Black History Month Spotlight: Jean Augustine

Jean Augustine

Jean Augustine, born in Grenada on September 9, 1937, is a Canadian Member of Parliament best known for her significant contributions as the first African-Canadian woman elected to the House of Commons. She has been a trailblazer and advocate for equity and social justice throughout her career.

An alumnus of the University of Toronto, Augustine immigrated to Canada in 1960. Growing up in Grenada, she had an affinity for fairness and justice and learned the important qualities of belonging, service, sharing, and giving back. Her focus on community engagement and social causes led her to a long and successful career working in education, government, and more.

Jean Augustine
Jean Augustine being sworn in as first black female MP in 1993

Augustine contributed to several monumental developments in Canadian history, such as the founding of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (1967), developing and launching Canada’s official multiculturalism policy (1971), serving as the National President of the Congress for Black Women of Canada (1987), being appointed the Chair of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority (1988), and Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner (2007).
Notably, she introduced the motion to recognise February as Black History Month in Canada, which was officially adopted in 1995. Agustine’s dedication to education and social issues extends beyond her political career, reflecting her commitment to fostering inclusivity and diversity.

We recognize her important nationwide contributions and dedication to creating a more equitable society. Augustine’s advice to others who wish to also make an impact: “Have a passion and know what it is. Take a risk. Look for, and find, mentors and role models. Don’t accept mediocrity. Have confidence that you can change the world.”

Susanna McLeod. 2016. Jean Augustine.

Carolyn Peralta. 2023. The Honourable Jean Augustine celebrates 50 years since graduating from U of T.