Can You Hear Me Now?
Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes tells the story of finding her voice ‘in the unlikeliest of places’
By Lincoln DePradine
The story of Celina Caesar-Chavannes is both typical and unique. Born into a humble family in the Caribbean, she migrated to Canada and worked her way to measurable success. That’s the usual part.
What’s listed among her unique Canadian life is having won a riding in Ontario that allowed her to serve as a federal MP in the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Caesar-Chavannes is about to share her story with Canada and the rest of the world in “Can You Hear Me Now?’’, which is referred to as both a memoir and leadership book. It’s to be released next February.
“This is not your typical leadership book where the person is placed in a situation and miraculously comes up with the right response for the wicked problem,’’ says Grenada-born Caesar-Chavannes. “This is the story of me falling in love, at last, with who I am, and finding my voice in the unlikeliest of places.’’
Caesar-Chavannes, 46, holds an MBA in healthcare management and is a 2012 Business Entrepreneur of the Year recipient, an award bestowed on her by the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
She studied at the University of Phoenix and also is a graduate of the University of Toronto, where she also served as vice chair of U of T’s governing council.
Caesar-Chavannes, an international research consultant, was the first Black person elected as MP for Whitby. She won the riding in 2015 as a Liberal Party candidate, with party leader Justin Trudeau becoming prime minister of a majority government.
While serving as a parliamentarian, Caesar-Chavannes “paid the price for speaking out about micro-aggressions and speaking up for her community and her riding; but, she also felt exhilaration and empowerment’’, according to promotional material released ahead of the publication of “Can You Hear Me Now?’’
Caesar-Chavannes, in the aftermath of her election victory, was appointed parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Trudeau.
Her book covers her interaction with the prime minister, who later reassigned her, placing her in the role of parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development.
Caesar-Chavannes, who subsequently chose to sit as an independent MP, was known for calling out her political colleagues for offensive remarks, during her time in parliament.
In March 2019, Caesar-Chavannes resigned from the Liberal caucus. She also announced that she would not seek re-election in polls scheduled for 2019; an announcement, she said, that was a “tremendously difficult’’ one and which was met with “anger’’ from Prime Minister Trudeau.
“Meeting him with that hostility and anger, I just thought there was no way I would stand for that, for anybody that I represented, or myself,” Caesar-Chavannes said.
“Can You Hear Me Now?’’ is described as a “funny, self-aware, poignant, confessional and fierce look at how failing badly, and screwing things up completely, are truly more powerful lessons in how to conduct a life than extraordinary success’’.
In the book, Caesar-Chavannes is said to have delved “deep into her childhood and her life as a young Black woman entrepreneur and politician, and shows us that effective and humane leaders grow as much from their mistakes and vulnerabilities as from their strengths.”