Town Hall Gets Testimony of Alberta’s Racial Tolerance – Red Deer Advocate

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The election of mayors of color in Alberta’s two major cities is a historic event, heralding a treble in the political realm. For people of color. A total of three mayors of color have so far been elected in Calgary and Edmonton, a precedent set by former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who had the distinction of being the first Muslim mayor of a large city.

In this year’s municipal election, Calgary elected its first female mayor, Jyoti Gondek, while Edmonton chose former Trudeau government minister Amarjeet Sohi. Both of these individuals have served their respective communities as former advisers and have a record of distinction in public service. Alberta’s two major cities will now have progressive mayors who will change the face and style of municipal government.

These mayoral victories represent not only the diversity of the city, but also the tolerant and multicultural makeup of Canada. It shows that the electorate is mature enough to elect the best candidates in the running. For members of minority communities, this shows that a person of color can aspire to high political office and is warmly accepted by society at large.

It was a tough election by any stretch of the imagination as there were 27 candidates for the mayor’s presidency in Calgary while Edmonton had 11 candidates. Some of the candidates were former advisers, while others had strong business and other backgrounds.

Gondek made history by becoming the very first female mayor in the city’s 146 years of history. The former councilor who was first elected in 2017 will oversee a new roster of councilors with just three incumbents. The new council will have six women councilors in Calgary and eight in Edmonton.

When Mayor Nenshi first declared his candidacy in 2010, he was asked if Calgary was ready for a Muslim mayor. I was so enraged by the question that I wrote a column in newspapers defending Nenshi’s right to run. I wrote at the time ”, I thought that when voters go to vote in an election, they look at a candidate’s credentials and qualifications, not his religion which is not even mentioned on the ballot. vote. What voters would look for is the candidate’s ability for the job and then vote for the best candidate. Therefore, the question of what is wrong with being a Muslim and mayor of a city is beyond me. Interestingly, neither of the stories mentioned the religious affiliations of the two favorites. No one has had time to question their religious affiliations.

“It is sad that every time a candidate from a visible minority comes forward, the media highlights his ethnicity and religion. Why would a Muslim mayor be any different from a Christian mayor? Is a Christian mayor better than a Muslim mayor? Are there any qualifications that a Christian mayor has that a Muslim mayor does not? For me, the only difference is their different religious beliefs.

As it turns out, Mayor Nenshi proved all those doom prophets and political experts wrong by serving three terms as mayor, totaling 11 years. He was declared by Maclean’s magazine as the second most important person in Canada after Prime Minister Stephen Harper. On his 43rd birthday in 2014, Nenshi received an unexpected gift by being named the world’s No. 1 mayor, becoming “the most admired mayor” of any major city. The World Mayor Prize declared him “an urban visionary” and a role model to many in North America and Europe “for decisive management, inclusiveness and forward thinking”.

The Gondek Town Hall campaign focused on issues such as investing in transportation, securing more property tax dollars from the provincial government and turning Calgary into a ‘center of excellence’ to stimulate social, economic and environmental recovery.

“Thank you, Calgary, with all my heart,” Gondek said during his victory speech. “Thank you for committing to democracy and sending a clear signal about what our future looks like. Thank you for embracing a vision of promise and opportunity. As mayor, I will lead with courage, conviction and humility.

In Edmonton, former Federal Minister Sohi, a Sikh immigrant from India, will become the city’s first mayor of South Asian descent. “As an 18-year-old immigrant with little to my name, I had ambitions and dreams of building a better life in a new home – dreams that sometimes seemed impossible,” Sohi said during his speech. of victory. “Today, thanks to you, thanks to everyone in this room, we made the impossible possible.”

Sohi was an Edmonton city bus driver and city councilor before entering federal politics and becoming Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Lori Williams, professor of political studies at Mount Royal University, said it was significant that “we have premieres in both cities”. In both elections, voters in Alberta expressed their desire for change and largely rejected candidates opposed to public health measures to deal with COVID-19, Williams said. (Farkas, Gondek’s main rival, was the only councilor to vote against a vaccine passport settlement in Calgary last month.)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Jason Kenny, who have said they look forward to working with the newly elected mayors, shouldn’t be surprised if they come knocking on their doors soon to discuss several unresolved issues. In his congratulatory message, Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said: “You have made history. For women and people of color across this country, you have broken down barriers. And you have paved the way for future generations to dream bigger.

Gondek’s victory is particularly pleasant for me as a constituent of Ward 3, which she represented as my councilor before the elections. I was impressed with his vote and his contributions to debates on various issues in council, advocacy for transit, police reform and the growth of the city.

At this point, it is only fitting to recall the remarkable words of US Vice President Kamala Harris: “Although I may be the first woman to hold this position. I won’t be the last, because every little girl who looks tonight sees that this is a land of possibilities. Hopefully more women are encouraged to follow Gondek’s example.

The victories of Gondek and Sohi are a testament to how Alberta has progressed politically, accepting the leadership roles of qualified, professional and dedicated members of visible minorities. I hope Godnek and Sohi will not only follow in Nenshi’s footsteps, but surpass him in leading their municipalities.

Mansoor Ladha is a Calgary writer and author of Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West and A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.


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