Just over four decades ago, Emmanuel Dubourg and his mother migrated from Haiti during then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s immigration reform period to diversify newcomers entering Canada.
In November 2013, the Haitian immigrant won the Bourassa riding for the Liberals in a federal by-election in the Quebec electoral district. He replaced Denis Codere who resigned his seat five months earlier to run for Mayor of Montreal.
Seven months before the by-election, Trudeau’s eldest son – Justin – was elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
“It was because of Mr. Trudeau’s open-door policy that I was able to come to Canada and here I am years later in the same political party with his son who could be Canada’s next Prime Minister,” Dubourg said at a Black History Month reception in Scarborough last Monday hosted by Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture & Sport Michael Coteau.
The federal elections take place this fall.
A teacher and chartered accountant, Dubourg entered politics two weeks before the 2007 Quebec by-election.
“I was approached by the party and asked to run,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘Why me?’, and after some consideration decided to take up the challenge. It was obvious they did their research and thought I was the best person to represent the party in the riding.”
Dubourg took the riding of Viau, defeating Parti Quebecois challenger Naima Mimoune by 7,511 votes. In the process, he became just the third Black member of Quebec’s national assembly behind Parti Quebecois member Jean Alfred and Liberal Yolande James.
The youngest of nine children, Dubourg arrived in Canada as a 14-year-old in 1974.
“My father died when I was three months old and my mother raised me and my siblings on her own,” he recalled. “She sewed to provide food on the table for us.”
The Member of Parliament’s mother passed away in 2003.
After securing his accounting degree and passing the chartered professional accountant exam on the second try, Dubourg interned with Coopers & Lybrand for two years before joining Canada Revenue Agency where he served as auditor, group head, manager and adviser to the assistant deputy minister.
He spent two years in Mali helping to reform the West African country’s tax system.
“The only reason I responded to a friend’s request to go to Mali was because I wanted my two sons (Edwin-Simon and David) to have an experience in Africa,” he said. “I did it for them and they learned a lot. But when I returned home, I said I wanted to do more and that’s when I started teaching which I have a passion for. Then the opportunity came to get into politics and I took up the offer and am happy I did.”
The theme of the reception was “Celebrating Our Stories.”
“I really think it’s important that we celebrate Black History Month,” said Dubourg. “I also think it’s critical that young people know about the past and the successes of Blacks.”
Former Member of Provincial Parliament Alvin Curling along with several Liberal candidates in the upcoming federal elections attended the reception at a Scarborough café. They included Gary Anandasangaree who is running in Scarborough-Rouge Park, Salma Zahid who is the Scarborough Centre candidate and Toronto District School Board chair Shaun Chen who is the Scarborough North candidate.
“Black History Month is more than just having a celebration every February,” noted Chen who is the Scarborough-Rouge River public school trustee. “It’s about what we do to create systemic change in the services that we provide to communities each and every day. It’s something we think about at the TDSB where I am a trustee and that’s to make sure that our curriculum and what we teach is reflective of the diversity of our students.”
Chen’s 2010 Master’s thesis was titled, Segregation versus Self Determination: A Black and White Debate on Canada’s first Africentric School.
He’s a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.