On February 28, 2023, the Samara Centre for Democracy and Operation Black Vote co-presented a webinar exploring the experiences of Black Canadians in politics. The purpose of this event was to draw from the lived experiences of Black politicians to identify ways to improve representation and participation in our democracy.
The panelists, listed below, represented different orders of government and shared insights about how they navigated race and public office. What barriers did they face? What supports made a big difference? And how can the culture of politics change to enhance representation of Black Canadians in our democracy?
The discussion featured:
- Frank Baylis, Former Member of Parliament
- Suzy Hansen, MLA for Nova Scotia
- Stephen Wright, Former City Councilor
- Denise Siele, Moderator
Here are some highlights from the conversation:
“The first thing was, to me and to my staff, you don't need to take any abuse. People can be upset. People can be really mad. But there's a line. So if they write a letter – and I get loud letters – and it crosses that line, don't even show it to me. Put it in a shredder, it's done, and you don’t take any abuse. People have a right to be mad. If they're really concerned, they're really upset about something, and they can express that by not crossing the line, you listen to them. I think all public figures should take that position.” — Frank Baylis
I think the social media spaces [have] become so toxic ... Last night I attended the council meeting and gave a delegation on diversity and inclusion, and immediately this fellow decided to troll me on social media. Not on my own social media account, but on our local media, The Peterborough Examiner's account — comments like ‘people like you don't need to be in the city,’ ‘we don’t need people like you,’ ‘why don’t you get lost’.” — Stephen Wright
"Even though we are politicians, we’re not excluded from the microaggressions and from the racial connotations that come – and even more so because we are visible, it’s a lot harder to dodge those jabs.” —Suzy Hansen: