Sunday Frangi wins Brandon byelection, believed to be 1st Black councillor in Manitoba city's history
Records dating back 50 years show no previous Black councillors
For what's believed to be the first time in the southwestern Manitoba city's history, Brandon has elected a Black city councillor.
Sunday Frangi won Wednesday's byelection in Ward 5 (Meadows-Waverly), with 50 votes to Gordon McRae's 42, according to a Thursday news release from the City of Brandon announcing the unofficial results. Those results were confirmed by the city Friday.
According to city records going back at least 50 years, no Black person has ever had a seat at the table in city council chambers — meaning Frangi is very likely making history in Brandon.
That's an important sign that people want change, Frangi said.
"It means a lot. It means that things are changing here in Brandon. It means that the city's becoming more open for newcomers — for immigrants to get involved," he said in an interview with CBC Thursday.
Frangi, a health-care worker for the Prairie Mountain Health region, immigrated from Sudan to Winnipeg in 2004 and moved to Brandon in 2018.
But he is no stranger to politics. Frangi ran for the Liberals in the Brandon West riding in the 2019 provincial election. The riding was won by Progressive Conservative Reg Helwer, who is now minister of central services.
WATCH | CBC's Peggy Lam speaks with Brandon councillor-elect Sunday Frangi:
The city says based on its records, it appears he is now Brandon's first-ever Black councillor.
"As far as we can determine, he is the first African/Black city councillor ever elected," said Heather Ewasiuk, the director of legislative services for the City of Brandon.
"However, we can only confirm same as of 1971 (through photographs of previous councils)."
Merrilea Price, a communications representative for the city, says there weren't official photos of city councillors prior to that point.
Frangi was endorsed by the former Ward 5 councillor John LoRegio, who stepped down in March due to health reasons, triggering Wednesday's byelection.
According to the city, there are 3,486 registered voters in the ward in the city's southwest, meaning the 92 votes cast amount to a 2.64 per cent voter turnout.
Voter turnout was also low in the 2018 municipal election, when unofficial voter turnout was only 16.86 per cent, the city said.
Asked by CBC Manitoba what some of the biggest issues are in Brandon, Frangi was clear about the challenges BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) residents of Brandon face in their everyday lives, and the need to improve diversity and inclusion in community relations.
"People are not too open to talk about the racism and discrimination.… It's a big challenge. It's everywhere nowadays. People should be more open here in Brandon to discuss such an issue," Frangi said.
"The only way for people to move forward as people of this community is to be open to talk about it."
Other Black community leaders in Brandon also see Frangi's election win as a win for diversity and positive change in the city.
"He is giving us hope that whoever want[s] to serve the community can be a city councillor too," said Kerselin Fumier, president of the Mauritius Cultural Association of Brandon.
"And I hope people of Brandon will take this moment as a change. Because a change is coming, [whether] they like it or not."
Frangi says some of the priorities he's eager to get to work on in the Meadows-Waverly ward include social justice issues — particularly increasing awareness of racism and discrimination — and improving safety by addressing crime and drug problems.
He also wants to look at fixing drainage issues in his ward and infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalk repairs.
Frangi will officially be sworn in during the City of Brandon's next virtual council meeting, at 7 p.m. on May 17.
Brandon's next regular civic election will be held on Oct. 26, 2022.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Shannah-Lee Vidal and Peggy Lam