The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Jean Augustine by the Caribbean Tourism Organization at a gala last Friday in downtown Toronto.
Long-time friend, Dr Rita Cox handed Augustine the award. Cox, in her introduction, reminisced about both working on the two-week long Cumbayah Festival, a black heritage activity in Toronto and staged by 10 women.
Cumbayah Festival went to 44 schools in the greater Toronto area and featured the story of carnival, which both had the responsibility to stage. Cox, told the audience about Augustine’s dedication to getting the job done well and inspiring the community in the process.
Cox said, “I think the journey that she took from Happy Hill, Grenada to Parliament Hill in Canada and when you look at Jean’s supporters, you see that she hasn’t only worked with her own community, but she’s worked for the community at large.
“It’s been an amazing journey with Jean and some of the times, they have been sad and some of them happy, but most of them triumphant,” Cox said.
In accepting the award, Augustine said, “opportunity dances with the ones on the dance floor and so she was on the dance floor and the opportunities found me.
“In claiming relevance for this award from very early, I have learned about speaking and story-telling people where the islands are and what the islands represented as an elementary school teacher in Toronto.
“I wrote for the Catholic School Board modules about the islands, talking about the culture area population industry and these modules are still being used today,” Augustine said.
She said she worked on a number of things that affected the Caribbean, when she first entered parliament in Canada. She said she ensured that after being appointed the governor of the Pro Tab of the Caribbean Development Bank, Canada’s interest was in support of what was needed in the Caribbean.
Augustine said, “I had the pleasure of negotiating for Canadians to receive your Canadian pension in the Caribbean, as well as receive any pensions that you were entitled to from the Caribbean in Canada.
“Another great memory was telling Prime Minister Jean Chrétien why make the 17 leaders from the different Caribbean islands come to Canada to have a first ministers’ meeting, as opposed to you going to the islands and then I suggested that they could do it in Grenada, so he did and it was a wonderful experience for all.
“I don’t know of any other country in the world where I could have come to the country, started at the bottom, doing housekeeping and babysitting and making my way up to the highest place in the land,” Augustine said.
From left Rita Cox, Hugh Reily and Jean Augustine.