Ethiopian immigrant eyes seat on City Council

By RON FANFAIR

Almost everything that Samuel Getachew’s Zambia-based mother, Aster Admassie, puts her hand on seemingly turns to gold.

It’s for that reason that the 33-year-old Ethiopian immigrant filed his nomination documents on her birthday last February 18 to run in this October’s municipal elections.

He’s challenging Paul Ainslie in Ward 43 (Scarborough East).

“She’s very lucky and I hope some of that runs off on me,” says Getachew, who in 2006 unsuccessfully attempted to become an Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee.

Two years ago, the young man spent nearly 12 months campaigning in the United States for Barack Obama, who was sworn in as America’s first Black president in January 2009. He said he met Obama while campaigning in Ohio and the president shook his hand and thanked him for coming from Canada to be part of a historic process.

“Another reason why I went to the United States was that I wanted to see for myself how the country had evolved from nearly four decades ago when my father studied there …,” he said. “It’s was amazing to see a Black man contending strongly for the presidency then as opposed to the time when my dad went to university and had to use washrooms reserved for coloured people. My going to the U.S. was not just for Obama, but also a celebration of what America has become.”

His father, Getachew Jembere, graduated from New Mexico University and worked for several years as a researcher at York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies before relocating to Zambia in 1993, where he’s now retired.

The municipal councilor candidate said he was inspired to become involved in the political process here because Blacks are under-represented in the corridors of power.

“Blacks don’t have much influence here in Canada,” he said. “There are very few of us in key political areas and there isn’t anything in Canada that’s similar to the Black Caucus in the United States. There is nothing that will allow us to speak with one voice.”

Getachew completed his high school education in Ottawa after arriving in the Canadian capital in 1990 with his family. He pursued Political Science Studies at Carleton University and worked for Elections Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board and in the House of Commons.

He started a community newspaper in high school and founded the Friends of Ethiopia in Ottawa. Through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities partnership program that matches Canadian and other global cities, he was also instrumental in securing an ambulance that was shipped to the land of his birth.

After moving to Toronto in 2008, Getachew became an active member of the Ethiopian community in the Greater Toronto Area and launched the Ethiopia Friday networking event.

 

 

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