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The Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine

A school as diverse as Humber naturally has seen its share of notable pioneers, leaders and luminaries, whether as students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors or supporters. While their individual and collective examples frame a better future, one stands out for her unique role in helping to catalyze important conversations about diversity and inclusion for Humber and other institutions across Canadian society. She is the Honorable Dr. Jean Augustine, and her work has had an impact on our campuses and communities in important ways.

In 1993, Dr. Augustine became the first Black woman elected as a Member of Parliament, representing the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore in the Greater Toronto Area. She would soon become the first African Canadian to serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, and first Black female federal cabinet minister through her service as Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women. 

In these and other roles, she made her mark on Canadian history—notably by her driving commitment to ensure that the Black Canadian experience, which is a vital aspect of Canada's story, is also rightfully recognized.

Early in her parliamentary career, Dr. Augustine led the campaign to establish Black History Month to help fill gaps of knowledge and provide a more complete account of the rich history of contributions of Black people to Canada. Through the years since, her passion for promoting diversity and fighting racism never waned. 

Among numerous initiatives, she helped bring the International African Inventors' Museum travelling exhibit to Humber's North Campus in 2013, to highlight important role models for all students. She attended the launch in her capacity as Ontario’s Fairness Commissioner—a position established in 2007 by the Provincial Government to address a range of challenges faced by individuals in Ontario with foreign professional credentials.

"Humber represents the real face of Canada,” she had stated. "This exhibit calls not just to African students, but to all the students of the school. This speaks to the overall learning environment that is an integral part of Humber College."

The tributes to Dr. Augustine's achievements are many. They include the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, each of which recognizes her extensive contributions as a politician, educator, and advocate for social justice. Also in tribute to her and in her name are a Chair in the Faculty of Education at York University, a high school in Brampton, a Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment in Etobicoke, a building in Vaughan, and municipal parks in Toronto and Vaughan.

Several years ago, an endowment was established at Humber in recognition of her achievements. The Jean Augustine Legacy Scholarship is presented annually to a student from the Etobicoke-Lakeshore area that has demonstrated financial need and is working to overcome obstacles while pursuing educational goals. This student will also be actively involved in the community and entering a Humber postsecondary program for the first time. This is one of many ways in which Dr. Augustine's continued commitment to equality is manifested in our community.

We are grateful for Dr. Jean Augustine’s contribution and extend our thanks for her continued work and support. Most of all, we honour this exceptional woman whose legacy also inspires the diversity of our student body, an improved appreciation and awareness of our Canadian history, and individual acceptance of each person’s own duty to help contribute to building a better Canada of tomorrow.

To make a donation to the Jean Augustine Legacy Scholarship, please click here