Jean Augustine one of Canada's top immigrants

News May 30, 2011 by Justin Skinner Etobicoke Guardian

When former Etobicoke-Lakeshore Member of Parliament Jean Augustine was looking to get into post-secondary education as a young woman in 1960, she found her options were few and far between.

The Grenada native found few opportunities throughout the Caribbean and quickly learned that tuition costs elsewhere were prohibitive. Until she heard about a program in place at the time in which young women with no dependents could come to Canada and gain landed immigrant status by working for a year as a domestic.

In helping the Etobicoke resident find her way to Canada, that program has managed to pave the way to change for countless Canadians and served as a boon to the country.

When she first arrived in Canada, Augustine was told she needed more education to qualify for teachers' college despite having completed credits through the Oxford and Cambridge overseas program.

"They said I had to go back to Grade 13 but I told them 'no, I have more than Grade 13 already,'" she said. "That was the first time I pushed back against the system."

That showed the type of backbone that has served her well throughout her time in Canada. After graduating she became a teacher at - and eventually becoming a principal with - what was then known as the Separate School Board.

While she was successful in getting into teacher's college, Augustine had plenty of other obstacles to overcome, from culture shock to every day issues that derived from living in a predominantly white society.

"There was the shock of the weather and the shock that comes when you don't see a lot of people who look like you when you walk down the street," she said. "But it was also little things - the challenges of finding basic need things like the right colour stockings or the right face powder or a hairdresser who was used to my kind of hair."

Despite those barriers, both big and small, Augustine excelled in her schooling and quickly found work at a time when teachers were in high demand.

The respect she earned within the school board, along with a history of community activism, quickly opened more doors. She was asked to serve on various boards, including the Congress of Black Women of Canada, the Grenada Association, the Metro Toronto Housing Authority, task forces on drugs and crime and more.

For her work in helping to foster a more inclusive Canada, Augustine was recently named one of the country's Top 25 Canadian Immigrants by Canadian Immigrant Magazine.

Augustine knew that some of the problems facing many Canadians needed to be dealt with through innovative means.

"With the Housing Authority, I saw that a lot of (differences) that could be made for tenants could happen just by organizing them," she said. "We did a series of things to empower tenants...we found alternate things for young people to do to keep them away from crack cocaine, which was a problem at the time."

After her success there, Augustine was approached by the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats, all of whom encouraged the popular Etobian to get involved with politics.

She joined the Liberal Party and was elected to office in 1993 and was named Parliamentary Secretary to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the minister responsible for multiculturalism and the status of women.

Now out of federal politics, Augustine is Ontario's Fairness Commissioner, still fighting to keep doors open and level the playing field for all.

"My job now is to work with regulatory bodies to help make sure people's qualifications are recognized, which is still something where we need to improve," she said.

While Augustine has made a home for herself in south Etobicoke, that was not always her plan. She had intended to finish her studies in Canada and then return to Grenada to start a teaching career before too long.

"I tell women who come to Canada now to get invested," she said. "As with most people who voluntarily come to a new country, I thought I'd get my BA, get some expertise in teaching and go back. I learned that you come here, make friends, form bonds, get married - you don't always go back."

In that sense, Grenada's loss has certainly been Canada's gain.

Jean Augustine one of Canada's top immigrants

Former Etobicoke MP has been pushing back against the system since coming to the country

News May 30, 2011 by Justin Skinner Etobicoke Guardian

When former Etobicoke-Lakeshore Member of Parliament Jean Augustine was looking to get into post-secondary education as a young woman in 1960, she found her options were few and far between.

The Grenada native found few opportunities throughout the Caribbean and quickly learned that tuition costs elsewhere were prohibitive. Until she heard about a program in place at the time in which young women with no dependents could come to Canada and gain landed immigrant status by working for a year as a domestic.

In helping the Etobicoke resident find her way to Canada, that program has managed to pave the way to change for countless Canadians and served as a boon to the country.

When she first arrived in Canada, Augustine was told she needed more education to qualify for teachers' college despite having completed credits through the Oxford and Cambridge overseas program.

Related Content

"They said I had to go back to Grade 13 but I told them 'no, I have more than Grade 13 already,'" she said. "That was the first time I pushed back against the system."

That showed the type of backbone that has served her well throughout her time in Canada. After graduating she became a teacher at - and eventually becoming a principal with - what was then known as the Separate School Board.

While she was successful in getting into teacher's college, Augustine had plenty of other obstacles to overcome, from culture shock to every day issues that derived from living in a predominantly white society.

"There was the shock of the weather and the shock that comes when you don't see a lot of people who look like you when you walk down the street," she said. "But it was also little things - the challenges of finding basic need things like the right colour stockings or the right face powder or a hairdresser who was used to my kind of hair."

Despite those barriers, both big and small, Augustine excelled in her schooling and quickly found work at a time when teachers were in high demand.

The respect she earned within the school board, along with a history of community activism, quickly opened more doors. She was asked to serve on various boards, including the Congress of Black Women of Canada, the Grenada Association, the Metro Toronto Housing Authority, task forces on drugs and crime and more.

For her work in helping to foster a more inclusive Canada, Augustine was recently named one of the country's Top 25 Canadian Immigrants by Canadian Immigrant Magazine.

Augustine knew that some of the problems facing many Canadians needed to be dealt with through innovative means.

"With the Housing Authority, I saw that a lot of (differences) that could be made for tenants could happen just by organizing them," she said. "We did a series of things to empower tenants...we found alternate things for young people to do to keep them away from crack cocaine, which was a problem at the time."

After her success there, Augustine was approached by the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats, all of whom encouraged the popular Etobian to get involved with politics.

She joined the Liberal Party and was elected to office in 1993 and was named Parliamentary Secretary to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the minister responsible for multiculturalism and the status of women.

Now out of federal politics, Augustine is Ontario's Fairness Commissioner, still fighting to keep doors open and level the playing field for all.

"My job now is to work with regulatory bodies to help make sure people's qualifications are recognized, which is still something where we need to improve," she said.

While Augustine has made a home for herself in south Etobicoke, that was not always her plan. She had intended to finish her studies in Canada and then return to Grenada to start a teaching career before too long.

"I tell women who come to Canada now to get invested," she said. "As with most people who voluntarily come to a new country, I thought I'd get my BA, get some expertise in teaching and go back. I learned that you come here, make friends, form bonds, get married - you don't always go back."

In that sense, Grenada's loss has certainly been Canada's gain.

Jean Augustine one of Canada's top immigrants

Former Etobicoke MP has been pushing back against the system since coming to the country

News May 30, 2011 by Justin Skinner Etobicoke Guardian

When former Etobicoke-Lakeshore Member of Parliament Jean Augustine was looking to get into post-secondary education as a young woman in 1960, she found her options were few and far between.

The Grenada native found few opportunities throughout the Caribbean and quickly learned that tuition costs elsewhere were prohibitive. Until she heard about a program in place at the time in which young women with no dependents could come to Canada and gain landed immigrant status by working for a year as a domestic.

In helping the Etobicoke resident find her way to Canada, that program has managed to pave the way to change for countless Canadians and served as a boon to the country.

When she first arrived in Canada, Augustine was told she needed more education to qualify for teachers' college despite having completed credits through the Oxford and Cambridge overseas program.

Related Content

"They said I had to go back to Grade 13 but I told them 'no, I have more than Grade 13 already,'" she said. "That was the first time I pushed back against the system."

That showed the type of backbone that has served her well throughout her time in Canada. After graduating she became a teacher at - and eventually becoming a principal with - what was then known as the Separate School Board.

While she was successful in getting into teacher's college, Augustine had plenty of other obstacles to overcome, from culture shock to every day issues that derived from living in a predominantly white society.

"There was the shock of the weather and the shock that comes when you don't see a lot of people who look like you when you walk down the street," she said. "But it was also little things - the challenges of finding basic need things like the right colour stockings or the right face powder or a hairdresser who was used to my kind of hair."

Despite those barriers, both big and small, Augustine excelled in her schooling and quickly found work at a time when teachers were in high demand.

The respect she earned within the school board, along with a history of community activism, quickly opened more doors. She was asked to serve on various boards, including the Congress of Black Women of Canada, the Grenada Association, the Metro Toronto Housing Authority, task forces on drugs and crime and more.

For her work in helping to foster a more inclusive Canada, Augustine was recently named one of the country's Top 25 Canadian Immigrants by Canadian Immigrant Magazine.

Augustine knew that some of the problems facing many Canadians needed to be dealt with through innovative means.

"With the Housing Authority, I saw that a lot of (differences) that could be made for tenants could happen just by organizing them," she said. "We did a series of things to empower tenants...we found alternate things for young people to do to keep them away from crack cocaine, which was a problem at the time."

After her success there, Augustine was approached by the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats, all of whom encouraged the popular Etobian to get involved with politics.

She joined the Liberal Party and was elected to office in 1993 and was named Parliamentary Secretary to former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the minister responsible for multiculturalism and the status of women.

Now out of federal politics, Augustine is Ontario's Fairness Commissioner, still fighting to keep doors open and level the playing field for all.

"My job now is to work with regulatory bodies to help make sure people's qualifications are recognized, which is still something where we need to improve," she said.

While Augustine has made a home for herself in south Etobicoke, that was not always her plan. She had intended to finish her studies in Canada and then return to Grenada to start a teaching career before too long.

"I tell women who come to Canada now to get invested," she said. "As with most people who voluntarily come to a new country, I thought I'd get my BA, get some expertise in teaching and go back. I learned that you come here, make friends, form bonds, get married - you don't always go back."

In that sense, Grenada's loss has certainly been Canada's gain.