#ImmigrationMatters in Milton, Ontario – Serving our country, at home and abroad

Serving our country, at home and abroad

June 4, 2021


Warrant Officer Avril Jno-Baptiste-Jones

For many military recruits, choosing between the Air Force, Army, or Navy can be a challenge. Some decide based on training intensity, posting locations, or even history and tradition – reasons all good as the next.

Warrant Officer Avril Jno-Baptiste-Jones’ decision to join the Army came down to the uniform. She laughs at the memory of her younger self walking into a local recruiting centre in Winnipeg certain she was destined for the skies. But after comparing uniforms, she was sold on the smart, tailored camouflage, or garrison dress, of the Army.

For over 25 years Warrant Officer Avril Jno-Baptiste-Jones has worn the Army uniform proudly, rising through the ranks and working in communities across Canada before settling in Milton, Ontario. She deployed twice internationally, to Afghanistan and Kuwait, and once domestically, to Canadian Forces Station Alert in Nunavut, receiving commendations for her strength and leadership. In 2013, she was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for excellence in recognition of her service to Canada.

“When I put on my uniform, I feel proud to defend Canada, the country that gave me a great life,” she says. “I feel especially proud when I am deployed, wearing the flag on my shoulder and being part of an organization that’s helping people.”

Avril moved to Canada from the Caribbean island of Dominica. Her first memory of Canada is seeing the bright lights of downtown Toronto. As a young adult, she moved to Winnipeg, where she was introduced to the idea of joining the military. She wasn’t optimistic at first.

Avril’s commitment to her job and to the welfare of the unit was instrumental both operationally and socially. Canadian Forces Station Leitrim is a family and Avril the glue that bound us together. She will always be remembered for her unwavering professionalism, her mentorship, her dedication and her smile and good humour.
Colonel (Ret’d) Colin Lachance

“I didn’t think I could measure up,” she says. “I didn’t fit the part. I like to be girly and that’s not a soldier.”

Her uncertainty was also fuelled by lack of representation.

“Nobody looked like me. At the time I thought, ‘I’m a Black girl. I have an accent. I wasn’t born here. I don’t fit in.’”

A chance meeting with a female Black officer in uniform at a bus stop one day changed her mind. Avril joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a Finance Clerk.

Retired Colonel Colin Lachance was Avril’s Commanding Officer for two years at Canadian Forces Station Leitrim in Ottawa, Ontario.

“Avril overcame the many challenges of starting a new life in a new country. She worked incredibly hard and dedicated her life to serve her new country and home, becoming a remarkable leader and soldier,” he says.

Avril took on many leadership roles with the Canadian Armed Forces, as a Warrant Officer and mentor. She became a member of the Defence Visible Minority Group and championed change for Black members in the military, such as the right to wear their natural hair. She also volunteered for the Applause Institute, mentoring Black youth to excel in their careers.

“She has encouraged a number of youth to lean in to the possibility of a military career – to see it as a good home,” says Frances Delsol, Community Leader and Executive Director of Black Business and Professional Association Canada, who has known Avril since she was a young girl.

Avril credits the military for allowing her to be herself: “I may not fit the stereotype of a woman in uniform, but I have always remained me. Through my service, I’ve been places, made friends, and even met my husband. I have always done things my way, at my pace. The Canadian Armed Forces allowed me to grow, but I’ve always stayed true to who I am.”

Immigration profile: Milton, Ontario

Quick facts:

  • Immigrants make up more than 35% of the Milton population.
  • Pakistan is the biggest source country of immigrants in Milton, followed by India and the United Kingdom.
  • Between 1980 and 2016, 58% of all immigrants who came to Milton were economic immigrants, while 29% were sponsored by family and nearly 12% were refugees.

Did you know?

  • Women have been involved in Canada’s military service and contributed to Canada’s rich military history and heritage for more than 100 years. They have been fully integrated in all occupations and roles for over 20 years.

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