ABOUT BRIDGE FOR CHANGE
Bridge for Change is an initiative to raise the remaining $1.2 million to fully fund the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora endowment at York University. Since 2007, with York and community support, $1.8 million has been raised thus far towards the $3 million goal.
Achieving this goal would ensure the Chair will be here forever - permanently equipping educators and driving discourse on the Black-Canadian community, and connecting grassroots to education. The Chair will be a bridge among communities across Canada to actively address social justice issues and uncover research opportunities to drive policy change for many generations to come.
THE CHALLENGES WE FACE
Presently, the Canadian education system is not designed to support and set Black students up for long-term success. A lack of race-based data within school boards and communities is a key roadblock for advocates working hard to eliminate systemic barriers and inequalities at every level of education.
According to the Towards Race Equity in Education (2017) report, Black students face an achievement and opportunity gap in the Greater Toronto Area.
Educational streaming significantly minimizes
post-secondary opportunities for students, limits their ability to pursue different career paths and impacts their overall growth.
These inherent biases also impact Black students as young as those in Kindergarten. Many begin with confidence, excitement and a willingness to learn but are gradually “worn down” by attitudes and preconceptions from their teachers and the education system as a whole.
The report states that educational streaming, a policy that groups students based on ability is not effective.
Empowering Black Communities Through High-Quality Education
Born and raised in Grenada, Jean Augustine is a forward-thinking educator and social advocate who has taken it upon herself to lead and influence how the Black-Canadian community is seen, heard and represented across the country.
After immigrating to Canada at the age of 23, she continued her studies in teaching and earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in education from the University of Toronto. Early in her career, Jean understood the importance of empowering students through quality education. She started as an elementary school teacher with the Metropolitan Separate School Board in Toronto, working her way up to be Principal and eventually Supervisory Officer. In these roles, Jean shaped the lives of students by championing her guiding principles of service, activism, innovation and leadership.
Her commitment to education and social justice led to her involvement on various boards such as York University, The Hospital for Sick Children, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Harbourfront Corporation. She also served as the National President of the Congress of Black Women of Canada. Jean was eventually called upon by political leaders to consult on various initiatives including the development of Canada’s official multiculturalism policy in 1971. In 1993, she became the first black woman elected to the Parliament of Canada for the constituency of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, serving four terms until 2006. Shortly after this, she was appointed as Ontario’s first Fairness Commissioner where she developed new regulatory standards to ensure fair registration for foreign-trained professionals looking to be licensed for employment.
Jean Augustine is an exemplary figure who has made incredible strides in her career to address social justice inequalities and diversity across Canada. Among many of her greatest accomplishments is having February officially recognized as Black History Month by the House of Commons.
"Black History is not just for Black people - Black History is Canadian History.
- Jean Augustine
Jean has always been committed to enriching lives and community through education. As Minister of Multiculturalism, she noticed the paucity of representation of the Black community in museums, archives and university chairs across Canada. In 2007, she parlayed her archival parliamentary material to York University archives towards establishing a fully endowed Chair in Education to serve as a dedicated resource for addressing the needs of Black students.
Bridge for Change is in the process of helping to gather the necessary funding to reach that goal.
Although she is a retired educator/politician, Jean continues to embrace her passion for education by proactively working to close the gaps she has seen in the Black-Canadian community.