Manvinder Gill, 27, grew up in Winnipeg’s Garden City neighbourhood where visible minorities and Indigenous peoples make up nearly half of the neighbourhood’s population.
But when a federal election comes around, Gill never sees the demographics of her neighbourhood reflected among candidates.
“I grew up with many Filipinos, Punjabis, with Black folks, with Indigenous folks and I don’t necessarily see those voices represented within the ridings in Manitoba,” she said.
CBC surveyed the four major federal parties in Manitoba which are represented in the House of Commons: Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green, and asked them to provide the number of candidates who identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of colour.
Results show that Black people and people of colour are still underrepresented among federal election candidates. They only make up six per cent of the roster while making up 17.4 per cent of Manitoba’s population.
Gill said when there’s a lack of diversity, she believes politicians can overlook the interests of the communities they serve.
“We miss what’s actually happening on the ground, what reality actually looks like,” she said. “It is, of course, disheartening.”
Black and people of colour still lacking on ballot
According to 2016 census data, 18% of Manitoba’s populations are Indigenous. Meanwhile, 6.4% are Filipino, 3.4% are South Asian, 2.4% are Black and 5.2% are of other visible minorities.
There are 53 candidates from the four major parties running in the federal election. CBC is not including two Green party candidates because they didn’t respond to the survey.
Out of 51 candidates, 11 are Indigenous — which is representative of the population size.
But there is only one Filipino candidate, one Black candidate and one Middle Eastern candidate in all of Manitoba among the major parties. If those numbers were to be proportional to current demographics, the roster should have nine candidates who are Black or people of colour.
If the number of seats were to be proportional to demographics, there should be three Indigenous MPs and two MPs who are Black or a person of colour in the House of Commons, representing ridings in Manitoba.
Based on information that has been publicly declared, there are only two incumbents who are Indigenous.
No commitment from parties, says expert
Velma Morgan is chair of Operation Black Vote Canada, an organization dedicated to supporting Black people to run for public office.
Morgan said most federal parties don’t have a plan to engage Black leaders to run for office.
“What we’re missing is the real commitment of the political parties,” she said.
Morgan said providing a supportive network and clear information to interested candidates in advance of an election is key to overcoming a lack of representation.
In some instances, Morgan said Black candidates haven’t been given the opportunity or financial resources to succeed.
“We’re seeing that a lot of our Black candidates are being nominated over the past two weeks in the middle of an election,” she said. “So how are they supposed to run successful campaigns if the election’s already started?”
Money still a barrier
Dan Vandal, Liberal candidate and incumbent for Saint-Boniface—Saint Vital, says funding remains a big barrier for Indigenous leaders wanting to campaign.
“Let’s face it, at a national level, money plays a huge role,” he said. “Every candidate needs the money to run a good campaign.”
CBC Radio-Canada found that white men received 10 per cent more funding than other candidates overall.They also make up a majority of MPs, while only making up one-third of Canada’s population.
Vandal, who is Métis, has been in politics since 1995, starting at the municipal level. He said the Liberals formed an Indigenous People’s Commission in 1998 and it’s an initiative that has bridged the gap.
“We do fundraising during an election year. There is funding that goes to the Indigenous candidates to help them out,” he said.
Where do parties stand?
Among the four major parties, the Conservatives and Liberals have the most Black, Indigenous and people of colour candidates in Manitoba — each having five BIPOC candidates out of 14.
The NDP has three BIPOC candidates out of 14 and the Green party has one Indigenous candidate out of the nine who responded to the survey.
In an email, Chelsea Tucker, spokesperson for the Conservative party, says Erin O’Toole has made it clear that people are welcome by Canada’s Conservatives no matter their gender, background, sexual orientation, colour or religion.
She said that message and the party’s recovery plan has attracted an impressive range of candidates from all walks of life and backgrounds.
In an email statement, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, said the party has been putting in the work in ridings across Canada to recruit the most diverse team of candidates.
Singh said he’s proud that more than half of the NDP’s team are women and more than a third are BIPOC.
“We also have more people running for us who are living with a disability or are from the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression community than we have ever had on our team,” he said.
This story is the result of a CBC Manitoba engagement journalism project. We listened to BIPOC voters in Manitoba about their views on the 2021 federal election and then pursued stories that mattered the most.
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