CTO Lifetime Achievement Award for Jean Augustine
November 23, 2017
Jean Augustine has done more to support and promote the Caribbean than most travel and tourism officials assigned to Canada have in the last four decades.
During the four consecutive terms she served in the Canadian parliament, Augustine – as the chair of the Canada-Caribbean parliamentarian friendship group – took parliamentarians to her native Grenada and other Caribbean islands.
She also served multiple times as alternative governor of the Caribbean Development Bank and, in 1998, joined then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell in signing the agreement on social security between Canada and St. Vincent & the Grenadines making persons who have lived or worked in both countries or are the survivors of someone who has lived and worked in the two countries eligible for pensions or benefits from St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Canada.
Augustine was also instrumental in getting Jean Chretien to extend tremendous goodwill to the Caribbean during his reign as Prime Minister.
“I successfully persuaded him on one occasion to travel to Grenada to meet with Caribbean leaders and I was also very involved in discussions to ease visa restrictions on Caribbean nationals,” she said. “I made sure that the Liberal government addressed regional concerns and supported and funded initiatives to help expand Caribbean initiatives.”
Last week, Augustine was the recipient of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Lifetime Achievement Award for her many years of passionate involvement in civic and diaspora activities, her extensive advocacy for education and social justice, her dedication to the development of the Caribbean and leadership in investing in young people through the establishment of a chair in education, community and diaspora at York University.
“She has definitely earned this honour,” said CTO secretary general and chief executive officer Hugh Riley. “She is a role model for women everywhere, especially those of Caribbean descent. She’s personable, well accomplished and an inspiration for all Caribbean people. We felt that this would be the right occasion on which to present her with the Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Augustine was as an elementary school principal and Metro Toronto Housing Authority chair before entering politics. She represented the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding for four terms before resigning from federal politics 12 years ago to make way for former Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff.
As the first Black woman appointed to Cabinet when she was named Secretary of State with responsibility for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, Augustine also filled the roles of Minister of State, Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and Special Adviser for Grenada. She was also Parliamentary Secretary to then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and she chaired the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Parliamentary Committee and served on the Parliamentary Sub-Committees on Human Rights, International Trade, Citizenship and Immigration.
Augustine was the founding chair of the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development and Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus.
As a result of two motions Augustine initiated, February was declared nationally as Black History Month and the Famous Five Statue received a home on Parliament Hill, giving recognition to the contributions of women and Blacks in Canada
In 2007, the University of the West Indies honoured her with a Caribbean Luminary Award, recognizing her significant contributions to the Caribbean Diaspora.
In addition, Augustine spent eight years as Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner advocating for foreign- trained professionals and ensuring the credentials of internationally-trained professionals are treated fairly.
The Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment was launched in June 2008 at the Technology Enhanced Learning Building at York University.
The Chair will study social justice and equity issues in the urban environment that shape student academic success. It also aims to enrich research and academic activities involving urban communities in areas such as educational policy and practice. In addition, by preparing teachers to deal with urban educational challenges, the Chair will have an exponential impact on the future of education.
Augustine has made a special gift of historically significant items to York University including her parliamentary chair, robes and portrait from the House of Commons, photos, commemorative items and gifts.
She also donated a collection of papers documenting her time as an elected representative which will be archived in order to allow students and scholars’ access for research purposes.
A few years ago, the former House of Commons deputy speaker established a scholarship at George Brown College to encourage and assist single mothers in their decision to undertake post-secondary education at the academic institution.
Augustine, who served on the committee that helped organize the first Caribana celebration in 1967, is a founding member of the Grenada Association of Toronto and the holder of six honourary degrees.
The presentation took place at the inaugural Caribbean Ball which kicked off the three-day Caribbean Week Canada celebration.
Other CTO Lifetime Achievement awardees include Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Cicely Tyson.
Proceeds from the inaugural Caribbean Ball in Canada will support the CTO Foundation and the Relief Fund.
Established in 1997, the Foundation provides scholarships and study grants to nationals of CTO member countries who are interested in pursuing tourism/hospitality and language studies. The Foundation has awarded over US$1 million in scholarships in the last two decades.
The CTO collects donations through the Relief Fund for relief efforts in its member countries.
“Many of our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean are still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said Riley. “They need a hand…But more than just raising funds, tonight is an opportunity for engagement, fellowship and getting together with people of Caribbean heritage and descent and those who are friends of the Caribbean. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate each other and most especially to rally around the Caribbean brand.”
Executive chef Raymond Cheung and his staff at the Doubletree Hilton Toronto Downtown Hotel, where the event took place, presented a cheque to the CTO for the Relief Fund.
“They collected their own money to present to the Caribbean and that was very heartwarming,” added Riley.