Politicians discuss the importance of diversity | Living in Colour

welcome to living in color I'm your host Farah Nasser and today we're talking about race and politics what it's like being a POC in politics the barriers politicians face and what it's like to represent their communities and more today I'm joined by three mpps members of provincial parliament Stan show of the Conservative Party Mitsy hunter of the Liberal Party and Girton Singh of the NDP thank you guys for being here all of you Stan I want to start with you and we can all maybe answer this question why did you get into politics did you see people who looked like you when you were even thinking about politics as a career the honest answer there is not while I was growing up it's only when I got older that I look back on my life and I realized you know what there weren't any politicians that looked like me or came from the background that I came from and it was definitely a reason later on in life when I decided to run for office that prompted me to go the short answer is I wanted to change the world but I also wanted to change my community and I wanted to bring that experience that the Korean Canadians have had in this country to Parliament as well so did you see women of color who looked like you I did I you know I really Scarborough is a diverse community and Alvin curling dr. Alvin curling was a member of parliament of Parliament and I remember he invited me to an inter-ministerial committee and when I asked him why he chose me he said we need you at the table and so I've benefitted from having sim from seeing black people with men and women ok Gretton so for those of you who don't know I was born in Newfoundland and I actually grew up in Windsor Ontario so growing up in these communities you know I was a there was not many sick people at all or any many people or any people of color for that matter and so growing up particularly in Windsor and later later on I moved to London Ontario I didn't see myself the possibility of someone like me running for politics was just not possible it was like it was something in my wildest dreams that I expect that to happen because you know the the the reality of how we lived and how you know small were the community and the racism we felt often all the time it was tough and to see yourself being representative community was just really foreign to me at that young age and it actually didn't prompt me to run for politics but it did prompt me to get involved in activism that was kind of my way of wanting to give back and lead her on you know it manifested towards politics let's talk about that any of you faced vile comments or racism that's made you just left you in shock that people actually think this way MIT I remember speaking at a tech conference I started off my career in tech and it was in the United States and and this man came up to me and he said you are the most articulate black person I've ever heard and you know I sort of caught me by surprise that he had that boldness to come up and to say that to me I was the keynote speaker of course I would have the ability to deliver a message and so you know fighting against that inertia of well we don't expect it from you it's something that I've been aware of it's funny that you mentioned though that you know articulate for a black woman right it's it's there's microaggressions that exist I feel like in any industry whenever anyone so anytime somebody has to me you're so we were so well raised it's like well compared to what you know like it's Stan you know the first time I experienced it on the campaign it was a constituent who said that I'm running for the wrong party because my f my ethnic name won't serve me well when I disagree with with policy or something something to that effect and that kind of took me aback I mean most recently though I had a leader of a union tweet out something relating to North Korea and what what people don't understand when you're a person of color is it may seem innocuous to them making the comment like Oh Ontario's acting like North Korea but that brings up a lot of painful memories my grandmother you know told me daily about the atrocities that she and her family faced under that oppressive regime and you know my my uncle served and passed away in the Army you know and these are the real-life sort of effects that that seemingly innocuous comments have in along Mitzi's example they're quite recently I had a gentleman after a speech come up to me as well and say well we you you you speak speak English really good so the only thing I said was they speak English really well yes the way to handle that absolutely it happens unfortunately and you have a unique perspective given your brother your brother is the leader of the the federal and Democratic Party which you were also part of but he faced somebody coming up to him and saying some really vile terms and he handled it how and have you felt that you you've faced similar situations so growing up undoubtedly we went through a lot of racism and it's really rough because new you face racism makes you feel like isolated it makes you feel like you're not your worth is a question and you're inherently there's something wrong with you just because of how you are so when we're into politics when we start to face it it was something that we were prepared for a lot and we had that ability to cope and to respond in a way that was loving and courageous like my brother's response to that very terrible Risa's heckler at a rally where he responded by not getting angry or getting you know pissed off he just said you know let's respond with love and courage it's a new realm and a lot of really vile comments can be sort of made and hurled it at people based on their gender their race and ethnicity religion and people are hiding behind that you know that and on on or their robot and amenity right or their or their robots but but they're hurtful and and I often wonder I mean even in our industry I found in the past few years the comments have gotten worse and worse and worse than when I started out in the industry have you found that that things have gotten a bit worse that were at this time where we're seeing things that weren't said before now openly said Stan yeah and can you bring up Twitter I try and stay off of that as much as Polly but you know idea there are some nasty things said I mean it's hard not to take it personally when I post a Mother's Day video and some of it well idiot is writing very personal comments because when it gets racial and it does sometimes you you you you know I think you'll agree with me it's it's not just that comment it really brings up those memories of you being the only Asian kid in Rexdale and in a class of 30 and being bullied and and you know and those painful memories is something you can't explain to somebody who hasn't been through that because those seemingly harmless comments actually impact you a lot more but you know as has been said on the panel it's about responding to that hate with that love and that courage and I get greed with the way your brother handled that situation it was very well done you know it's interesting because you guys put it all out there I mean you're out there I don't know if I could do it I mean you really are fully out there being a person of color why why do you do that in terms of your thoughts on the importance of having a seat at the political table as a person of color I don't think it's enough to just be at the table you have to be advancing issues that matter to your community so in brampton that means fighting for a university and speaking out against the cancellation of university fighting for healthcare fighting for things that directly impact our community in all communities so I think it's beyond just being there you have to advocate yet the fight you had to truly work to say what are the issues that are holding my community back and how can we advance it it absolutely changes the space when you have a cabinet that's that's more reflective of the population and you have people from different backgrounds at the table who are helping to make those policy decisions I know for me when I was Minister of Education and I was the first person of color to be Minister of Education in this province and over a hundred and fifty year history of the province and of course it changes the lens of course it changed us a conversation that you have at the table you know I firmly believe that government should be a reflection of the people that governs and if you look in the streets of Willowdale I challenge you to find a country that's not represented on the streets of North York we're very diverse and and I believe that your your legislature should also be equally diverse and that's really we've draw so much strength from that in our caucus meetings because there are differing opinions there are differing points of view let me ask you though because I think one of the things that people might struggle with is thinking I have to change something about myself I have to change my name maybe I have to change some of my beliefs to fit in with a party have you ever any of you had to do that or is that is that reality is that what happens that's a huge issue especially in brampton if you look at it what people are running I remember I'm you know why my brother dealt with us a lot he kind of paved the path for me is that everything from his turbine style to his beard style to his name he were he was told to anglicize his name to not go with the junk meat to go a Jag instead he was told to taya you know more tradition sir who's telling him this stuff is the consultants is it is different different individuals in the community people from our own community people when you knock on the door even when he's running for leadership then DPA you know yeah I heard from pretty people as well you hear these individuals who want who say you need to fit a specific mold when you run for politics and your how you look doesn't really match that mold and I think that's where we need to respond by saying we're gonna be unequivocally who we are we're gonna be unapologetically who we are we're our name you know I happen I'll start a conversation upset individuals my name is good at dancing and they'll say to me okay what's what's your nickname and I'll say my nickname is good at dancing and I'll respond to say this as a way to say that our name is so powerful is how we're identified is when the first words we know and learn and to take that away from someone so candidly to say oh you know something that was gifted to you by your mother and father gifted to you by a culture this is what put that to the side because I have a hard time rolling in our right and I think that's why we need to respond by being courageously proud of who we are in our in the in the Sikh culture the Padova culture we have this this term called our neck being under key being under key having this courageous sense of self-worth and I think that's something that all people of color really need to embody this idea of being under key and being proud of who they are I love that G to that I think I benefited because I ran in a riding where you know two other block Jamaican women professionals had run and and so in fact when I was knocking on doors people thought I was marker fast about it I'm like no no I'm Mitzi hunter and but it wasn't you know striking against me it was just an affirmation that they welcomed a black woman representing them you know I remember someone to me early on because I come from a business background and just different backgrounds that I've worked in you know that you don't want to appear too strong and I didn't really know how to take that but at the same time I got other great advice which is you know go to every door and connect with those voters and they'll connect with you my colleagues here put it really well but there is no there should be no apologies for who you are where you come from absolutely not and it's not about hey that it don't fit a mold you can recreate the mold right those were meant to be changed so I think that's a very important one people of color should be more in the into politics because then we don't have molds anymore right there's different backgrounds that's what we're about I think we have to learn about each other actually you know like even just some of the stories that you've shared today like that's that's where those are really powerful ways for us to all connect so sharing that dialogue and even what we're doing today is really important to increase understanding and across political parties cuz you'll be going across you know what do i do well i you've inspired me the three of you I hope you inspire some others to perhaps think about this as a future path because you're right if we don't get more people who are in this then things aren't going to change and government isn't going to change and there is a lot of power as you said in government thank you all for sharing your stories with me and thank you for watching living in color thank you for watching living in color if you enjoyed the show please subscribe to our You Tube channel and if you have an idea for a future living in color episode we'd love to hear your thoughts please leave them in the comment section

Maurice Vega

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