Women and visible minorities make election gains

Canada Politics
Jody Wilson-Raybould (Image via Twitter)

Regardless of their parties’ fortunes last night, Election Day brought good news for many of the female and minority candidates.

In total, 88 women were elected to Parliament during Monday’s federal election, with women representing each of the five main parties. That’s 12 more than in the 2011 election. 

However, while the total proportion of women in the House of Commons is now 26 per cent, the highest ever, it’s still far below parity in a country where women make up 51 per cent of the population.

Aside from the Greens, whose leader Elizabeth May was their only MP elected, the NDP came closest to parity with 18 women elected of the party’s 44.

Canada recently came in 50th in an international ranking of women in national parliaments, below both developed countries like Sweden, Belgium and Italy and developing ones like Rwanda, Cuba and the Philippines. 

 It remains to be seen if Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet itself gets closer to gender parity than Parliament. He previously promised that as prime minister, his cabinet would have equal numbers of male and female members. 

Trudeau also targeted indigenous voters in Canada with promises like an end to boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves within five years, an investment of $2.6 billion in primary and secondary indigenous education and action on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The number of Canadians of indigenous heritage in the House will also increase with eight Liberal and two NDP candidates winning their races. The Liberals ran 18 aboriginal candidates, and seven of the eight who won are new to Parliament.

None of the four aboriginal MPs in the Conservative caucus will be back in Parliament in the new session. Two opted not to run and two lost their races, including Conservative cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq.

Only two of the NDP’s 22 aboriginal candidates won, and none of the 10 who ran with the Green Party were successful. 

While indigenous Canadians ran and won in this election in record numbers, their 10 MPs make up just three per cent of the 338 seats in Parliament. That’s still below their overall representation in the Canadian population, which is 4.3 per cent.

Other multicultural groups in Canada made important gains as well. Six Muslim MPs — all Liberals — won seats in an election where the divisive issue of the niqab received national attention. Initiatives like Canadian Muslim Vote aimed to increase voter turnout among Muslim Canadians.

During his victory speech, Trudeau mentioned a Muslim woman voter he’d met at a campaign event while saying that his government would reject divisive policies. However, his party has been criticized for supporting both the anti-terror Bill C-51 and the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.

And Desi Canadian candidates like Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Malton) were a big part of the Liberal takeover of the Greater Toronto Area, with the party taking many seats from incumbent NDP and Conservative MPs.

In all, 13.6 per cent of the MPs who will make up Canada’s next Parliament are visible minorities, up from 9.7 per cent in the last Parliament: 38 Liberals, six Conservatives and two New Democrats.

Some of the notable MPs elected in Monday’s election:

  • Maryam Monsef, elected for the Liberals in Peterborough-Kawartha, is an Afghani Canadian who became Peterborough’s first female MP and her riding’s youngest-ever MP.
  • Anne Minh-Thu Quach, elected for the NDP in Salaberry-Suroît, is just the third Vietnamese Canadian elected to the House of Commons.
  • Robert-Falcon Ouellette, elected for the Liberals in Winnipeg Centre, is a former mayoral candidate who unseated longtime NDP MP Pat Martin.