The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Girls’ Leadership Academy has been renamed after Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to the Canadian parliament.
The announcement was made last night at the TDSB regular meeting following the board’s approval.
Launched last September, the academy is located on the second floor of Highland Heights Junior Public School in Scarborough. The students and their parents unanimously agreed that Augustine’s name should be attached to the academy.
“This is quite an honour,” said Augustine, who was a TDSB elementary school principal and a Metro Toronto Housing Authority chair before entering politics. “I have devoted much of my life to empowering young girls and improving the status of women. I will use my new role to help students develop themselves, understand their role in society and assist them in grasping that civic engagement is something they should aspire to achieve.”
Augustine will attend graduations and formal occasions and use her position as a leader in Canadian society to help students network with external organizations.
Retired TDSB administrator, Lloyd McKell, said the board made the right decision.
“Jean is another important role model for girls of all backgrounds because of her commitment to excellence which she has demonstrated throughout her life,” he said. “Her profile as an outstanding contributor in Canadian society makes her the ideal person to have her name attached to the institution.”
The academy is a unique TDSB program, offering a range of academic and extracurricular choices that encourage students to be future leaders. Starting with students from Grades Four to Six, the academy will expand to Grade Seven next fall with an additional teacher.
Program participants learn to think critically about global issues that affect women; explore leadership opportunities and connect with positive role models and mentors; engage in learning through technology for creation, communication and collaboration; participate in daily physical activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and become advocates for local community issues.
An Order of Canada recipient, Augustine represented the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding for four terms before resigning from federal politics eight years ago.
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.
Three years ago, the University of the West Indies honoured Augustine with a Vice-chancellor Award at its annual Canadian fundraising gala.
In addition, she was also appointed Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner to advocate for foreign-trained professionals and ensure 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 on York University’s Keele Campus.
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, Augustine 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.
The former House of Commons Deputy Speaker holds honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, McGill University, the University of Guelph-Humber and York University.
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.