Some Woolwich candidates have a diverse vision for the township's future

With a new council set to be elected on Oct. 24, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo reached out to all current incumbents and candidates to ask about their vision for diversity and inclusion in the township.

CBC News spoke to ten of the candidates running in October’s municipal elections

A rainbow crosswalk in Kitchener, Ont.
Discussions around diversity and inclusion in Woolwich were sparked after a councillor made comments last month about a rainbow crosswalk potentially coming to Elmira, Ont. (James Chaarani / CBC)

Woolwich Township council failed to move forward a notice of motion supporting diversity and inclusion in the community last week. 

The motion was raised in response to controversial comments made by a councillor regarding a rainbow crosswalk. 

Council says the topic will be discussed again at a meeting next month, ahead of the municipal election. 

With a new council set to be elected on Oct. 24, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo reached out to all current incumbents and candidates to ask about their vision for diversity and inclusion in the township.

Ward 1 candidates 

"My vision for Elmira and the Woolwich Township community for diversification and inclusion is that everybody is somebody and every voice must be heard, regardless of your identity," said Ward 1 candidate, Cheryle Baker.

Nathan Cadeau of Ward 1 also has an inclusive vision, explaining that he's an 2SLGBTQ+ ally and teaches a diversity course at Conestoga College as part of their community and criminal justice program. 

"I have ideas on what we need to do," Cadeau said. "I know that there are tools already out there in the community that we could access in order to develop a comprehensive anti-discriminatory strategy."

Candidate Dan Holt said that his township is "a more diverse community than some people think."

"We want to be seen as inclusive and welcoming to all, not in spite of differences but because of the diversity of experiences, identities and backgrounds, which leads to learning about the world and new ideas and ways of doing things, making a richer living experience for all of us," Holt said in an emailed statement. 

The final candidate for this ward, Evan Burgess, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Ward 2 candidates 

"As a councillor I defer to the view of council as articulated through [Mayor Sandy Shantz]," said Ward 2 incumbent Fred Redekop, in an emailed statement. "We are committed to diversity and inclusion."

Eric Schwindt is up against Redekop as the only other candidate for the ward. He's spent his whole life in the township, and said that he values inclusivity.   

"I think everybody in Woolwich appreciates that this township is a great place to live," Schwindt said. "Lets focus on maintaining that."

Ward 3 candidates

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Paul Bolger of Ward 3 said in an emailed statement that his "duties and responsibilities … are to present [the people's] views and concerns and ensure any decision is consistent with the charter of rights and freedom."

Another candidate for the ward seat, Bonnie Bryant, sees the township as a place for all. 

"Creating a culture of inclusivity is essential," Bryant said in an emailed statement. "Woolwich is a growing community and is becoming more diverse. People need to feel like they have a place, a sense of purpose, and that they are valued."

Kayla Grant, who is also running, has lived in Woolwich her whole life, and is a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

"For me, representation is really important and … there's several intersecting factors with that," Grant said. "It's not just necessarily having people colour or people in traditionally underrepresented groups like the LGBT, but it also includes women and different age demographics as well." 

"What I would like to see in a future council is one that is more reflective of the community," Grant added.

Ward 3 incumbent Coun. Murray Martin didn't respond to requests for comment.

Mayoral candidates 

Patrick Merlihan, who is a councillor in Ward 1 and now running for mayor, had brought forward a notice of motion at a Sept. 12 committee meeting that sought to make diversity, equity and inclusion training a must for its employees, among other things. 

There was an opportunity to pass the notice of motion then, but it received no support as is.

In an emailed statement, Merlihan told CBC News that he'd like to see a council committee formed in order to create a program with participants from marginalized groups, which is community-led, and focuses on equity, inclusion and diversity. 

He said that he'd also like to see an additional committee that looks at equity, inclusion and diversity programs and processes for township employees.   

Merlihan is up against the current mayor, Sandy Shantz, who said that her "goal is to bring community together, not set up 'us and them' with any marginalized community." 

"My ideal vision is a community where everyone is accepted as they are, and we can't even understand why we need to discuss it," she said in an emailed statement. "We have much work to do to get there."


James Chaarani


James Chaarani is a reporter/editor for CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. You can reach him at