By Rosemary Sadlier
The dust has finally settled on our most recent federal election and many people are feeling both content and confused with the outcome. I’m just going to offer a few of my thoughts on this election from a BLACK perspective and from a bit of a critical race analysis.
First of all I think in terms of my own experience – a number of years ago, each of the three main Ontario Provincial parties approached me to run for them. This was around the time I was working to help build a community of interest to initiate the formal process to have February as Black History Month. It was also a time of building a general working relationship with all members of government in a non-partisan way for the good of the Black community.
I had a board of directors behind me that was committed to the welfare of the Black community as its focus, despite lacking the resources to allow us to move forward with particular initiatives. I declined involvement at the time in part because my children were very young, in part because of the costs, both financial and personal in making such a step. Furthermore, the Provincial heritage organization was grossly underfunded and so needy.
It had only been a few years since an incredibly amazing woman, a social worker in British Columbia, Rosemary Brown had become the first elected politician, who, 1975, sought but failed to the leadership of her party. It was only a few years since Zanana Akande and Jean Augustine became an MPP for Ontario and MP in the Federal government respectively. The optimism I felt in terms of Black history initiatives and commemorations was somewhat tempered because I knew the support was lacking; so I knew it would take time for these ninitiatives to take hold.
All that is to say that for this election, no matter what your political stripe might be, to see the imploding of a political party rather than support its leader – here I am speaking of Annnamie Paul and the Green party – was quite shocking. Shocked that her Blackness, her Africaness had somehow not been an issue in the process of her becoming party leader; nor was her religion, yet those two elemental parts of her being were helping to detract from her intelligence. One would have thought that the focus would have been on the dysfunction or the seeming dysfunction of the party. If it is not a dysfunction of that party then it is an aspect of power and control and white privilege that left Annamie Paul dealing with a former leader who still has a seat in Parliament while the current leader is without a seat. Very strange indeed!
The election also brought forward a significant slate of people who are Muslim, of people who are non-white people, members of the LGTBQ community, First Nations members in a way that we have not seen for very long. However, what does the election result mean for the Black community; for the common good of our community in particular?
At this critical time in the pandemics, the Black community continues to be disproportionately affected. As I looked at the platforms of each of the parties, systemic racism was not raised as an election issue and certainly the debates were not instructive. And by not raising it as an election issue, even during the final years of the UN International Decade for people of African Descent, even as my quest to have this country officially commemorate August 1 as Emancipation Day (it was finally in March of this year after over 25 years), systemic racism still failed to garner the attention of the leaders; and therefore failed to address, systemic racism, the bane of the Black community. What is there for them? How are the harms that they have experienced and are experiencing being addressed? How are the disadvantages that they have encountered being counteracted? So when I looked at the platforms there was not a lot to examine.
When I am asked how I feel about this election and its outcome you might find it curious that I am hopeful despite the pointed racism that at least one party leader experienced. I’m hopeful because there have been initiatives, like
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which provided financial support to everyone during the pandemic. Hopeful because of the novel approaches that saw millions of dollars being earmarked for Black-led initiatives, like housing, and funneled through Black organizations across this country. The funding initiative recognized that we bare better positioned to know what it is that we need; therefore we truly can help to find solutions to some of those issues, while recognizing that we still have much to do.
I am hopeful because I know that sometimes what I truly want to happen takes time for the process to work itself out. Still, I am hopeful because the initiatives already started will and continue be expanded.
I’m also hopeful that while representation in terms of more Black or racialized MPs is a good thing we need to see more Black or racialized peoples in every element of our society; an election is just one aspect of broader societal problem.
We need to voice our concerns to those people who now represent us, but we must also appreciate that they cannot do it all for us. I am one person. I tracked and lobbied for Emancipation Day to have it formally recognized since 1995.
I was one person following through on something that I thought was important. What if we all found that ‘thing’ that is important to us and followed it through to make sure that it happens not for ourselves but for others and for the greater good, because when things are better for the Black community they are better for us all.