White Dude Democracy

Regina’s pasty politicians don’t represent its demographic

City | by Evan Radford

More than 19,000 Aboriginal people live in Regina, so you’d think there would be an Indigenous city councillor or two.

Nope. All of Regina’s councillors are white. And only two of 10 councillors are women.

That’s not very good.

The data is based on National Household Survey results from 2011 for Regina’s census metropolitan area (CMA); Stats Canada will release results from the reinstated 2016 long-form census next year.

Regardless, when you convert these numbers into percentages, city hall’s disproportionate make-up looks especially ugly.

Aboriginals accounted for more than 9.5% of Regina’s population in 2011; then and now their representation on council is zero per cent.

Visible minorities numbered 21,955 — 10.6% of the CMA population — in 2011; this demographic group, too, has — ding ding ding! Zero representation on city council.

Regina has 105,585 women residents, which is 51 per cent — more than half — of the CMA. Only 20 per cent of our city council is female, however. In the last municipal election (2012), only nine of 41 city council candidates (22 per cent) were women.

Those numbers and Regina’s diversity of elected officials and administrative persons don’t reflect where the city ought to be, according to Mayor Michael Fougere.

“I think it’s important for a council, either a local council, a legislature or a parliament, to all reflect the citizens and the country you actually represent,” says Fougere. “In the case of Regina, you want to have a council that as much as possible represents a city that is there.”

Electing people from diverse backgrounds, whether women, visible minorities or Aboriginals, makes for better discussion and deliberation — along with a more inclusive, reasonable decision-making process, Fougere says.

Getting there, he admitted, is a work in progress.

“Council has expressly said and actually reminded organizations like the downtown BID and other organizations — the airport authority — that we want to see more diversity. We want [them] to go back and, as best [they] can, find more diversity,’” he says.

University of Regina political scientist Joyce Green says that the larger, more important issues affecting Aboriginal representation in municipal government are systemic privilege that favours white people, and racism.

“The first challenge is to get white people to understand their privilege and their location in the state that I’ve described — a racialized and racist hierarchy that is designed for them at the expense of others,” Green says.

In terms of Regina and its city council, the message is clear, says Green.

“In one of the most significant cities in Canada with one of the highest proportions of Indigenous people, both status-Indian, non-status Indian and also Métis, there is effectively no political representation, not on city council.”

Green says a change in political culture will yield a change in political order.

“Right now that culture is one of a white, settler state, which embraces others and tolerates their difference, and never sees how it has squatted on Indigenous territories at the expense of Indigenous peoples.”

In any case, more voices will make our city better for us all, she says.

“[Diversity] releases us from our smugness and our insularity in assuming that we are a meritocratic society, and that we are truly good people — and that when bad things happen, they are no reflection on the state or its institutions or our political culture,” she says.

“The challenge is how we make space for those that have been marginalized because of white privilege, and that requires both a degree of awareness and a degree of altruism,” Green says.

Perhaps the discourse surrounding the recent shooting death of Colten Boushie is a good place to start.

Regina’s general election is Oct. 26.