The following post is my response to Simon Houpt’s article in today’s Globe & Mail:
they probably won’t publish this but its my two cents.
Barack Obama’s historic election victory does not alter the fact that African Americans still face major obstacles in the United States however Simon Houpt fails to provide a compelling counter argument to Toni Morrison’s assertion that an African Canadian could not be elected Prime Minister of Canada. While it is true that Canada and many European countries have elected female leaders, I do not believe that any of these heads of state have been members of visible minority populations. In the Canadian context our one example of visible minority leadership at the federal or provincial level has been Ujjal Dosanjh in British Columbia. By shifting his response to Toni Morrison’s assertion away from race and towards gender Simon Houpt fails to completely analyze the importance of Obama’s election victory and apply his analysis into the Canadian context, especially that which exists for African Canadians. A recent article in the Globe & Mail “Immigrants face growing economic mobility gap” highlighted the fact that African Canadian’s continue to lag behind Canadian’s of European descent and other visible minority populations in terms of income even after residing in Canada for three generations. Issues of racism and systemic discrimination within Canada and specifically within the province of Ontario have also been noted in numerous studies perhaps most eloquently by Stephen Lewis in the 1992 Report on Race Relations in Ontario: http://www.ontla.on.ca/library/repository/mon/13000/134250.pdf These studies and correlating employment income data from Statistics Canada speak directly to Toni Morrison’s assertion that she would have difficulty obtaining the same level of employment stature in Canada. While issues concerning race and inequality are prevalent in the United States we also must remember that many of the same issues are prevalent in Canada, if these issues were absent there probably wouldn’t be ongoing discussions concerning racial profiling, Afro-centric schools in Toronto or the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is also important to note that Simon Houpt wrote his article while residing in a country with an African American President Elect, a State with an African American Governor (David Patterson) and in a city that has previously elected an African American mayor (David Dinkins). To the contrary I honestly cannot imagine in my lifetime seeing the election of an African Canadian Prime Minister of Canada, Premier of Ontario or Mayor of Toronto. This is not stated without acknowledging the pioneering efforts of Rosemary Brown, who lost on the fourth ballot of the NDP leadership convention in 1975 but achieved the distinction of being the first woman to run for the leadership of a federal political party, and Howard McCurdy, who dropped out after a fifth place result on the first ballot of the 1989 NDP leadership convention. It is also important to note during the 1972 provincial election British Columbia elected two African Canadians Rosemary Brown, and Emery Barnes, to the Legislative Assembly. As African Canadians have historically comprised less than one percent of British Columbia’s population this marked the first and only time in Canadian history where African Canadians were equitably or over represented in political office. Despite these achievements, as of 2008 African Canadians are still struggling to gain economic equality, political power and representation. Before making assertions of hubris to statements made by Toni Morrison, Simon Houpt should do some comparative research into the social and economic status of African descended populations in the United States, Canada and Europe, an excellent starting point would be this 1996 Malcolm Gladwell New Yorker article:http://www.gladwell.com/1996/1996_04_29_a_black.htm