government of Ontario asked Jean to lead the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade. Later that year, she was appointed the first Fairness Commissioner for the Province of Ontario. Jean set new regulatory standards for clarity, openness and streamlined access to employment conditions for foreign trained professionals.
In 2009, Jean was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for her extensive contribution to Canadian society as a politician, educator and advocate for social justice. She received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and in 2014 was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to education and politics.
Today, Jean remains involved with community activities including the Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment. She also supports several scholarships at various post-secondary institutions to help provide a better future for young women.