Heritage Matters

Heritage Matters – Spring 2018

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Page 12 of 43

Heritage Matters 11 Among her many accolades, the Honourable Jean Augustine has the distinction of being Canada's first Black female Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister. An educator, community builder and politician, she worked to improve the position of women. Today, she continues to empower her community at the Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women's Empowerment in Etobicoke, where she recently sat down with Beth Hanna (CEO of the Ontario Heritage Trust) to discuss a career of service and advocacy. Beth Hanna: Can you reflect a bit on what the really important milestones have been for you on your journey? Jean Augustine: I have to go all the way back to growing up in Happy Hill, St. George's, Grenada, with a grandmother, with aunts and cousins. I'm sure there were men [laughs] in the family, but the ones I admired were these very strong women. My grandmother was the one who assisted my mother with us because my father died when I was nine months old. She was a very strong and affirming woman for me. And so I start with that sense of affirmation from women in my circle. When I came to Toronto, the city was ripe for advocacy. We had no Charter of Rights and Freedoms then. We had no Human Rights Commission in the sense that we have it today. We had no community police relations and no Landlord and Tenant Act. We had to make sure that we advocated and pushed to make the institutions and decision makers understand that we were here as Black people, that we're here as Black women, that we've had a whole history in Canada. There were all kinds of things [laughs] that I was engaged and involved in. Nothing illegal, but at the same time, a lot of things! I also found some fabulous women who were pushing the barriers. People like Marilou McPhedran, who was just appointed to the Senate. Jane Pepino and others were From Happy Hill to Parliament Hill: An interview with trailblazer Jean Augustine The Honourable Jean Augustine.

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