Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Home » Canada MPs Elect First Black House of Commons Speaker

Canada MPs Elect First Black House of Commons Speaker

by Grayson Henderson
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Canada has elected Liberal MP Greg Fergus to be the new Speaker of the House of Commons after the previous one resigned amid a Nazi in parliament row.

Mr Fergus – the first black man to hold the position – was chosen by the 338-member House after a secret ballot on Tuesday.

He called it “a great honour” to be chosen for the role.

The former Speaker resigned after inviting a Ukrainian man who fought for a Nazi unit to the parliament.

Anthony Rota said he did not know of the veteran’s Nazi ties.

Seven candidates had been in the race to replace him on Tuesday.

In his first remarks, Mr Fergus urged his colleagues to treat each other with respect in the House, a place he said was for “passionate debate”.

“We will show them politics is a noble profession,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his election “should be inspiring for all Canadians, especially younger generations who want to get involved in politics”.

His nomination was opposed by some Conservative members. MP Michelle Rempel Garner of Calgary argued that an ethics violation from last year – in which he was found to have inappropriately written a letter of support as a lawmaker for a French-speaking broadcaster – made him unable to serve.

But despite some opposition, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre smiled as he and Mr Trudeau held Mr Fergus’ arms to escort him into the House of Commons in Ottawa in a centuries old tradition in which the new Speaker feigns an unwillingness to serve.

While Mr Fergus is the first black man to become Speaker in the House, Jean Augustine, the first black woman to be elected as a member of parliament in 1993, later went on to briefly serve as deputy speaker.

Along with his role as member of parliament, Mr Fergus, 54, served as parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board president and to the health minister.

As a student in the late 1980s, he was also a House of Commons page for a year – a part-time year-long role that includes tasks such as delivering water and messages to members in the House chamber – a moment he recalled in his remarks.

Mr Fergus was first elected in 2015 as an MP for the Quebec riding (district) of Hull-Aylmer, near Ottawa, the year Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party swept into power.

His personal biography describes him as a “community activist, long distance runner, new grandfather and failed musician”.

The Speaker chairs debates, enforces the rules of the House, votes only to break a tie and is expected to be politically impartial.

His first role will be to “restore the honour of the Chamber,” said leader of the New Democrats Jagmeet Singh, speaking on the House floor.

It was a reference to the standing ovation given to a World War Two veteran who served in the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, a voluntary unit made up mostly of ethnic Ukrainians under Nazi command.

Yaroslav Hunka, 98, was sitting in the gallery in parliament when Mr Rota honoured him by calling him a “hero” during a visit to Ottawa by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Division members are accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians, although the unit has not been found guilty of any war crimes by a tribunal.

The 22 September incident drew global condemnation.

Mr Trudeau last week apologised for the incident, saying it was “a mistake that deeply embarrassed parliament and Canada”.

Source : BBC

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