Choosing to Challenge: A Conversation With Three Trailblazers


Three high-profile, trailblazing women who “choose to challenge” will take part in a panel discussion this month organized by the University of Guelph’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights (DHR).

The panel on women’s equity reflects the “Choose to Challenge” theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.

The three speakers are former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, former Canadian politician and long-time human rights advocate Jean Augustine, and Indigenous leader and advocate Ava Hill, former chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River.

“Choosing to Challenge: A Conversation with Three Trailblazers” will run March 31, 4-5 p.m.

“We are honoured and grateful to have these three remarkable and influential women share their unique perspectives and experiences with our U of G community. This is an incredible opportunity to engage these strong and powerful voices in an important discussion about leadership and the barriers women face,” said Indira Naidoo-Harris, DHR associate vice-president, who will moderate the online conversation.

The panel will focus on building equitable and inclusive communities for everyone. The event is open to all. Registration is required.

About the panellists:

Kathleen Wynne served as Ontario’s first woman premier from 2013 to 2018. She was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2003 and continues to serve as an MPP. Wynne led a number of Ontario ministries, including Municipal Affairs and Housing, Aboriginal Affairs, Transportation, Education, and Agriculture and Food.

In her ministerial roles, she oversaw the creation of a new funding agreement with the federal government to improve access to affordable housing. She worked in partnership with First Nations to address economic development and First Nations land claims and to improve the quality of life for Indigenous people living off-reserve. She also led provincial government efforts to reduce class sizes and implement full-day kindergarten and championed Ontario’s agri-food industry.

Jean Augustine was the first Black woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons and the first Black woman to serve in cabinet. Grenadian-Canadian, she immigrated to Canada in 1960. A former teacher and principal in the Toronto District Catholic School Board, she served as parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and was Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women from 2002 to 2004.

Augustine served as the national president of the Congress of Black Women in Canada. She helped develop and launch Canada’s official multiculturalism policy in 1971 and helped establish Black History Month.

Her community activities include co-chairing the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women recognition and database and the Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment.

Ava Hill, a Mohawk, Wolf Clan, was born on the Six Nations of the Grand River, where she became chief of the 56th and 57th Six Nations Elected Council.  She was a member of the council for 15 years, including six years as chief until 2019.

During her tenure, Hill served on many committees and represented Six Nations on the Chiefs of Ontario Political Confederacy and at the Iroquois Caucus.

She received the 2020 YMCA Peacemaker Medal from the YMCA of Hamilton, Burlington and Brantford. She was recently appointed by Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources as Indigenous adviser to the Geographical Names Board of Canada.

Hill has served as executive director of the Chiefs of Ontario Office, executive assistant to the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and executive assistant to the co-chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

She is currently a board member of the National Consortium for Indigenous Economic Development at the University of Victoria.