For the first time, a Black woman will serve as speaker of Montreal's city council

Montreal mayor Valérie Plante nominated Villeray city councillor Martine Musau Muele for the role Thursday.

Martine Musau Muele has worked as a lawyer, city clerk and served in Armed Forces

Martine Musau Muele was elected as a city councillor for Montreal's Villeray district during the recent municipal elections. (Marie Claude Fournier)

While it's not yet official, for the first time in history, a Black woman will be the speaker of Montreal's city council.

Mayor Valérie Plante nominated Villeray city councillor Martine Musau Muele for the role Thursday.

While council still has to vote to approve the nomination Monday, the official opposition has said they will vote in favour of it. 

Muele entered Montreal politics for the first time during this fall's municipal election where she ran for city councillor in the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough and won with nearly 69 per cent of the vote

A lawyer, Muele notably served as city clerk for the towns of Kirkland, on Montreal's West Island, and Amqui, in Gaspésie. 

She has also worked as the legal attaché with the Red Cross in Geneva and served for nearly eight years in the Canadian Armed Forces. 

"The Forces taught me several strengths … including leadership, to know how to serve, above all, and to understand that, in a team, you are never stronger than the weakest link," she said. 

Muele has also performed as an actress in live theatre, film and television. She said those different roles have prepared her well for her new job on city council.

"The fact that we [can] have pretty heated debates, depending on the subject, doesn't frighten me," she said.

Muele pointed to her experience sitting in on town halls and her past as a commissioner with Montreal's public consultation office, the OCPM.

"There is a sensitivity that comes with this experience, and above all, an understanding of different points of view," she said.

Muele will take over from Suzie Miron, who was defeated in the last municipal election in Tétreaultville, though a recount has been authorized to confirm the results.

The speaker's role in city council is similar to the speaker in Parliament and the National Assembly: to ensure that the rules of city council are followed by councillors, particularly during debates.

Muele is the second Black woman nominated to a high-profile position in Montreal's new city council.

Dominique Ollivier was chosen to be the new president of the executive committee. It is the first time a Black person has held the role, considered to be the second-most-powerful elected position in the city.

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.

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Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Jérôme Labbé