It took four ballots for Ed Broadbent to defeat the late Rosemary Brown for the New Democratic Party of Canada leadership.
That was in 1975, a year before Samuel Getachew was born thousands of miles away in Ethiopia.
After migrating with his family to Ottawa in 1990, Getachew learned more about Brown and her accomplishments and he was very impressed.
The first Black woman elected to a Canadian legislature, she fought to remove sexism from textbooks, increase female representation on government boards and end discrimination based on sex or marital status.
The recipient of this year’s William Hubbard Race Relations Award, Getachew dedicated the honour in Brown’s memory.
“She was my role model,” he said. “She wanted to ensure that Canada was a welcoming society for everyone and that resonated with me as an immigrant.”
The award was presented at the City of Toronto’s annual Access, Equity & Human Rights event last week to celebrate Human Rights Day and the 65th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.
The city established the award in 1989 to honour Toronto’s first Black councillor who successfully ran for public office at age 15 in the late 1890s and served as deputy and then acting mayor. A visionary, he led the charge for publicly-owned water supply and electricity power that resulted in the establishment of Ontario and Toronto Hydro. He also persuaded the city to acquire the Toronto Islands.
Brown inspired Getachew to pursue a political career.
In 2006, he unsuccessfully attempted to become an Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee and he was a candidate in Scarborough East in the 2010 provincial elections. In addition, he spent almost a year campaigning in the United States for Barack Obama who was sworn in as America’s first Black president in January 2009.
Getachew met Obama while he was campaigning in Ohio and the then-senator shook his hand and thanked him for coming from Canada to be part of a historic process.
After completing his high school education in Ottawa, Getachew successfully pursued political science studies at Carleton University and worked for Elections Canada, the Immigration & Refugee Board and in the House of Commons.
He also founded the Friends of Ethiopia in Ottawa and through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities partnership program that matches Canadian and other global cities, and was instrumental in securing an ambulance that was shipped to the land of his birth.
When Getachew relocated to the Greater Toronto Area five years ago, he became an active member of the Ethiopian community and launched the Ethiopia Friday networking event.
Getachew plans study law at Osgoode.