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Viola Desmond Award

Women who write History

Because of the importance of celebrating Black women, the SIFN team created the VIOLA DESMOND award. This award is in honor of Mrs. Viola Desmond’s fight for the civil rights of Black communities in Canada. Not only is she the first woman, but the first Black woman appearing alone on a $10 vertical note.
Each year, this award will highlight the contribution of a Black woman who led the way with her work, her convictions and her perseverance. A woman who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of women at a time when she was not always allowed to take her place.

2021 Award Winner : Mrs. Honourable Jean Augustine

Jean Augustine immigrated to Canada in 1960. Before embarking on a career in politics, she worked as a nanny, teacher, principal, and later chair of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority while raising two girls. In 1993, she became the first Black Woman elected to Parliament, then Cabinet Minister  and Deputy Speaker  – successfully championing the Black History Month and Famous Five Motions such as “That this House take note of the important contribution of Black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, the diversity of the Black community in Canada and its importance to the history of this country.”
In March 2007, the Ontario government appointed her the province’s first Fairness Commissioner. The Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) ensures that qualified foreign-trained professionals (e.g., in medicine, teaching) can get the required licences to practise in the province. Now retired, along with service via her Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment; she is working hard to raise much-needed funds to fully endow the   Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora at York University to help drive social justice policy for generations to come.

2019 Award Winner : Mrs. Celina Caesar-Chavannes

Celina Caesar-Chavannes is an independent member of Ontario’s Whitby constituency. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto, an MBA in Health Management and an Executive MBA from the Rotman School of Management. Before embarking on a career in politics, she was an entrepreneur, consultant and an international speaker. Through the many leadership positions, she has held within councils and organizations, Mrs. Caesar-Chavannes has addressed important issues facing the Black community to Canadian Parliament such as the micro-aggressions and racism that Blacks experience, especially Black Women in Canada. Mrs. Caesar-Chavannes also dared to speak openly about mental health issues in Black communities, a subject which is still a taboo.

2018 Award Winner : Dr. Yvette Bonny

Mrs. Bonny is a pediatrician and hematologist from the first generation of Haitians who arrived in Quebec in the 1960s. She was the first Black resident at Sainte-Justine Hospital, and, in 1980 was the first to perform a bone marrow transplant on a child in Quebec.