By Janice Gourgues Walz
The federal election on October 19, 2015 produced the most diverse group of elected candidates in Canadian history. Out of 18 hopefuls from various political parties, six MPs of Black African heritage were elected in the Liberal party. The new and recurring faces bring the change to Parliament that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised.
According to Statistics Canada’s The Daily, the Black population in Canada “would remain the third largest visible minority” group reaching 1.0 million in 2017. The 2006 Census revealed that the Black population had reached 783,795 due to immigration, mobility and birth rates. With a steady increase throughout the years, the presence of MPs of Black African heritage in Parliament will hopefully see a steady increase as well.
The House of Commons, which consists of 338 Members of Parliament (MPs), elected the following MPs of Black African heritage:
Grenadian-Canadian Celina Caesar-Chavannes was elected to office for the district of Whitby, Ontario and won 29,003 votes, breaking the Conservative reign that held that region since 2006. Celina is a successful entrepreneur, research consultant and international lecturer.
Haitian-Canadian Emmanuel Dubourg was re-elected for the district of Bourassa, Quebec and won 22,234 votes, enabling his continued duties as MP, a title he has had since 2013. Emmanuel is the co-founder of CPA Without Borders; a non-profit organization that offers professional accounting services to NGOs and organizations serving the needy around the world. A fellow competitor for the same riding, Haitian-Canadian Dolmine Laguerre, lost with 6129 votes.
West Indies-Canadian Greg Fergus now represents the riding of Hull-Aylmer and beat the New Democrat Party MP Nycole Turmel by winning 28,478 votes. Fergus is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Aylmer Arms Residence and is also a member of a parish council within his riding.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Hedy Fry made headlines when she was re-elected for the riding of Vancouver Centre. She won the riding by collecting 32,554 votes, thereby holding the position she has had since 1993. Fry has had a 20 year career in family medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver’s West End. Constance Barnes, of African-American descent, attempted to win this riding, but fell short with 11,618 votes.
Somali-Canadian Ahmed Hussen is the new MP for York South—Weston by gaining 20,093 votes, beating fellow minority Conservative candidate James Robinson. Hussen is the first Somali-Canadian elected in the House of Commons. Having immigrated to Canada at the age of 16 as a refugee, Hussen became a lawyer and social activist and currently serves as the National President of the Canadian Somali Congress; a Somali community organization that works with national and regional authorities to advocate on issues of importance to Canadians of Somali heritage.
Frank Baylis whose mother is Barbadian and whose father is English won the Liberal nomination for the riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard-des-Ormeaux with 34,319 votes. Baylis is President of Baylis Medical; a leading supplier of high-technology cardiology, endovascular and oncology products. He also co-founded a tax consulting business.
In addition, 10 Aboriginals and 15 South Asian-Canadians, the latter with genealogies linked to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India as well as Tanzania, gained office through the Federal Election. There were no Black MPs who won for the Conservative, NDP, Bloq Québécois, or Green Party ridings.
The MPs of Black African heritage that did not win in the election includes the following:
Beatrice Ghettuba who was nominated as a Liberal candidate in St. Albert, Edmonton lost with 13,343 votes. Beatrice who was born in Kenya but immigrated to Canada in 1998 continues to work as a Chartered Professional Accountant in her own accounting firm. She also serves as the Board Chair for Edmonton’s Africa Centre, a council for the advancement of African-Canadians in Alberta.
Conservative candidate Abdul Abdi for the Ottawa West – Nepean riding lost in the election with 18,893 votes. The Somali-Canadian took over this riding once held by former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. He remains a Constable for the local police department.
James Robinson who was the Conservative candidate for York South-Weston lost to Somali-Canadian Ahmed Hussen by gaining only 8,399 votes. A small number compared to Hussen’s victorious win of 20,093 votes. Robinson continues to work as Bishop.
NDP candidate, Constance Barnes was no match to reigning champ Dr. Hedy Fry. Barnes lost with 11,618 votes. Barnes continues to work as a Senior Executive in Vancouver’s tourism industry.
NDP candidate Sadia Groguhé who represented the riding of Longueil–Charles-Lemoyne lost with 12,468 votes. Groguhé who is of Algerian and African descent continues to work as a Guidance Counsellor for youth.
NDP candidate Faisal Hassan who represented Etobicoke North in the Federal election lost due to his miniscule 5,220 votes. The Somali-Canadian continues to work in politics and in his community.
NDP candidate Gregory Hines who represented Markham–Stouffville lost with 3,647 votes. He remains a successful small business owner and community support worker.
Kedina Fleury-Samson who represented the Bloq Québécois for the riding of Avignon-La Mitis-Matane-Matapédia lost with 7,641 votes. The Haitian-Canadian continues to pursue her Master’s degree in Psychology.
Don Woodstock of Winnipeg Centre lost in the elections with 1,379 for the Green party. The Jamaican-Canadian continues to work for the Winnipeg Transit operator and runs his own home automation and security business.
Green Party’s Fodé Kerfalla Yansané who represented the Beloeil—Chambly riding lost in the elections with 1,498 votes. The Guinean-Canadian had previously worked in the Quebec government.
Raheem Aman of the Green Party who represented the Hamilton Mountain riding gained only 1,283 votes. Aman who is of Barbadian and Jamaican descent continues to pursue his undergraduate studies at McMaster University.
The current Trudeau Cabinet also represents a real change for Canadian politics. The gender balanced cabinet now consists of 15 males and 15 females because, as Prime Minister Trudeau declared, “it’s 2015.”
Two of the Ministers in the Trudeau Cabinet are of Aboriginal descent: Hon. Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Those who are first generation Canadians include Hon. Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, and Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.