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Kamala Harris inspiring young Black Canadians toward politics: MPs – Smithers Interior News

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The election of Kamala Harris as vice-president of the United States will inspire more young Black women in Canada to engage in politics and run for office, says Velma Morgan, a Black Canadian activist based in Toronto.

Harris’s father was born in Jamaica, her mother in India. She is the first woman and the first Black or South Asian person elected to the vice-presidency.

Through Morgan’s work as the chair of Operation Black Vote, a not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government, she supported Annamie Paul in her bid for the Green party leadership.

“The combination of those two (Harris and Paul), young girls are seeing themselves,” Morgan said in an interview.

“Representation does matter,” she said. “You can’t be what you don’t see.”

After the next election, those girls might also see a Black woman on the Conservatives’ front benches in Leslyn Lewis, who showed strongly in the last Tory leadership race and is the party’s nominated candidate in a solidly Conservative riding in southern Ontario.

(Neither Lewis nor other Conservatives approached by The Canadian Press would weigh in on whether they think Harris’s prominence in the U.S. will make a difference in Canada.)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who became the first person of colour in Canada’s history to run for prime minister during the 2019 election, said Harris’s election will encourage a future generation of Canadian women to get involved and run in elections.

“Each person who breaks a barrier inspires more people,” he said in an interview.

“We’re only here today because of the people who broke barriers before us.”

Singh said he was happy about — and proud of — the positive impact he had on young people of colour in Canada during the election campaign last year.

“Young kids would come up to me and literally tell me, ‘Thank you. Seeing you running for prime minister makes me feel like I could do anything,’” he said.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus, who is chair of the parliamentary Black caucus, said there is a need to elect more Black people to the House of Commons.

“I remember when there was only one Black MP in the House. And then we went to two, and then we stayed for a number of years, and then we went to five,” he said.

Fergus said there has been some progress, but the number of Black MPs do not yet represent the “democratic weight” of the Black population in Canada. According to the 2016 census, there were just under 1.2 million Black people in Canada, making up 3.5 per cent of the country’s population.

Morgan said Canada needs more Black policy-makers. Her organization facilitates training sessions and fellowships programs for young Black Canadians to encourage more of them to run in elections.

“We’re giving them the tools to participate, whatever way they want to participate, whether it’s to run, or to volunteer or to just help out,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get the word out to say, ‘You know what, we’re here, there’s not a lot of us, but we can change that by bringing a lot more people on.’ “

NDP MP Matthew Green, a Black person representing the riding of Hamilton Centre, remembers in 2008 when he gathered with his community to celebrate the election of Barack Obama as the first Black president of the United States.

But he said the goal shouldn’t only be to achieve representation and reflect the diversity of the population. It should also be to achieve inclusion and equity.

“Having diverse people, women elected, for me personally, is only important if their legacy is dismantling the barriers that they faced to get there,” he said.

He said people have traditionally been privileged in Canada by race, gender and economics.

“(The system is) disproportionately, advantaging white men … that still remains a fact,” he said.

“As a city councillor, the first elected person of African-Canadian descent in my city’s history, I was still racially profiled by police in my own community.”

He said Harris — a former district attorney in San Francisco and then attorney general of California — was part of a system that also incarcerated and disenfranchised Black and Latino communities and low-income people throughout her career. What really matters, he added, is whether she will be able to help marginalized people break barriers.

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who left the Liberal caucus several months before the 2019 election to sit as an Independent, said that claiming “diversity is our strength,” as the Liberals often do, is misleading.

“Having people of different colours and different races or ideas within your systems or organizations does not mean that you’re going to build strength if those people feel excluded,” Caesar-Chavannes said in an interview Friday.

She said collective strength comes when Canadians make spaces inclusive, so racialized people can voice their ideas and feel like they belong.

“That for sure creates a system that is more fair and more just,” she said.

VIDEO: Harris pays tribute to Black women in 1st speech as VP-elect

Caesar-Chavannes, expected to detail her disillusionment with the Liberal brand of politics in her upcoming book, “Can You Hear Me Now?” to be published in February, said she’s not optimistic.

“If we never address the root cause, and we keep putting Band-Aids on a situation, it’s not going to get better,” she said.

Singh said it’s sometimes hard to understand that Canada has systems that are designed to exclude people.

“We look at the way the criminal justice system works, we look at the way policing works, and realize that there are systems in place that have to be changed because, right now, they’re designed to discriminate,” he said.

Some of these systems have to be changed and some have to be dismantled, he said. But he said he believes there’s enough appetite in Canada for a person of colour to be elected prime minister.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


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Paul Quassa quits Nunavut legislature after 40 years in politics – CBC.ca

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Nunavut Speaker Paul Quassa has resigned from his role as MLA for Aggu.

The news was first reported by Nunatsiaq News. Quassa confirmed his resignation to the CBC and said he is done with politics. He said he’s been thinking about the decision since the spring.

“I really cherish the time that I spent [in] my life here at the Legislative Assembly,” Quassa said.

“I knew that I could do at least two terms. And once … that term is up, I think it’s high time that we see somebody else there. And I have great confidence in in the next person that’s going to be elected.”

Quassa was elected as the Nunavut premier in 2017, but was ousted in 2018, though he continued in his role as MLA for Aggu. 

He said he stayed on because he made a commitment to represent his community.

“No matter what happens, you just continue, keep going because you were elected … you’re representing your community. You cannot just stop there just because the other MLAs don’t agree with you,” he said. 

His resignation, which will be effective as of Aug. 13, comes just shy of the end of his term, with Nunavut’s general upcoming election scheduled for Oct. 25.

Quassa says he wants young people to come forward to run for leadership positions in Nunavut. (CBC)

Quassa said he wanted to give others the chance to be in leadership, and in particular, he encouraged young people to step forward and consider the opportunity of running for MLA.

“I thought this would be the right timing after talking with my family and my constituents, that it would be only right for me to step down and give other opportunities,” he said. 

“I believe that our young people should really go for it, because again, we have to remember that at least 60 per cent of our population is under 25. So, you know, that’s a big population to represent. And I think it is high time that we start getting new ideas, new challenges, and then young people can make that difference.”

Though he didn’t say specifically what he plans to do next, Quassa hinted it might be something in the public sphere.

“I’m looking forward to do something else where I can speak my mind on behalf of Inuit and Nunavut,” he said.

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N.W.T. Métis activist remembered as unfiltered politician, caring friend – CBC.ca

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A leading figure in the Northwest Territories Métis community has died.

Clem Paul passed away on July 30. He was 64.

During his entire adult life, Paul was a champion of Métis rights in the Northwest Territories, specifically in the North Slave region. He is a former president of the old Yellowknife Métis Council and one of the founding leaders and a former president of the North Slave Métis Alliance, which was formed when three Métis groups in the North Slave region merged.

Trevor Teed was a friend of Paul’s since they were Grade 1 students in Yellowknife.

“Quite often in life you’ll hear somebody say in times of trouble, ‘I sure wish I had a friend to lean on’ or ‘I sure wish I had a shoulder to cry on’ — something like that,” said Teed. “That’s an experience I have never felt … because I always had a friend, Clem. He was always there for me.”

In 1991 Paul was awarded the Governor General’s medal of bravery for hauling Teed out of the frigid waters of Harding Lake. Teed and another man, who perished in the accident, had gone through the ice on their snowmobile. Paul used his gun case to paddle his sled out across 30 meters of open water, pulled Teed in, and paddled back to solid ice.

Teed said Paul was someone who spoke his mind, regardless of the effect his words had on those they were directed at.

“Clem was involved in politics but he wasn’t really a politician because he was point blank,” said Teed. “He often told people things they did not want to hear. If you were working with Clem on a project he was engaged in and weren’t putting in the effort he thought was warranted, he’d let you know about it.”

Taking time for strangers

Paul’s softer side was evident one of the first times I met him. On a paddling trip about 20 years ago, I stopped into an area on Great Slave Lake known as Old Fort Rae or Mountain Island, once a thriving community. My paddling partner and I were surprised to find a group of men building cabins there in the sweltering August heat.

They were led by Paul. He stopped his work and explained to us that they were revitalizing the community to re-establish it as a base for Métis in the region. Paul then told us about the history of the place, how it was an ideal location for a settlement because you could dock on either side of the peninsula, depending on which way the wind was blowing. 

Paul spent the next hour giving us a tour of the remnants of the community and talking about the history of Métis in the area. He showed us where those who lived in the community were buried and talked about his plans for the place. He was obviously very busy, but took the time to show around two strangers.

Youngest certified journeyman welder in N.W.T.

Alongside his political activities, Paul initiated several high-profile court cases aimed at asserting and protecting Métis rights in the region, but his sister, Kathy Paul-Drover, said he was also very much a working man.

When he was 18, she said, he became the youngest person in the N.W.T. to be certified as a journeyman welder. He helped found Paul Brothers Welding, a longstanding Yellowknife business.

Paul-Drover said her brother got his work ethic and strong-willed nature from their mother, the late Theresa Paul.

One of Clem’s first political experiences was seeing his mother fight off an attempt by the City of Yellowknife to evict their family and others in a small Métis community that had settled in the School Draw Avenue area. The attempt happened in the mid-60s, shortly after Yellowknife was named the capital of the N.W.T.

“We had a fairly big Métis community here in the School Draw and she was the only one that maintained title to her land,” said Paul-Drover of her mother.

A difficult year

Paul-Drover said the past year has been difficult for her brother. He had fought off an earlier bout of cancer, but it returned.

“He was in and out of hospital for months, and with all of the restrictions with COVID he wasn’t able to see his grandchildren or children,” said Paul-Drover. “That was very difficult for him. That’s why he and his wife decided he should go home from the hospital despite not being able to take food or water. He was home for two days and he passed.”

A service will be held at the Yellowknife River on Thursday starting at 2 p.m. with a final viewing held shortly before. The gathering will then move to Lakeview Cemetery for the burial. Then it will return to the Yellowknife River for a celebration of life.

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How politics is tearing families apart | Cupp – Chicago Sun-Times

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The year was 2004, and a month after Barack Obama would make his national debut at the Democratic National Convention, another Democrat made news — at the Republican National Convention in New York City.

Georgia Democrat Zell Miller — a former governor who won with the help of longtime Democratic adviser James Carville, who had addressed the 1992 DNC waxing nostalgic for FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Carter, who endorsed Bill Clinton and opposed George H.W. Bush — was now standing at the podium at the Republican National Convention, about to endorse George W. Bush.

“Since I last stood in this spot, a whole new generation of the Miller family has been born,” he said. “They are my and Shirley’s most precious possessions.”

As he explained it, “My family is more important than my party.”

It was a powerful moment, and one that seems nearly impossible to imagine today, when bitter partisanship and party loyalty threatens to supersede our not only our commitment to our country, but to our families.

Nowhere is this corrosive effect more acute than inside right-wing politics, where loyalty to party and, more specifically, to Donald Trump, have managed to corrupt so many important democratic institutions — our elections, for one — but worse, institutions as fundamental as the family, what Pope John XXIII called “the first essential cell of human society.”

Under the presidency and post-presidency of Donald Trump, families have found themselves more divided, disaffected, even estranged, in some startling — and in some cases, very public — ways.

This weekend, three siblings of Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar penned a pointed op-ed at NBCnews.com slamming their brother for a history of political abominations, from birtherism to anti-Semitism, and from downplaying COVID-19 to inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. They got personal.

“Maybe your lifelong, insecure need for the approval of others caused you to sacrifice your common decency and integrity to satisfy Trump and his followers in order to keep your seat,” they wrote.

They’ve long been publicly critical of their brother, even pushing for his expulsion from Congress.

Gosar has previously responded to their laments without much affection, telling CNN in 2018, “These disgruntled Hillary supporters are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family. Lenin, Mao and Kim Jung Un (sic) would be proud.”

The Gosars are hardly alone.

The Conways, matriarch and former Trump adviser Kellyanne, patriarch and Never-Trumper George, and teenage anti-Trump activist and “American Idol” contestant Claudia have been embroiled in a very public, hard-to-watch family conflict for the past two years. Recently Claudia has said her relationship with her parents has improved, thankfully.

Planning for the Gaetz-Luckey wedding might be difficult, as the future sister-in-law of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has taken to social media to slam his “weird and creepy” behavior with women in the wake of allegations of sex crimes. Gaetz’s fiancée has clapped back, “My estranged sister is mentally unwell.”

What once might have been kept behind closed doors is now being aired out for all to see, perhaps even in the hopes that public shaming will have some kind of behavior-changing effect.

But more tragic than these public figures’ public spats are the stories of average American families devastated by politics, conspiracy theories, and extremism. They’re not hard to find.

One NPR report recounts a sub-Reddit group called “Q Casualties,” made up of users who could no longer communicate with their QAnon family members — people like “Tyler,” who was despondent when he learned his dad had gone to the Capitol on Jan. 6 with loaded guns in his camper.

In another story, a woman going by “Caroline” told an Iowa news outlet that she was “married to a QAnon believer and lived in fear.” “QAnon has destroyed my life,” she said. “I live with someone who hates me.”

There’s the story of Rosanne Boyland, whose family was worried by her increasingly conspiratorial political ideas. She was one of five people who died at the Capitol insurrection, effectively giving her life for a false cause despite, according to her family, never even voting before 2020.

COVID-19 has brought another kind of political estrangement — over masking and vaxxing. There’s the story of two Chicago sisters whose mother stopped speaking to them after they defied her wishes not to get vaccinated.

There are countless more stories of families torn apart by politics in the last few years — by the politics of Trump, the cults of conspiracy groups like QAnon, the extremism of groups like the Proud Boys and The Oath Keepers, and the new politics of masks and vaccines.

What these destructive elements have done to divide our country and turn American against American is well-documented and horrific. But even worse is what it has done, and is still doing, to our families, isolating us further and further from the things that matter most. If we don’t correct this soon, we’re in for a very dark and lonely future.

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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