New Brunswick

People of colour hope new government will be inclusive

Some Black New Brunswickers in the Moncton area say they hope the Higgs government is prepared to listen to immigrants and people of colour in order to make the province more inclusive.

Commentator sees mixed messages from Higgs on racism inquiry and Black Lives Matter initiatives

Clinton Davis says political diversity will continue to grow as young New Brunswickers of colour see candidates who look like them on campaign billboards. (Karin Reid-LeBlanc/CBC)

Some Black New Brunswickers in the Moncton area say they hope the Higgs government is prepared to listen to immigrants and people of colour in order to make the province more inclusive.

Clinton Davis is a local business owner, musician and co-host of the Black in the Maritimes podcast.

Davis noted that the Higgs government has been lukewarm about an inquiry into systemic racism in policing, which is the top priority of First Nations chiefs in the province and which the Liberals, Greens and New Democrats said during the recent election campaign that they would support.

On the other hand, Davis said he was encouraged by recent meetings that took place between the premier and fledgling Black Lives Matter groups.

"I don't know if this was all just voice service, but he has sat down with people and said that he's willing to listen if they come forward with concrete plans."

Fidel Franco says political action committees may be needed to help fund the campaigns of people of colour. (Submitted by Fidel Franco)

Fidel Franco, one of the creators of the podcast, agreed "systemic racism is something that still needs to get talked about."

Franco said he feels the current government has put the issue aside.

He suggested that addressing issues of racism could improve the province's ability to attract and retain immigrants.

Franco would like to see increased efforts to help newcomers integrate into the province and to streamline the immigration process.

"Because we know immigration is a big key for our province to stay stable and to get out of this cycle," Franco said.

Josephine Watson says it's up to people from a wide variety of backgrounds to get involved in politics if they want more diverse representation. (Karin Reid-LeBlanc/CBC)

Having political candidates and representatives from a broader range of backgrounds will get different issues such as these into the spotlight, said Josephine Watson, a bilingual poet and spoken word artist. 

Watson said that's why she ran for the Green Party in Moncton South.

"People need to be the change they want to see," Watson said.

"We just need to keep stepping forward and raising our voices."

Watson said running in the election was a very rewarding experience and she encouraged others to try, regardless of their personal background.

"Just because they may not have a particular education or they may not be from a particular tax bracket or they're not sure what their skills are, still go for it."

And that could have a spinoff gain for political participation, she said, if electors hear a new perspective that resonates with them and more people are encouraged to vote.

Franco noted there were no Indigenous candidates for the Progressive Conservatives or the Liberals in this election.

(The only Indigenous MLA the province ever had, T.J. Burke, has been out of politics since 2010.)

But there was an increase in the number of candidates with diverse backgrounds.

The Green Party presented the most diverse slate.

And a record number of women were elected — 14.

Those are changes that Watson finds exciting.

Davis agreed that important steps have taken place.

"I think what needs to happen has already happened," said Davis, "for people to see different faces on billboards and have younger people realize that those faces could be their faces in four years, eight years or twelve years from now."

But individuals and advocacy organizations could do more, said Franco and Davis — in addition to simply speaking up, that is.

"It takes a lot of money," said Franco.

He suggested minority political action committees, or PACs, or minority organizations could help fund candidates.

"That could be a very big factor for people to run," he said, adding it would also improve their visibility and give them a better chance at winning.

Franco made an example of the NDP's experience in the recent election. The party had diverse candidates, said Franco, but voters didn't see much of them because the party had little money for advertising.

Josephine Watson is a bilingual poet and spoken word artist. Fidel Franco is one of the creators of the Black in the Maritimes podcast. Clinton Davis is a local business owner, musician and co-host of the podcast. 13:50

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.

(CBC)

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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