New Waterloo regional councillors make history
In a race full of new faces, two women elected to regional council Monday night have made history.
Colleen James has become the first Black woman elected to Waterloo regional council. Chantal Huinink will be the first woman councillor living with a physical disability.
“And I sincerely hope that I am not the last,” Huinink said, speaking after her victory.
Huinink uses a wheelchair and is visually impaired, but did not let any of that get in the way of earning her spot as one of two regional councillors for Waterloo.
“In addition to canvassing, holding events so that people could come meet me in public spaces so people knew where to find me so that I was accessible to everyone rather than trying to go up to a bunch of doors that are not necessarily accessible,” she said.
Long-time regional councillor, Tom Galloway, who did not seek another term, helped Huinink with her campaign.
“[She’s] extremely bright and extremely capable. I got to know her quite well,” Galloway said.
Over in Kitchener, Colleen James will be the first Black woman to serve on regional council, but getting to this point didn’t come without challenges.
“Canvassing as a Black woman, a racialized individual – sometimes there are people who may be racist, may have their bias – and that was a reality in some instances while at the door,” James said.
Those who’ve walked the council chambers before, say it’s about time someone with such experiences and perspectives helps lead the community.
“Perspectives being brought into the conversation are really important and we have to continue to reach out to all of our community to find out where their priorities are and where they see themselves in the decisions made by council,” newly re-elected regional chair Karen Redman said.
While both women are proud of the barriers they’ve broken, they’re focused on getting to work.
“I didn't want to win on the basis of my disability, I wanted to win on the basis of experience and the education that I bring and the heart I have for this community,” Huinink said.
“There's going to be a lot of learning that's going to complement the environments that we're in. It's going to make them better,” James said.