Election night was a night of firsts, not only for the country but also for Toronto’s Somali community.
Not only was Justin Trudeau the first son to follow his father’s footsteps into the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa, Toronto’s Ahmed Hussen became Canada’s first-ever MP of Somali descent.
On Tuesday, Hussen defeated NDP MP Mike Sullivan, winning the York South-Weston riding. He told CBC News that “the feeling hasn’t sunk in, it’s going to take time.”
Born and raised in Somalia, the lawyer and community activist called his victory “a symbolic and real manifestation of the openness of the Liberal Party to new Canadians.”
Hussen is one of 20 visible-minority MPs elected in the GTA Monday night, and a record number elected across Canada.
“The Canadian-Somali community has challenges with youth jobs, youth violence and I have some experience in those fields to try and make a difference,” he said. “But I’ll be working hard for all the residents of York South-Weston, regardless of their heritage.”
“Sure, I’m proud to be the first Somali-Canadian to get into elected office but my history has indicated my ability to work with everybody and I intend to do that [here],” he said.
The father of two says it was humbling to be given a vote of confidence Monday night and that the result confirmed his belief that “there’s a hunger out there for real change.”
He told CBC he felt the Liberal’s platform represented a change “away from a decade of missed opportunities like immigration. [The Conservatives] have made a mess out of immigration over the last five years,” said Hussen, also pointing to jobs, transit and social housing as areas the Liberals could help drive.
Hussen said he was inspired to run for office after noticing the country was distinctly different from the Canada of the 1990s.
‘Mean government dividing Canadians’
“It was a very mean government that was dividing Canadians, a government in Ottawa that wasn’t a true partner on affordable housing,” he said. “I saw a government that wasn’t at the table on the big issues that matter to Torontonians.”
Hussen, who lived in Regent Park and helped spearhead the neighbourhood’s multi-million dollar revitalization project, calls his riding a microcosm of Canada.
Election 2015 was also historic because it ushered in the highest number of female MPs ever. In total, 88 women were elected – 50 for the Liberals, 18 for the NDP, 17 for the Conservatives, two for the BQ and one for the Green Party