Trailblazers in Canadian Legal History: Jean Augustine

Dr. Jean Augustine is a Grenada-born immigrant, social justice advocate, educator, politician, and Canadian trailblazer. She is the first African Canadian woman to be elected to the House of Commons, and, in 1993, she was elected in the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore (and sat in Parliament until 2006). In that time, her roles included Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister; Minister of Multiculturalism and the Status of Women; Chair of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade committee; Chair of the Human Rights Committee; and three-time Chair of the National Women’s Caucus.

In 1995, Dr. Augustine carried out a motion in the House of Commons to officially recognize February as Black History month in Canada. This motion changed history. 

“There was very little that was written for and about the Canadian Black community, and the presence of Black people as part of Canadian history… It was a passion of mine to see how we could make this happen to have Black history be part of the curriculum, and Black people acknowledged and celebrated in the Canadian mosaic.” 

During her time in parliament, she helped pass legislation that protects disadvantaged low-income individuals (including single mothers raising children), secured unanimous legislative support to pass a landmark motion to erect the only statue featuring women on Parliament Hill (the Famous Five Monument), and traveled extensively abroad to “ultimately improve the human condition.” In 2015, she became Ontario’s First Fairness Commissioner, a role that set ground-breaking standards for transparency and open access for foreign-trained professionals.

“Amongst hundreds of other earned awards are the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, the Kaye Livingstone Award, the Ontario Volunteer Award, the Rubena Willis Special Recognition Award, the UNIFOR Nelson Mandela Lifetime Achievement Award; the Toronto Lion’s Club Award; the University of the West Indies’ Luminary Award; and the Women’s Executive Network naming her one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women.” With dozens of other achievements and contributions, there is no doubt that Dr. Jean Augustine is a Canadian trailblazer.

Today, she remains involved in community activities and co-chairs the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women recognition database and The Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment. Learn more about the Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine here:

Scroll to Top