Lack of diversity on London's new council

Graphic showing the title: Lack of diversity on London's new council. CREDIT: FSU PUBLICATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT

London recently held a municipal election that brought a lot of changes to the table. The biggest one being a change in mayor, after Ed Holder chose not to run for re-election. But what also came with it was a lack of diversity on council.

Prior to the election, there were a couple notable people, like Mohamed Salih and Mariam Hamou. They were able to bring concerns for Muslims and Black people. Obviously, this is only two people who represent minorities. But, two is better than nothing. After the most recent election, it was shown that London has a long way to go.

The current council is:

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Mayor: Josh Morgan

Ward 1: Hadleigh McAlister

Ward 2: Shawn Lewis (incumbent)

Ward 3: Peter Cuddy

Ward 4: Susan Steveson

Ward 5: Jerry Pribil

Ward 6: Sam Trosow

Ward 7: Corrine Rahman

Ward 8: Steve Lehman (incumbent)

Ward 9: Anna Hopkins (incumbent)

Ward 10: Paul Van Meerbergen (incumbent)

Ward 11: Skylar Franke

Ward 12: Elizabeth Peloza (incumbent)

Ward 13: David Ferreira

Ward 14: Steven Hillier (incumbent)

A lot of incumbents did get re-elected for their ward. The only two that weren’t were Mariam Hamou and Michael van Holst. Corrine Rahman is the only member of the BIPOC community.

“I was happy to see some Asian and Black candidates,” said Dr. Rupinder Gill, a professor for Human Resources Management at Fanshawe, as well as a member of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Oppression Community Advisory Committee. “As results were declared, 14 councillors from different wards, we have mostly white males. But I am happy to see that there are five women out of 14, which is a good representation.”

Gill said she would have liked to see seven women, but five isn’t bad. There were quite a few people who were part of a visible minority, both men and women, but they were not voted in.

“We need to see more people from different ethnicities representing different voices, but that didn’t happen. We talk about [racism], but when it comes to making decisions, we want those people on council.”

Gill referred to the Afzaal family, that was tragically killed in what police say was a hate-motivated crime. That was something that shook the London community. But white councillors can’t necessarily understand the pain and fear that caused so many people.

“We aren’t aware of the benefits of diversity. We talk about inclusion and equity all the time, but we are still at the talking stage and not taking action. As residents of London, I think we have to acknowledge that racism exists, discrimination exists, and it’s happening everywhere. If it’s not happening to you, you feel like it’s not happening in London.”

Another important perspective that is important to have within a government is people who are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community. The more diversity we have on council, the more equitable decisions will be made.

Rahman is just one voice on council. Her perspectives and ideas do matter, but multiple people need to agree with her ideas for true progress to be made.

“The city of London is promoting London to international students and newcomers and working toward retaining international students and immigrants. But if we don’t pay attention to the issues they face, and they need representation at the leadership level, we will be losing more and more immigrants and students who come here.”

Diversity is such a big topic and London has a long way to go. But if we work together as a community to elect diverse individuals, overall, the economy will thrive and so will the London community.

“As a city, we need to work on the retention of all these people, international students, and immigrants from different countries, and not just white immigrants.”