The power and pitfalls of a diverse council
This might be the most diverse City Council in Calgary's history
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More women, more minorities and our first openly bisexual candidate.
Calgarians may have just voted in the city’s most diverse council ever.
“It’s great to see a city council that actually looks like Calgarians,” smiled Jeromy Farkas, councillor-elect for Ward 11, who is openly bisexual. “It’s great that issues like (sexuality) weren’t at the forefront of campaigning Ward 11. We could talk about the economy, spending, transit – orientations and where candidates came from were never raised by any of the candidates. Kind of shows you just how far Calgary has come.”
Not only do the election results mean more minorities will have representation in city affairs, but from a pure visibility standpoint, seeing a diverse array of people in power may increase confidence and open up more possibilities for people from those communities.
“I think one thing it does is take away the really intense fear that we might be outed,” explained Tiffany Sostar with bisexual and pansexual organization Possibilities. “If people like us are visible and out in the public eye takes away that power – the threat of someone finding out that we’re queer is mitigated a little bit.”
Sostar elaborated that it helps keep things like orientation from being sexualized, or relieves pressure that LGBTQ youth have to conform to a certain definition of sexuality.
University of Calgary women and gender studies professor Rebecca Sullivan acknowledged the advantage of having diverse perspectives to lead a city, but also noted how the election did bring out racial and sexist comments from some segments of the population.
Although there are more voices on the council, members do need to work together to make change.
“We have to be very careful of token diversity,” she explained. “We don’t ask Jeromy Farkas to handle all the LGBTQ community issues, we don’t ask Druh Farrell to do the gender issues, we don’t ask Nenshi to do the Muslim issues, etc. We have to ensure there’s a critical mass, and we also need to look at the municipal sector at large. There’s a lot of work to be done not just around diversity, but meaningful inclusion within the sector. We don’t have a lot of it in the work place.”
Farkas said he looks forward to looking at old problems in a new way.
"I think it’s only a win having fresh blood at City Hall.”