The Political Minority: In His Words

Before The Internet 

Before social media and the 24 hour TV news cycle there was just News Papers. The following interview  below was published for the Halifax Metro Weekly  November 13 to 19th, 1992. My grandfather influence many in the community in a positive way, he was everyone’s representative not just the black communities I grew up in a house hold were meritrocity was preached and no special privileges were given.

At my grandfathers funeral in-front of a packed Church congregation I stood up and within my statement honoring him I recall saying, It is as though he was meticulously molding and shaping my character from the moment I could first remember”, that’s a fact.

collage papa and me

(Left: Graham L. Downey, Halifax Downtown City Councilor & Hon. John Manley, Former Deputy Prime Minister, current CEO of Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Officer of the Order of Canada Middle: Bridge Walk 1987 Natal Day Celebration, Me and my grandfather, Right: Dr. Robert Campbell, President Mount Allison University, Officer of the Order of Canada, Jerome L. Downey)

Continuing The Work 

Things like making the gym and health club a priority, a love of Soul/R&B a deep appreciation for the country, my academic interest, Majoring in Political Science at Mount Allison University and even continuing my studies in the politically contentious energy sector at Ryerson Universities Energy Management & Innovation program, if I’m honest with myself most of my actions and motivation the last 30 years have come from pride, the humble kind that comes from seeing the look of satisfaction and validation on his face that the hard work, sacrifices and lessons were appreciated and not in vain.

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When opening the door to walk in the homestead for the first time in 4 years I saw him sitting on the front step taking off his shoes with the assistance of my grandmother after visiting the doctors, when he looked up and saw me his eyes were bright just as much as his smile, it was the look of comfort knowing someone you care about has returned home safe and sound, little did I know 16 hours later he would pass away, but his dreams, ideas and values live on though his family, friends and colleagues. The outpouring of support, respect and love the last few months have been tremendously humbling and everyone is grateful for the kind words however I must admit I’ve been preoccupied with action continuing the spirit of his work.

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Back in 2008 when I was 23  fresh out of University running for city council in Halifax it was a natural calling, I saw an opportunity to make things better and wanted to contribute to the public conversation at the municipal level home in Halifax. My grandfather was one of the last people to find out and he wasn’t overly impressed when I told him, he was concerned as parents often are he wanted to protect me from the difficulties that come from public life but even more so as a visible minority in that arena. I never saw my grandfather allow the color of his skin to define him so I grew up not really caring about it, however after graduating all I saw was institutional racism and division within the public system, a system my grandfather tried to influence through policy and representation but in the end he was only one man and we live in a democracy where the majority rules.

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Being a Voice 

Ultimately a politician is just a representative and voice of the people, my grandfather wasn’t afraid to speak on behalf of those who didn’t have the public platform to speak for themselves, there will never be consensus in politics that is the nature of the wold we live in however the pursuit should never be abandon and that is what makes Canada a special country to live in, there is still a lot more work to do, 2017 will mark the 150th anniversary of our country. Yet there still hasn’t been a visible minority on Halifax city council since my grandfather was defeated in 2000, 16 years is a long time. I’d like to personally commend Jennifer Watts  on her leadership and principled decision announcing  last year she wouldn’t run re-offer, two key quotes below were very powerful.  

“I think it’s very important, particularly at the municipal level, to have the opportunity to have new voices and new perspectives around the council table,” – Jennifer Watts, Halifax City Councilor 

“Currently, council is very white, it’s predominantly male and it also tends to be of an older generation,” – Jennifer Watts, Halifax City Councilor

Graham L. Downey 1992

(Graham L. Downey, City of Halifax Ward 3 Alderman, 1992)

Graham & Ardith Downey

(Graham & Ardith Downey)

A Culture of Inclusion 

If Canada is to be a culturally progressive, inclusive global development leader once again, we must start to take care of the issues at home first. Tributes, speeches and announcements are great but without hard work and action they are nothing but empty promises. In the end our society should be judged by how we treat our our weakest and most vulnerable, the Canadian Human Capital Development Initiative is a non-profit that embodies these values, which seeks to create an inclusive environment that is safe, healthy and where unique ideas can grow and flourish without prejudice or authoritarian political oversight.   

Communities Touched 

City of White Rock, BC , Town of Newmarket, ON , Central Kootenay Regional District, City of Thompson, Kamploops, BC, Taber, AB, City of Charlottetown, PEI, Magog, QC, Town of Norman Wells, NT, East St. Paul, Manitoba, District of Cold Stream, BC, Borden-Carleton, PEI, Hull, QC, Peterborough, ON, Regina, SK, Prince George, BC, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Altona, MB, Town of Marystown,  NfLd, Dieppe, NB, Edmonston, NB, Mackenzie, BC, Fort St. John, BC, Nepean, ON, Leduc, AB, Campbellton, NB, Saint John, AB, Renfrew County, ON, Wood Buffalo, AB, Hamlet of Taloyoak, NT, Edmonton, AB, Sudbury, ON, City of Fort Saskatchewan, AB, Town of Churchill, MB, Geraldton, AB, Cote Saint-Luc, QC, Toronto, ON, Vanier, ON, Miramichi, NB, Coquitlam, BC, Markham, ON, Beresford, NB, City of Langley, BC, Rural Municipality of Springfield, MB, Kensington, PEI, Labrador City, NfLd, Municipality of the Country of Inverness, NS, Kirkland Lake, ON, Happy Valley -Goose Bay, NfLd, Moncton, NB, Town of Appleton, NfLd, North Cowichan, BC, City of Castlegar, BC, City of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Morinville, Alberta, Strathcona County, Alberta, County of Kings, Nova Scotia

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