Meet the Black candidates of Waterloo Region 

Ontario election day is set for Thursday, June 2

Ontario’s election season is in full swing with the various parties making their case for your vote. With election day just around the corner, insideWaterloo has reached out to several local Black candidates that are on the ballot this year. In a field of predominantly white candidates, they not only bring their voice to the table, but hope to give voice for the marginalized and underrepresented. You can cast your ballot for them on Thursday, June 2.

(Photo provided)

Marjorie Knight — NDP candidate for Cambridge

While Marjorie Knight does not consider herself a politician, her decision to run as Cambridge’s MPP comes from the support of her community who have benefited from her advocacy. It also comes from what she has learned through her lived experiences. 

When Knight returned to Canada from Jamaica in 2001, she struggled to find work despite having a degree from a Canadian university. She found a job outside of her field and could provide for herself and her two children until she was laid off. Unable to replace her lost income, she ended up losing her home and wounded up homeless.  It was in those times that her eyes were further opened to the issues around her. 

“That was probably the hardest time of my life, being homeless, just the stress of it alone and having my children stay with their friends. It was very, very difficult,” Knight said. With the help of her community, she went  back to school for a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Waterloo.

After graduating, she joined the $15 and Fairness program to advocate for decent minimum wages and working conditions across Ontario. She also worked directly with people experiencing homelessness and poverty in her role as a family outreach worker with House of Friendship. Her involvement with different levels of government taught her how to best advocate for and meet the needs of her community of Cambridge.

“I’m talking to children, I’m talking to moms and dads, and I’m encouraging them to get involved and go to school,” Knight said. In Cambridge’s marginalized neighbourhoods, she added that she has watched “the death of hope in many of these kids which is really sad.” Through her campaign, Knight aims to invest in the people. She believes the health care and education sector require great improvements.

“Immigrants are often required to come to Canada with degrees and accreditation, yet they are unable to practice upon arrival. We have over 30,000 nurses from other countries that can not work yet we are in desperate need of more nurses,” she said. Knight hopes to investigate seniors’ care as many passed away during the pandemic, which Knight attributes to the overwhelming workload. Many also work other jobs just to earn a decent wage to provide for themselves.  Knight wants to have such workers paid as full-time staff with proper benefits and paid sick leaves. She would also like to invest in daycare and expedite the process while looking after the workers.

“Childcare; a lot of it is being done by racialized women and they are underpaid. We are looking to move EA’s up to $25/hr and other education and childcare workers up to $20/hr as well as institute paid advancement training so that they can upgrade their delegation,” she said.

Knight aims to tackle homelessness and push back the common misconception that the homeless are all addicts or have mental health problems Disabled people and seniors are the fastest growing population of homeless people and Knight sees this as a failure of society. Her goal is to increase the rates of ODSP and OW to $2,000, after which she hopes to build different levels of affordable, social, and accessible housing.

“Million-dollar houses are not for us. Many of us cannot afford them. But everybody deserves a home. It is a right to have shelter,” she said. She plans to look into rent control for both landlords and tenants, as well as  help first time homeowners with an equity loan of 10 per cent so they can enter the housing market quicker. Knight believes in the importance of representation beyond the colour of one’s skin. She believes in all voices being heard.

You can read the rest of the NDP platform here.

(Photo provided)

Ismail Mohamed — Liberal candidate for Kitchener South-Hespeler

Ismail Mohamed has been involved with many governmental and non-governmental organizations over the years. Such work brought him to Kitchener about 10 years ago, where he found his wife and settled in the community with their four children. Over time, he has learnt the needs of the people, especially of those who are most vulnerable. As a facilitator at the Country Hills and the Chandler Mowat community centres, as well as his work through Kitchener’s Community Services Department,  he has grown to understand the issues facing Kitchener South-Hespeler and often seeks the resources to support them. 

“I have stood up for the voiceless in the community and found a way to lift them up and share their gifts in the community,” he explained.

Mohamed is running under the Liberal Party and his campaign platform is centred on improving issues related to housing affordability, education, health care and immigration in accordance with the unique needs of the community. 

“When I’m in Hespeler, what I hear most from the community is the need to support small businesses. When I’m in the Doon or Huron area, people are more concerned about the education system and housing,” said Mohamed. He sees distinct needs within the constituency.  Many of whom require basic needs such as prescription medication, dental care and other necessary provisions to make ends meet.

Under the Liberal Party, Mohamed would be able to deliver a more balanced approach to representing the community at Queen’s Park. 

“We have a government right now that prioritizes wealthy folks, while we are having a health crisis and the education system is chaos”, he said. He believes the people require an advocate or “community champion,” someone to bridge the gap between politics and people. He had built a name for himself with his track record of building resilience in communities through his sustainable and meaningful approach to politics. 

“The community shaped me personally; it raised me, helped me find my identity and now I’m in the position to give back”, said Mohamed.

You can read the rest of the Liberal Party platform here.

(Photo provided)

Laura Mae Lindo — NDP candidate for Kitchener-Centre (incumbent)

As a Black woman and single mother of three, Laura Mae Lindo felt it necessary to make her voice be heard at Queen’s Park. During her tenure as MPP for Kitchener Centre, she learned there had only been 14 Black people elected in Ontario’s history. She was taken aback by the news. 

“When you think about the kind of advocacy that we do on the ground to ensure that we are safe, and our kids are okay. To imagine that for this long our critical voices haven’t really been at the table is really difficult,” she said.

Lindo’s campaign has an identity of its own. In her four years as MPP, Lindo has been the chair for Ontario’s NDP Black caucus, the anti-racism critic and the critic for colleges and universities. Lindo is passionate about the NDP’s universal healthcare plan with a focus on making mental health services accessible through your OHIP card. To Lindo, it is important to apply an equity lens to policies, and the availability of culturally responsive supports in areas such as mental health and the sexual violence prevention portion of the post secondary education platform plank. 

“That language provides tools for community organizers and advocates to fight to ensure that they hold the party accountable,” Lindo said. “I see myself as a conduit between the community and mainstream political parties to ensure there are tools available to keep pushing.”

During her tenure as MPP, she realized that the bulk of the calls to her office had been in regards to people struggling under Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW). Under the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Canadian residents who were facing unemployment due to the pandemic were given $2,000 monthly benefit, which was far more than what was allocated for ODSP and OW dependants. She said the proposed fund increases put out by other parties would still be insufficient to remove people from legislative poverty. Lindo’s own poverty reduction strategy would increase ODSP and OW to $2,000 per month and call for guaranteed livable basic income among other plans. This strategy goes beyond what the NDP platform calls for. 

“I am different. My leadership is different. Part of my job is to advocate for people who need a voice at Queen’s Park and that means putting the vision out there and encouraging the party to come with me on this journey,” she said.

At 16.5 per cent, Kitchener Centre has one of the highest poverty rates in the region. Lindo believes that ensuring adequate support for the people that are most negatively impacted by inadequate policies would insure the overall well-being of the province. Through her equity lens, she would keep striving to address issues related to accessible and affordable housing, mental health and addiction supports and wages improvement, specifically for PSWs and education workers. 

“We must have an anti racist/oppressive or equity lens on anything we do at Queen’s Park,” Lindo argued. “It’s something that I’ve brought to Queen’s Park over the last four years and I’ve had members of other parties remark that there has been a difference when I debate it. I think not having that lens at the table would pull us back. I want to carry on that critical work.”

You can read the rest of the NDP platform here.

(Photo provided)

Christian Shingiro — Communist candidate for Waterloo

Originally from Rwanda, Christian Shingiro fled the country with his family when he was about a year old during the civil war. During this time, he lived in a refugee camp before relocating to the U.S., when his father gained a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. After two years they were able to move to Canada and became a naturalized citizen when he turned 21.

Growing up in the Canadian education system, Shingiro received a neo-liberal and anti-communist education.  Considering Canada’s history of colonialism and imperialism, as well as what Canada’s actual foreign policy is compared to the truths behind the civil war in Rwanda, helped radicalize him to a revolutionary position.

“That is why I am a communist. It’s my upbringing,” he said.

Representing the Communist Party of Canada (Ontario), Shingiro believes in the power of a singular MP to move policies forward within the political spectrum in parliament. He believes his platform would also inform the working class about the bourgeois nature of society to raise consciousness. The party’s platform essentially runs on the idea of decolonization. To Shingiro, decolonization is the social ownership of the means of production and the end of capitalism. 

“At the moment, we have private ownership of mining companies, and that ends up getting exported in predatory imperialist operations abroad. We have private ownership of gas, pipelines running through Ontario, and an economy and environment that isn’t green. The underlying problem of this is the individual owners of the means of production maximizing production for their own profit. We need to socialize the means of production under a direct deliberate plan,” he said.

He refers to Marxism as well as other communist parties around the world including the Communist Party of India as to why it is important for communists to run in elections. “It helps to radicalize the movement when you see people fighting from within the bourgeois system and those fighting without.”

Shingiro aims to tackle issues related to the housing crisis, Indigenous climate justice, and ensuring the right to employment among other basic social rights for the people. 

“We need a dramatic shift in policy and thinking,” Shingiro said. “The campaign isn’t just about electing a communist, but about turning organizers and activists in the regions that are seeing the problems into revolutionaries.”

You can read the rest of the Communist Party platform here.

(From Green Party website)

Nasir Abdulle — Green Party candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga

We have reached out to Nasir Abdulle, Green Party candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga. You can read the rest of the Green Party platform here.

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