Sometimes you read the story of someone so absolutely astonishing, that simply going through their list of accomplishments and accolades sends shivers down your spine – for me it is Jean Augustine.
In 1959, Jean Augustine left Grenada and arrived in Canada. Starting her career in Toronto as a shoe clerk Jean persevered to complete the transfer of her Grenada teaching license and the story of her evolution into being the first African Canadian woman to be elected into Parliament in 1993 is nothing but inspiring.
Completing her Masters of Education at the University of Toronto, Jean worked as an elementary school principal. An advocate Jean for social reform, she earned a place in parliament and the work she completed made significant changes in Canadian history. Credited as the Member of Parliament responsible for championing Canadian legislation to recognize Black History Month in 1995, Jean’s been the recipient of several awards including the YWCA’s women of distinction award.
It’s hard to determine what Jean’s most amazing accomplishment is but a common thread throughout the ground breaking years in her career, is her commitment to bettering the Ontario community. Not only has a park along Humber Bay Shores been named after her, there’s a scholarship fund to honour her legacy at Humber College, and both Toronto District School Board and Peel School Board have named schools in her honour.
With so many projects, it’s safe to assume Jean is kept extremely busy. In true demonstration of her humility and willingness to support local community initiatives, Jean took the time out of her schedule to speak at Tuni Talks on April 5th 2016. A Toronto born initiative, Tuni Talks aim to cultivate the power of community with attendees given the opportunity to hear leaders speak at no charge.
Upon hearing Jean would be presenting from Kurt Vermont, Director of Outreach, Tuni Talks I eagerly blocked the date off in my calendar. In proper fan-club form, I counted the days until I would have the fortunate opportunity to hear Jean speak.
When thinking of what the demeanour of someone so accomplished may be like, many would guess it would kind but also somewhat intimidating – wouldn’t you have to be to make such impact in Parliament? It’s a refreshing pleasure to share that Jean’s nature is certainly kind but far from intimidating. Exuding a calm, radiant energy, Jean engaged with audience members with a smile, inspired with profound words and graciously answered questions.
Jean is the embodiment of not just a woman but a human who inspires. Jean’s journey from her arrival into Canada with humble beginnings in retail to being named a Member of the Order of Canada (Canada’s highest national honour) is nothing short of amazing.
A true leader with a legacy that will continue, we thank you Jean for all the outstanding work you have done for the betterment of all of us.