Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
It truly is a pleasure to be here. Usually the legs of the journey are about three flights to get from Sioux Lookout to Ottawa. On those long trips I am always thinking about what it is that really needs to be stated and how it needs to be stated clearly to our Ottawa audience, so I am looking forward to this opportunity today.
As you know, this is my first opportunity to come before you. I must say that when I first considered running in Sioux Lookout, there were quite a few different pressures that certainly weighed on me. I will lay out for you the experiential component to what has been laid out by Carole.
The pushes came from different sources. They came from family. They came from a community that, being a rural northern environment, is typically not familiar with diversity to the extent that cities are. Being originally from the cities and then moving to the north—and I have been there for about 10 years plus—I find it really interesting to see the dynamics of how communities embrace diversity within the framework of decision-making.
I heard the voices that said, “Maybe you're too new to the environment. Maybe you need to take a little bit more time to get to know the community, even though you've been here for 10 years.” I've also heard individuals say, “Perhaps you should wait this election out and wait for another cycle.” Many, many pushes were there. Certainly, being one who does not back away from a challenge, I approached it with vigour and dynamism, to say that the role of democracy is to engage and to make sure opportunities are there for all voices to be at the table, so I pressed forward and I made sure I stood firm in deciding to run.
Most interestingly, one of the things I would call a catalyst, something that really cemented the decision for me, was a little Caucasian boy who I think was about seven. I went to a school program in the evening, and he coyly came up beside me and asked me, “Are you black?” and I said, “Pretty much. I think so. It's the colour I was born in. I stayed out in the sun a little bit too long.” He said, “I've never seen a black person before. I don't know what to do with a black person. What do I do? How do I approach you?” I said, “I think you're doing a good job. You started by saying that this is not something you're used to, but the fact that you took that step to talk to me is encouraging me to make sure that I am visible and I am involved and I am engaging.” That way, the next generation can see what it means to have leadership from diverse backgrounds and can build within their learning experience the idea that leadership comes from all facets of life from all types of people with all types of skill sets.
Therefore I thank the little boy—let's call him Johnny—for being my angel and making sure that I wouldn't back down amid all the other challenges that existed, that I was present, and that I'd made that choice to get involved.
Today, four years later, I'd say that I have had many, many opportunities to continue that journey. I know you have heard that I am now the third vice-president for FCM and in three years will have the grand opportunity to represent FCM. I'll be the very first racialized minority female, and I'm an immigrant who now lives in Canada and has called Canada home for about 29 years.
It's an interesting opportunity to engage this notion of diversity and see how we grapple with being different and how we make those differences a part of the process of building better and stronger communities with a unified voice regardless of differences.