She likkle, but she tallawah.
That popular Jamaica saying best describes petite Adaoma Patterson who won the nomination to be the Brampton West New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in this year’s federal elections.
The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Patterson has spent most of the last 15 years advocating on behalf of Peel residents to various levels of government for investments and creating poverty awareness and working with the community to implement affordable transit, food and income security, and economic opportunities.
“I feel that running for office at this time and in this place is an opportunity to engage the residents of Brampton West including young people – those who never voted are in this group – racialized communities and new immigrants,” said the 2010 DiverseCity Fellow and former Jamaica Canadian Association (JCA) executive secretary.
Patterson is deeply concerned about increasing income equality, the lack of the federal government’s commitment to adequately address poverty and the rise of precarious employment at all economic levels.
“This sense that things are happening to us and we have no control and the sense that people feel less connected to the political process and the people that they elect to serve concern me,” she said. “Over the past couple of years, I felt myself becoming cynical about politics and the political process. But, I had to remind myself that cynicism has no positive end and therefore I needed to turn that feeling of negativity into something positive and decide what my role would be, hence my decision to run for elected office.
“Working in the public sector in the last 15 years, I have experienced citizens’ first-hand frustration in finding jobs, navigating support systems that forget to put people first and understanding the never-ending changes to our immigration system. Those things have prepared me to be an effective public servant in Ottawa who will play a meaningful role in changing the negative discourse that’s taking over our country.”
At her campaign launch last week, the Peel poverty reduction strategy committee specialist promised to work to support, connect and unite Brampton West residents.
“I will fight for the issues that matter to all of us and will make our community a better place,” said Patterson who was the recipient of the JCA’s 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award. “The NDP government is committed to increasing the federal minimum wage as a way to build a more balanced economy and to protect Canadians holding precarious employment…I believe I have the skills, experience, passion and commitment to represent you and together we can make the NDP the party of choice for Brampton West. Our work begins today and I ask you to join me.”
Created in 2003, Brampton West is the city’s most populous district with Jamaicans making up 13.1 per cent of the riding’s population which is the highest in any Canadian city.
Insurance broker Jagtal Shergill was the NDP’s candidate in the last three federal elections in which he finished third behind the Liberal and Conservative candidates.
In the 2011 elections, Conservative Kyle Seeback defeated Liberal Andrew Kania, who won in 2008, by 6,192 votes.
Brampton-Gore-Malton Member of Provincial Parliament and Ontario NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh and former Liberal provincial minister Mary Anne Chambers attended the campaign launch.
Elected to the legislative assembly in 2003, Chambers served as Minister of Training, Colleges & Universities and Minister of Children & Youth Services before quitting politics eight years ago.
“During my campaign, I came across three kinds of people,” said Chambers who is a member of the Order of Ontario. “They were the ones who hoped the candidate would win so they could benefit, those that believe in party politics no matter who is running and those who believe in the candidate and were willing to support that individual regardless of which party they are affiliated to. I belong to that last group and I was there to support Adaoma.
“Her work in Peel region has revolved around social service policy, so she’s very familiar with the social service needs of the people in her constituency. She’s no lightweight or someone who just woke up and realized social justice is important. This is someone who has proven she’s serious about serving the public good. Adaoma is the kind of person we need in politics because of her integrity, work ethic and familiarity with the issues that concern people and affect their lives.”
Patterson chaired the volunteer-driven transition team responsible for making changes to the way the JCA operates. To make the hybrid organization relevant and more attractive to young people, significant changes were made last year to the governance structure.
Her volunteerism with a large organization started shortly after her 18th birthday when she was elected a National Council of Jamaicans & Supportive Organizations in Canada youth representative.
“Adaoma is very dedicated and committed to social causes,” said former JCA president Audrey Campbell. “The NDP and the citizens of Brampton West could not have asked for a better candidate.”
Except for six years when the family returned to Jamaica, Patterson was raised in Winnipeg where her late father, Horace Patterson, migrated to in the 1960s to pursue studies at the University of Manitoba where he was the student union’s first Black president, a member of the debating team and a lecturer after securing his Master’s in political science.
A decade after the family patriarch’s death in 1982 at age 42, Patterson – along with her sister Chioma and their mom Lois – established the Horace Patterson Memorial Foundation that offers scholarships to young people in Winnipeg to pursue post-secondary education.