Being the first Black women to hold the post
By Lincoln DePradine
Dr Jill Andrew, now twice elected as New Democratic Party MPP for Toronto-St. Paul’s, admits that she’s “honoured’’ and “grateful’’ to be appointed as a deputy speaker of the Ontario Legislature, which returns to sitting on August 8.
Andrew will be the first Black woman to serve in the deputy speaker role in Ontario. Former Liberal MPP Alvin Curling, who retired from provincial politics in 2005 after a 20-year career, was the first – and only – Black man to be speaker in the legislature.
Apart from the history-making nature of her appointment, Andrew also is aware of the responsibilities of the job and has set herself certain goals.
“I look forward to performing this vital role in the legislature and joining the outstanding company of trailblazers like Alvin Curling,’’ Andrew said. “I am deeply honoured, grateful and excited to have been put forward as the first Black woman in Ontario to serve as the deputy speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I would also be serving as chair of the Committee of the Whole House.’’
Andrew, who has complained of attacks she has received as a Member of Provincial Parliament, said deputy speaker carries a grave responsibility and her intentions include making the legislature welcoming for every parliamentarian.
“The gravity of the role is not lost on me. This August, we celebrate the inaugural Emancipation Month here in Ontario with the unanimous passing of Bill 75. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams and I, for one, intend to work as hard and smart as I can, to continue to make them proud,’’ Andrew vowed.
“This is an opportunity for me to help create a safe(r) space in the legislature for all MPPs. As deputy speaker, I am tasked with taking an even-handed approach to enforcing rules and maintaining order as MPPs conduct the business of debate, inside the chambers,’’ she added.
“As the first queer Black person elected to the Legislative Assembly in Ontario and in any legislature across Canada, I’ve seen my share of inappropriate behaviour in the chamber, including direct attacks against me and others who are disproportionately women, Black, Indigenous and racialized by other government members,’’ said Andrew.
“Sitting in the chair as deputy speaker will be an opportunity for me to help create the best possible physical and mental space for MPPs to do their best work, representing our communities as meaningfully as we can, without the fear of oppressive, insulting, bullying, sexist, or racially motivated attacks rearing their ugly heads.’’
The NDP, as the only recognized opposition party in the legislature, is required to advise the government on the appointment of three deputy speakers.
Together with Andrew, the New Democrats also named MPPs Jennifer French and Bhutila Karpoche as deputy speakers. French also served in the role in the last legislature, which ran from 2018-2022.
The legislature “will be well-served’’ with Andrew, French and Karpoche – who is of Tibetan ancestry – as deputy speakers, said NDP’s interim leader Peter Tabuns.
Tabuns referred to the three MPPs as “a capable group of women’’.
“We’re all excited at their appointments and at making history in Ontario with the first Black woman and the first person of Tibetan descent to this vital position of deputy speaker,’’ Tabuns said.
reported for LJI