‘We have come a long way’ – Jean Augustine @Carpenters

From Left Dr. Cindy Gouveia and Dr. Gervan Fearon of GBC with Clifton Donegal, Rokhaya Gueye, Chris Campbell and Mark Lewis of the  Carpenters’ Union

Grenada-born Jean Augustine, Canada’s first Black female Member of Parliament, in a keynote address last Friday at the Black History Showcase in Concord, Ontario, said Black Canadians have faced prejudice, discrimination and racism” from the very beginning.”.

Augustine recalled that when she came to Canada in the early 1960s, “we had no Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That did not come until we repatriated our constitution and amended it.

“We had no human rights code, as we know it. So when someone was racist or someone said prejudicial things, we had no place where complaints were followed through.

“We also had no Landlord and Tenant Act.

“Chris, my ex-husband, and I once walked up to a place where there was a big sign that said “for rent” and we were told, “we don’t rent to you, people.”

Roodney Clark, Chris Campbell, Ivan Dawnsnd Moses Mawa with the coin

“We had no police-community relations. We had to fight for that.”

She told the gathering at the event put on by the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario to pay tribute to the Number Two Construction Battalion, that the “the story of women and men of African descent in this country is deep and rich and goes back over 400 years.

“We were there when the French sailed through the St. Lawrence and explored a new country. We learned to live with and care for those who were here before us. We fought in wars at home and abroad.

“We stood up for equality, tolerance and justice. We were inspired by men like William Hall, the first Canadian naval recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Carpenters Black History Showcase
Carpenters Black History Showcase

“We are emboldened by the adventurous spirit of Maddie Mayes and the Black pioneers of Western Canada.

“We have come a long way.”

Chris Campbell, director of equity, diversity and inclusion at the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, who also addressed the gathering, presented a $100,000 cheque to Dr. Gervan Fearon, president of George Brown College in Toronto, for the establishment of a scholarship in the construction industry.