Three women of colour are running in three ridings in Windsor-Essex in this Ontario election, and history could be made if any one of them is elected.
The ridings of Essex, Windsor–West and Windsor Tecumseh have never had a Black or South Asian woman in the seat.
Representation in politics is integral for Canadians because women of colour have a more intimate understanding of the needs and challenges faced in racialized communities, said Meagan Auer, a sessional instructor at the University of Windsor who teaches women, gender and politics.
However, racialized women will face more unique barriers on the campaign trail than racialized men or white women in those positions, she said.
“Racialized women are going to experience racism and sexism on the campaign trail in really overt ways,” said Auer.
“They’re also going to experience it through more subtle ways, like the way that we evaluate the suitability of them for office through the use of things like gender stereotypes and racist stereotypes.”
WATCH | What it’s like being a woman of colour running in this election:
3 women of colour candidates talk about what it’s like running in this election
Voters in these three ridings have never seen a woman of colour as MPP, which may prove to be a barrier at the ballot box, or they may vote for a party leader rather than the local candidate, said Auer.
“We’ve never seen anyone, any women of colour elected in these ridings and not seeing that, I think, has an impact on the idea that women of colour and racialized people would be successful as candidates.”
Here’s what the candidates had to say:
Manpreet Brar | Liberal | Essex
Manpreet Brar has entered politics for the first time, as the Liberal candidate in Essex. The IT professional and community volunteer is a mother of two who has lived with her husband and family in LaSalle since 1997.
On the campaign trail, Brar said, constituents ask a lot about her South Asian background.
“People in Essex, they are really lovely, they’re really welcoming, they’re really inclusive, but you know, I do find some hesitance when it comes to position of MPP because I have to work hard to develop that trust and understanding with the residents.
“As a woman, I have two jobs — one is being mother taking care of kids and raising family, the other a career woman. It is always a balance. Now in this [election], it’s nothing different.”
Brar is up against well-known and experienced politicians in the area in school board trustee Ron LeClair for the NDP and former Amherstburg deputy mayor Anthony Leardi for the PCs.
Brar said she’s working hard to be the standout candidate by meeting constituents and hearing about their urgent needs.
Also running in Essex is Frank Causarano for the Ontario Party, Danielle Sylvester for the New Blue Party, Nicholas Wendler for the Green Party and Kevin Linfield for the None of the Above Direct Democracy Party.
WATCH | Brar’s top priorities for the Essex riding:
Essex Liberal candidate Manpreet Brar gives her top election issues
Gemma Grey-Hall | NDP | Windsor-Tecumseh
Gemma Grey-Hall, the NDP candidate in Windsor-Tecumseh, has served as president and chair of Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor. She’s the the major gift officer for the Faculty of Science at the University of Windsor and a member of Black Women of Forward Action, a group focused on enriching and educating the local community.
The riding has been held by the NDP’s Percy Hatfield, who’s retiring from politics. Grey-Hall is up against two other well-known candidates: Andrew Dowie, a Tecumseh town councillor, for the PCs, and Gary Kaschak, a Windsor city councillor, for the Liberals. Melissa Coulbeck for the Greens and Craig Cameron for the New Blue Party are also running.
“The NDP has a very strong legacy in this particular community, probably mainly because of the amazing legacy that Percy Hatfield has provided to us and the stream of other NDP supporters that’s come before him,” said Grey-Hall.
“I think I pretty much stand out and don’t really resemble anyone else that’s in the riding right now, anyone else that’s running. So I think I’ve already differentiated myself on that.”
If elected, Grey-Hall would become the first Black women to hold a seat in the riding. She said that representation is important to ensure policies represent all Ontarians.
“We have a long history in our community of people that are descendants from some of the people that were fleeing enslavement in the United States, that have been here for 160-something if not longer years,” she said.
“So being able — and as a first-generation Canadian myself — being able to hold that space in history would be an honour and something that is not lost on me in any way shape or form. It’s incredibly important.”
WATCH | Grey-Hall’s top issues in this election:
Windsor-Tecumseh NDP candidate Gemma Grey-Hall gives her top election issues
Linda McCurdy | Liberal | Windsor West
Criminal lawyer and business owner Linda McCurdy, the daughter of former MP Howard McCurdy, is running in Windsor West for the Liberals.
McCurdy’s ancestry in the region goes back to the 1800s, and she’s also raised her family in the riding. If elected, she’d become the first Black woman to hold the seat.
“It means just one more thing in a line of firsts that I’ve done since I’ve been living here my whole life, there’s a lot of firsts,” said McCurdy, who added she may have been the first Black criminal lawyer in the city.
McCurdy is up against NDP incumbent Lisa Gretzky, John Leontowicz for the PCs, Jeremy Palko for the Ontario Party, Josh Griffin for the New Blue Party and Krysta Glovasky-Ridsdale for the Green Party.
Like Grey-Hall, McCurdy is aware she stands out as a Black woman running.
“We need diversity in the government. If you look at the cabinet that’s currently seated, you won’t find very much diversity at all,” she said.
“In order to have adequate representation for all of the individuals in any given area, it has to be representative of the people who actually live there, and that’s one of the reasons I’m running as well, because there’s a different perspective that comes from the people of the Black community and I carry that perspective as well.”
WATCH | Here are McCurdy’s top issues in this election:
Windsor West Liberal candidate Linda McCurdy gives her top election issues