Blindingly White

Saskatoon’s 2016 city election is very, very, very, Caucasian

candidates-psCity | by Evan Radford

Now that that candidates have filed their papers, how’s this civic election shaping up, as far as diversity goes?

As it turns out: terrible.

There’s massive underrepresentation of Indigenous and visible minority candidates in Saskatoon. Absolutely massive. Head over to the saskatoon.ca’s candidate’s web page, and scroll down. The phrase “whitey whitey white-white” will probably come to mind.

How bad is it? Of the 36 candidates, just three — eight per cent —  identify as either First Nation or Métis.

On top of that, only one candidate identifies as a visible minority.

That’s less than three per cent of the total field of candidates.

Given this election’s overwhelming and disproportionately Caucasian composition, it’s no surprise several of the candidates running for one of city council’s 10 seats are calling for improved representation in the city’s elected positions.

“It is important that we encourage our city council to be a representation of the diverse peoples found within Saskatoon,” says Ward 7 candidate Monique Koskie. “I support the idea of having a city council seat reserved for an indigenous person.”

“Based on Statistics Canada [data from] 2011, about 15 per cent of Saskatchewan residents self-identify as either First Nations or Métis,” says Koskie, who doesn’t belong to a visible minority group. “This is a large portion of our population and it is important that we recognize the importance of having an indigenous person perspective on the council.”

Troy Wruck, running for Ward 6, echoes the sentiment.

“Council is clearly underrepresented by indigenous people and visible minorities. I would support the creation of a new council position, with city-wide boundaries, reserved for those who identify as indigenous or a visible minority,” he says.

Ward 6 hopeful Ian Rambally — the city’s lone visible minority candidate — says that council should be a reflection of the people that make up Saskatoon.

“However, I do not think that ethnicity should have any bearing on who should be elected,” he says. “Citizens should vote for the person that most closely shares their views, and that they feel will best represent their voice in City Hall, regardless of race.”

With just 11 out of 36 candidates,  11 women—who make up slightly more than half of the city’s total population — are badly under-represented, too.

How do these numbers compare with the city’s demographics?

According to Stats Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, 9.31% of residents in its census metropolitan area identify as Indigenous.

The data also shows 28,640 visible minorities live in the bridge city — that’s 11.1 % of the total population.

“Saskatoon is located on traditional Métis ground. From Prince Albert to Round Prairie is one of traditional homeland of the Métis Nation,” says Ward 2 candidate Kelly Parker, who is Métis.

“I think Saskatoon is not represented by the original people of the continent and community adequately, and it needs to be addressed,” Parker says.

Saskatoon’s civic election is Wednesday, Oct. 26.