An interview with Greg Fergus, Chair of the Federal Black Caucus
Caribbean Camera: Now that it’s over, what is your take on the elections?
Greg Fergus: The election was ok but I would have loved to have a Liberal majority government; but it’s still a liberal government and the progressives are still in charge. Canadians told us that they approve of the agenda but they want us all to work together and that’s a good message. In the early months of the pandemic, all parties hung out together, and that was an excellent thing for Canadians. They liked what they saw when we took off our partisan hats to help support Canadians. They are hoping to see us build an inclusive economy, attack climate change and want us to work together.
CC: As Chair of the Black Caucus, give me your generals feelings about what comes next?
GF: I’m happy that the Black Caucus grew from five to eight members – six Liberals members, one NDP and one conservative, along with the five senators. The total is now 13 parliamentarians up from ten.
There is one Black minister, Hamid Hussein; it will be great to have more. Everybody believes that it’s important that Canada’s diversity be reflected in the country’s Parliament. The Prime Minister works very hard at trying to make sure that that happens; however, Cabinet-making is a complex art, and one thing that increases the complexity is that we have so many very talented members. We could have three or four cabinets in our caucus. On top of that we also have a huge country. Still, you don’t need to be in the Cabinet to be effective.
Although we have one Black cabinet minister, he has been extremely influential. The Black Caucus also has members who have achieved great things and do push for things that I think are unique in our political history in terms of the success that we have had. My hope is that we continue to succeed… there’s a lot that can be done outside of cabinet.
CC: What would you say are the top five accomplishments of the black caucus are?
GF: First, getting Canada to be the first country in the world to recognize the UN Decade for people of African Descent; second, speaking to an getting the prime minister to recognize the existence of anti-Black racism, third is getting the government to look at disaggregated data in order for federal government to start measuring what the real effects of their policies, and to go beyond the visible minorities category, and break it down to black Canadians as well as other racialized groups. So we can see how the policies are working or not working; the fourth accomplishment is what we did with the Black entrepreneurship program – we have a whole bunch of economic measures which tie in to the black community like the procurement policy. There are a number of things that fall into the economic side and are very important to the black community. And lastly I think getting a strong commitment from the federal government to make sure that diversity is in all of its ranks; not just at the lower levels of government but at every level because we have discovered how important to get the political end of things speaking to us, to understand our language and our concerns. But if there’s no support within the federal bureaucracy to see the same reality then it becomes a fight everyday to get them to see that Blacks are the invisible part of the visible minority category.
CC: Did the Black Caucus have anything any part to play in the design of the $10 bill?
GF: Yes! that was our very first lobby and first win; We had an opportunity to sit down with the Minister of Finance Billy Mouno , who by the way was a card-carrying member of the Black caucus. He heard the story understood why Viola Desmond was not the Rosa Parks of Canada, but it was the other way around because she came nine years before Rosa Parks as a result she was put her on the $10 bill. I always carry at least one with me because it’s a great way of telling our story; she never got joy in her lifetime and I think that reminds us that the fight is worth fighting even if we don’t see progress in our own time. It allows future generations to experience progress.