Grenada-Born Social Justice Advocate Gets CTO’s Highest Award

Jean Augustine (right) receives CTO Lifetime Achievement Award from CTO secretary general Hugh Riley (centre) while close friend Rita Cox (left) looks on.

 

TORONTO, Canada, Monday November 27, 2017 – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has bestowed its most prestigious honour on social advocate Jean Augustine.

The Grenada-born retired Canadian school teacher and politician was given the CTO Lifetime Achievement Award – the first person ever to be given this award in Canada. It was presented recently in Toronto at the Caribbean Ball, a fundraiser for the CTO’s hurricane relief fund and the CTO Foundation which provides scholarships and grants to Caribbean nationals pursuing studies in tourism and hospitality.

“For your many years of passionate involvement in civic and diaspora activities, your extensive advocacy for education and social justice, your dedication to the development of the Caribbean and your leadership in investing in our youth by the establishment of the chair in education, community and Diaspora at York University; for these and other outstanding achievements which are symbols of your commitment to our youth, the African Caribbean community and all citizens, we honour you,” the citation read.

Augustine was a trailblazing politician and social activist, having worked her way from a nanny when she first arrived in Canada in 1960, to become the most powerful black woman in the Canadian parliament.

She was the first black woman elected to the Canadian parliament and the first black Cabinet minister, acting as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s trusted voice on committees and at international meetings and in Parliament when he was absent from the house of commons.

During her acceptance speech, Augustine described how she once persuaded the Canadian prime minister to meet Caribbean leaders in the region instead of having them travel to Canada. That meeting was held in her country of birth, Grenada. She also described her battle to get the government to ease visa restrictions on Caribbean nationals, a battle she said she lost.

Prior to serving in parliament, Augustine was a school teacher and during her career in the teaching service she was an activist in Toronto’s Caribbean communities, volunteering with grassroots organizations to strengthen immigrant and women’s rights and to combat violence against women, drug abuse and poverty. In 1967, she served on the committee that helped organize the first Caribana festival, and in the mid-1990s she played a crucial role in establishing Black History Month in Canada.

“The Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award honours individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to society and who, by their example, have inspired at least one generation. Ms. Augustine’s achievements have far exceeded those criteria,” the CTO said.

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