OTTAWA, Ontario – Mayor Jim Watson was set to host Mayor Bernadette Clement at noon on Jan. 21 to celebrate and speak about Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day.
“It’s quite an honour to be speaking at this event that has honoured people I have watched for years,” said Clement. “These are people that have provided inspiration to me.”
Mayor Clement was thrilled and in disbelief when she was asked to attend, following in the footsteps of her inspirations Michaëlle Jean, Former Governor of Canada and Canada’s first black female governor, as well as Jean Augustine, one of the first black female Canadian MPs.
“I’m aware that race and heritage are important for people who want to see diversity in leadership roles, (and) to see themselves represented in leadership roles. Representation matters,” said Mayor Clement.
“I’ve always been aware of MLK Day and Black History Month. That’s a part of my heritage,” she added.
Mayor Clement said that she is still surprised by the reaction to her mayoral election outside of Cornwall. She said that although she is proud of her heritage, it isn’t always relevant in her day-to-day activities as Mayor.
“People understand that Cornwall elected the first female black Mayor. Nowhere else in Ontario did that…Cornwall is very progressive…it’s a city in transition, doing all kinds of interesting things to define itself and move itself forward,” said Mayor Clement.
As a keynote speaker, Mayor Clement planned to speak about the city of Cornwall, importance of engagement in municipal politics and the importance of MLK Day.
“MLK stands for respect. Respect of diversity, peaceful requesting of respect around diversity. He represents all of those struggles that African Americans lived through in 50s and 60s…the peaceful struggle he tried to lead is inspiring in someone who wants to be respected in their diversity,” said Mayor Clement.
The event annually takes place at City Hall in Ottawa, organized by Dreamkeepers, an organization that promotes the vision of MLK.
“To think that now somewhere out there, there might be a kid who watched me and said, ‘that might be something I could do,’ it’s really special to me,” said Mayor Clement.