Speaker Series: Augustine stresses fairness, equality, transparency

January 26, 2015

Ms. Augustine, a former Member of Parliament, is the first Fairness Commissioner for Ontario. Her office was also the first such office in all of Canada. Manitoba has since followed suit and British Columbia is in the process of establishing a similar office.

Ontario being the most-favoured province for more than 60% of new immigrants from all over the world, accreditation for all of the foreign-trained professionals has been a major hurdle for the new comers who wish to practice their professions in this country.

The professional accreditations are awarded and regulated by the regulatory body of each specific profession. Most professions require, and in many cases legitimately need to require, that the applicant be equipped with Canadian experience and be proficient in the English language. Quite often, just the access to apply to the regulatory bodies is a stumbling block for the aspiring professionals.

The mandate for the Office of Fairness Commissioner is to open up the access for new immigrants to apply for accreditations to the various professions.

Ms. Augustine’s goal is to make the process transparent, clear, non-discriminatory, fair and equitable. She strongly emphasizes that her office is not that of an ombudsman; neither is she authorized to interfere with the governance or the regulatory process of each of the professional regulatory body.

However, she does have the capacity to make recommendations to the provincial government in these matters.

Ms. Augustine’s office is located at Toronto’s  Atrium on Bay St. There are two branch offices to serve the clients. For health-related professions, applicant can go to the branch on Gould Street, next to Ryerson University.

Ms. Augustine was born in Grenada and came to Canada in 1960. She attended the University of Toronto, where she earned bachelor of arts and master of education degrees. She was an elementary school principal with the Metropolitan Separate School Board in Toronto.

From 1988 until 1993, she was chair of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority.

She was the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to the House of Commons, from the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore in 1993, and sat in Parliament until 2006. During this time, she served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, secretary of state and minister of state for multiculturalism and the status of women, sat on several standing committees, and was a deputy Speaker.

She has shared her expertise and enthusiasm with others as a member of several community boards, including those of York University, the Hospital for Sick Children, the Donwood Institute and Harbourfront Corporation. She is a former national president of the Congress of Black Women of Canada. Every year, she makes a better future for one young woman through the Jean Augustine Scholarship, a fund that helps single mothers attend George Brown College in Toronto.

Ms. Augustine has donated her archival and parliamentary materials to York University’s Faculty of Education, thus creating the opportunity to establish an innovative academic position, the Jean Augustine Chair in Education in the New Urban Environment.

She has been honoured by many organizations for her leadership and community involvement and was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the University of Toronto.