Several candidates from visible or identity minorities are seeking to be elected to the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick this year. They testify to their aspirations and their challenges.
Alice McKim enjoys media attention, but wants people to care about her ideas rather than being a transgender woman. The Liberal Party candidate in Saint-Jean-Havre regrets that the publications she has been the subject of so far have only focused on her gender identity.
This secondary school teacher, mother of three daughters, calls herself an environmentalist at heart. To combat climate change, it advocates the manufacture of small modular nuclear reactors as a source of green energy.
This organizer of student walks inspired by Greta Thunberg admits that this method, which produces hazardous radioactive waste, is not perfect.
She reiterates, however, that it is essential to quickly adopt non-fossil energy sources to avoid the worst. Ms. McKim also argues the need for tax reform for large industries so that they pay their fair share.
Alice McKim is one of the few candidates to go directly to meet voters at home. Equipped with her mask, she uses her red umbrella to ring or knock on doors and moves back 4 meters to speak to people who answer.
The candidate recognizes that her campaign style allows people in her riding to meet a transgender person and see their feminine soul.
«I had no problem. It’s ironic, people might think it would be difficult for a trans candidate to go door-to-door in an area that has socio-economic challenges. […] but the people are welcoming. Honestly, I never felt so recognized», She explains.
Ms. McKim hopes her experience will inspire people who are trans, non-binary or from other marginalized groups to take the plunge into politics. “They may be like, ‘Oh maybe it’s safer to be a candidate, maybe I won’t be plagued by transphobia’», Wishes the candidate.
Alice McKim recalls, however, that transphobia still exists, hence the importance of seeing more candidates from sexual diversity.
Be able to display openly
Kevin Haché is one of two candidates who are openly members of the LGBTQ + community to run under the banner of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick.
The mayor of Caraquet for eight years has never seen his sexual orientation as a barrier or an asset in politics. He says that was not discussed when he met party leader Blaine Higgs.
«Me, I show myself as being homosexual. I’ve always been as far as I can remember, but people don’t necessarily see me like this,Says the one who wonders how people would react if he walked down the street in Caraquet holding his partner’s hand.
Mr. Haché underlines the progress made in particular thanks to the LGBTQ + Acadie Love festival. “Talking about it is good, but seeing it and having it in the community, that’s what you have to work onAdds the candidate lawyer, noting that there is still a need for places where people in the LGBTQ + community can feel comfortable being themselves without being judged.
«We shouldn’t need these safe spaces. We should be able to go for example to Caraquet in a restaurant and hold hands without having derogatory looks […] The second step now is to show people that we are there, that we exist. We should have the same right as other people to do certain thingsHe says with conviction.
The Progressive Conservative candidate in Caraquet wants to be able to work for his riding at the provincial level and promote Acadia. He regrets the north-south and English-French divisions that reign in New Brunswick and emphasizes the importance of having French-speaking elected officials in the next government, regardless of political stripe.
An Indigenous vision of politics
Curtis Bartibogue, one of three Indigenous candidates in these elections, finds it unfortunate that there aren’t more of them running for a seat in the Legislative Assembly.
This former councilor of the Esgenoouverture First Nation wears the colors of the Green Party in Miramichi-Neguac Bay.
He believes that talking about climate change and racism has never been so important. Mr. Bartibogue says he wants to offer an alternative to political parties in the pay of large companies.
This former youth representative to the Assembly of First Nations does not understand that New Brunswickers are not more outraged by the spread of the herbicide glyphosate in the province.
«This is mind boggling!»Declares this father who wants to act for his three children and their generation. Curtis Bartibogue promotes the connection of First Nations people to the environment.
He advocates a collaborative approach between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people for the environment and reconciliation.
«We live off the land, with fish and natural resources. As we have all seen in the news, most of the topics surrounding First Nations touch on issues of natural resources or territorial law. I could bring my experience in Indigenous politics to the provincial tableSays Curtis Bartibogue, whose father is Acadian.
Carole Chan is another face of this new diversity on the New Brunswick political scene. Born to parents who immigrated from Taiwan, the Green Party candidate in Moncton Center was raised in Mandarin and educated in French immersion in Vancouver.
This lawyer tries to teach Mandarin to her three children who attend French school. In his family, established in New Brunswick since 2006, we say that we speak the “chignac» [NDLR jeu de mots avec chinois et chiac].
Ms. Chan is not going to let her inheritance determine her future and that of her family. She asserts that we must go beyond identity issues, reflect and question ourselves to find the best solutions to climate change in a global economy.
«We need to ensure a local, strong and sustainable economy to protect the environment, not just the natural environment, but the social environment that surrounds us with healthcare, mental health and affordable housing. And it all has to be done with empathy. If you don’t have empathy, you can’t understand why it’s important to have these programs, to change the laws and to have different perspectives,»Explains the lawyer active in her community.
Make your place in an old party
René Ephestion was surprised by the lack of diversity on the New Brunswick political scene when he arrived from France in 2015. This Frenchman, originally from Martinique, says he had “enormous difficultiesTo be accepted by his political family. The one who ran for the post of leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party before being sidelined says he had to redouble his efforts to gain the confidence of the party leadership.
«It was really hard […] It was said that theestablishment of the Liberal Party is rather Acadian, so it was harder on the Acadian side than on the Anglophone sideSays the Liberal candidate in Moncton Southwest, who would like to understand why it happened like this.
René Éphestion says he has worked a lot on him to overcome his difficult beginnings in the Liberal Party where as the only black in the room, he attracted attention. He would very much like to see more people from different walks of life add value to the party.
«I struggled a lot, a lot to get myself into Moncton Southwest. It took a lot of communication and saying, ‘Trust me’ […] They gave me my chance and I have no room for mistakes. I have to do my best so that the people who will come behind are no longer afraid», Affirms this determined 40-year-old.
Mr. Ephestion says he is fiscally right and socially in the center. Now CEO of the New Brunswick Employment and Services Support Association, he wants to tackle the lack of mental health and addiction treatment services as well as the shortage of affordable housing.
He is also campaigning for a reform of the financing of political parties and wishes to limit the number of mandates that an elected official can serve.
Everyone has their own message on diversity
Carole Chan invites people to look beyond the differences in appearance to find which candidate meets their core values. “I encourage you to see your aspirations, your dreams and the solutions in us because we are not that different. Even if we are visibly diverse, our values, what is inside, is not as diverse as that, »She affirms in a calm tone.
Same story for Curtis Bartibogue who highlights his Aboriginal and Acadian roots to advocate unity and peace between peoples. “We are not so different, we live on resources and in our environment […] We must overcome the barriers, the obstacles of racism and discrimination. It is more important than our past arguments and losses when there is a giant elephant in the room telling us we need to change direction,He declares confidently.
Kevin Haché believes that we can change mentalities by setting an example. “I think we can be part of the LGBTQ + community and have important positions in government. People can have the ambition to do it and not to let who we are or not as a barrier, He says ardently.
Alice McKim hopes her visibility and positive experience as a transgender candidate will inspire others. “We need more trans and non-binary candidates. We need more trans and non-binary teachers to make young people feel safe living their truth. And this is true for all areas,Says the teacher, who took unpaid leave to campaign.
For René Éphestion, young, indigenous, LGBTQ + elected representatives are needed to make these groups more interested in political life. “It is important to have a certain minority in the Legislative Assembly so that people can appropriate this diversity and the fact that New Brunswick is diversifying and that it is for the best, that it is for its greatness.», He concludes with optimism.