Jamaicans on the ballot for Canada municipal elections
At least four Jamaican-Canadians have thrown their hats into the ring for the October 24 municipal elections in Ontario and Toronto. They are Luther Brown, Kathy McDonald and David Green, who are up for seats as school board trustees in Ontario, and lawyer and community advocate Jamaal Myers, who will run for the office of Toronto city councillor.
For them, the mission is to rebuild trust and provide solid representation in areas where the needs of minority groups, especially the black community, are not being met.
Veteran educator, Luther Brown, is seeking election to the York Region District School Board as a trustee in Aurora and Whitchurch-Stouffville.
He says that offering himself for service in Aurora and Whitchurch-Stouffville provides him with an opportunity to serve in an area that needs the diversity he brings to the board.
Brown acknowledged that there have been hiccups in race relations, with trustees having had to apologise for mis-statements – all of which contributed to the board losing public confidence. He is looking to help repair that relationship.
“Part of what I see my role as is to be authentic and to help to rebuild that public trust,” says Brown, who has served various communities across the areas.
Kathy McDonald, the trustee for Wards 3 and 4 in Brampton on the Peel District School Board (PDSB), is seeking re-election to help implement the directives from the Ministry of Education to the PDSB. In March 2020, the ministry issued a report containing 27 directives, with over 54 actions intended to establish strong accountability and governance, and to eradicate anti-black racism and inequities throughout the PDSB.
“I don’t think the board is where I would like to see it and I think also we have six trustees that are not seeking re-election. We have trustees that cause me great concern that they are seeking re-election, so I think we need someone with, first of all, the institutional knowledge that can help continue the work of the directives and of dismantling racism, of making sure that our policies hold people accountable that harm our kids.”
With the loss of a strong voice from the board in the absence of trustee Nokha Dakroub who is not seeking re-election, McDonald feels her activism is well needed.
“And I felt that there was no other person there that was really going to champion the huge systemic changes needed in the board,” she says.
McDonald recently received a community service award for her work from the Jamaican Canadian Association at its 60th anniversary and Jamaica’s independence celebration.
David Green, a long-serving trustee for Wards 1 and 5 in Brampton on the Peel District School Board, says he was prompted by the gaping needs in the education system.
He says there is a shortage of qualified teachers, educational assistants and teaching assistants to support students who are struggling with special needs, and those who may need extra help to move them along in the school system.
“I think that’s one of the biggest challenges for me, and proper funding to fund a programme that will benefit these young people,” says Green.
“I’ve not only been a trustee for 19 years but I’ve been a strong community advocate, especially for our black community. And, in my work in the community, I’ve demonstrated that over and over again, even through the work that my Foundation provides in programmes for young people.”
Green’s Free For All Youth Foundation offers scholarships and programmes aimed at helping youth and adults in need.
He says he has set a pathway for young black Jamaican men to step up and to continue blazing the trail of his legacy.
Meanwhile, canvassing is going well for Jamaal Myers, who is now in the process of setting up his campaign office in Ward 23 Scarborough North where he is running to be the Toronto city councillor in the October 24 municipal election.
The corporate lawyer, community advocate and coalition builder began his campaign on May 2, the day registration opened. The deadline to file a nomination to be a council or school trustee candidate was August 19.
Describing Scarborough as a phenomenal community, he says it is hungry for change but does not have the proper representation at city hall to harness its energy, ideas, and creativity.
Jamaican by heritage, Myers was born in Scarborough and raised primarily by his mother.
“My family, like so many of us, came to Canada in search of a better life. We lived in public housing and sometimes relied on local food banks and public assistance to get by. Yet, we never lacked for opportunities. Because we had access to safe and affordable housing, reliable transit and great schools, my outstanding teachers helped me to understand that it doesn’t matter where you come from, all that matters is where you’re going.”
Myers says the big themes of his campaign are to focus on creating opportunities for people living in the community and to improve the quality of life in the neighbourhoods.