Augustine to be Ont. advocate for foreign workers
Published Tuesday, March 13, 2007 9:56AM EDT
A former federal cabinet minister has been nominated by the Ontario government as the first so-called fairness commissioner to advocate on behalf of foreign-trained professionals who want their credentials recognized.
Jean Augustine's nomination for the new position comes after a career that has been focused on dealing with the issue.
"(I am) really very honoured and pleased to be nominated for that position because it is an issue and an area that I have worked with all of my life in Canada," Augustine told CTV.ca Tuesday morning.
Augustine came to Canada from Grenada in 1962. She had trained to be a school teacher, but Oxford and Cambridge overseas school certificates failed to convince Ontario's teachers' college that her academic credentials were valid.
"I've never forgotten that little struggle to get the acknowledgement and to have someone who understands what the British overseas educational system was and how that equated to Canada," she said.
While working other jobs she earned an Ontario Teacher's Certificate. Eventually Augustine received a Master of Education degree and became a school principal.
In 1993, she was the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons, winning the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding for the federal Liberals. She held the seat until 2006 when she announced her retirement from politics.
In Parliament, Augustine became a member of several standing committees and became Secretary of state for multiculturalism and the status of women in 2002.
In 2003, she became minister of state for both responsibilities.
As she met professional success, Augustine never forgot the feeling of having her credentials questioned.
Ontario, and Toronto in particular, is the first point of entry for many newcomers to Canada. Augustine said programs for new immigrants with professional qualifications have come a long way and there is recognition that a "comprehensive plan" is needed.
"We have to have some fair access so that they can get into these regulated professions."
Augustine said the commissioner's role will be to "oversee regular audits to ensure better registration practices of regulated professions are transparent, objective, impartial and fair."
But she is not in the job yet. While Ontario's Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act -- which created the commissioner's job -- became law two weeks ago, her nomination will be scrutinized by the Standing Committee on Government Agencies.
Ontario's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle said Augustine's experiences make her the "right person to take on this vitally important job."
Augustine is preparing for the committee's review and is looking forward to tackling the job.
"I'm pleased to see that Ontario has some steps to help people along the way, so I think that this commissioner's role is really to help that along."
With files from The Canadian Press