Manitoba

Trio of black MLAs make history by winning seats in Manitoba Legislature

Until Tuesday's vote, no black person had ever been elected to the Manitoba Legislature in the 150-year history of this province. Now there are three.

'It's not just about being black, it's about being capable': Winnipeg voters elect 2 NDP candidates and 1 PC

Uzoma Asagwara has made history as the first queer black person ever elected in Manitoba. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

Until Tuesday's vote, no black person had ever been elected to the Manitoba Legislature in the 150-year history of this province.

Now there are three.

Uzoma Asagwara won the Union Station seat for the NDP, Jamie Moses took the St. Vital seat for the party and Audrey Gordon won Southdale for the Progressive Conservatives.

None of the political scientists the CBC contacted, nor the parties themselves, could recall a black MLA ever being elected in Manitoba.

The NDP has historically done well in Winnipeg's core, where Asagwara won Union Station, becoming the first queer black person to win a seat.

"Our elected officials in our Manitoba Legislature should absolutely reflect the constituencies … and communities that are in Manitoba," Asagwara told CBC News as results came in Tuesday night.

"So making sure that our elected officials look like the communities we serve [is] fundamental in making sure that all voices and all communities are served well in Manitoba."

Uzoma Asagwara won the election in Union Station. Asagwara celebrated at the Good Will Social Club on Tuesday. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Asagwara, a first-generation Canadian whose parents are Nigerian, has worked as a psychiatric nurse and is a longtime community activist in Winnipeg's core.

The first black Winnipeg city councillor said he was happy for the thousands of immigrants and refugees who may feel like they now see themselves represented in the Manitoba Legislature.

"It's an opportunity for newcomers to see themselves in government,"​ ​​said Markus Chambers, who was elected as city councillor for St. Norbert-Seine River last fall.

Moses, a corporate leader with a degree in agribusiness from the University of Manitoba, reclaimed St. Vital for the NDP.

Jamie Moses is an active community member and software company employee who has worked for Investors Group and the Canadian Wheat Board. He was elected Tuesday evening as one of Manitoba's first black MLAs. (Justin Deeley/CBC)

"I'm truly humbled and honoured," said Moses, who ousted the incumbent PC cabinet minister Colleen Mayer.

Moses said the addition of more diverse elected representatives is a positive change.

"I'm not sure why it took so long but I'm ecstatic that it's happening now. I think that this is part of a sign that representation is important in the legislature," he said.

In Southdale, Gordon became the third black MLA elected Tuesday night, in a race that was close until the final votes were tallied. She was born in Jamaica and has spent most of her life in Winnipeg.

PC candidate Audrey Gordon was elected to represent Southdale in the Manitoba Legislature. (James Turner/CBC)

Tuesday's provincial election saw a more diverse set of candidates than past years, with the PCs and NDP nominating the largest number of Indigenous candidates in recent history and all three of the largest parties nominating Indo-Canadian candidates in two northwest Winnipeg ridings.

Among the candidates for the province's 57 seats, the Liberals ran 14 people of colour this year, the NDP 18 and the Tories six. The Green Party of Manitoba told CBC it does not track demographics.

All three major parties also ran Indo-Canadian candidates in the Winnipeg ridings of Burrows and The Maples — believed to be another first in Manitoba provincial politics.

Watch Uzoma Asagwara react:

Uzoma Asagwara wins Union Station for the NDP, becoming the first black queer MLA elected in Manitoba history. 1:51

The New Democrats ran 10 Indigenous candidates, while the PCs and Liberals each nominated seven Indigenous candidates.

All three candidates running in the riding of Keewatinook — where more than 90 per cent of the population identifies as First Nations, Métis or Inuit — were members of First Nations.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak kicked off a "get out the vote" drive in late August. The political advocacy group, which represents 21 First Nations in Manitoba, encouraged Indigenous people to mark a ballot in both Tuesday's provincial election and the upcoming federal election.

"I want to remind First Nations citizens that we live in a democratic society. I encourage First Nations people to get involved in both elections," Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a late-August press release. "Voting is a free opportunity to make a difference."

The NDP ran 24 female candidates in the province's 57 ridings, the Tories 22 and the Liberals 19.

The Tories also ran their first openly gay candidate in this year's election. At least seven candidates for each of the Liberals and NDP also identified as LGBT.

In south Winnipeg's Fort Richmond riding, Liberal candidate Tanjit Nagra, 23, also looked to make history as the province's youngest MLA, but she was defeated by Progressive Conservative Sarah Guillemard. Cindy Lamoureux, 27, set the record when she was elected in 2016 at age 24.

With files from Kristin Annable, Ian Froese, Ahmar Khan, Erin Brohman and Austin Grabish