Nigerian make history by winning seats in Manitoba Legislature

Until Tuesday’s vote, no black person had ever been elected to the Manitoba Legislature in the 150-year history of this province.

Now there are three.

Uzoma Asagwara won the Union Station seat for the NDP, Jamie Moses took the St. Vital seat for the party and Audrey Gordon won Southdale for the Progressive Conservatives.

None of the political scientists the CBC contacted, nor the parties themselves, could recall a black MLA ever being elected in Manitoba.

The NDP has historically done well in Winnipeg’s core, where Asagwara won Union Station, becoming the first queer black person to win a seat.

“Our elected officials in our Manitoba Legislature should absolutely reflect the constituencies … and communities that are in Manitoba,” Asagwara told CBC News as results came in Tuesday night.

“So making sure that our elected officials look like the communities we serve [is] fundamental in making sure that all voices and all communities are served well in Manitoba.”

Uzoma Asagwara won the election in Union Station. Asagwara celebrated at the Good Will Social Club on Tuesday. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Asagwara, a first-generation Canadian whose parents are Nigerian, has worked as a psychiatric nurse and is a longtime community activist in Winnipeg’s core.

The first black Winnipeg city councillor said he was happy for the thousands of immigrants and refugees who may feel like they now see themselves represented in the Manitoba Legislature.

“It’s an opportunity for newcomers to see themselves in government,”​ ​​said Markus Chambers, who was elected as city councillor for St. Norbert-Seine River last fall.

Moses, a corporate leader with a degree in agribusiness from the University of Manitoba, reclaimed St. Vital for the NDP.

Jamie Moses is an active community member and software company employee who has worked for Investors Group and the Canadian Wheat Board. He was elected Tuesday evening as one of Manitoba’s first black MLAs. (Justin Deeley/CBC)

“I’m truly humbled and honoured,” said Moses, who ousted the incumbent PC cabinet minister Colleen Mayer.

Moses said the addition of more diverse elected representatives is a positive change.

“I’m not sure why it took so long but I’m ecstatic that it’s happening now. I think that this is part of a sign that representation is important in the legislature,” he said.

In Southdale, Gordon became the third black MLA elected Tuesday night, in a race that was close until the final votes were tallied. She was born in Jamaica and has spent most of her life in Winnipeg.

PC candidate Audrey Gordon was elected to represent Southdale in the Manitoba Legislature. (James Turner/CBC)

Tuesday’s provincial election saw a more diverse set of candidates than past years, with the PCs and NDP nominating the largest number of Indigenous candidates in recent history and all three of the largest parties nominating Indo-Canadian candidates in two northwest Winnipeg ridings.

Among the candidates for the province’s 57 seats, the Liberals ran 14 people of colour this year, the NDP 18 and the Tories six. The Green Party of Manitoba told CBC it does not track demographics.

All three major parties also ran Indo-Canadian candidates in the Winnipeg ridings of Burrows and The Maples — believed to be another first in Manitoba provincial politics.