Diverse candidates struggle to be elected in municipal elections
Imran Hasan is running for alderman's third time in Ward 11 in Mississauga.
In Ontario, diverse municipal candidates say they face additional challenges pushing them away from a spot on city council.
Running for city councilor in Mississauga , Imran Hasan hopes to offer political representation to newcomers to the region. When his father arrived in Canada in 1973, no elected official had experienced a path similar to his. Mr. Hasan is trying to change that reality.
The candidate maintains, however, that his campaign is encountering many pitfalls, particularly the difficulty of changing the status quo.
The Mississauga City Council is made up of only one elected member from diversity, even if half of its population is not white. Until 2018, no member of the council was from an ethnic minority.
“I think diversity in municipal politics can promote understanding and respect. »
— Mississauga municipal candidate Imran Hasan
Without political representation, newcomers can feel excluded from the community, says Hasan. When my father immigrated to Canada, he had no role model, no one to help him navigate the system, says the candidate who is campaigning for the third time in Mississauga.
I've heard people say they could never vote for someone like me, argues Mr. Hasan. He says he understands that his name may sound different, or that his physical features may be distinctive, but he cannot rationalize voter mistrust. I'm not scary. I am their neighbour, he says.
Despite years of contribution to the community, the candidate finds it still difficult to compete with a former elected official.
< p class="e-p">There's a misconception that politics is fair when it's not at all, says Erin Tolley, a professor at Carleton University and member of the Canada Research Chair in Gender, Ethnicity and inclusive politics.
Ms. Tolley believes that diverse candidates face more barriers, a reality that she says threatens the health of Canadian democracy.
Can we claim to be a fair society if a significant portion of the population cannot be elected, no matter how hard they try, questions the political science professor.
Dipika Damerla is the only one elected municipal from an ethnic community in Mississauga. She believes that her presence on city council since 2018 has brought a new perspective to the management of public affairs.
Dipika Damerla is Mississauga's only diverse city council member. She is trying to get re-elected in the elections on October 24th.
The counselor nevertheless tries to temper expectations. I believe there is a certain strength in being the only visible minority [on city council], but one person cannot change things alone. It takes allies, she explains.
Several organizations across the country are trying to increase the number of elected representatives from diverse backgrounds.
The group Operation Black Vote Canada, for example, helps black candidates to be elected in the three levels of government. Currently [elected officials] do not have a sufficiently diversified background to formulate policies that are aimed at everyone, maintains the director of the organization, Velma Morgan.
The progressive group Progress Toronto also supports the campaign of several visible minorities in the Ontario municipal elections. We support candidates who are rooted in the community, who truly understand the issues faced by diverse groups, says Saman Tabasinejad, the organization's director.
During of the last municipal elections, only four visible minority candidates were elected from Toronto's 26 city council seats.
With information from CBC's Shawn Jeffords< /em>